The ashwagandha plant is a small shrub with yellow flowers that’s native to India and North Africa. In Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, the extracts or powder from the plant’s root or leaves are used to treat a variety of conditions.
The literal meaning of the word “Ashwagandha” is “smell of horse”. The herb is so named for two reasons. One reason is that the fresh roots of the herb emit the smell of horse. The second reason is that there is a commonly held belief that a person consuming extracts of the herb may develop the strength and vitality similar to that of a horse.
A number of studies are mostly supportive of a notable positive effect of ashwagandha on mental health. With up to a 27.9% reduction of cortisol in stressed subjects, as well as a reduction of the symptoms of stress and its co-morbidities (fatigue, temporary cognitive impairment, etc.).
The results are extremely promising. Ashwagandha seems to have a much larger positive affect than most other supplements, however, more research is needed before we can have a great deal of confidence in it or know the optimal dose.