Ashwagandha and Diabetes: 6 Benefits You Need to Know

By Reviewed by Ashwagandha Published on June 22, 2018 Updated on September 30, 2019
Ashwagandha and Diabetes

Ashwagandha also known as Withania somnifera, winter cherry, and Indian ginseng, offer an array of health benefits to its users and among them is the glucose and cholesterol-lowering benefits of the herb. This function of the superfood in this area can be said to be similar to that of pharmaceutical glucose-lowering medications. For instance, ashwagandha has been found to be beneficial in stimulating glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Ashwagandha and Diabetes

  • Stimulates the Production of Insulin
  • Boost Insulin Sensitivity
  • Balances the Level of Cholesterol
  • Prevents Fatty Liver Associated With Diabetes
  • Enhance Fast Metabolism
  • Reduce Stress Levels in Diabetics
  • Improves Metabolism

Ashwagandha also known as Withania somnifera, winter cherry, and Indian ginseng, offer an array of health benefits to its users and among them is the glucose and cholesterol-lowering benefits of the herb. This function of the superfood in this area can be said to be similar to that of pharmaceutical glucose-lowering medications. For instance, ashwagandha has been found to be beneficial in stimulating glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. [1]Dutta, S., Ali, K. M., Dash, S. K., & Giri, B. (2018). Role of nutraceuticals on health promotion and disease prevention: A review. Journal of Drug Delivery and Therapeutics, 8(4), 42-47. DOI: https://doi.org/10.22270/jddt.v8i4.1759

The herb may also be effective in preventing the damage of pancreatic beta cells by triggering the production of insulin in the body. [2]Gorelick, J., Rosenberg, R., Smotrich, A., Hanuš, L., & Bernstein, N. (2015). Hypoglycemic activity of withanolides and elicitated Withania somnifera. Phytochemistry, 116, 283-289. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phytochem.2015.02.029 In addition, Ashwagandha helps to prevent heart diseases and fatty liver by significantly reducing the levels of cortisol and triglycerides, as well as stimulating fat metabolism, thanks to the herbs antioxidative flavonoids. [3]Rao, G. H. (2018). Nontraditional Approaches for the Management of Metabolic Risks. EC Endocrinology and Metabolic Research, 3, 177-185. Retrieved from https://www.ecronicon.com/ecemr/pdf/ECEMR-03-00058.pdf

Ashwagandha and Diabetes

Diabetes is a health condition that reportedly affects about 9.3 percent of the United States’ population. Other reports suggest that pre-diabetes affect an even higher percentage of people in the region. It is believed that the major contributing factor to the prevalence of the condition is lifestyle related, which in invariably warrants taking proper care of your health and making safe lifestyle changes.

The misconception about diabetes is that it is a condition that only affects the blood sugar levels. While this is partly true, the condition also affects other parts of the body. Although it is somewhat difficult to diagnose the condition, there are few bodily changes that may hint you of the development of diabetes including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Abnormal triglycerides and cholesterol levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Kidney disease
  • Sight related issues

If you are currently battling with high blood sugar levels, Ashwagandha may be your best shot at managing the condition. Interestingly, the herb offers long-lasting benefits and it has only been found to have a mild to moderate side effects in a meager number of users. This is in contrast to the adverse side effects suffered by a swelling number of patients who take pharmaceutical medications.

Several studies have been conducted on the safety and effectiveness of ashwagandha in managing different health conditions. Most of the studies [4]Bharti, V. K., Malik, J. K., & Gupta, R. C. (2016). Ashwagandha: Multiple Health Benefits. Nutraceuticals, (pp. 717-733). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-802147-7.00052-8 conducted on the benefits of the herb for diabetics found that it may be beneficial in managing the condition as well as preventing the development of other related conditions.

Ashwagendha Powder

Ashwagandha was referred to as a rejuvenator or Rasayana in ancient Ayurvedic medicine text. [5]Peterson, C. T., Denniston, K., & Chopra, D. (2017). Therapeutic uses of Triphala in Ayurvedic medicine. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 23(8), 607-614. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2017.0083 In recent times, the herb has also been found to be beneficial in effectively treating type 2 diabetes in those diagnosed with the condition. Here are a few other benefits of ashwagandha for diabetics:

Stimulates the Production of Insulin

Ashwagandha is active in helping to stimulate the production of insulin in the body. This is a positive factor for diabetics because the condition, both type 1 and 2, is characterized by the inactivity of the insulin-generating beta cells found in the pancreatic islets. The failure of these cells results in the production of an insufficient amount of insulin in the body.

An animal study conducted to check the efficacy of ashwagandha in test subjects with type 2 diabetes, found that the herb led to a significant improvement in the pancreatic islets of the participants. The researchers added that the islets were almost normal after the course of the trial. This made the researchers conclude that ashwagandha may be beneficial in protecting the pancreatic islets from cell damage and enhance the production of insulin in the body. [6]Kumar Bharti, S., Krishnan, S., Kumar Sharma, N., Kumar, A., Prakash, O., Kumar Gupta, A., & Kumar, A. (2015). In vivo and in silico Investigation of Antidiabetic Activity of Fruit of Withania coagulans Dunal. Current Hypertension Reviews, 11(2), 143-158. Retrieved from https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/ben/chyr/2015/00000011/00000002/art00010

Although the study was conducted on the efficacy of the herb in managing type 2 diabetes, it is believed that may also be beneficial in preventing the damage of pancreatic cells in the early development of type 1 diabetes. However, it is advised to inform your health practitioner before taking ashwagandha for type 1 diabetes since it is an autoimmune disorder and the herb is active in supporting immune system disorders.

Boosts Insulin Sensitivity

Ashwagandha Effects On Blood Sugar

The herb is also beneficial in increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin. This is another positive function of ashwagandha in managing diabetes. Studies conducted on the relationship between ashwagandha and diabetes have found that it may be beneficial in making the cells more less resistant or more sensitive to insulin. [7]Samadi, N. Z., Shahraki, M. R., Ahmadvand, H., Nourabadi, D., & Nakhaei, A. (2015). Protective effects of Withania somnifera root on inflammatory markers and insulin resistance in fructose-fed rats. Reports of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 3(2):62-7. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26989739, [8]Shahraki, M. R., Samadi, N. Z., Ahmadvand, H., & Nakhaie, A. (2016). Anti-nociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects of Withania somnifera root in fructose-fed male rats. Journal of Basics and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology, 27(4):387-91. doi: 10.1515/jbcpp-2015-0053, [9]Anwer, T., Sharma, M., Pillai, K. K., & Iqbal, M. (2008). Effect of Withania somnifera on insulin sensitivity in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus rats. Basic and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, 102(6):498-503. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-7843.2008.00223.x

An animal study, conducted on the effectiveness of ashwagandha for diabetes also found that the herb led to a significant reduction in serum insulin levels, glycosylated hemoglobin and blood glucose levels in subjects diagnosed with diabetes type 2. The study authors added that the administration of ashwagandha to their study subjects also led to improved sensitivity to insulin and enhanced glucose tolerance. [10]Samadi Noshahr, Z., Shahraki, M. R., Ahmadvand, H., Nourabadi, D., & Nakhaei, A. (2015). Protective effects of Withania somnifera root on inflammatory markers and insulin resistance in fructose-fed rats. Reports of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, 3(2), 62–67. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4757043/

In addition, it was found that the ashwagandha may be beneficial in lowering the levels of blood glucose by up to 12 percent. This invariably means that this herb may be as potent as the traditional prescription drugs used in managing the condition. It is reported that ashwagandha also showed a promising result when a similar trial was conducted on human subjects. For instance, a human study found that the herb led to a reduction in the levels of blood glucose by up to 12 percent in the test subjects.

Balances the Level of Cholesterol

low cholesterol

Diabetes is a condition characterized by increased levels of LDL (Bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, thus making people diagnosed with the condition prone to developing heart disease. The condition is referred to as diabetic dyslipidemia. A clinical trial conducted on the benefits of ashwagandha for diabetes found that the herb may be beneficial in reducing the levels of triglycerides and cholesterol. [11]Kumar V., Dey A., Chatterjee S.S. (2017) Phytopharmacology of Ashwagandha as an Anti-Diabetic Herb. In: Kaul S., Wadhwa R. (eds) Science of Ashwagandha: Preventive and Therapeutic Potentials. Springer, Cham. DOI https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-59192-6_2

This was compared to that of the participant’s in the control group who were administered a hypoglycemic medication. The study authors added that ashwagandha led to a significant increase in the level of good cholesterol in the participants even though they recorded an increased intake of fat and calorie.

Another study that compared the effectiveness of ashwagandha root and that of the leaves found that the former is more beneficial compared to the latter as it contains more phytochemicals known as flavonoids. [12]Gulati, S. (2015). Phytochemical studies and antioxidant activity of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera L.) (Doctoral dissertation, CCSHAU). Retrieved from http://krishikosh.egranth.ac.in/handle/1/81325 The herb is also an antioxidant that could cause a significant reduction of inflammation in the body.

Prevents Fatty Liver Associated With Diabetes

Ashwagandha is also beneficial in helping to prevent the development of fatty liver linked to diabetes. This metabolic process that occurs in the body, may lead to the generation of reactive molecules known as free radicals. The activities of these molecules may lead to the oxidation of lipid (fat) layers in the cell walls.

The process is commonly referred to as lipid peroxidation. When the process occurs in the liver, it causes the development of a condition known as NAFLD or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Those diagnosed with diabetes are likely to develop fatty liver due to insulin resistance.

A study of ashwagandha found it to be beneficial in reducing the risk of developing the condition in diabetics. The researchers found that the herb functions to prevent fatty liver by boosting insulin sensitivity, inhibiting the activities of free radicals as well as the production of antioxidants in people diagnosed with diabetes. [13]Abbas, A. S., Abbasi, M. H., Malik, I. A., & Sheikh, N. (2014). NON-ALCOHOLIC FATTY LIVER DISEASE AND ASSOCIATED CHANGES IN SERUM HEPCIDIN, IRON, FERRITIN-R LEVELS AND TOTAL IRON BINDING CAPACITY IN WEANING WISTAR RATS (RATTUS NORVEGICUS). Journal of Animal and Plant Science, 24(2), 418-424. Retrieved from http://www.thejaps.org.pk/docs/v-24-2/10.pdf

Enhances Metabolism

Ashwagandha for metabolism

Another amazing benefit of ashwagandha for diabetics is its ability to aid fast metabolism. It is believed by herbal specialists, that this herb has a positive impact on the levels of glucose in diabetics and individuals who are at high risk of developing the condition.

A study conducted to check the benefits of ashwagandha in diabetic mice showed that administration of the herb led to a significant improvement in the functions of the endocrine system, immune system, and metabolism of glucose in the body. [14]Anwer, T., Sharma, M., Khan, G., Alam, M. F., Alam, N., Ali, M. S., & Alam, M. S. (2017). Preventive role of Withania somnifera on hyperlipidemia and cardiac oxidative stress in streptozotocin-induced type 2 diabetic rats. Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, 16(1), 119-125. Retrieved from https://www.ajol.info/index.php/tjpr/article/view/150953.

Reduce Stress Levels in Diabetic Individuals

Finally, ashwagandha has been shown to reduce the levels of stress hormone – cortisol in the body. Findings from studies conducted on the topic revealed that there may be a link between glucose control and the levels of stress in the body. Increased levels of cortisol may increase the body’s resistance to insulin, thus worsening the symptoms of diabetes. [15]Joseph, J. J. & Golden, S. H. (2017), Cortisol dysregulation: the bidirectional link between stress, depression, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Annals of New York Academy of Sciences, 1391, 20-34. doi:10.1111/nyas.13217

Studies conducted on the benefit of this herb, in managing the conditions found that it may effectively treat type 2 diabetes. It has also been found that ashwagandha lowers the level of cortisol by up to 28 percent. Taking ashwagandha regularly for about 10 days could significantly reduce the levels of cortisol, as well as decreasing the adverse effects on the spleen and the adrenal gland, which are measurable stress markers. [16]Thakur, A. K., Dey, A., Chatterjee, S. S., & Kumar, V. (2015). Reverse Ayurvedic Pharmacology of Ashwagandha as an Adaptogenic Anti-Diabetic Plant: A Pilot Study. Current Traditional Medicine, 1(1), 51-61. Doi: 10.2174/2215083801999150527115205 Furthermore, another study conducted on the topic found that taking ashwagandha for 2 consecutive months lead to a 28 percent decrease in the levels of cortisol. [17]Shara, M., Kakish, E., & Stohs, S. J. (2017). Effects of an Adaptogen-Based Supplement on Stress Parameters in Healthy Volunteers. International Journal of Complementary Alternative Medicine, 10(1), 00321. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/ce3b/d9d317faebfe4edc68c360341ed74f5a4a5b.pdf

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Fran Sanchez, BSc MSc

About Fran Sanchez, BSc MSc

Fran Sanchez, the founder of Herbolab, graduated from Uppsala University (Sweden) with a master in molecular biology and Karolinska University (Sweden) with a degree in medical sciences and business. He then moved to Singapore to run e-commerce operations in a pharmaceutical company, until eventually, he could fulfill his dream of creating a brand dedicated to help men reach their peak performance. Drawing on his experience as a lifelong multi-sport athlete and cutting edge medical and scientific research, Fran launched herbolab tongkat ali as flagship supplement in April of 2014. Fran now spend most of his time weight lifting and creating content dedicated to improve people’s lives.

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