Acne is the most common skin condition, with an estimated 80% of all people between 11 and 30 experiencing outbreaks.1 Acne is characterized by the presence of comedones, whiteheads and blackheads and sometimes pustules, nodules and cysts. It occurs when hair follicles are clogged with cells and oil from the skin.
What Causes Acne
How Ashwagandha Helps Acne
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) also known as Indian ginseng, helps to fight infections, deters oil plugs from being formed on the skin, and is a natural and healthy way to treat acne scars.2
In the following section, we explore some of the advantages it offers in acne treatment with suitable scientific evidence.
It reduces and extinguishes the inflammatory cascade.
Biologically active steroids withaferin A and 3-b-hydroxy-2, 3-dihydrowithanolide F present in Ashwagandha have promising anti-inflammatory properties.2 In fact, studies on Ashwagandha have shown better results in reducing inflammation as compared to phenylbutazone3 and hydrocortisone.4 Withanolide obtained from this plant possesses analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity due to its cyclooxygenase-2 inhibition property.5
It provides support on the road to hormonal balance.
“Adaptogen” is a term used for any plant or compound which helps the body regain hormonal and psychological balance (homeostasis) in times of stress. Ashwagandha is regarded as a first class adaptogenic tonic in the Ayurvedic classical texts. A few conditions of the endocrine system, such as Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and Cushing’s syndrome can lead to outbreaks of acne. Alkaloids, saponins, phenols, flavonoids, and glycosides present in Ashwagandha supports the overall function of the endocrine system and prevents acne outbreaks from happening.6
It slays stress and anxiety thereby preventing stress-induced acne.
Ashwagandha reduces levels of serum cortisol which is elevated in stressful conditions and mental anxiety.7 It also reduces stress‐induced increases in dopamine receptors in the corpus striatum, thereby reducing the effects of dopamine dysregulation. 8
It corrects the imbalance between the immune and neuroendocrine system to normalize the bodily functions under stressful conditions by targeting the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal gland axis.9 The anxiolytic action of Ashwagandha is found to be better than that of benzodiazepine lorazepam and its antidepressant action than tricyclic antidepressant imipramine.10
Ashwagandha has neuroprotective properties. It nourishes the central nervous system to enhance tolerance to stress. 11 Glycosides present in it significantly show anti-stress activity.12
High levels of stress also result in an increase in glucose and salt levels in the blood which is one of the major cause of acne formation. Ashwagandha brings both of them to the normal level, due to the presence of flavonoids which possess hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic activities. 13 Ashwagandha significantly increases the volume and sodium content in urine and decreases triglycerides and low-density lipoproteins in blood serum.14
It promotes the scavenging of free radicals.
Ashwagandha improves the body’s defense against disease by improving the cell-mediated immunity. It also possesses potent antioxidant properties that protects against cellular damage caused by free radicals. Ashwagandha’s claim to fame is its ability to lower the blood levels of lipid peroxides, or fat soluble free radicals, which are the most dangerous type of free radicals for acne.
Glycowithanolides present in Ashwagandha, tend to normalize the augmented superoxide dismutase and lipid peroxidation activity and enhance the activities of catalase and glutathione peroxidase thereby exhibiting its antioxidant property which is responsible for reducing oxidative stress.15 The antioxidant and anti-oxidative properties of Ashwagandha also abolish premature aging proving it an anti-aging herb.16
It’s an antimicrobial and immunomodulator.
Withaferin A present in Ashwagandha possesses unsaturated lactone-rings which aids in inhibiting the growth of various Gram-positive bacteria, acid-fast and aerobic bacilli, and pathogenic fungi. Propionibacterium acnes17, Staphylococcus epidermidis18 are the Gram-Positive Bacteria and are the main organisms which play an important role in pathogenesis of acne vulgaris. One study observed that the lactone showed stronger therapeutic activity than that of Penicillin.19
In another study, a significant increase in hemoglobin, RBC, WBC, platelet count and body weight along with increases in haemolytic antibody responses towards human erythrocytes was observed which is due to its immunomodulator activity.20 The sitoindosides VII-X and withaferin-A are anti-stress agents which support immunomodulatory actions and have antifungal properties also.21 Ashwagandha root is effective in the treatment for some patients with nonclassic 11- hydroxylase deficiency which causes acne.22
The Ayurvedic Perspective
Ashwagandha in the ancient Ayurvedic text is known as the “Sattvic Kapha Rasayana”. The Charaka Samhita states that Ashwagandha reduces inflammation and tonifies muscle. 23 It is anti-inflammatory (Shophhara) and indicated in inflammatory swelling (Granthi).24 Due to its rejuvenation (Rasayana) property, stronger and higher quality dhatus are formed which supports the channals (Srotas) and removes all types of blockages.25 The tissues (Dhatus) benefiting from its use are blood (Rakta), muscles (Mamsa), fat (Medas), bones (Asthi), bone marrow (Majja) and semen (Shukra).26
According to the ancient Ayurvedic physician Sushruta the causative factors for Acne (yuvanapidaka) are the vitiation of vata, kapha and blood (Rakta).27 According to another classical text, the Sharangdhara Samhita, this disease is produced by the waste product (Mala) of semen (Sukra).28 Ashwagandha pacifies kapha and vata (Vata-kapha-hara) and also balances semen (Sukra dhatu) therefore reducing the formation of acne (Yuvanpidika) and effective in the treatment of acne.
Ashwagandha curbs all the causes of acne formation and prevents them from occurring.
Ashwagandha should be taken internally and applied externally over the affected part for best results.
It is seen that the paste of roots prepared with water effectively reduces the incidences of carbuncles, ulcers, boils, pimples, painful swellings and bedsores when applied locally.29 The dried fruits and roots are anti-inflammatory and used topically for the management of swelling and ulcerations.30
How To Use Ashwagandha For Acne
The dried powder of the roots and leaves of Ashwagandha should be taken.
Take 1 teaspoon of Ashwagandha powder with milk twice daily on an empty stomach. Apply a paste of the fresh leaves or a mixture of the powder with honey or lime juice to the affected area for 15-20 minutes daily.
In Ayurveda, we believe that the skin reflects what’s happening inside. Use Ashwagandha to balance yourself from the inside and look beautiful on the outside.
1 “Fast Facts About Acne.” National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/Acne/acne_ff.asp.
2 F. Narenda, M. Balla, J. Prashinta, and M. Gilca, “An overview on ashwagandha: a rasayana (rejuvenator) of ayurveda,” African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, vol. 8, supplement 5, pp. 208–2013, 2011.
3 Khan Effect of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) root extract on amelioration of oxidative stress and autoantibodies production in collagen-induced arthritic rats. 2015 Jun;12(2):117-25. doi: 10.1515/jcim-2014-0075,PUB MED
4 Begum VH, Sadique J. Long term effect of herbal drug Withania somnifera on adjuvant induced arthritis in rats. Indian J. Exp. Biol. 1988; 26(11): 877‐882
5 Dr. Kiran R Giri Comparative study of anti-inflammatory activity of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) with hydrocortisone in experimental animals (Albino rats), ISSN 2320-3862 JMPS 2016; 4(1): 78-83.
6 Ruchi Tiwari ,Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): Role in Safeguarding Health, Immunomodulatory Effects, Combating Infections and Therapeutic Applications: A Review, Science Alert
7 Amrin Saiyed Integrative Medicine Research journal homepage: www.imr-journal.com Original Article Effect of combination of Withania somnifera Dunal and Tribulus terrestris Linn on letrozole induced polycystic ovarian syndrome in rats
8 Auddy B, Hazra J, Mitra A, Abedon B, Ghosal S. A standardized Withania somnifera extract significantly reduces stress-related parameters in chronically stressed humans: A double-blind, randomized
9 KSM-66 Ashwagandha: The High-potency, Full Spectrum Ingredient for Stress Relief, Energy, Cognition and Immunity Anand V. Bodapati, Ph. D. UCLA Anderson School Advisor, Ixoreal Biomed
10 Verma SK, Kumar A. Theraputic uses of Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha) with a note on withanoloids and its pharmacological actions. Asian J Pharma Clin Res. 2011;4(1):1–4.
11 Abdel-Magied EM, Abdel-Rahman HA, Harraz FM,The effect of aqueous extracts of Cynomorium coccineum and Withania somnifera on testicular development in immature Wistar rats.J Ethnopharmacol. 2001 Apr; 75(1): 1-4.[PubMed] 12 Bhattacharya SK, Bhattacharya A, Sairam K, Ghosal S. Anxiolytic-antidepressant activity of Withania somnifera glycowithanolides: an experimental study. Phytomedicine, 7: 463-469 (2000)
13 Scientific Basis for the Therapeutic Use of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha): A Review Lakshmi-Chandra Mishra
14 Rajangam Udayakumar Hypoglycaemic and Hypolipidaemic Effects of Withania somnifera Root and Leaf Extracts on Alloxan-Induced Diabetic Rats 09 May; 10(5): 2367–2382. PMC2695282Published online 2009 May 20. doi: 10.3390/ijms10052367 PMCI
15 Bhattacharya, S.K. and A.V. Muruganandam, 2003. Adaptogenic activity of Withania somnifera: An experimental study using a rat model of chronic stress. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav., 75: 547-555.
16 Bhattacharya A.Anti-oxidant effect of Withania somnifera glycowithanolides in chronic footshock stress-induced perturbations of oxidative free radical scavenging enzymes and lipid peroxidation in rat frontal cortex and striatum. 2001 Jan;74(1):16PUB.MED
17 Bhattacharya SK1, Satyan KS, Ghosal. Antioxidant activity of glycowithanolides from Withania somnifera. 1997 Mar;35(3):236-9S.PUB MED
18 Srivastava Aparijita et al Formulation and evaluation of Anti acne cream containing Withania somnifera , , Journal of Pharmaceutical and Scientific innovations
19 Rathod M, Kamath S. A clinical study to evaluate the efficacy of Jalaukavacharana and Sarivadyasava in Yuvanpidaka (acne vulgaris). Int Res J Pharm2012;3(7):215-7.
20 Kaur Narinderpal,A Review on Pharmacological Profile of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha)Research & Reviews: Journal of Botanical Sciences 1996 Feb;50(2):69-76.Studies on the immunomodulatory effects of Ashwagandha.pub med
21 Abraham, A., I. Kirson, D. Lavie and E. Glotter, 1975. The withanolides of Withania somnifera chemotypes I and II. Phytochemistry, 14: 189-194. , Choudhary, M.I., Dur-E-Shahwar, Z. Parveen, A.Jabbar, I. Ali and Atta-ur-Rahman, 1995. Antifungal steroidal lactones from withania coagulance. Phytochemistry, 40: 1243-1246. PubMed.
22 Treatment of Nonclassic 11-Hydroxylase Deficiency with Ashwagandha Root Daniel Powell Hindawi Case Reports in Endocrinology Volume 2017, Article ID 1869560, 3 pages https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/186956
23 Charak Samhita 6000BC, Charaka translation into English: Translator: Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society. Jamnagar, India, (1949).
24 Dr. J.L.N.Sastry, DravyagunaVijnana, Study of essential Medicinal Plants in Ayurveda Vol 2, ChaukhambhaOrientalia,Varanasi
25 Tanya Gardner AHP Level 2 December 2015 ,The Characteristics, Benefits and Application of Ashwagandha in the West
26 Pole S, Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice, (London. Singing Dragon. 2013), 133
27 Sushruta: SushrutaSamhitaNidan sthana chapter 13 verse 39
28 Sharngadhar: SharngadharSamhita. Jiwanprada Hindi Commentary by Dr. Smt. ShailajaSrivastava: ChaukhambhaOrientalia; Varanasi, 2013, PurvaKhand 5/13-15 Pp. 38
29 Rasool, M. and P. Varalakshmi, 2007. Protective effect of Withania somnifera root powder in relation to lipid peroxidation, antioxidant status, glycoproteins and bone collagen on adjuvant-induced arthritis. Fundamental Clin. Pharmacol., 21: 157-164.
30 The Lawrence Review of Natural Products March 1988. Withania. Copyright 1994 by Facts and Comparisons (ISSN 0734-4961). 111 West Port Plaza Suite 400, St. Louis, Missouri 63146-3098.