Ashwagandha’s sleep benefits to extend to people with insomnia: RCT

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© BartekSzewczyk / Getty Images
© BartekSzewczyk / Getty Images

Related tags Sleep ashwagandha

A root extract of Ashwagandha may help manage insomnia, with a new study from India reporting that the botanical may improve sleep quality and mental alertness in subjects with and without insomnia.

Eight weeks of 600 mg per day of the Ashwagandha root extract KSM-66 from California-based Ixoreal Biomed led to significant improvements in the sleep efficiency, total sleep time, mental alertness on rising and sleep quality compared to placebo, according to findings published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology​.

In addition, improvements in measures of anxiety were reported in participants receiving the ashwagandha supplements.

“The outcomes are suggesting that Ashwagandha root extract has an admirable effect in improving sleep and relegating anxiety among both healthy and subjects diagnosed with insomnia,”​ wrote scientists from D Y Patil University School of Medicine, NAMO Medical Education and Research Institute, and the Maharashtra Emergency Medical Services.


According to a monograph from the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP), the herb has a history of use in ayurvedic medicine that dates back as much as 4,000 years to the teaching of renowned scholar Punarvasu Atreya, and in subsequent works that make up the ayurvedic tradition. The name of the herb derives from Sanskrit, and means “smells like a horse”, which refers to the strong smell of the root which is said to be redolent of horse sweat or urine.

According to HerbalGram’s​ Herb Market Report, sales of herbal supplements with Ashwagandha topped $10,835,737 in the US Mainstream Multi-Outlet Channel for 2019, an increase of 45% over the previous year. An additional $13,661,462 in sales were reported from the Natural Channel (an increase of over 7% from 2018).

The study adds to the ever-growing body of data supporting the potential benefits of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera​), which already include supporting a healthy response to stress, cognitive function, sleep, metabolic wellness, adrenal function, sports performance, and more.

Earlier this year​, KSM-66 was reported to improve the quality of life, the quality of sleep, and mental alertness in the elderly, according to scientific findings published in Cureus​.

Commenting on the new paper, Kartikeya Baldwa, CEO of Ixoreal Biomed Inc, the marketer of KSM-66, said: “Sleep is critical to be healthy, to recover from exercise and to function optimally both physically and cognitively. Ashwagandha root has been referenced for centuries for its sleep benefits. This study is the first clinical study to evaluate the effect of Ashwagandha root extract on sleep quality in both healthy adults and insomnia patients and demonstrate significant positive effects on sleep quality in the participants.

“The paper is published in a prestigious journal and is a valuable contribution to the scientific literature. It substantiates the use of Ashwagandha root extract as an adaptogen that helps reduce anxiety and promote restful sleep,” ​added Baldwa.

Study details

Insomnia © KatarzynaBialasiewicz Getty Images
“Insomnia is affecting the global population of different age groups, specifically the elderly populations. Recent studies and surveys suggested that insomnia is on the rise in the younger and working populations as well,” explained the researchers. Image © KatarzynaBialasiewicz / Getty Images

The new study included 40 healthy (non-insomniac) people and 40 insomniacs. The participants were assigned to receive either Ashwagandha or placebo and studied for 8-weeks.

Results showed that ashwagandha improved a range of sleep measures in both healthy subjects and people with insomnia, compared to placebo, with reductions vs placebo recorded for sleep onset latency, wake after sleep onset, and total scores on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI – a lower score indicates better sleep quality).

Significant improvement in the Hamilton Anxiety scale-A questionnaire were also recorded for those receiving the KSM-66 supplements, compared to placebo.

“The present study confirms that Ashwagandha root extract can improve sleep quality and can help in managing insomnia. Ashwagandha root extract was well tolerated by all the participants irrespective of their health condition and age. Additional clinical trials are required to generalize the outcome,” concluded the researchers.

Source: Journal of Ethnopharmacology
Volume 264, 113276, doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2020.113276
“Clinical evaluation of the pharmacological impact of ashwagandha root extract on sleep in healthy volunteers and insomnia patients: A double-blind, randomized, parallel-group, placebo-controlled study”
Authors: D. Langade et al. 

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