Ashwagandha - a name that sounds somewhat mystical at first - can be extremely interesting for biohackers. The plant, which comes mainly from Asia and Africa, has numerous positive properties that can affect sleep and performance. Find out in this article Du everything about the plant - how it works and how you as a biohacker can benefit from ashwagandha.
If you haven't heard about Ashwagandha before, be sure to read this article. Ashwagandha sounds very mysterious at first, but behind it is a plant that has been used as a natural remedy in India, Afghanistan and Pakistan for thousands of years. In recent years, Ashwagandha has also become increasingly important in this country. Because: Many positive properties are ascribed to the plant. Connoisseurs appreciate the calming and balancing effect of Ashwagandha, whereby the plant is also said to have a stimulating effect and can increase cognitive and physical performance. It is also said that Ashwagandha has an aphrodisiac effect. Ashwagandha seems to be a real “super plant” that should be of particular interest to biohackers.
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is a plant of the genus Withania, which in turn belongs to the nightshade family (Solanaceae). Ashwagandha (botanical: Withania somnifera; Sanskrit: “smell of the horse”) is often referred to as sleeping berry, winter cherry or Indian ginseng.
Ashwagandha not only grows all over Africa, China, the Middle East and South Asia - the plant is also native to the island of Sicily, the Arabian Peninsula and the Cape Verde Islands as well as in Greece and Spain. Ashwagandha forms spherical red berries, 5 to 8 millimeters in size, with seeds 2 to 2,5 millimeters in size.
Although the berries, leaves and stems are certainly used, the roots provide most of the positive properties of Ashwagandha. They contain different alkaloids (nicotine, anaferine, tropine, anahygrine and withasomnine), which are supplemented by withanolides (somniferanolide, withasomniferanolide, somniwithanolide, withaferine A).1
What is the role of Ashwagandha in traditional medicine?
Ashwagandha has long been of great importance for traditional medicine. For example, did you know that Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has been used as a medicinal herb in Ayurvedic medicine for over 3.000 years? In Ayurvedic medicine as well as in Siddha and Unani medicine, the root extract is contained in over 200 recipes.
The effect of the root extract, which has a long tradition as a medicinal herb there, has already been proven in numerous studies.2 In Ayurvedic medicine, the roots of the plant are often referred to as “Rasayana” - a term that is translated as “tissue regeneration”.3
The fact is: Ashwagandha is said to have many positive properties from which you as a biohacker could particularly benefit. In Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha is also often compared to ginseng. Ginseng is a tuber native to Korea, Siberia and China that is traditionally used as a natural tonic. These health-promoting properties are also attributed to Ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha, for example, can have a positive effect not only on stress (especially on the stress hormone cortisol), but also on anxiety and cholesterol levels. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 Another study shows the positive effects of ashwagandha on sleep.11
Since Ayurvedic medicine also likes to refer to the root as "Rasayana", it is used - along with many other medicinal plants - to "extend life". These medicinal plants (called "Medhya Rasayana" in Ayurveda) are said to have many health-promoting properties, which is why they are of particular interest to biohackers.
Beside Ashwagandha belong Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), Mandukaparni (Centella asiatica or Kotu Kola) and Sankhapuspi (Convolvulus pluricaulis) fall into this category.12
These plants should not only have a life-extending effect - they should also be able to increase mental and physical performance. Since they can complement each other in their effects, they can be combined very well with Ashwagandha.
The effect of Ashwagandha should go far beyond the application possibilities mentioned here. The following overview shows which ailments Ashwagandha can help with.
Areas of application of Ashwagandha in traditional medicine at a glance:
- Digestive problems (dyspepsia = irritable stomach, constipation)
- mental exhaustion
- Memory loss, debility
- nervous exhaustion
- weak muscles
Furthermore, Ashwagandha is used in various cultures not only to increase fertility in men - the root is also said to be used as a pain reliever (analgesic) and antipyretic (antipyretic).
Nevertheless, further studies are needed to confirm the effect of the areas of application mentioned above. Fortunately, Ashwagandha has also come into the focus of many researchers in this country, who are taking a closer look at the root extract in order to find evidence for the health-related statements.
What advantages can Ashwagandha have for you?
Since Ashwagandha can have a positive effect on sleep as well as on mental and physical performance, the plant seems to be particularly useful for biohackers. But to what extent can Ashwagandha influence the areas of cognition, fitness, relaxation and sleep and what significance does the plant have for you as a biohacker?
Ashwagandha for Better Cognition?
The use of ashwagandha goes back incredibly long. As you already learned in the last section, the plant is used in traditional medicine both to maintain and to improve cognitive performance. According to studies, the plant could even show effects on people who suffer from mild cognitive impairment (MCI: Mild cognitive impairment).13
Some Far Eastern cultures even assume that Ashwagandha can help restore nerve cells (neuronal regeneration).14 Since you want to call up your cognitive performance on a daily basis and continuously improve it, further studies dealing with neuronal regeneration with Ashwagandha could be of particular interest to biohackers.
Ashwagandha for a better sleep and optimal recovery?
It is not entirely unfounded that ashwagandha is also often referred to as sleeping berry. Because: Ashwagandha should not only be able to positively influence sleep, but also the entire regeneration.
Ashwagandha is said to be able to lower the stress level, which is increased by the stress hormone cortisol.15, 16 However, a high cortisol level can not only promote stress - it also ensures poor sleep, so that you either cannot fall asleep properly or stay asleep. Poor sleep quality in turn leads to stress, which is why those affected literally go in circles.
Another benefit of Ashwagandha is its anti-anxiety effect.17, 18, 19 Many find it difficult to relax because many are constantly on the alert. Herbal ingredients such as chamomile, lemon balm, passion flower or ashwagandha could help here.
Ashwagandha for better physical performance?
Research has looked at the effects of ashwagandha on physical performance. This should especially please biohackers who want to get the most out of their bodies and achieve top performance in training or competition.
Not only that: The anti-inflammatory ingredients in the root extract could even help prevent inflammation and thus help you regenerate faster after hard training or competition.
In a test in which several untrained men took part in a periodic strength training program, some participants were given ashwagandha root extract (300 milligrams) twice a day for eight weeks, while others were given only a placebo. The result was clear: the Ashwagandha group was able to increase its bench press strength by 20 percent.20
In another study, it was also found that a higher dose of the root extract of 500 milligrams of ashwagandha combined with Terminalia arjuna could improve both the strength performance and the speed of sprinters.21, 22
How should you dose ashwagandha?
There is as yet no precise information about the exact dosage of Ashwagandha. Regarding the studies, a health-promoting and performance-enhancing effect is to be expected at a higher dose of 300 to 500 milligrams.
Our tip would therefore be that you start with a low dose and slowly increase the ashwagandha root extract if necessary until you have reached the dosage that is appropriate for you.
Who is Ashwagandha not suitable for?
While ashwagandha is generally well tolerated, some people should refrain from taking it. This includes pregnant women and mothers who are breastfeeding. Anyone who has to take medication according to their doctor's prescription should find out about possible side effects before taking the root extract.
Ashwagandha is still relatively unknown in this country, but the root extract is becoming increasingly important. In Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha has been used as a remedy to treat many ailments for several thousand years. Research has also shown that Ashwagandha can improve cognitive and physical performance, reduce stress levels, and ensure better sleep.