Ashwagandha is an ancient medicinal herb.
It’s classified as an adaptogen, meaning that it can help your body manage stress.
Ashwagandha also provides numerous other benefits for your body and brain.
For example, it can boost brain function, lower blood sugar and cortisol levels, and help fight symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Here are some benefits of ashwagandha that are supported by science.
1. Is an ancient medicinal herb
Ashwagandha is one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda, a form of alternative medicine based on Indian principles of natural healing.
Ashwagandha is Sanskrit for smell of the horse, which refers to both its unique smell and ability to increase strength.
Its botanical name is Withania somnifera, and it’s also known by several other names, including Indian ginseng and winter cherry.
The ashwagandha plant is a small shrub with yellow flowers that’s native to India and North Africa. Extracts or powder from the plant’s root or leaves are used to treat a variety of conditions.
Many of its health benefits are attributed to its high concentration of withanolides, which have been shown to fight inflammation and tumor growth (1Trusted Source).
2. Can reduce blood sugar levels
In several studies, ashwagandha has been shown to lower blood sugar levels.
One test-tube study found that it increased insulin secretion and improved insulin sensitivity in muscle cells (2Trusted Source).
Additionally, in a 4-week study in people with schizophrenia, those treated with ashwagandha had an average reduction in fasting blood sugar levels of 13.5 mg/dL, compared with 4.5 mg/dL in those who received a placebo (5Trusted Source).
3. Might have anticancer properties
Animal and test-tube studies have found that withaferin — a compound in ashwagandha — helps induce apoptosis, which is the programmed death of cancer cells (7Trusted Source).
It also impedes the growth of new cancer cells in several ways (7Trusted Source).
First, withaferin is believed to promote the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) inside cancer cells, disrupting their function. Second, it may cause cancer cells to become less resistant to apoptosis (8Trusted Source).
Animal studies suggest that it may help treat several types of cancer, including breast, lung, colon, brain, and ovarian cancer (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).