Ashwagandha for Weight Loss
Weight gain and Weight Loss. Let’s you work with both.
Ashwagandha is used in Ayurveda, Unani medicine, Siddha medicine, traditional African treatments as well as in Homeopathic medicine. It helps in dealing with many problems related to lack of sleep, anxiety, depression, weakness, neurogenerative diseases, arthritis, and sexual wellness to name a few.
Ashwagandha is also known as Indian ginseng, (even though it has no botanical relation to true ginseng), it is considered an adaptogen, something that strengthens your stress resistance and enhances the energy in the body. The biological name for Ashwagandha is Withania Somnifera, Somnifera means ‘sleep-inducing’ in Latin – Ashwagandha is known to give a good night’s sleep. Ashwagandha is a combination of two different Sanskrit words, ‘Ashwa’ meaning horse and ‘Gandha’ meaning smell – indicating that the herb has a string horse-like odour.
It is also called poison gooseberry and winter cherry, belonging to the nightshade family. It is a plump shrub with oval leaves and yellow flowers that bear red fruits. It is an evergreen plant and grows in India, Nepal, China, the Middle East, and some parts of Africa. It can be grown from seeds or from greenwood cuttings that can be planted in spring. The Ashwagandha plant is prone to several pests and diseases, thus it needs a lot of attention and care.
Historically, the roots of the plant were used for medicinal properties. However, even the leaves, seeds, and fruits are used for various treatments. It is said that Ashwagandha can also help you in losing some of those extra kilos. Keep reading if you’re looking to shed some weight using natural methods.
Benefits of Ashwagandha for Weight Loss
Ashwagandha has been implied to cure multiple ailments for centuries. There is enough evidence in traditional medicine and Ayurveda for the usage of Ashwagandha in the treatment of many conditions. These range from managing stress, anxiety, sleep, depression to weight loss, memory improvement, thyroid regulation to name a few. Here, we focus on the benefits of Ashwagandha for weight loss.
Preliminary research does suggest Ashwagandha benefits for weight loss, especially for people dealing with chronic stress. Such treatment also resulted in significant improvements in food cravings, body mass index (BMI), reactive eating, cortisol levels, well-being, and happiness. Various studies have shown that Ashwagandha for weight loss is not a myth. Let us look at some of the beneficial effects of the consumption of Ashwagandha that can impact your weight loss journey positively.
When your immunity is weak, the body’s energy is directed towards defending itself from the disease. Any weight loss process that the body might be positively reacting to is put on pause unless immunity function is normalized. Ashwagandha redirects the energy back to the weight loss process by boosting your immune system.
Rich in Antioxidants
Antioxidants are essential for weight loss and overall well-being, they speed up your metabolism, lower inflammation, and help in burning the fat stored in your body. Ashwagandha is rich in antioxidants and aids these benefits.
Can reduce cortisol levels
Cortisol is a hormone that is released by the adrenalin glands in response to stress. This is also released when your blood sugar becomes too low. When cortisol levels become chronically high due to an experience of chronic stress, it can lead to high blood sugar levels and increased abdominal fat storage. Ashwagandha can help reduce the cortisol levels in chronically stressed people and shed such unnecessary fat.
Increase energy levels
As seen above, Ashwagandha can help regulate the cortisol levels and the adrenal glands, ultimately benefiting the nervous system. It increases endurance and decreases fatigue. Being rich in iron, Ashwagandha also improves your blood circulation. Thus, your overall energy increases, and intense workouts have a better contribution to your weight loss regime.
Managing stress levels
Increased level of stress is one of the main reasons for weight increase in a lot of people. Stress triggers a lot of behaviours that can cause weight gain. This is not necessarily limited to binge eating – When stressed, increased cortisol levels trigger hunger by stimulating glucose production. Thus, your body craves food. Ashwagandha had adaptogen benefits – it helps the body to adapt to a variety of emotional and physical stress. It relieves stress by lowering cortisol and promotes weight loss.
Building muscle mass
Muscle mass is essential for any weight loss practices. High muscle mass is related to good health. Ashwagandha is proven to increase muscle mass and improve body composition. It also causes a reduction in body fat percentage and increases bodily strength as discussed above.
Helping sleep better
Lack of enough sleep is a major contributor to stress. It can also be the cause of hormonal imbalance. Both stress and hormonal imbalance lead to weight gain. Ashwagandha can help you by increasing your quality of sleep and saving the onset of a few major causes of weight gain.
Lower cholesterol and triglycerides
Ashwagandha may help improve your heart health by lowering your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Cholesterol and triglycerides are both forms of blood fats that have an adverse contribution to the health of your heart. Thus, Ashwagandha may help you reduce the risk of heart disease.
When you have a high level of TSH or thyroid-stimulating hormone in the blood, the condition is known as underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism. In case of mild hypothyroidism, Ashwagandha helps to lower the TSH and increase significantly the thyroid hormone levels.
Reducing blood sugar levels
Ashwagandha can keep blood sugar levels in control. It has been shown in several studies to have blood sugar reducing properties for both normal and diabetic people. It is also linked to improving insulin secretion and improving insulin sensitivity in muscle cells. Ashwagandha also lowers fasting blood sugar levels.
Help reducing signs of aging
Ashwagandha has antioxidant properties and may help in reducing symptoms of health problems that ate generally associated with aging. It also helps reduce greying of hair as it increases the production of melanin in the hair cells.
How Ashwagandha Can Help You in Weight Loss?
How to consume Ashwagandha for weight loss:
While it is available in capsule form, Ashwagandha is much more effective when consumed in powdered form. Effectivity has also been seen in the usage of powder from Ashwagandha leaves for weight loss. Ashwagandha powder from dried leaves can be mixed in a glass of milk along with some honey. You can also add a dash of cardamom for taste.
Ashwagandha and weight loss:
You can use Ashwagandha for weight loss due to a variety of benefits. In addition to weight loss, it has several other health benefits such as improving sleep, help with anxiety, stress, etc. to name a few. Now that we have known the benefits of Ashwagandha for weight loss, let us see how it can help you in weight loss and which qualities of this herb aid this process. Each point will help us understand an underlying situation that either promotes unhealthy weight gain or hampers the weight loss process and then we will see how the properties of Ashwagandha benefits for weight loss help you overcome this underlying condition:
- Replenishing antioxidants: Having natural antioxidants, Ashwagandha improves your overall health and promotes better burning of fat in this manner directly.
- Lowered immunity: Ashwagandha has benefits in boosting immunity and thus indirectly promoting weight loss. Let us understand it in this manner. When your body’s immunity is compromised, the weight loss process comes to a standstill until the immunity is back on track. Thus, better immunity has a positive impact on the weight loss journey and Ashwagandha promotes the same by improving your body’s immunity function.
- Stress, Anxiety, and symptoms of depression: Stress is a major reason for unhealthy weight gain. Stress also triggers unhealthy habits such as stress eating which further deteriorate the situation. Ashwagandha helps in reducing stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression, thus saving you from unhealthy weight gain and helping you maintain your weight.
- Hypothyroidism: This condition of imbalance in the thyroid hormones in the blood Is believed to be a major reason for being overweight. Ashwagandha helps to reduce these symptoms and increase and maintain the blood thyroid hormone levels, saving you from putting on unhealthy weight as a result of hypothyroidism.
- Elevated Cortisol levels: Such a condition results in the release of insulin thereby pushing the body to use blood sugar and store it as fat. Ashwagandha fat loss benefits are realized here since the herb improves the insulin sensitivity of the body. It regulates the blood sugar levels and saves both putting on of unwanted weight as well as losing unwanted weight.
- Making workout and dieting regimes more effective: Frequent workouts and dieting can be stressful and can lead to hiccups in progress, even leading to weight gain. Ashwagandha’s adaptogen properties help the body and mind handle this stress and reduce anxiety, making your weight loss and exercise program more effective.
Does Ashwagandha Help to Burn Belly Fat?
Your weight loss journey often begins with a focus on losing belly fat. Belly fat is most often the most visible fat deposition on your body. It is the one we want to get rid of the fastest, and it is that one contributor to weight gain that sores your eye the most. Several studies have also shown a correlation between abdominal obesity or carrying excess fat around the waist and the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Even in healthy adults, belly fat raises the risk of a heart attack.
A study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology puts forth the finding that that abdominal fat increases the chances of having a second heart attack even if the patient is taking proper medication and following medical advice. So, you must adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and a balanced diet to prevent belly fat.
Losing belly fat is an important step towards a healthy lifestyle that has a lower risk of heart diseases and other health conditions. While improvements to diet and exercise aid this process. The use of Ashwagandha for weight loss is a common supplement to support this journey.
Ashwagandha’s mechanism of action is quite complex. We can understand it in this manner- according to recorded scientific literature, in men who exercise, Ashwagandha can increase testosterone by 17% and decrease cortisol by 28%. In women, cortisol levels are decreased substantially (however, the testosterone impact does not apply here). Increasing testosterone and decreasing cortisol helps increase muscle mass and decrease body fat percentage. It also helps burn the fat in the right places that include stomach and mid-section, butt, and upper thighs.
Also, being the body’s primary stress hormone, lowered cortisol aid reduces stress. At its worst, high cortisol over a long period may also be the cause of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, etc. The usage of Ashwagandha thus aids in getting rid of unwanted abdomen fat. Usage of Ashwagandha for weight loss can be achieved from powdered leaves. The best way to use this Ashwagandha powder for weight loss is by mixing it in warm milk and a little honey and consuming directly.
Side Effects of Ashwagandha For Weight Loss
Taken in the right dose, Ashwagandha is considered a safe supplement. Though the effects of long-term consumption of Ashwagandha are not known that well, there have not been any cases of severe side effects. Although it is taken by most people; however, it is important to keep the following in mind before starting to consume Ashwagandha for weight loss:
- It is recommended that you consult once with your doctor before using it to lose weight or treat any other medical condition.
- It is not recommended to replace any ongoing medical treatments with Ashwagandha or any other natural or herbal alternative
- The recommended dosage of Ashwagandha depends on the type of supplement. Extracts are more effective than root or leaf powder or crude usage. Please remember to follow the instruction on the label of the product that you are using.
Ashwagandha is known to lower blood sugar, decrease blood pressure and alter thyroid hormone levels. These impacts though widely marketed as benefits of the herb may need to be considered carefully before consumption. Here you must also have a look at certain underlying conditions or medications that you need to be conscious of before deciding to go for or not go for the consumption of Ashwagandha:
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to not take Ashwagandha. There is no effect on lactating women, however, to be on the safer side, they are advised to not use the herb.
- People with autoimmune disease should avoid the usage of Ashwagandha unless recommended by the medical practitioner. This includes conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and type 1 diabetes.
Interaction with existing medication also needs to be considered before taking Ashwagandha
- Medication for thyroid dysfunctionality - you must avoid taking Ashwagandha as it may increase the hormone levels in some people.
- Blood sugar and blood pressure medications - you may need to adjust the dosages as Ashwagandha decreases the blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
- Blood-thinning medications or are suffering from a bleeding disorder, do consult before taking Ashwagandha. It should also be discontinued for at least two weeks before and after surgery as it may slow down the central nervous system.
- Medication effecting cortisol levels - If you take medication that affects your cortisol level, it is recommended that you consult your doctor before using Ashwagandha.
- Potency of drugs effecting central nervous system - Ashwagandha may increase the potency of barbiturates, sedatives, and anxiety medication.
Some general side effects when considering using Ashwagandha for weight loss are listed here. The side effects of the herb differ from one person to another:
- Taking large doses may cause vomiting, diarrhoea, or an upset stomach.
- As Ashwagandha causes the immune system to become more active, it can increase symptoms of auto-immune disease
- Ashwagandha usage can irritate the gastrointestinal tract
- Side effects such as dizziness, blurry vision, a heavy sensation in the head may happen
- Increased testosterone levels and increased stomach acid are also some side effects
The standardized root extract is taken in 450-500 gm capsules once or twice a day. It is recommended that any such practice is preceded by a doctor's consultation along with a check of all possible impacts that Ashwagandha can have on your existing medications.
Ashwagandha is an ancient medicinal herb with multiple benefits. Traditionally, it has been used for the treatment of many disorders across various cultures. Ashwagandha promotes a more energetic lifestyle by increasing antioxidants, improving immunity, and lowering cholesterol.
Including Ashwagandha in your wellbeing routine is an effective way to improve your quality of life. We have elaborated on the benefits of Ashwagandha for weight loss and tried to explore how the benefits of the herb aid weight loss. We have also highlighted the possible carefulness and due precautions that must be exercised before including Ashwagandha as a supplement.
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Dr. Shailendra Chaubey, BAMS
A modern-day Vaidya with 11 years of experience. He is the founder of Dr. Shailendra Healing School that helps patients recover from chronic conditions through the Ayurvedic way of life.