Mind Over Matter: What is Ashwagandha? Does it Actually Work?

Sofia Strohmeier, Copy Editor

Generation Z tends to participate in many “health trends,” with some having more reliability and results than others. Ashwagandha, an adaptogenic herb grown in Asia, the Middle East and Africa has gained popularity for its effects of lowering stress, decreasing pain and promoting muscle growth as a post-workout supplement. 

Ashwagandha primarily reduces stress and anxiety levels, as it classifies as an adaptogen, a substance used to assist the body with stress management. The herb controls stress mediators, such as heat shock proteins, cortisol and c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase. Additionally, ashwagandha lowers hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity, which controls one’s stress responses. Despite being medically proven to decrease stress and anxiety levels, current research does not include the proper dosages to tackle stress and stress-related disorders.

Those who frequently attend the gym, known as “gym rats” and athletes use ashwagandha, with the goal of increasing their muscle mass while taking the supplement. A study proved that participants performing training sessions who took 300 milligrams of ashwagandha twice a day for eight days showed more strength in their bench press and leg extension than those who received a placebo, while also seeing significant muscle growth. Other studies prove that ashwagandha’s athletic performance benefits differ among new and experienced lifters, as new lifters tend to experience ashwaghanda’s outcomes more quickly than trained lifters. Those experienced lifters who consume ashwagandha have seen increased strength, rather than muscle growth. Many “gym bros” tend to promote ashwagandha usage and add it to their post-workout routine. So, if one wishes to increase the weight on their barbell, up testosterone, endurance and recovery, ashwagandha has many benefits when consumed with appropriate dosage.

When searching for a brand of ashwagandha to purchase, it is advised to seek an organic product. Organically grown ashwagandha excludes toxic synthetic pesticides that may cause harm to one’s overall health. Also, always check that the product has a certificate of analysis to ensure its safety.

Ashwagandha has earned its quick fame on social media for many of its proven upsides; nevertheless, any supplement has its downsides. Though beneficial for some, ashwagandha lowers blood pressure: which may prove dangerous for those with hypertension who already take medication. 

In addition, another one of the supplement’s upsides is its ability to boost immune activity, which for most will have a positive impact, yet those with autoimmune disorders are advised to not take the supplement as it worsens symptoms. 

Most of the disadvantages target a particular group of individuals, and the numerous benefits make it attractive to many who have participated in this trend. But, like any other supplement, if one wants to begin taking ashwagandha, one should seek medical advice beforehand and use it responsibly.