The adaptogenic herb ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for millennia to aid health and immunity. Now, exercise scientists believe it may also enhance aerobic performance.
Studies over the past 15 years have focused on ashwagandha’s ability to increase VO2 max (the amount of oxygen your body uses per kilogram of body weight per minute), which is considered the gold standard for measuring cardiovascular fitness.
A 2020 systematic review in Nutrients concluded that both athletes and nonathletes who supplemented with 300 to 1,000 mg of ashwagandha daily for two to 12 weeks significantly improved VO2 max.
Interestingly — considering they started off with higher VO2 max levels generally — athletes experienced greater improvements from ashwagandha than nonathletes.
Because of the small number of studies included in the review and varied study methods, the review authors note that further research is needed.
Still, the herb may spur sports proficiency in other ways as well. It is commonly used to treat anxiety, reduce inflammation, improve sleep (sip on this Evening Ashwagandha Latte before retiring for the evening), boost testosterone, and support brain function — all of which can aid athletic performance.
None of the studies reported any relevant side effects from the adaptogen. (For more on ashwagandha, see “7 Adaptogens for Health.”)