With global industrialization and modern lifestyle changes, obesity or excess weight gain has become an increasing problem. Excessive weight gain is becoming a problem not only in adults but also among children and young people.
One major contributor to weight gain is inappropriate diet habits, including more carbohydrates, packaged food items that contain high amounts of saturated fat, and other fatty foods. Stress is the other major contributor to weight gain.
One of the most trusted herbs with very good results in weight reduction is Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha weight loss effects are attributable to its ability to decrease stress and control cortisol which are key factors in controlling weight. So for those wondering does ashwagandha help you lose weight, the answer is yes.
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is a perennial shrub grown mainly in the tropical areas of Asia and Africa. The word ashwagandha is derived from Sanskrit in which ‘Ashwa’ means horse and ‘gandha’ means smell. This herb is also called ‘Indian Ginseng’, ‘queen of Ayurveda’. It is effective in boosting immunity, improving brain health, reproductive health, etc.
It has more than 35 active chemicals that show beneficial health effects. Withanolides, withanosides, withaferin, etc. are a few of these active chemicals. It is also used in treating multiple brain disorders, sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, improving memory, and various hormonal problems. In short, it is a ‘jack of all trades’.
When taking ashwagandha for weight loss, it works through several mechanisms such as decreasing stress and cortisol levels; increasing testosterone (male hormone); improving sleep quality, glucose metabolism, etc. So to answer the question does ashwagandha make you lose weight, yes it does so through multiple mechanisms.
How Does Ashwagandha Help With Weight Loss
Reduces Stress and Cortisol Levels
Stress up to a certain level is beneficial for progress in life and to tackle day-to-day situations. Stress and cortisol help in the ‘flight and fight’ response of the body towards problematic life situations.
But if this stress remains for a longer time then it starts to hamper body metabolism, digestive system, cognition, memory, and sleep cycle. Stress increases cortisol levels and cortisol potentiates hunger.
Cortisol level(1) is increased at the extreme of body weight (i.e. underweight and extremely overweight) due to activation of the HPA-axis. Chronic stress increases the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis).
When the HPA-axis is activated more in people prone to binge eating(2), there will be cravings to eat sweet, fried foods, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages. If this lasts for long, this becomes our habit. All these lead to an increase in weight.
Ashwagandha and weight loss when taking it is an effect seen by most. This is because it has an adaptogenic property(3) that helps to improve mental well-being, and eating behaviors, and reduce stress and anxiety. It activates various subtypes of GABA(4) receptors in the brain which leads to its adaptogenic property. Because of this property, Ashwagandha ashwagandha benefits for weight loss are due to its ability to decrease stress and anxiety.
In a study, it decreased the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A)(5) and Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale -21(DASS-21) significantly. Ashwagandha when taken at a dose of 250mg/day decreases cortisol levels(6) in comparison to a placebo. This decrease in cortisol helps to decrease weight. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial involving 52 subjects also concluded that Ashwagandha (300mg per day for 8 weeks) can be used to decrease weight in adults having chronic stress.
Increases Muscle Mass
Other ways by which ashwagandha weight loss benefits are achieved are how because of the adaptogenic property of Ashwagandha, muscle strength is maintained. Also, it is a good rejuvenator meaning it helps in the recovery of injury.
A meta-analysis showed that Ashwagandha increased muscle power/ strength(7), increased cardiorespiratory fitness, decreased muscle soreness or fatigue, and improved recovery. Another study showed that Ashwagandha consumption increased muscle strength(8) and decreased exercise-induced muscle injury.
Acts as an Antioxidant
Obesity is just not the accumulation of fat in the body but it is also a condition with high chronic oxidative stress(9) and low-grade inflammation. Many antioxidants have been used to reduce oxidative stress in the body and ultimately weight.
The roots, leaves, and fruit of ashwagandha contain high amounts of polyphenols, flavonoids, and catechins(10). All these active chemical has strong 1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl radical (DPPH) scavenging activities. Because of its antioxidant property and anti-inflammatory properties, it is best suited for weight loss too.
Improves Sleep Quality
Decreased sleep duration(11) (short sleepers) enhances hedonic stimulus in the brain and also activates the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis causing an increase in consumption of food. A meta-analysis concluded that despite adequate sleep duration, if there is poor quality of sleep(12) then it leads to overweight/obesity. A similar result was found in preschool children(13) (< 5 years).
Ashwagandha belongs to the Solanaceae family which is also known as sleep inducers. It decreases stress on the body. It has adaptogenic and anti-anxiety properties, as discussed earlier. All these properties help to improve sleep quality which is due to the GABAergic property of Ashwagandha.
Increases Testosterone in Men
The level of testosterone(14)was lower in patients with obstructive sleep apnea than in obese. A lower level of testosterone leads to increased levels of sex hormone binding globulin, low levels of luteinizing hormone, adipocyte dysfunction, androgen resistance, and insulin resistance.
Decreasing androgen receptors(15) cause an increased number of adipocytes and fat accumulation. There are meta-analyses that suggest the use of testosterone supplements to decrease body fat(16) and weight and increase bone mineral density.
Ashwagandha increases levels of testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S)(17). This increase in testosterone level helps in decreasing weight.
Improves Glucose Metabolism
An increase in blood glucose leads to increased production of insulin in the body. Insulin, in turn, produces fat from glucose and increases obesity.
A meta-analysis and systemic review revealed that Ashwagandha when used in diabetes, restored blood glucose levels(18), decreased three-month average sugar (HbA1C), decreased insulin level, lipid profiles, and markers of oxidative stress.
Stress is related to poor glucose metabolism having said that it can lead to diabetes and also poor control of glucose level in diabetic person. Thus ashwagandha can be an adjunct in the treatment of diabetes mellitus with stress(19).
As Energy Booster
Ashwagandha improves the immunity of the body, decreases oxidative stress, and improves glucose metabolism. It also helps to decrease various stress, and fatigue of muscles; improves cognitive power; and rejuvenates the injured muscle and nervous tissue. In short, it is a full-packaged energy booster.
How to use Ashwagandha?
It is available both in crude form and purified form in the market. One can take powder, paste, or juice of it. It is also mixed in other Ayurvedic medicines or even in some food items. The recommended daily dose is 250 to 300mg for a maximum of three months.
Safety profile of Ashwagandha
It is considered relatively safe with fewer to no side effects. There was no toxicity(20) noted up to 2000 mg per day dosing of this herb.A few side effects noted after using this herb are- abdominal discomfort, nausea, diarrhoea, etc.
It is better not to be used by pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
As it causes sleepiness, it should be used with precaution along with other medicinal products causing sedation (sleepiness). For the same reason, if you are planning for surgery you should inform your doctor regarding this use.
It can interfere with medicines used for diabetes, high blood pressure, or thyroid. Using Ashwagandha decreases blood sugar and blood pressure and increases thyroid hormone levels. So these parameters should be monitored closely by respective patients.
FAQs about Ashwagandha Weight Loss
Does ashwagandha reduce belly fat?
Ashwagandha may contribute to reducing belly fat by helping manage stress-related overeating and cortisol levels. It maintains glucose metabolism and thus decreases fat formation as well. However, it's not a standalone solution, balanced diet and exercise are essential for effective results.
How long does it take for Ashwagandha to work?
The timeframe for Ashwagandha to start showing noticeable effects can vary from person to person. Some might begin to perceive its benefits within 4 to 12 weeks of consistent use, while others might experience positive changes earlier. It's important to note that individual responses can differ due to factors such as dosage, overall health, and the specific concerns being addressed.
When is the best time to take Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha can be taken in the morning with breakfast for an energy boost or in the evening to aid relaxation. Choose a time that suits your schedule and consider any interactions with other supplements or medications.
Ashwagandha is known for its adaptogenic, anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidative properties from ancient times. It helps to decrease stress, cortisol, oxidative stress, and insulin. It also helps improve sleep quality, increase muscle mass, and testosterone level.
Ashwagandha weight loss is achieved through these factors. The best part is, it is easy to take and has minimal to no side effects at all. To get these effects you need to use it for at least 8 to 12 weeks. Continuity and patience are key to success.
- Cortisol Measures Across the Weight Spectrum, (1)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4570173/
- Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment With Ashwagandha Root Extract: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial, (2)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27055824/
- Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha Root Extract on Cognitive Functions in Healthy, Stressed Adults: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study, (3)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34858513/
- Direct evidence for GABAergic activity of Withania somnifera on mammalian ionotropic GABAA and GABAρ receptors, (4)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26068424/
- An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract, (5)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6750292/
- Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study, (6)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6979308
- Effects of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) on Physical Performance: Systematic Review and Bayesian Meta-Analysis, (7)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8006238/
- Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial, (8)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26609282/
- How effective are antioxidant supplements in obesity and diabetes?, (9)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25791371/
- High catechin concentrations detected in Withania somnifera (ashwagandha) by high performance liquid chromatography analysis, (10)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21854608/
- Insufficient Sleep as a Contributor to Weight Gain: An Update, (11)https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13679-012-0026-7
- Sleep quality and obesity in young subjects: a meta-analysis, (12)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27417913/
- Systematic review and meta-analyses of the relationship between short sleep and incidence of obesity and effectiveness of sleep interventions on weight gain in preschool children, (13)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33237635/
- Testosterone levels in obese male patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome: relation to oxygen desaturation, body weight, fat distribution and the metabolic parameters, (14)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12952360/
- Testosterone and weight loss: the evidence, (15)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25105998
- Effects of testosterone on body composition, bone metabolism and serum lipid profile in middle-aged men: a meta-analysis, (16)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16117815/
- A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Study Examining the Hormonal and Vitality Effects of Ashwagandha ( Withania somnifera) in Aging, Overweight Males, (17)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30854916/
- Withania somnifera (Indian ginseng) in diabetes mellitus: A systematic review and meta-analysis of scientific evidence from experimental research to clinical application, (18)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31975514/
- A CLINICAL STUDY ON MANAGEMENT OF STRESS IN TYPE -2 DIABETES MELLITUS (MADHUMEHA) WITH ASHWAGANDHA (WITHANIA SOMNIFERA), (19)https://ayushdhara.in/index.php/ayushdhara/article/view/87
- Safety assessment of Withania somnifera extract standardized for Withaferin A: Acute and sub-acute toxicity study, (20)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4910650/