Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng, is used as an Ayurvedic supplement very frequently. However, a commonly asked question is whether Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) interferes with one’s weight loss/weight gain goals or not. Well, find out the detailed answer in this article!
Ashwagandha has been used extensively around the world to deal with many problems like lack of sleep, male sexual problems, anxiety, depression, female disorders, generalized weakness, neurodegenerative diseases, and arthritis. It is also used as an adaptogen.
Ashwagandha is not only used in the Ayurvedic system of medicine. It is also used in Unani medicine, Siddha medicine, homeopathic medicine and African medicine for treating various ailments.
Due to its numerous benefits, ashwagandha has also managed to catch the attention of the western world where it has become equally popular.
Ashwagandha is used as an Ayurvedic supplement by itself, as a nutritional supplement, and also as part of various Ayurvedic formulations.
The Ayurvedic perspective of ashwagandha and weight gain
*In the renowned Ayurvedic text Charak Samhita, ashwagandha has been mentioned as a bhrimaneeya and balya herb. 1,2 Bhrimaneeya herb means that which improves body mass and nourishment while balya herb means that which improves strength and immunity.
Both of these categories support the idea that this medicinal herb is helpful in gaining weight. Besides this, many other Ayurvedic texts and scholars mention how it might be helpful in gaining weight, which is explained below:
*In the renowned Ayurvedic text Sushruta Samhita, it has been mentioned that ashwagandha is helpful in managing malnutrition.3 This point indicates that ashwagandha is helpful in gaining weight.
*According to Chakra Dutt, ashwagandha improves the nourishment, strength, and immunity of the body. It is also helpful in conditions like malnutrition and emaciation in children.4
*Even in the popular Ayurvedic text Bhav Prakash, it has been mentioned that ashwagandha is helpful in conditions like emaciation and that it provides strength to the body.5
*In the Ayurvedic text Raj Nighantu, it has been mentioned that this medicinal herb is helpful in treating emaciation.5
Thus, Ayurveda clearly supports the idea that this medicinal herb might help with weight gain in conditions like malnutrition and emaciation.
Scientific research done on ashwagandha and weight gain
*A study done on rats for three months concluded that there was a significant increase in body weight after treating rats with ashwagandha.6
**Another study done on 57 young male subjects for eight weeks. Here, two groups were formed. One group had 29 male subjects (treatment group) while the other group had 28 male subjects (placebo group).
In the treatment group, male subjects were given 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract twice daily while the placebo group was given starch. After 8 weeks, the results showed that the group treated with ashwagandha had a significant increase in muscular strength and muscle size. 7
***Muscular bulk also contributes to weight gain. However, weight gain due to muscular bulk is different from weight gain due to an increase in body fat.
Since we are discussing weight gain here, it is important to mention that ashwagandha contributes to weight gain due to an increase in muscle bulk. Thus, modern research also supports the role of ashwagandha in weight gain.
However, these studies are done on a limited number of people and require more detailed information.
****The role of Ashwagandha in weight loss management has also been mentioned in several places. Do not confuse this point with the role of ashwagandha in weight gain. Ashwagandha helps with weight loss when weight is gained due to chronic stress. It helps in managing stress and there are several studies that show its direct effect on weight management.
Ashwagandha is helpful in reducing psychological and physiological markers of stress, serum cortisol level, and food cravings. It also improves eating habits. Therefore, we conclude that Ashwagandha root extract may also be useful for body weight management in people experiencing chronic stress.8
One should always take Ashwagandha supplements under the supervision of a qualified Ayurveda physician.
- Charak Samhita,Sutra Sathan, 4/2 by Aacharya Vidyadhar Shukla and Professor Ravidutt , Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan,2017
- Charak Samhita,Sutra Sathan, 4/7 by Aacharya Vidyadhar Shukla and Professor Ravidutt , Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan,2017
- Sushruta Samhita, Uttar tantra, 41/43, p.no. 326, by Kaviraj Ambikadutt Shastri, Chaukhamba Sanskrit Sansthan,2011
- Aadrash Nighantu,vol. 2, page no. 136, by Shri Bapalal Vaidya, Chaukhmbha Bharti Academy,2016.
- Aadrash Nighantu, vol.2, page no. 135, by Shri Bapalal Vaidya, Chaukhmbha Bharti Academy,2016.
- Singh, Narendra et al. “An overview on ashwagandha: a Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda” African journal of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines: AJTCAM vol. 8,5 Suppl (2011): 208-13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3252722/
- Wankhede, Sachin et al. “Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 12 43. 25 Nov. 2015, doi:10.1186/s12970-015-0104-9 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4658772/
- Choudhary, Dnyanraj et al. “Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment With Ashwagandha Root Extract: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial” Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine vol. 22,1 (2016): 96-106. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5871210/