Ashwagandha, scientifically referred to as Withania somnifera, is an Indian ginseng. It is known for its adaptogenic properties and is used in traditional Indian medicine to maintain harmony within the body and energize and rejuvenate it. While the benefits of internal consumption of ashwagandha are well known for the body, let’s examine whether its use is also beneficial for the skin.
The application of ashwagandha over the skin, along with its oral intake, has synergistic effects.
Using ashwagandha on the skin is associated with reduced pigmentation, improved hydration, and skin elasticity.
Before using ashwagandha over the skin, it is important to know its side effects and consult a healthcare provider.
Recent research has proven that ashwagandha is very beneficial in its ability to provide neuroprotection and serve as a potent sedative and adaptogenic for the body. Reports highlight its anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, cardioprotective, and anti-diabetic properties. While all these effects would also affect the skin by default, new research focusing on its benefits for the skin is emerging.
Ashwagandha benefits for the skin
A recent randomized clinical trial studied the effects of using ashwagandha in lotion form on the facial skin of adults with changes in photoaging in particular. Fifty-six participants from either sex were asked to use a topical lotion over the face containing 8% Ashwagandha root extract. Parameters like wrinkles, skin pores, skin hydration, brightness/tone, and pigmentation were studied at baseline and after 60 days of use of the topical cream.
- Significant improvement in the elasticity of the skin.
- Significant improvement in the hydration of the skin.
- The root extract of this herb can help improve the damage caused by photoaging over the facial skin.
Another exciting research studied the effects of oral and topical use of ashwagandha with other herbs, such as saffron, to see which group had the best results. Parameters such as skin redness, pigmentation, and overall mood were assessed at the beginning of the study and after eight weeks of using the particular formulation.
- The facial redness decreased the most in the group that applied it directly to the face.
- The effects on pigmentation were noted the most in the group that consumed it internally and in the group that used it in both ways.
This study shows that using an ingredient topically and consuming it internally is always more effective than focusing on what to apply. The benefits of internal consumption of a component outweigh the effects that can be reaped by mere topical application while using the ingredient helps concentrate the product in that local area. Hence, this synergistic effect is highly beneficial.
Ashwagandha is also known to boost and regulate the skin’s natural oil production. This has the potential to help with acne and, at the same time, help keep the skin clarified and replenished. However, there isn’t enough scientific data to prove its usefulness for acne.
Benefits of consuming ashwagandha orally
According to Ayurveda, which translates to 'knowledge of life,' ashwagandha helps balance all the body’s doshas. This herb is known to be very rich in alkaloids and saponins, which help in deep cleansing, moisturizing, and calming the skin. Studies have also found that the regular intake of ashwagandha extracts has the potential to prevent the occurrence of skin cancer.
Other benefits of consuming ashwagandha for the skin include:
- It helps reduce the skin’s aging, such as fine lines, dark spots, and signs of photoaging.
- Promotes cell renewal and boosts pathways for potential collagen formation.
- It boosts telomerase activity by up to 45% at a concentration of 10–50 micrograms, holding the potential to increase an individual's lifespan.
Ashwagandha has also been found to act as a potent antidote to the manifestations of arsenic toxicity. The major signs include skin conditions such as dark spots on the skin scattered like raindrops, skin cancer, thickening of the skin, etc. Ashwagandha has been found to help reduce these manifestations and possibly reverse them. However, the oral intake of ashwagandha is not devoid of adverse effects, and hence it must be taken in conjunction with the advice of your healthcare provider.
How to use it on the skin?
Ashwagandha is primarily available and used as a fine powder. This can be applied to the face or the area of skin of choice by mixing it with plain water and making it into a paste. Mixing it with other components to create an effective DIY mixture, such as sandalwood powder, rosewater, and honey, is even better.
A simple DIY to try at home:
- 1/2 tsp. ashwagandha powder
- 1tsp honey
- 1 tsp. rosewater
Mix to make a thick paste and apply it to the face and neck. Leave it for 10–15 minutes. Once it is partially dry, rinse it off with water. This is a simple recipe that is beneficial for most skin types. Make sure you do not use harmful ingredients that can potentially burn the skin or cause allergies. It is always better to perform a patch test and consult your dermatologist before trying anything new.
Alternatively, there are many other products with this ingredient. However, make sure that the primary ingredient in the product is ashwagandha. Otherwise, you’ll pay a premium for a regular moisturizer that might be marketed well.
Are there any risks?
It is essential to remember that the oral consumption of ashwagandha is not devoid of many risks and should be used cautiously, especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
While its topical use is generally considered safe, one must also keep in mind that it doesn't suit everyone. Those allergic to nightshades might experience skin rashes and itching, not only with its oral use but also with its application over the skin.
Ashwagandha has many potent health benefits. It has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, and there is no doubt about its efficacy and ability to modulate the body in many valuable ways. However, as with anything used excessively or without supervision, it can be hazardous to one’s health and cause unwanted adverse side effects. Always ensure you source ashwagandha from reputable sources, and consult your healthcare provider if you experience anything different from the norm.
- Cureus. A Study of Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Lotion on Facial Skin in Photoaged Healthy Adults.
- Pharmaceutics. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)-Current Research on the Health-Promoting Activities: A Narrative Review.
- Journal of Clinical Medicine. Combining Topical and Oral Botanicals for Skin Redness, Pigmentation, Sleep, and Mood: A Randomized Controlled Study.
- Skinmed. Fixed-drug eruption caused by Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), a widely used Ayurvedic drug.
- Iranian journal of basic medical sciences. Withania somniferaL.: Insights into the phytochemical profile, therapeutic potential, clinical trials, and future prospective.