Ashwagandha: Ayurvedic Medicinal Herb For Natural Healing And Other Health Benefits
Updated: Oct 21, 2022
Ashwagandha is an important part of centuries old Ayurveda, the traditional system of medicine based on Indian principles of natural healing. While ashwagandha herb has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years, it has also become popular outside Ayurveda for its many supposed health benefits.
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Relieves Stress, depression and Anxiety
Lowers Blood Sugar and Fat
Increases Muscle and Strength
Improves Sexual Function in Women
Boosts Fertility and Testosterone Levels in Men
Improves brain function
Sharpens Focus and Memory
Supports Heart Health and Reduces cholesterol
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
reduces several health issues linked to aging
May help improve sleep
Ashwagandha is part of a class of plants called adaptogens known for their health benefits when ingested as teas, powders, tinctures and supplements, or in their raw forms. Since ashwagandha is traditionally used as an adaptogen, it is used for many conditions related to stress. Adaptogens are believed to help the body resist physical and mental stress. Some of the conditions it is used for include insomnia, aging, anxiety and many others, but there is no good scientific evidence to support most of these uses.
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Ashwagandha is also known as Indian ginseng and winter cherry. Its scientific name is 'Withania somnifera', a herbal shrub whose roots and berries are used for their medicinal properties. It's is an evergreen shrub in the Solanaceae family that grows in India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. The name "ashwagandha" is a combination of the sanskrit words 'ashva', meaning horse, and 'gandha', meaning smell, reflecting that the root has a strong horse-like odor.
Ashwagandha contains chemicals that might help calm the brain, reduce swelling, lower blood pressure, and alter the immune system. Ashwagandha contains numerous bioactive compounds, namely alkaloids, flavonoids, glycosides, steroids, and steroidal lactones. Within the steroidal lactones are withanolides, which are considered to be responsible for most of the plant’s benefits.
Ashwagandha roots and berries can be consumed for their medical properties, but typically, you find ashwagandha in supplement capsules or in tablet, powder, tincture and tea form. It is commonly available as a churna, a fine sieved powder that can be mixed with water, ghee (clarified butter) or honey. It enhances the function of the brain and nervous system and improves the memory. It improves the function of the reproductive system promoting a healthy sexual and reproductive balance. Being a powerful adaptogen, it enhances the body's resilience to stress. Ashwagandha improves the body's defense against disease by improving the cell-mediated immunity. It also possesses potent antioxidant properties that help protect against cellular damage caused by free radicals.
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In general, you can take ashwagandha any time of day or night and is considered safe for most people but should never take it beyond the recommended doses or periods. In some cases, high doses — usually those beyond the recommended dose suggested on the package — may lead to stomach upset, diarrhea, or vomiting. Side effects may include diarrhea, headache, sedation, or nausea, and the product should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Therefore, it’s important to follow the instructions on the label and speak with your healthcare provider before changing doses.