Episode 65 – Ashwagandha

Key Topics Covered

Stress/Anxiety

  • This is the main area ashwagandha is promoted for 
  • The evidence is pretty consistent that ashwagandha reduces stress levels which is cool 
  • But there is actually minimal research actually looking at it for anxiety though. 
     
  • This is also a good example of why the research on Ashwagandha is a bit weird – for example, a study that did NOT include anybody with anxiety or depression was titled: “A prospective, randomised double-blind, placebo controlled study of the safety and efficacy of high concentration full-spectrum extract of Ashwagandha Root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults”  
  • This study also claimed that depression levels were reduced by 77%, even though no participants had depression at baseline… 
  • But, there was no one with anxiety or depression in this study. Considering this is the main study in this area to shop that Ashwagandha makes a difference, it’s pretty clear that the population chosen was biased and no meeting the criteria that the title suggests.

Sleep Quality/Quantity 

  • Most of the research on Ashwagandha and sleep quantity /quality is promising 
  • The benefits are more pronounced in those with insomnia 
  • There is still only a small amount of research. 
  • My interpretation is that the benefits, if they are real and consistent, are likely due to the reductions in stress. 

Depression 

  • Outside of that study that was mentioned earlier – there is minimal research on ashwagandha and depression.  
  • One study involving schizophrenia showed improved depression levels – but it’s a stretch to apply to that research to other populations. 

Testosterone 

  • All the research on ashwagandha and testosterone has shown an increase in men, and minimal difference in women.  
  • A systematic review found an average increase of 17%. 
  • Is this linked to stress once again? There are no clear mechanisms to show how Ashwagandha would help with increasing testosterone.

Strength / Muscle Growth 

  • 600mg ashwagandha per day for 8 weeks in untrained lifters showed ridiculous results – 46kg increase in bench press (26kg increase in placebo group). But this is clearly too good to be true, considering these results are even better than people experience on steroids. These results are also inconsistent with the other research done in this area.
  • There were also larger increases in muscle gain and fat loss in this group too. 
  • Another study involving “recreationally active” men showed smaller benefits (12kg increase in bench vs 8kg in the placebo group). 
  • All of the research on strength and muscle growth is positive. But it seems too good to be true as well. 

Endurance 

  • There is consistent research that ashwagandha improves vo2 max 
  • There is other research indicating that it could improve endurance performance – but there are no good studies on the topic measuring this in a way that is actually useful 

How to take?  

  • Research uses between 200-1000mg typically. 
  • The most common effective dosage is 600mg per day split over two dosages, morning and night. 
  • Ashwagandha root extract specifically is the most thoroughly studied. KSM-66 is an example of a product fitting this description. 
  • When consumed in normal dosages, there seems to be minimal risk of side effects. 
     

Summary 

  • Ashwagandha is promising – but there are massive gaps in the research and a lot of the positive studies have major flaws. 
  • There is minimal downside to it though, so for somebody who wants to use it, so long are you are okay with the potential that it may or may not do anything, it can be worth considering.  

 
Relevant Links/ Resources

Studies Mentioned:

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