Ashwagandha is a medicinal herb used in traditional Indian or Ayurvedic medicine. Also known as Indian ginseng or Indian winter cherry, the ashwagandha shrub is typically found in India, Africa, and the Middle East where it is harnessed for its rasayana or rejuvenation properties (1).
Fun fact: Ashwagandha can be loosely translated to mean “horse-like smell.” But beyond the similarity to its curious odour, the herb is also traditionally believed to grant horse-like strength and vitality. It’s a common Indian household remedy, a tonic for both illnesses affecting the young and old, and even considered as an aphrodisiac. With its leaves, flowers, and seeds serving various medical purposes (2).
While ashwagandha is a multipurpose herb with a wide range of medicinal uses, let’s discover the fascinating benefits of ashwagandha for brain health and function.
Benefits of ashwagandha for brain health
Promotes healthy stress response
Ashwagandha is a known adaptogen that helps the body adapt to stressful conditions (3). Adaptogens are substances that increase a person’s resistance to fatigue and stress-related disorders by normalising certain bodily processes. Specifically, the herb exerts stress-relieving effects on the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a central part of our body’s stress response, and controls other mediators of the stress response (3).
In an animal study, rats that were pre-treated with ashwagandha demonstrated increased stamina or physical endurance under stressful conditions (2).
Ashwagandha helps the body adapt to stress by reducing and normalising cortisol levels (2). Cortisol is the primary stress hormone released by the adrenal glands. While cortisol curbs non-essential functions to prioritise survival during a threatening situation, overexposure to cortisol can be harmful. Doctors believe that ashwagandha may help to prevent the decrease of adrenal cortisol and ascorbic acid during stress (2).
Ashwagandha has also been found useful in supporting healthy stress response in the body. An example shown in the same animal study was that ashwagandha was found to prevent stress-induced ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract (2).
One reason you can take ashwagandha for brain health is to manage stress in a healthy manner. By increasing your body and mind’s endurance during stressful conditions, ashwagandha can be a useful tool to power through these situations and relieve symptoms of stress.
Stress is a fact of life and impossible to eliminate completely. However, stress can be managed with daily positive strategies. When paired with healthy stress management responses, ashwagandha can help enhance your body’s adaptation to stress.
Calms the mind through reducing signs of mild anxiety
One of the benefits of taking ashwagandha is that it has a natural calming effect. It aids in the body’s natural response to combating mild anxiety.
If you easily get overwhelmed during stressful situations, you may want to consider ashwagandha supplements. Its calming properties can be helpful during times of distress. Maintaining a calm mind can help you analyse a stressful situation with greater clarity and problem-solve your way out.
Supports healthy sleep
The active chemical components making up ashwagandha called alkaloids are considered sedatives. In fact, the herb is being studied as a possible treatment for sleeping disorders. The root extract has sleep-inducing potential which has been shown to improve sleep quality and reduce time to fall asleep.
Sleep gives the body and mind time to recover from the day that has passed. Beyond its biological benefits, sleep plays an important role in brain function, including how your nerve cells communicate and carry messages throughout the body. Doctors believe that sleep removes toxins that build up in the brain during the day. Insufficient sleep launches a vicious cycle of stress and mild anxiety that makes it hard to function during the day.
Maintains memory, mental recall and improves short term memory
Quality sleep enhances mental response and makes it possible to form and maintain pathways in the brain for memory (2). You might have noticed that you’re able to focus more, remember critical information better, and carry out tasks with greater precision after a good night’s sleep. Conversely, it can be difficult to maintain your concentration and think on your feet if you pulled an all-nighter.
Ashwagandha is a herb is used to promote memory, memory recall and short term memory. Studies suggest that medhya rasayanas (one of the eight areas of medicine in Sanskrit) are most effective in helping children with memory deficits or older adults struggling with memory issues after injury, illness, and old age (2).
Harnessing the benefits of ashwagandha for brain
While ashwagandha is available as a fine powder that can be mixed in tea, you can also opt for ashwagandha supplements. If you’re looking at ashwagandha for brain health, consider Vitable.
Our Ashwagandha Plus supplement combines the powerful adaptogenic herbs of ashwagandha, Zizyphus, and Schizandra for maximum effect. Our premium and bioavailable formula is specially formulated to support stress, sleep, and hormonal balance.
At Vitable, our vitamin subscription service allows you to add other minerals and supplements to form your very own daily vitamin packs depending on your health needs and goals. We even take care of contact-free vitamin delivery! Browse through our website today to create your personalised vitamins today.
Find out more about other supplements that can support brain health:
*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.
- Cleveland Clinic. (2021). What Is Ashwagandha? https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-is-ashwagandha/ Accessed December 4, 2021
- National Institutes of Health. (2011). An overview on ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3252722/ Accessed December 4, 2021
- National Institutes of Health. (2019). Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6979308/ Accessed December 4, 2021