Ashwagandha is an ingredient that comes to us from Ayurveda and promotes equilibrium in the body. It has many exceptional health benefits, but the one that stands out to us, of course, is its benefits for hair! By reducing stress, the adaptogen (more on what that means coming up) helps hair grow fuller, longer, and stronger.
As with many other natural remedies, it can be difficult to tell which of the health benefits ascribed to ashwagandha are legitimate and which are overblown. Today, we’ll dive in deep to uncover ashwagandha’s science-backed effects and exactly how it can help your hair so you can figure out if it’s the right remedy for you.
What Is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha (Latin name: Withania somnifera) is a nightshade that grows primarily on the Indian subcontinent. It’s a small shrub that likes dry soil and a lot of sunlight. In those optimal conditions, it can easily live for more than two years.
If you took Latin in school you might notice that the name “somnifera” means sleep-inducing, which relates to how ashwagandha works in the human body. It’s a calming plant, and according to the traditional Indian medicine practice of Ayurveda, it has a wide range of rejuvenating and health-boosting benefits (1), including some effects that have real scientific backing.
Ashwagandha extract is prepared from the roots and leaves of the plant. The active constituents in the extract are called withanolides and withaferins (2), which are extremely bioactive steroids. These steroids are known best for their remarkable anti-inflammatory and anti-stress effects, though they also contain other constituents that have their own benefits, primarily as antioxidants (the top defenders against environmental aggressors).
The Science-Backed Benefits of Ashwagandha
It’s often difficult to find scientific research that backs up the anecdotal claims about natural supplements, but that’s not the case with ashwagandha. A lot of research has been done to uncover just how potent and bioactive this ingredient happens to be.
Soothing and Anti-Inflammatory
Ashwagandha can act to reduce inflammation, which is the pain and swelling the body induces as a reaction to trauma. As a response to inflammation, the body produces a substance called C-reactive protein (CRP for short) which shows up in the blood. The administration of ashwagandha corresponds with a reduction in CRP, which suggests it can reduce inflammation, which can have wide-ranging physiological benefits for all kinds of pain (3). So far, research has been done specifically in relation to gum inflammation and arthritis (4), but these effects are also relevant to other types of inflammation in the body.
Ashwagandha has been most thoroughly studied for its ability to reduce stress in the body. It has been clinically shown in multiple studies (5) (6) to help reduce cortisol levels, which are a marker of stress, and it is also able to target other stress-related conditions like insomnia (7).
Potential as a Clinical Cure
It is far too early to start talking about ashwagandha as a cure or therapy for serious ailments, but so far there is early evidence that suggests that ashwagandha could help with different types of cancer as well as with neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s (10).
Who Should Take Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is, so far, most promising as a stress reducer. If your life is hectic and you find yourself anxious or unable to relax as a result then you are probably the best candidate for ashwagandha, although this extract can also be beneficial for those who aren’t dealing with particular issues.
Ashwagandha’s effect can be compared to CBD, and many people find that they enjoy them in combination with each other. If you live in a place where CBD isn’t totally legal or unregulated, ashwagandha can be an excellent alternative.
There are some potential contraindications with ashwagandha, so it’s not recommended for pregnant women or those dealing with high blood pressure (11). If you are currently taking prescription medications, definitely speak to your doctor before trying ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha Hair Benefits
We’ve explained the mechanisms that make ashwagandha such a great supplement in general, but now let’s redirect those benefits to how they can help you achieve hair wellness.
Again, the most remarkable effect is as an anti-stress agent. Increased stress and anxiety in modern life have made hair loss a very common issue for many people, especially for women. This is because when you’re stressed your body produces more of a hormone called cortisol, which is directly connected to hair growth by suppressing the production of hormones that promote hair follicle action.
Ashwagandha, by reducing stress, can stop the cycle of cortisol production and hair loss, so it acts both as a preventative but also as a remedy since once the body stops producing too much cortisol, hair growth eventually resumes.
The second remarkable effect on hair growth is as an anti-inflammatory. Inflammation at the hair follicle can have a wide range of causes, from genetic skin conditions to temporary infections or allergies, and it can also be a part of how the auto-immune disorder alopecia areata causes hair loss. By taking ashwagandha, you can suppress that inflammation to help restore the health of the hair follicles.
Ingredients That Support Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is great for stress and inflammation-induced hair loss, but it works even better in combination with other hair-loving ingredients. The causes of hair loss are diverse and often interconnected. For example, you may start experiencing hair loss because of hormonal changes in the body, but then that hair loss can cause stress or anxiety that can exacerbate the issue.
So there you have it! If stress is a contributing factor to hair thinning or loss, consider turning to ashwagandha for its amazing mitigating effects. Even if stress is not the main issue you’re dealing with, this wonderful adaptogen can still help!