What is Ashwagandha? - The Wonder Herb
Common name: Ashwagandha
Scientific name: Withania Somnifera
Also known as: Indian Ginseng, Poison Gooseberry, Winter Cherry
Ashwagandha Origin and History:
The Ashwagandha plant is a small shrub with yellow flowers, native to India and parts of North Africa. The word ‘Ashwagandha’ is derived from the Sanskrit words ‘Ashwa’ (meaning horse) and ‘Gandha’ (meaning smell) which refers to both its unique smell and ability to increase strength, build up the nervous system and improve sexual vitality.
Its medicinal usage can be traced back about 3,000 years to the Ayurveda, a form of alternative medicine based on Indian principles of natural healing. For centuries, it has been used as a household remedy to increase energy levels and improve concentration.
Ashwagandha is considered one of Ayurveda’s few natural ‘Ojas’ builders, which means it supports immunity, radiant health and longevity. Historically, the roots of Ashwagandha have been used to treat several diseases, injuries and ailments, such as constipation, diabetes, arthritis, insomnia, stress, anxiety, nervous breakdowns, memory loss, fevers, gastrointestinal issues and even snake bites. The leaves, seeds and roots – all have different usages and implications.
Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is an easy and effective way to improve your health and quality of life. It has a high concentration of ‘withanolides’, which have been shown to fight inflammation and tumor growth. It has been classified as an ‘adaptogen’ with its overall nervine tonic benefits – which means it can help your body manage stress, energize the body when it needs during the day and calm it down for easy and restful sleep at night.
It is also known to increase fertility and boost testosterone levels in men. Ashwagandha supplements may have powerful effects on reproductive health. They may help in increasing sperm count (along with improved quality), motility and antioxidant levels in blood, thus eliminating erectile issues and increasing stamina, resulting in an improved and better sex life.
Ashwagandha helps to increase muscle mass and strength. It also helps to reduce body fat percentage and improve body composition. In addition to this, Ashwagandha also improves heart health by reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Researchers have observed a significant decrease in markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein (CRP), which is linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
It has been found to increase the activity of natural killer cells, which are immune cells that fight infection in the body and help it stay healthy. The root of the plant is used to enhance athletic performance, endurance and support exercise recovery.
Ashwagandha Prevention & Treatment
Scientists and researches all over the world have found that Ashwagandha increases insulin secretion, improves insulin sensitivity in muscle cells and reduces blood sugar levels in both healthy people and those with diabetes. Additionally, it can help reduce cortisol, boost brain function and help fight symptoms of anxiety and depression. In skin care, Ashwagandha provides a calming effect when applied as an oil or lotion.
In addition to improving memory, several studies in the recent times have observed and examined Ashwagandha’s ability to slow or prevent loss of brain function in people with diseases like Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s.
Ashwagandha Effects on Chronic Disease
A few recent studies have found the anti-cancer properties of Ashwagandha, as it helps to induce apoptosis – the programmed death of cancer cells – while impeding the growth of new ones. It promotes the death of tumor cells and may be effective against several types of cancer. These encouraging findings suggest that the herb has the potential to slow human cancers including breast, lung, kidney, and prostate.
Ashwagandha dosages have ranged from 125-1,250 mg daily in studies, to 450-500mg daily or twice per day in practice. Ashwagandha supplements are available as extract or powder in market and can be obtained from various retailers, including health food stores and vitamin shops. Moreover, capsules, oils & lotions, chyawanprash and other liquid extracts are available both online and at physical stores.
There isn’t a standard dosage of Ashwagandha that’s been studied by modern clinical trials, so it’s important that you consult your doctor before starting a course and do not replace it with the medicine your doctor has prescribed
Ashwagandha is considered well-tolerated in adequate doses, but there haven’t been enough long-term studies to back up the claim with sufficient empirical evidence. Most of the studies that have projected the health benefits of Ashwagandha and its effectiveness in the treatment of several chronic diseases have either been conducted mostly on animals, or under supervised lab conditions and controlled environments. Although the advantages of using Ashwagandha have been acknowledged throughout the globe, it still remains a mystery to modern science due to the lack of proper studies and thus, a major part of the medical community still remains skeptical about this wonderful plant.
Despite its accepted general beneficial traits, there are a few cases where it should be avoided. Although it’s safe for most people, certain individuals shouldn’t use it unless authorized by their doctors. For example, breastfeeding women and pregnant women should avoid its consumption because it can cause early delivery. Also, those on medication for thyroid disease should be careful when taking Ashwagandha, as it may potentially increase thyroid hormone levels in some. People with autoimmune diseases should also avoid Ashwagandha. It may also decrease blood sugar and blood pressure levels, therefore dosages must be carefully monitored and adjusted.