Monthly Archives: April 2022

How to Reduce Joint Pain and Inflammation Naturally: The Best Supplements, Exercises, and Foods

In a 2015 paper published in the medical journal Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association, Leslie J. Crofford, MD wrote:

Unfortunately, treatments for chronic pain are woefully inadequate and often worsen clinical outcomes. Developing new treatment strategies for patients with chronic pain is of utmost urgency. 

Chronic pain affects 20% of adults in the U.S., myself included. After multiple broken bones in my formative years and a diagnosis of reactive arthritis (an inflammatory autoimmune condition) in 2016, I set out on a journey to discover the best natural treatments for my joint pain. 

After talking to countless health and wellness experts, reviewing research papers, and years of self-experimentation, I found a number of exercises, dietary restrictions, and supplements that significantly reduced my joint pain. 

That’s not to say these are going to work for your specific condition–because pain is highly individual–but some of these may work for you. 

Read on to learn more. 

Foods That May Increase Inflammation Cause Muscle and Joint Pain

When you’re experiencing joint issues like arthritis, your body is in an inflammatory state, which can trigger pain and other symptoms. 

What you eat may increase inflammation and have an impact on your pain levels

Here are some of the most common foods that are known to cause joint pain for certain people: 

  • Sugar
  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • FODMAPs

Sugar and Joint Pain 

Researchers have found that processed sugars trigger the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines, which can have an impact on joint pain.

This is a problem, because the average American consumes a hefty 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day, which amounts to an extra 350 calories. The CDC recommends a maximum of 12 teaspoons. 

Long story short, avoid added sugar in foods and drinks if you’re dealing with pain in your joints and see if it makes a difference. At worst, you’ll probably lose a little weight, because added sugar is one of the biggest causes of weight gain

Gluten and Joint Pain

Can gluten cause joint pain?

There’s not enough clinical evidence to this point to know for sure but it’s clear that people who are gluten sensitive have a different type of immune response to grain proteins. 

When some, but not all, people with gluten sensitivity eliminate these from their diet, they may find their arthritis symptoms also improve. For some with gluten-related joint pain, symptoms may improve within weeks after ditching gluten. For others, it may take a little longer, and for many, the problem may not be gluten at all.

So long story short, it doesn’t work for everyone, but if cutting out gluten helps you feel better, then stick with it

Dairy and Joint Pain

A study published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2015 found that eating dairy foods increased low-grade inflammation in a small sample of German adults.

Another study of more than 40,000 people with osteoarthritis (OA) found that those who ate more dairy products were more likely to need hip replacement surgery.

While more research is needed to better understand the link (if any) between consuming dairy and joint pain, we do know that a large number of people (over 2/3 of the world’s population) are unable to fully digest lactose, the sugar naturally present in milk products. 

So it stands to reason that if you’re lactose intolerant and you have joint pain, it’s probably a good idea to avoid dairy products

FODMAPs and Joint Pain

“FODMAP” stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, a group of carbohydrates that are not easily digested and may ferment in the gut, leading to bloating, gas, water-retention, diarrhea, and inflammation. 

Foods that fall under the FODMAP umbrella include wheat, certain fruits, vegetables and dairy products, and sugar alcohols, which are in some artificial sweeteners.  

Studies have found a low FODMAP diet can alleviate symptoms of IBS and reduce inflammation by reducing the amount of foods in your system that feed problematic bacteria.  

This can have a calming effect in the GI tract and may help reduce inflammation in other areas, including joints.

While there’s no peer-reviewed research to suggest a low-FODMAP diet improves arthritis symptoms, following the diet for a couple of months can help improve bacterial balance which, in some, may help to reduce inflammation. 

The Best Supplements for Arthritis-Related Joint Pain and Inflammation

Magnesium for Joint Pain

Magnesium strengthens bones; maintains nerve and muscle function; regulates heart rhythm and blood sugar levels; and helps maintain joint cartilage. 

So does magnesium work for joint pain? 

Possibly. 

Low magnesium intake is associated with increased knee pain in people with osteoarthritis. The famed Framingham Heart Study found that eating foods high in magnesium and potassium increases bone density and may help prevent postmenopausal osteoporosis. 

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for magnesium is 420 milligrams (mg) daily for men 31 and older; 320 mg for women. 

Side effects of taking magnesium are rare, and may include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and weakness, according to the Arthritis Foundation

Magnesium may interact with some diuretics, antibiotics, antacids and laxatives. 

Fish Oil 

The research available on fish oil and joint pain is fairly limited; however, there are two studies that suggest fish oil may be a promising treatment option.

In the first study, researchers reviewed 17 randomized, controlled trials assessing the pain relieving effects of omega-3 fatty acids in patients with rheumatoid arthritis or joint pain. They found that taking a fish oil supplement for 3-4 months reduced joint pain intensity, minutes of morning stiffness, number of painful and/or tender joints, and NSAID consumption.

In the second study, a 12-week, double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, sixty patients with active rheumatoid arthritis (49 female and 11 male) underwent rheumatologist examination and disease activity score were calculated. Then patients were enrolled in this 12 week, double blind, randomized, placebo- controlled study where one group received a fish oil supplement and the other received a placebo. At the end of the study, researchers concluded:

Daily supplementation with omega-3 has significant clinical benefit and may reduce the need for concomitant analgesic consumption.

Turmeric 

Studies have shown that curcumin, a compound found in turmeric supplements, may support patients suffering from autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Curcumin inhibits these autoimmune diseases by regulating inflammatory cytokines and associated signaling pathways in your immune cells.

For those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, in particular, turmeric can reduce joint swelling and stiffness.

It’s important to note that curcumin has poor bioavailability alone. For maximum absorption, make sure you choose a turmeric supplement with black pepper extract.

Glucosamine

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are the building blocks for cartilage and appear to stimulate the body to make more cartilage.

There are conflicting studies on the efficacy of glucosamine and chondroitin, but based on what we know now it does appear that glucosamine and chondroitin can reduce the rate of collagen (joint tissue) degradation and symptoms of osteoarthritis, particularly in the knees.

Glucosamine and chondroitin’s effectiveness for rheumatoid arthritis isn’t as clear, as only a handful of studies have been conducted in relation to RA. …

One study found that for RA patients, glucosamine appears to have positive effects for pain. When compared to NSAIDs for pain relief, glucosamine has shown evidence to produce similar or improved pain reduction in RA patients as NSAIDs, without the side effects.

CBD Oil for Arthritis Pain

Phytocannabinoids in CBD appear to have neuroprotective properties that could play a role in pain management.

A study published in the journal Pain in December 2017 analyzed whether CBD could prevent osteoarthritis pain and joint neuropathy. Based on their findings, researchers affirmed that it did both because it decreased joint inflammation and served as a protectant to the nerves.

A research review called published in the European Journal of Rheumatology stated:

Preclinical and clinical studies support the therapeutic application of cannabinoids in the treatment of chronic pain, and to date, patients suffering from chronic arthritic and musculoskeletal pain.

Kevin Boehnke, Ph.D., research investigator in the department of anesthesiology at the University of Michigan’s Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center notes that ongoing preclinical studies in animals have demonstrated that CBD reduces pain and inflammation, and studies of CBD in humans show that it is well-tolerated and has few negative side effects. He states:

There are observational studies that ask why people use CBD and if it’s effective, and results tend to be quite positive. People report using CBD for anxiety, pain, sleep — all things that go hand-in-hand with chronic pain.

We need more clinical studies to help us better understand how, exactly, CBD affects pain and whether or not it’s a safe and effective long-term option.

Other Causes of Joint Pain

Can Antihistamines Cause Joint Pain?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, H2 antihistamines, which help with stomach issues and include Tagamet HB, Pepcid, and Zantac, are most likely to cause joint pain

H-1 antihistamines, which are typically used to treat allergies, are not as likely to lead to joint pain. 

Cold Weather and Joint Pain

There’s not a lot of evidence around how cold weather affects joint pain but some theories suggest that the drop in barometric pressure caused by cold weather makes the tendons, muscles and the surrounding tissues in your body expand. This can cause pain, especially in joints affected by arthritis.

Can Seasonal Allergies Cause Joint Pain and Inflammation?

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, there is no definitive relationship between food allergy and joint inflammation. But other doctors argue that since allergies cause inflammation, they may play a role in joint pain. 

Joint Pain and Diabetes

If you have diabetes, you’re at increased risk of various bone and joint disorders like charcot joint, diabetic hand syndrome, osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis, says the Mayo Clinic.

And the American Arthritis Foundation says that people with arthritis have a 61% higher risk of developing diabetes. 

Joint Pain After COVID

Research published in The Lancet in October 2020 found that almost 15 percent of COVID-19 patients report experiencing joint pain. And for many of those who already have arthritis, it appears getting the virus may exaggerate the symptoms as well. 

However, the long-term impact of COVID on our bones and joints are still unknown, and joint pain often has other underlying causes. 

If you’re experiencing joint pain post-COVID, go talk to your doctor and ask for a referral to a pain specialist or physical therapist who may be able to better help you. 

Further Reading: 

My 10 Favorite Exercises for Reducing Aches and Pains

The Best Science-proven Natural Herbal Nutritional Supplements for Stress Relief, Anxiety, Sleep and Recovery

In this article, we’ll look at what nutritional supplements are recommended for managing stress and reducing anxiety, based on data and science

While there’s no such thing as “magic pills” that will remove all anxiety from your life, there are some supplements out there that can help you de-stress and feel a little better at the very least. 

Natural Supplements for Stress and Anxiety

If you’re considering taking a nutritional supplement during times of stress and anxiety, there’s no shortage of supplements out there that claim to help you manage turbulent times.

But which ones (if any) actually work? 

To answer this question, we’ll turn to the most objective source of information available: PubMed, the online database maintained by the United States National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health that catalogs all science journals and clinical studies. 

Here are four natural supplements that may help you get at least some relief: 

CBD

Do Magnesium Supplements Work for Anxiety?

Magnesium is an abundant mineral in the body that’s naturally present in many foods, added to other food products, and available as a dietary supplement. 

Magnesium is required for energy production, contributes to the structural development of bone, and plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, a process that is important to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm. 

A 2017 research review found that magnesium supplements do appear to work for anxiety, based on several small studies. 

In a 2017 study, researchers found that: 

“Existing evidence is suggestive of a beneficial effect of Mg on subjective anxiety in anxiety vulnerable samples. However, the quality of the existing evidence is poor. Well-designed randomized controlled trials are required to further confirm the efficacy of Mg supplementation. 

In a 2020 research review, researchers stated that, “stress could increase magnesium loss, causing a deficiency; and in turn, magnesium deficiency could enhance the body’s susceptibility to stress, resulting in a magnesium and stress vicious circle.”

And a 2021 study found that taking a magnesium supplement “with or without vitamin B6, could provide a meaningful clinical benefit in daily life for individuals with stress and low magnesemia.” 

There is some conflicting evidence about the ability of magnesium to treat depression, so if you’re depressed, talk to your doctor and seek other treatment methods. In a 2020 research review called The Role and the Effect of Magnesium in Mental Disorders: A Systematic Review, researchers had this to say: 

“We found three positive studies showing the efficacy of magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression. In contrast, Fard et al. (2017) showed that magnesium did not reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms in postpartum women.”

Magnesium Safety and Side Effects

High doses of magnesium from supplements or medications can cause nausea, abdominal cramping and diarrhea.

In addition, the magnesium in supplements can interact with some types of antibiotics and other medicines. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you’re considering a magnesium supplement, especially if you routinely use magnesium-containing antacids or laxatives.


Can Vitamin B6 Work for Stress Relief? 

Vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) is important for normal brain development and for keeping the nervous system and immune system healthy.

Food sources of vitamin B-6 include poultry, fish, potatoes, chickpeas, bananas and fortified cereals. Vitamin B-6 can also be taken as a supplement, typically as an oral capsule, tablet or liquid.

Research has shown that stress depletes your body’s stores of B-6 and supplementation with B6 vitamins could help reduce stress levels. 

In contrast to the study mentioned above in the Magnesium section, a 2018 study showed that taking a magnesium supplement with vitamin B6 provided more stress relief benefits than just magnesium alone. 

Vitamin B6 Safety and Side Effects

The Mayo Clinic says that taking Vitamin B6 in supplement form is generally safe. 

Consuming vitamin B-6 through food appears to be safe, even in excessive amounts.

However, taking too much vitamin B-6 from supplements may cause:

  • A lack of muscle control or coordination of voluntary movements (ataxia)
  • Painful, disfiguring skin lesions
  • Heartburn and nausea
  • Sensitivity to sunlight (photosensitivity)
  • Numbness
  • Reduced ability to sense pain or extreme temperatures

Check with your doctor before taking vitamin B-6 if you’re using any medications. Possible drug interactions include:

  • Altretamine
  • Barbiturates
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Levodopa
  • Antiepileptic Medications
  • Cycloserine
  • Theophylline

Is Lemon Balm Good for Anxiety? 

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), a member of the mint family, is considered a calming herb.

Several small studies have shown that lemon balm supplements may be good for anxiety: 

  • A 2021 metaanalysis found that “lemon balm significantly improved mean anxiety and depression scores compared with the placebo”. 
  • A 2018 study showed that 8-week supplementation with 3 g MO can decrease depression, anxiety, stress, and sleep disorder in patients with CSA.
  • A 2014 study found that lemon balm could have beneficial effects on mood and cognitive performance. 
  • In a 2011 non-placebo-controlled trial, researchers had this to say regarding treating anxiety with lemon balm: “treatment has been demonstrated to improve mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders, its associated symptoms and insomnia in humans.”

Lemon Balm Safety and Side Effects

Lemon balm supplements are possibly safe when used at a dose of up to 500 mg daily for up to 6 months. Side effects are generally mild and might include increased appetite, nausea, dizziness, and wheezing. There isn’t enough reliable information to know if lemon balm is safe to use for more than 6 months.

Lemon balm may change thyroid function, reduce thyroid hormone levels, and interfere with thyroid hormone replacement therapy. Avoid lemon balm if you have thyroid disease.

Does CBD Help Treat Anxiety? 

CBD, or cannabidiol, is the second most prevalent active ingredient in the cannabis plant, and is usually derived from hemp, a cousin of marijuana. 

Here’s what we know about CBD and anxiety: 

  • In one study, 80% of patients decreased anxiety levels within the first month of using a CBD supplement. 
  • A 2019 research review that looked at articles published from case reports, case series, or randomized controlled trials on human subjects found that “CBD has a promising role as alternative therapy in the management of anxiety disorders. However, more studies with standardized approaches to dosing and clinical outcome measurements are needed to determine the appropriate dosing strategy for CBD and its place in therapy.” 
  • A 2021 journal article called Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety and Mood Disorders said that “given its safety profile, CBD is considered a promising new agent in the treatment of anxiety and mood disorders.” 
  • A 2020 journal article called Use of Cannabidiol for the Treatment of Anxiety: A Short Synthesis of Pre-Clinical and Clinical Evidence stated that “existing pre-clinical and clinical evidence supports a possible role for CBD as a novel treatment for anxiety disorders. The findings reviewed in this study demonstrate the potential of CBD to produce anxiolytic-like effects in pre-clinical models and the potential of CBD to induce acute anxiolytic effects when administered as a single dose in healthy volunteers and individuals with SAD. 
  • A 2019 double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study that assessed the efficacy of CBD treatment for Japanese late teenagers with social anxiety disorder found “significantly decreased anxiety” for study participants who took CBD. 

Will CBD Get You High? 

CBD does not cause a “high” like marijuana because it’s too low in THC, the psychoactive substance. 

CBD is non-toxic and non-intoxicating. 

Is CBD Safe to Use?

According to a report from the World Health Organization, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

That being said, there are several serious safety considerations:

  1. CBD can thin blood, so people with thin blood or who are on blood thinners should consult a doctor before taking it. 
  2. CBD is known to inhibit the CYP450 enzyme system which is a primary means with which the body processes a large assortment of conventional medications (NSAIDs, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, steroids, anesthetics, etc.). Meaning, with both CBD and these drugs in the system, they’re processed slower than normal which can lead to problems, especially liver toxicity. 
  3. Another issue is that certain drugs are designed (prodrugs, like codeine which metabolizes into morphine inside the body) to activate during processing, and CBD can inhibit the amount of the drug being activated. 

According to a 2017 review from the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, the three most common side effects from clinical studies looking at patients who used CBD to treat epilepsy and psychotic disorders were strong changes in food intake, some diarrhea, and tiredness at high doses. 

Summary

Can taking nutritional supplements during times of stress and anxiety really work to help you get relief? 

Based on the current body of evidence available, there do seem to be some supplements available in pill form that can help you achieve these outcomes … but larger studies are definitely needed to better understand the efficacy, safety, and dosing. 

Talk to your doctor if you’re having persistent anxious thoughts and before taking any new supplement for anxiety, stress, or sleep so they can help determine the best option(s) for you. 

And if you’re interested in trying any of these supplements, then check out Pure Food’s American-sourced, NSF-certified supplements for stress, anxiety and sleep right here:

What is Turmeric and What Is It Used for?

Turmeric is a spice that comes from the root of curcuma longa, a plant in the ginger family. Its main active ingredient is a compound called curcumin, which gives turmeric its yellow color. 

Curcumin is high in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. However, curcumin has poor bioavailability, which means your body doesn’t absorb it well. You’ll learn about some strategies to overcome this below. 

Research has shown it may help you better manage conditions in which inflammation plays a role.

Turmeric Health Benefits

Turmeric is best known for its antioxidant properties. One study showed that it may help protect your body from free radicals and another study found that turmeric’s antioxidant effects may also stimulate the action of other antioxidants in your body.

Although most research studies have been small, early results seem promising.

Here’s a deeper dive into some of the health benefits of turmeric. 

Reduce Inflammation

According to a 2017 research review called Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health, turmeric “aids in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, and hyperlipidemia”.

In one study of patients with ulcerative colitis, a common autoimmune disease, patients who took 2 grams of curcumin / day along with prescription medication were more likely to stay in remission than those who took the medication alone. Since many medications for autoimmune disorders come with unwanted side effects, this research is promising. 

Turmeric may also reduce joint swelling and stiffness from rheumatoid arthritis. 

However, a 2019 review found that “Turmeric or curcumin did not decrease several inflammatory markers in patients with chronic inflammatory diseases.” 

Clearly more research is needed to understand the effects of turmeric / curcumin supplements on inflammation. 

Boost Memory

A 2018 clinical trial showed that taking 90 milligrams of curcumin twice daily for 18 months helped improve memory in adults. Researchers from this study found that: 

  • Curcumin led to significant memory and attention benefits.
  • Curcumin’s cognitive benefits may stem from its anti-inflammatory and/or anti-amyloid brain effects.

Reduce Arthritis Pain

A 2016 metaanalysis found that taking turmeric extract could potentially reduce arthritis pain. 

And a 2021 study showed turmeric supplements had similar pain reduction effects on osteoarthritis knee pain as NSAIDs. A 2017 research review stated: Curcumin may offer an alternative to NSAIDS for patients with OA seeking treatment but experiencing negative side effects. 

Support Heart Health

Due to its ability to help reduce inflammation, turmeric may also lower the risk of heart disease.

A 2017 study showed that turmeric may help reverse heart disease. In healthy adults who took curcumin capsule supplements for 12 weeks, resistance artery endothelial production (which plays a significant role in high blood pressure) was increased significantly. 

Another study found that patients who took 4 grams of curcumin a day saw a 65% decreased risk of having a heart attack in the hospital following coronary artery bypass surgery. 

And a 2017 metaanalysis that reviewed results from 7 studies found that turmeric may protect those at risk for heart disease by lowering certain levels of cholesterol. 

Helps Combat Depression

In a 2020 metaanalysis, researchers concluded that “curcumin, if added to standard care, might improve depressive and anxiety symptoms in people with depression.” 

While scientists are still uncovering the exact mechanisms for how curcumin/turmeric may help with depression, it appears as if curcumin can boost BDNF levels (BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor, is a protein that is reduced when you’re depressed). 

Another study found that curcumin may be just as effective as fluoxetine (Prozac) in reducing symptoms of depression. 

And finally, curcumin / turmeric also appear to increase levels of serotonin and dopamine — which are brain chemicals that regulate mood and other body functions. Researchers had this to say: 

The coadministration of curcumin along with piperine may prove to be a useful and potent natural antidepressant approach in the management of depression.

Turmeric Safety and Risks 

Doses of up to 8 grams of turmeric / curcumin have not been shown to cause serious adverse effects in humans. However, larger studies are needed. Here are some potential side effects that may occur: 

  • High doses of curcumin may produce nausea and gastrointestinal complaints. 
  • Use of curcumin with piperine may cause adverse drug reactions, as piperine greatly increases intestinal permeability. 
  • Turmeric may cause bloating, and there is a theoretical concern that it may interact with blood-clotting medications. 
  • Avoid turmeric if you have gallbladder disease.

Always talk to your doctor before starting a dietary supplement, since they could potentially interact with other medications you’re taking. Turmeric can help supplement your conventional care, but it’s not a substitute for medicine.

While the risk of side effects is low and drug interactions are unlikely, stop taking turmeric / curcumin supplements if you notice ill effects. 

Turmeric Optimal Dosage: How Much Should You Take Per Day? 

As a dietary supplement, research shows that 500 milligrams twice daily with food appears to be effective for most people. The dose that’s right for you depends on your overall health. More isn’t always better, so talk to your doctor.

On its own, curcumin is poorly absorbed. So look for a curcumin / turmeric capsule with piperine (a black pepper extract) or combine it with some healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts, etc.). 

It’s usually best to take turmeric with or immediately before a meal to avoid any side effects. 

Best Time to Take Turmeric

The best time of day to take turmeric really depends on what you’re using it for. Turmeric can be used in the morning to reduce minor aches and pains and sharpen your mental focus and memory or in the evening to reduce anxiety and stress, if you prefer. 

How Long Does Turmeric Take to Work? 

Turmeric generally takes 30-60 minutes to take effect. Pairing it with healthy fats and/or black pepper extract will improve absorption time. 

How Is Turmeric Best Absorbed? 

It’s widely known that turmeric is not absorbed well by your body. However, there are several ways to help your body absorb it better, to exert maximum benefit. 

A number of all-natural compounds have been studied to help increase the bioavailability of curcumin. 

One of the most popular is piperine, also known as black pepper extract. 

One study showed that curcumin bioavailability was increased by 2,000% at 45 minutes after co-administering curcumin orally with piperine. 

So make sure whatever turmeric supplement you’re choosing has black pepper extract (like BioPerine, a safe, proven, and patented extract) to improve absorption. 

How to Find the Best Turmeric Supplement

There are a few things to look for to find the best turmeric supplement for you. 

  1. Seek out turmeric / curcumin supplements with organic ingredients, so you ingest  less pesticides/chemicals. 
  2. Choose a product with the optimal dose of 500–600 mg of turmeric per capsule. 
  3. Look for turmeric pills with 5 mg or more of black pepper extract (like BioPerine) because the black pepper extract makes the turmeric easier for your body to absorb. 
  4. Look for a turmeric supplement made in the USA in a GMP-compliant, FDA-approved facility that’s been third party lab tested for purity and safety. 

Learn More About Pure Food Turmeric + Ginger 

What is Ashwagandha and What Is It Used for? 

Ashwagandha, also known as Indian Ginseng, is an evergreen shrub that’s found in India, Africa and parts of the Middle East.

It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years to increase energy, improve overall health and reduce inflammation, pain and anxiety. 

Ashwagandha Health Benefits

Ashwagandha is best known for its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects, probably due to its ability to reduce cortisol levels (a common “stress hormone”). 

Here’s a deeper dive into some of the health benefits of ashwagandha. 

1. Reduce Anxiety and Stress Levels

Ashwagandha appears to significantly reduce the symptoms of stress, anxiety, fatigue, and cognitive impairment, along with stress-related biomarkers like cortisol (see this study and this one). 

Another randomized, double blind clinical study found that 600 mg of ashwagandha for 60 days in people with chronic mental stress improved perceived stress levels and reduced serum cortisol by 27.9%.

2. Ashwagandha for Sleep

One study showed that ashwagandha may benefit sleep quality as well—researchers found that study participants slept much better with 250 mg / day or 600 mg /day doses of the herb compared to placebo doses.

Another randomized, double-blind clinical trial showed that ashwagandha root extract can improve sleep quality and can help in managing insomnia. 

3. Lower Blood Sugar and Fat

A couple of small clinical trials found ashwagandha to be helpful in reducing blood glucose levels and triglycerides (the most common type of fat in the blood). 

One study compared ashwagandha’s blood sugar-lowering effects to those of medications commonly prescribed for type 2 diabetes. More research is needed in this area. 

4. Increase Muscle Strength and Power Output

One study found participants who took 500 mg / day of ashwagandha experienced increased speed and strength. 

Another study showed that taking 750 mg of ashwagandha each day results in increased muscle power, lower body fat percentage and reduced cholesterol levels in study participants. Some participants also experienced better sleep, but this study did not compare ashwagandha consumption against a placebo.

Another study compared men who took 600 mg daily to a placebo group and found that the men who received ashwagandha saw significant gains in muscle strength (measured using bench press and leg extension exercises) and muscle size in their arms and chests, as well as a significant reduction in body fat percentage and post-workout muscle damage.

5. Sharpen Focus and Memory

Ashwagandha may also help improve cognition and memory. 

Small studies have found that, compared to a placebo, ashwagandha significantly improved participants’ reaction times during cognition and psychomotor tests. 

One study also found that ashwagandha significantly improved participants’ attention spans, as well as their “executive function, attention, and information processing speed”.

Long story short, many clinical trials have tested the herbal substance on a relatively small number of participants. Larger studies are needed to establish ashwagandha’s benefits and risks, especially over the long term.

Ashwagandha Safety and Risks 

Ashwagandha is generally safe. According to Dr. Yufang Lin, integrative medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic

“Most people can take this supplement, although it is always best to discuss it with your healthcare provider first. Ashwagandha is generally tolerated well. However, the most common side effects are diarrhea, gastrointestinal upset, vomiting and nausea.”

Avoid ashwagandha or talk to your doctor if any of the following apply to you:  

  • If you have any issues with your thyroid, check with your healthcare provider before taking ashwagandha.
  • Don’t use ashwagandha if you’re pregnant because it may cause abortion (end your pregnancy).
  • Talk with your doctor if you have hormone-sensitive prostate cancer because ashwagandha may increase testosterone levels. This can interfere with your treatments.
  • Ashwagandha may increase the drowsiness effects of some prescription medications so talk with your healthcare provider before taking it.

Ashwagandha Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the Optimal Dose?  

As a dietary supplement, research shows that 300–700 mg of ashwagandha root extract daily can help you achieve the most benefit. Take it with a meal if you experience any GI discomfort.  

What’s the Best Time to Take Ashwagandha? 

”Do I take ashwagandha in the morning or night?” is one of the most common questions we get. 

The best time to take ashwagandha depends on what you’re using it for. Ashwagandha can be used in the morning to sharpen your mental focus and memory or in the evening to reduce anxiety and wind down for a better night’s sleep. 

How Long Does Ashwagandha Take to Work? 

Ashwagandha generally takes 30-60 minutes to take effect. 

Is Ashwagandha Better with Black Pepper? 

Black pepper extra is often added to adaptogenic supplements like ashwagandha and turmeric to increase their bioavailability. In other words, black pepper helps your body better absorb the beneficial compounds from these adaptogens. 

Ashwagandha Capsules vs. Powder: Which Is Better? 

Ashwagandha means “smell of the horse” in Sanskrit, and it does have a bit of a pungent smell to it. That’s why we recommend capsules vs. taking it in a powder, which doesn’t taste very good. 

How to Find the Best Ashwagandha Supplement

Long story short, there are a few things to look for to find the best ashwagandha supplement for you. 

  1. Supplements with organic ingredients means less pesticides/chemicals. 
  2. Ashwagandha with black pepper extract because the black pepper extract makes the ashwagandha more bioavailable (easier for your body to absorb). 
  3. Choose a product with the optimal dose of 300–700 mg of ashwagandha per capsule. 
  4. Look for an ashwagandha supplement made in the USA in a GMP-compliant, FDA-approved facility that’s been third party lab tested for purity and safety. 

Learn More About Pure Food Ashwagandha + Ginger