Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera, Indian ginseng) is probably the most well-known adaptogen herb there is, which is used in Ayurveda medicine. Ayurveda, the traditional system of medicine practiced in India can be traced back to 6000 BC. For most of these 6000 years, Ashwagandha has been used as a Rasayana (nourishes, detoxifies, enhances immunity). The root of Ashwagandha is regarded as a tonic, aphrodisiac, narcotic, diuretic, antiparasitic, astringent, thermogenic and stimulant. The root smells like horse (“ashwa”), that is why it is called Ashwagandha (on consuming it gives the power of a horse). The Nagori Ashwagandha is the supreme among all Ashwagandha varieties.
The biologically active chemical constituents of ashwagandha include alkaloids (tropine, cuscohygrine, isopelletierine, anaferine, cuseohygrine, anahygrine, etc.), steroidal lactones (withanolides, withaferins) and saponins (1).
Improves performance & greater hypertrophy
Ashwagandha is the bomb when it comes to exercise.
Ashwagandha root improves the cardio-respiratory endurance of elite athletes, by increasing VO2max and time before exhaustion. (R, R) Ashwagandha also improves the hemoglobin (Hb) count and red blood cell (RBC) count, (R) which increases oxygen transport to muscles. It even doubles the swimming time in rats, due to the lowering of cortisol and anxiety. (R)
It’s not only good of aerobic exercise, but also in anaerobic exercises.
This one study showed (R) that individuals who ingest 300mg of ashwagandha root extract twice daily, increased their bench press strength (46kg) to nearly double that of the placebo group (26.4kg), gained 62% and 135% more muscle on their arms and chest respectively and a 133% greater amount of fat loss.
A study in 2018 used 500mg ashwagandha daily from an aqueous extract for 12 weeks. The guys using ashwagandha gained significantly more strength in all their lifts, but the gains in hypertrophy and fat loss was more subtle, yet positive (R).
This increase in muscle and strength could all be accounted for by lowering cortisol (which is catabolic), inflammation and oxidative stress and increasing thyroid. The net effect would lead to higher testosterone, fat loss, faster muscle recovery, better mitochondrial function and energy production, and an increase in muscle protein synthesis.
For my South African viewers:
Ashwagandha – 500mg (KSM-66, 5% withanolides) per serving, 60 servings, >99% purity.