What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha or Withania somnifera belongs to the Solanaceae family. It is also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry. This was one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. It was used since ancient times for many conditions due to its healing and rejuvenating properties.
In Sanskrit the term Ashwagandha means “the smell of a horse,” which metaphorically shows that the herb imparts the vigor and strength of a stallion. Therefore it was prescribed to people to strengthen their immune system after a disease.
The herb originated from India and it thrives best in dry regions. It can survive very high temperatures and low temperatures, ranging from 40 0 C to as low as 10 0 C. It can reach height of 1500 meters above sea level.
Ashwagandha belongs to the same family as the tomato. It’s a plump shrub with oval leaves and yellow flowers. Its fruits are red and about the size of a raisin.
The powerful effects of this amazing herb have raised questions among modern scientists. According to some preliminary studies the herb has many therapeutic abilities.
A scientific research has shown that Ashwagandha has anti-oxidizing, anti-stress, anti-inflammatory and sleep-inducing properties. This herb can be very helpful when it comes to improving muscular-skeletal issues like arthritis and rheumatism. It also boosts energy and improves overall health and longevity.
A research conducted at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan has shown that the leaves of Ashwagandha can selectively inhibit cancer cells.
This herb is considered one of the most powerful adaptogenic herbs meaning that it restores balance for both body and mind.
Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
- Fights Cancer
A research study has shown that Ashwagandha has some anti-cancerogenic properties. It is also effective in reducing the side effects of chemotherapy without interfering with the tumor cell-killing activity.
- Decreases Inflammation
According to a research conducted in Los Angeles College of Chiropractors the herb is rich in alkaloids, steroidal lactones and saponins which are effective in dealing with a variety of rheumatologic issues. It can also act as a cyclooxygenase inhibitor and decreases inflammation and pain.
- Anti-Bacterial Properties
Some Ayurvedic medical texts showed that Ashwagandha was used to control bacterial infections in humans. This assumption was confirmed by a study conducted at the Centre for Biotechnology at the University of Allahabad in India, which showed that the herb indeed has anti-bacterial properties. If you suffer from any gastrointestinal, urinogenital or respiratory tract infections consume Ashwagandha for some time to solve the problems.
- Protects the Cardiovascular System
Due to its anti-oxidant, anti-stress and anti-inflammatory properties, Ashwagandha is good for cardiovascular health problems. It controls cholesterol levels and also strengthens the heart muscles. A study at the University of Arizona showed that this herb has hypolipidemic properties which lower blood cholesterol levels.
- Relieves Depression
In Ayurveda medicine, Ashwagandha was used to improve both physical and mental health. The effects on the mental health, especially on depression were studied at the Institute of Medical Sciences at Banaras Hindu University in India. According to the study, the herb was really effective when it comes to fighting anxiety and depression.
- Fights Diabetes
This herb was also used to fight diabetes in Ayurvedic medicine. Positive results were achieved in a research on the use of Ashwagandha in the treatment of diabetes. The experiments showed decreasing in blood sugar level during the period of four weeks when the herb was consumed.
- Stimulates the Thyroid Gland
If you suffer from hypothyroidism, you can use Ashwagandha to stimulate the thyroid gland. A study has shown that the root extract of the herb can increase the secretion of thyroid hormones, if consumed regularly on a daily basis.
- Relieves Stress
This herb showed some anti-stress properties as well. Consume this herb and you’ll feel its soothing effects. Although we don’t know the active ingredient responsible for this activity, many anti-stress properties have been observed in research experiments. The results of the experiments showed significant reduction of stress in animals after consuming Ashwagandha.
Consuming a high-potency extract of Ashwagandha for five days relieves anxiety as powerful as the prescription sedative lorazepam and has antidepressant effects similar to those of the prescription drug imipramine with no negative effects or addiction potential.
- Antioxidant Properties
Ashwagandha is rich in antioxidants. The antioxidants are good in neutralizing free radicals produced during the process of metabolism.
- Improves the Immune System
Some studies have shown that with regular consumption of Ashwagandha the immune system will improve. The studies have also shown that the herb increased the red blood cell, white blood cell and platelets counts.
- Increases Blood Production
If you suffer from anemia, the solution for your problem is Ashwagandha. As mentioned above, according to a research the herb increased the number of red blood cells and white blood cells in rats which were administered with it.
- Boosts the Libido
For centuries, Ashwagandha has been used for its aphrodisiac properties. A recent study has confirmed that the herb indeed plays an important role as an aphrodisiac, and also in improving semen quality.
- Prevents Seizures
Ashwagandha was also used as remedy for seizures and convulsions in Ayurvedic medicine. A study has shown the presence of anticonvulsant properties in this amazing herb.
- Reduces Ocular Disease
According to a research, the antioxidant and cytoprotective properties of Ashwagandha are ideal in fighting cataract disease.
- Promotes Graceful Aging
Both metabolic and emotional stress, dramatically affect aging. Cortisol is a body stress hormone which contributes to muscle loss and weakness, wrinkles and cognitive impairment. According to a research, this herb improves resistance to stress, by decreasing cortisol production. The research has shown that the level of stress was significantly decreased in those 64 individuals who were taking Ashwagandha.
- Relieves Menopausal Issues
This herb also provides hormone balance. According to a study conducted on 51 women who were going through menopause and consuming Ashwagandha, significant decrease of hot flashes, anxiety and moody behavior was noticed.
- Improves Memory
A research has shown that Ashwagandha reduces memory impairment in animal models. This herb also protects the brain from the oxidative stress that leads to neurodegeneraton. Another benefit derived from the stress fighting effects of the herb is improved long-term visual memory.
- Promotes Revitalization and Rejuvenation
People have reported another very important benefit of Ashwagandha – increasing the energy levels. A scientific study has confirmed these claims that people had. The herb is increasing energy while at the same time reducing stress related issues.
- Promotes Regeneration of the Brain and the Nervous System
Ashwagandha promotes regeneration of nerve cells and dendrite growth throughout the brain and body which makes it herb number one when it comes to fighting neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. This herb also improves communication between nerve cells and stimulates the body to regenerate the brain and damaged nervous system.
- Fights Insomnia
If insomnia and sleeplessness are bothering you every night, Ashwagandha is the solution for your problem. High-potency extracts of this herb promote deep, restful sleep without morning hangover- issue associated with many herbs and pharmaceutical medications.
Which are the Side Effects of Using Ashwagandha?
Risk for Pregnant Women
Pregnant women shouldn’t consume this herb because its various chemical properties can lead to abortion.
Note: Be careful not to consume too much Ashwagandha because it can cause upset stomach, nausea or diarrhea.
How to Consume Ashwagandha?
You can buy Ashwagandha root in any market either in dried form, powdered form or fresh root form.
Make Ashwagandha tea by boiling a teaspoon of powder for a cup of water for 10 minutes.
Add a teaspoon of Ashwagandha root powder in a glass of hot milk and drink it before going to bed.