The lesser known benefits of ashwagandha

Ashwagandha: the king of Ayurvedic herbs.

Ashwagandha is a traditional medicine of India. It’s touted as an adaptogen (a substance that helps your body cope with stress), it improves physical performance, and there are some studies suggesting it may be a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

These are the flashy, more well known, benefits of ashwagandha.

With this article I wanted to touch on some of the lesser known benefits of ashwagandha supplementation that haven’t got as much attention. These are its role in cholesterol management, luteinizing hormone, and DHEA. If you don’t know what any of those are now, don’t worry, it’ll all become clear.

I’ll go through each of those in turn and highlight some of the scientific studies supporting these claims.

Ashwagandha lowers cholesterol

Cholesterol is a type of lipid. It is made by all animal cells and it plays important roles in human physiology; it maintains cell membrane structure and it serves as a precursor for steroid hormones, bile acid, and vitamin D.

Just like anything in life though, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. High levels of cholesterol can cause the development of fatty deposits in your blood vessels, which increases your risk of heart disease.

Two studies suggest ashwagandha supplementation can reduce cholesterol.

Study #1

Six people with mild high cholesterol supplemented with ashwagandha for 30 days. They experienced a significant decrease in serum cholesterol.

** there was no placebo group used in this study **

Study #2

Eighteen men and women took increasing amounts of ashwagandha for 30 days. Total cholesterol was found to be reduced after the 30 day trial.

** there was no placebo group used in this study **

Conclusion – cholesterol

Ashwagandha supplementation may be beneficial in lowering cholesterol in relatively healthy people with normal or slightly high cholesterol levels.

Ashwagandha increases luteinizing hormone

Luteinizing hormone (LH) is a hormone, obviously. It is produced by the pituitary gland (the hormone regulating center of the body).

In women, LH triggers ovulation and development of the corpus luteum.

In men, LH stimulates the production of testosterone in the testis.

Two studies suggest supplementing with ashwagandha can increase LH production and contribute to a better semen profile.

Study #1

Seventy-five infertile men were given 5 grams a day of ashwagandha for 3 months.

Once the 3 months was up, the researchers measured the biochemical characteristics, antioxidant vitamins, and levels of certain hormones in the semen of the men.

The men supplementing with ashwagandha had an improved biochemical profile in their semen, and increased levels of LH.

** this study did not have a real placebo group. 75 healthy men were used as controls, but did not receive any type of supplement **

** this study only included men, so we have no idea how to extrapolate these findings to women **

** we have no idea how ashwagandha would affect the semen of fertile men **

Study #2

60 men who were infertile because they smoked, were psychologically stressed, or were infertile for unknown reasons were treated with 5 grams of ashwagandha per day for 3 months (same as the previous study).

This study also showed increased semen quality with supplementation and increased LH levels more comparable to controls.

This study adds a little bit more to what we know about the affect stress has on fertility. The increase in LH in the men who were supplemented happened right alongside a reduction in stress.

Based on what we know about the effect of cortisol (the stress hormone) on LH, it is quite possible that ashwagandha could be increasing LH levels at least partially through decreasing stress and cortisol.

** this study did not have a placebo group and the control group was not treated with ashwagandha **

** we still don’t know what effect ashwagandha supplementation would have on women **

Conclusion – Luteinizing hormone

Ashwagandha supplementation can help increase LH in men who are having trouble with fertility.

Ashwagandha increases dehydroepiandrosterone

Dehydroepiandrosterone, called DHEA, because the full name is almost impossible to say. DHEA is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands, the gonads, and the brain.

It functions as a road stop on the synthesis pathway to androgens and estrogen sex steroids.

And it functions as a signaling molecule on its own.

Supplementing with ashwagandha increases DHEA, according to one study.

Study #1

130 men and women took part in a double-blind (neither the people in the study or the experimenters knew who was receiving the particular treatment), placebo-controlled study. The participants getting the ashwagandha supplement took 125, 250, or 500 mg per day for 60 days.

Among the many other things the researchers were measuring, they observed an increase in DHEA in the experimental group over the placebo.

Since DHEA plays a role in the synthesis of sex steroids, its increase with ashwagandha could at least partially explain some of the benefits on fertility men experience when they take it.

DHEA also has direct effects in the brain and spinal cord. For instance, it can modulate the NMDA receptor and the GABAA receptor. Influencing either of these receptors can have a significant influence on neurotransmission and brain activity in general.

Conclusion – DHEA

Ashwagandha supplementation can help increase DHEA levels in healthy men and women.

Conclusion

Ashwagandha is the king of herbs for a good reason. The studies I highlighted here today show its ability to lower cholesterol, increase luteinizing hormone, and increase DHEA. And these fall into the category of lesser researched aspects of the herb.

The benefits of ashwagandha in this article alone are enough to warrant its use. Don’t forget about its proven ability as an adaptogen, as a performance enhancer, and as a neuroprotective agent.

If you’re looking to start using it, I recommend taking 300-500mg of root extract per day. You can break that up into multiple smaller doses across the day, or if you want to take it all at once, take it with breakfast.

Sources and further reading

Hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic effect of winter cherry (Withania somnifera, Dunal) root.

Exploratory study to evaluate tolerability, safety, and activity of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in healthy volunteers.

Withania Somnifera Improves Semen Quality By Regulating Reproductive Hormone Levels And Oxidative Stress In Seminal Plasma Of Infertile Males

Withania somnifera Improves Semen Quality in Stress-Related Male Fertility.

A Standardized Withania Somnifera Extract Significantly Reduces Stress-Related Parameters in Chronically Stressed Humans: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study

Avoiding holiday and Christmas fatigue: 7 ways to keep your energy levels up

While the holiday season is a joyous, cheerful time of year, it can also be insane and draining.

Because you’re constantly on the go with Christmas parties, shopping, family coming to town, friends coming over, and the kids Christmas pageants (just to name a few), energy levels can be completely tapped by the first week of December.

Then you’re left fighting fatigue all the way through to New Years.

When you don’t have the energy, the holidays are an uphill battle; it turns fun occasions into obstacles and joy into stress.

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Luckily, there are scientifically backed ways to increase your energy and avoid holiday and Christmas fatigue.

I’ve listed 7 of the best ones here in this article; use them and you’ll come out of the holidays healthy and on top.

1. Move

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Exercise may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re tired.

The mere thought of expending more energy when you’ve got nothing left in the tank is exhausting, but it seems to have the opposite effect.

In an article for WebMD, Kerry J. Stewart, professor of medicine and director of clinical and research exercise physiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said, “Exercise has consistently been linked to improved vigor and overall quality of life.”

“People who become active have a greater sense of self-confidence. But exercise also improves the working efficiency of your heart, lungs, and muscles,” Stewart added. “That’s the equivalent of improving the fuel efficiency of a car. It gives you more energy for any kind of activity.

2. Yoga

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Yoga is one type of exercise that may be particularly effective for boosting energy; moreover, it doesn’t seem to matter how old you are when you do it.

Volunteers at a British University participated in a study consisting of one 60-minute yoga class per week for 6 weeks. At the end of the trial, they reported greater feelings of clear-mindedness, composure, elation, energy, and confidence.

Another study included 135 generally healthy men and women 65-85 years old. The participants took part in a yoga program for 6 months.

Compared to other groups in the study, the yogis came out further ahead in a number of quality-of-life measures related to well-being, energy, and fatigue.

3. Drink Water

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“Dehydration affects all people, and staying properly hydrated is just as important for those who work all day at a computer as it is for marathon runners,” said Lawrence E. Armstrong to News Medical. Armstrong is a professor of physiology at the University of Connecticut and one of the lead scientists of a study investigating dehydration and energy.

They looked at 25 women and 26 men, all healthy and active.

They found dehydration is an energy killer; it alters a person’s mood, energy level, and even their ability to think clearly.

“Even mild dehydration that can occur during the course of our ordinary daily activities can degrade how we are feeling – especially for women, who appear to be more susceptible to the adverse effects of low levels of dehydration than men,” commented Harris Lieberman, one of the studies’ co-authors.

4. Supplement with Fish Oils

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In a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, participants were asked to take fish oil supplements for three months. As a result of the supplementation, the researchers found evidence of reduced mental fatigue and faster reaction times in 18-35-year-olds.

5. Adaptogens

healthy wheys corey munegatto isagenix 6 adaptogens that will help you combat stress and maintain your energy

 

Stress and fatigue go hand in hand. Little bouts of stress are tolerable, but when the little bouts turn into long stretches, stress can manifest as a continual feeling of fatigue.

Chronic stress, the kind that lasts for days and weeks at a time, can directly deplete your energy reserves leaving you feeling depressed, worried, irritable, and exhausted. It can also affect other areas of your life critical to recovering from stress: sleep, for example.

If you’re not sleeping because your stressed, you can’t adequately recover from the previous days stressors and you won’t be equipped for what’s coming up tomorrow. Then you’re behind the eight ball and the cycle continues.

Adaptogens are compounds that help prevent the physical and chemical effects of stress – they’re something I’ve brought up on this website a few times before.

Adaptogens, by helping maintain homeostasis during a stressful event, prevent fatigue. Here are 6 that are particularly useful.

6. Combine Carbohydrates with Protein

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Consuming sugar makes us sleepy because sugar influences a group of cells in the brain that secrete orexin.

Orexin is a neuropeptide that regulates a myriad of mental properties, including sleepiness and hunger.

Sugar slows down the secretion of orexin from this group of cells and this makes us feel slow and sleepy. Interestingly, protein has the opposite effect on orexin secretion – protein increases it.

Therefore, the sleepy effects of sugar intake can be counteracted with protein.

7. Be Fair to Yourself

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There could be one simple reason you can’t maintain your energy levels this holiday season: you’re just trying to do way too much.

There are a lot of demands on our time, especially around the holidays. The mere thought of it can make a person want to curl into a ball and whimper.

That’s why it’s so important, at this time of year more than any other, to be realistic with yourself about your workload and your schedule.

If you spread yourself too thin, you’re going to feel fatigue no matter what you do. And you, and everyone else around you, will suffer for it.

Conclusion

Keeping the “gitty up” in your step can be tough this time of year. But there are certain things you can do to help you keep your energy levels as high as possible.

Give a few of my suggestions a try and let me know if they work for you in the comments.

If you’d like to know more, please contact me, I’d love to help you out.

Follow the blog for email updates of when new articles are available.

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6 adaptogens that will help you combat stress and maintain your energy

Stress is something we’ve all felt. Most of us have probably been completely overwhelmed by it at some point in our lives.

It’s your body’s way of responding to demand or threat. In our primitive days stress helped us react to the giant jungle cat nipping at our heels and trying to tear us limb from limb.

Nowadays the threat might not be so immediate, but we still have the same biological wiring.

And it’s called the stress response.

The stress response is a state of increased mental and physical arousal activated when you perceive danger.

This kind of arousal in small doses is a good thing.

It can help you stay focused, energetic, and alert during emergency situations. It can also help you rise to meet new challenges. Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, it sharpens your concentration under pressure, and it keeps you on task when you’d rather be relaxing and watching TV.

Too much stress on the other hand, is a bad thing.

It can have detrimental effects on your physical and emotional well-being. Stress is an energy killer. And it’s intimately linked to fatigue.

Many of us don’t deal with stress in healthy ways. We resort to alcohol, stimulants, and comfort food. These unhealthy habits provide short-term comfort, but work against our health in the long run.

A healthy alternative for dealing with stress without the negative side effects are adaptogens.

What are adaptogens?

healthy wheys corey munegatto isagenix 6 adaptogens that will help you combat stress and maintain your energy

Adaptogens are a group of herbal supplements that can prevent the physical and chemical effects of stress on the body.

By counteracting these effects, they help prevent fatigue and maintain energy levels. Especially, when they’re taken in advance of a stressful event.

There are many different adaptogens. And they don’t all work the same way.

Adaptogens were first studied scientifically in the former Soviet Union.

The research scientists Nicolai Lazarev and Israel Brekhman were looking for a way to naturally improve strength, stamina, and energy in soldiers, athletes, and cosmonauts.

Much of their work was unknown to most of the world because of the Iron Curtain, which prevented open contact between the Soviet Union and Western countries.

With the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991, however, the information became available.

Since then, many people have used these natural supplements to combat the harmful psychological and physical effects of stress.

Here are 6 effective adaptogens proven to help combat stress, fatigue, and maintain energy levels.

  1. Wolfberry (Lycium barbarum)

Wolfberry is high in antioxidants.

It contains:

  • Phenols
  • Polysaccharides, vitamins A and C
  • Beta carotene
  • Lycopene
  • Riboflavin
  • Thiamine
  • Selenium
  • Nicotinic acid

Antioxidants are compounds that counteract the cell damage that can occur when an organism is stressed and have been associated with lowering the risk of chronic diseases such as such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

  1. Eleuthero root (Eleutherococcus senticosus)

Eleuthero root is also known as Siberian ginseng. This herb is an adaptogen used to reduce fatigue.

It has been shown to improve physical performance during periods of high intensity exercise and preliminary studies in animal research suggest eleuthero root is neuroprotective, which means it can protect the brain from harm.

  1. Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)

Rhodiola is also useful for combating fatigue.

It can significantly reduce the effects of prolonged and minor physical exhaustion; the conditions that generally result in burnout.

In addition to its anti-fatigue capabilities, rhodiola also can:

 

  1. Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera)

Ashwaganda is mostly noted for its ability to prevent anxiety.

However, it performs many other functions in the brain and the rest of the body too.

Ashwaganda has been shown to:

 

  1. Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri)

Ayurvedic medicine has employed the use of bacopa for centuries in the treatment of epilepsy and asthma.

As an adaptogen it is used to improve cognition by reducing anxiety and improving memory formation.

Most of the scientific studies involving bacopa’s ability to increase cognition have been conducted in the elderly. However, there is research to support bacopa’s effectiveness in young populations as well making it a suitable adaptogen for people of all ages.

  1. Schizandra (Schisandra chinensis)

Schizandra is known as the “five flavor berry”. This because it contains all five of the basic flavours. That is: sweet, salty, sour, pungent, and bitter.

It has long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to nourish the kidneys and heart.

The majority of research on schizandra as an adaptogen was performed in Russia decades ago. And most of it cannot be accessed.

From the limited Western evidence available and research that can be accessed from Russia, schizandra increases work accuracy and antioxidant protection while also decreasing feelings of fatigue and exhaustion.

Are adaptogens safe for everyone?

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Generally.

There are a few groups of people who should talk to a medical health professional before using them, however.

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should consult a physician. Most adaptogens have not been adequately tested for pregnant and breast-feeding women so their safety under these conditions is not clear.

People who are taking other medications should also consult a physician or pharmacist when trying something to new to make sure there aren’t any potential negative interactions you may not be aware of.

Conclusion

Stress is a fact of life. We cannot rid ourselves of it.

But we can provide our body with the proper resources to better manage the physical response to stress.

Adaptogens are a healthy way to increase your capacity to deal with stress and improve your mental and physical performance.

Let me know what you think about adaptogens in the comments.

If you’d like to know more about adaptogens, please contact me, I’d love to help you out.

Follow the blog for email updates of when new articles are available.

Follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for regular information on living your healthiest life.