December 7, 2020

The Ashwagandha plant (Withania somnifera) is not just any other herb; it is the herb. Also known as the Winter cherry or Indian Ginseng, this famed plant from India originated from the arid climes of India, parts of the Middle East, and North Africa.

This Indian evergreen shrub belongs to the same plant family as tomatoes, potatoes, black nightshade, and pepper, Family Solanaceae. 

It has been a staple herb and one of the most important herbs in India’s over 3000-year history of Ayurvedic medicine.

The name ‘Ashwagandha’ translates to ‘smell of a horse,’ which is the scent of its roots, and it is believed to give those that ingest it the virility of a wild stallion. Indian traditional medicine classified it as Rasayana (tonic), believed to promote longevity and prevent aging.

In modern medicine, however, it’s classified as an adaptogen, a group of substances found in herbs that promote the stabilization of bodily processes, encourages a state of balance and detoxifies the body from the effects of long-term stress. Although the leaves, seeds, and fruits all possess medicinal properties, the greatest interest is in its roots.

How Does Ashwagandha Work?

Enhancing GABA and Serotonin Receptors

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an essential neurotransmitter within the brain. It’s called an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means it’s responsible for decreasing brain activity and excitement, among other things. Serotonin is another important neurotransmitter closely involved with mood regulation.

Imbalances in these two key neurotransmitters can lead to significant changes in mood stability, especially during periods of stress. Ashwagandha enhances the activity of GABA and serotonin receptors, reducing anxiety and helping the body deal with stress more effectively.

Antioxidant Properties

Studies have shown that Ashwagandha also possesses antioxidant properties, which are very healthy for the brain. Free radicals are produced by brain cells during normal metabolic processes, but these free radicals can also be harmful when they build up to unsafe levels.

Stress can cause these dangerous metabolites to build up more quickly than the body can handle naturally. Ashwagandha is a natural antioxidant and helps your body safely neutralize these unstable radicals before they can cause further damage to brain tissue.


Aside from being just a great antioxidant, Ashwagandha also has another essential neuroprotective function. It prevents neuron loss during periods of chronic stress. Long periods of stress increases the level of cortisol within our body. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone and can adversely affect our health if it remains elevated for too long.

In the brain, it can cause certain important neurons to die off or become less effective. Ashwagandha contains a special compound called glycowithanolides, which directly reduces cortisol. The GABA-like effect of Ashwagandha also reduces anxiety levels and further helps with stress.

Functions of Ashwagandha

Stress Reliever

Ashwagandha is a great stress reliever. It is the recommended nootropic supplement for those who work in high-stress environments like tech, emergency services, or finance. It not only produces a calming effect, but it protects your body from the long term negative health effects of raised cortisol levels.


An anxiolytic is a substance that reduces anxiety and produces a calming effect. Due to its action on GABA receptors, Ashwagandha is great for those who are dealing with anxiety issues. The added benefit of its positive effect on serotonin receptors makes it great for mood stabilization as well.


Chronic exposure to high levels of cortisol affects the brain adversely. Beneath the easily noticeable features like memory loss, inability to focus, and sleep deprivation, there are deeper consequences like neuronal death. Ashwagandha prevents this by reducing cortisol levels and destroying dangerous free radicals produced when the body is under stress.

Memory aid

Studies have shown that stress negatively affects cognitive function. It makes it harder to form new memories, make rational decisions, and execute executive functions optimally. That’s why Ashwagandha is popular among students preparing for exams. It allows them to focus properly and assimilate new information even under high-stress conditions.

Dosage of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is available in pill form, capsule, tincture, tea, powder, or extract. It is important to note that the extract is usually more concentrated than the powder and should be dosed accordingly.

The recommended dose of Ashwagandha is usually between 250 to 500 mg. The 500 mg dose should be taken in divided doses, 250 mg in the morning and another 250 mg in the early afternoon.

Side Effects of Ashwagandha

The Ashwagandha nootropic is generally well-tolerated but does have some serious side effects in certain individuals:

  • Ashwagandha stimulates the thyroid gland, so check with your endocrinologist before using the supplement.
  • Pregnant women should not take it as it has strong hormonal effects that may lead to a miscarriage.
  • It can enhance the sedative effect of other anxiolytics, antidepressants, and tranquilizers.
  • It may enhance the effects of blood pressure medication, immunosuppressants, blood glucose medications.
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • Abdominal pain
  • Drowsiness



Ashwagandha is an amazing natural nootropic with a wide variety of great health benefits. When it comes to pure nootropics, Ashwagandha is the best, and adding it to your nootropics regimen will surely give you that boost you need to take your brainpower to the next level.



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