What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is a medicinal plant widely used in Ayurveda, the popular alternative medicine in India. The Ashwagandha plant is a small shrub with yellow flowers that are native to India and North Africa. Extracts or powder from the plant’s root or leaves is used to treat a variety of conditions. Ashwagandha has been used as a medicinal plant to treat relieve body stress from ancient times and is classified as an ‘adaptogen,’ which means it can help your body manage stress.
Adaptogen plants are those herbs which the body adapt to challenges. Plants in this category tend to balance the immune system and metabolism. Ancient Sanskrit writings prove that ashwagandha has been used for over 3000 years as an incredible medicine to treat stress, boost energy levels and improve concentration. Ashwagandha is also used to restore mental physical and emotional health. A scientific report published in the Journal of Stress Physiology & Biochemistry on the plant states that Ashwagandha has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidizing, anti-stress, sleep-inducing, and drug withdrawal properties.
Ashwagandha is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘smell of horse’, which indicates the unique smell and ability to provide body strength. Botanical name of this herbal plant is Withania somnifer. Ajagandha, Amangura, Indian Ginseng Kanaje Hindi, Samm Al Ferakh, Turangi-Ghanda etc. are few of the names of Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is believed to be effective for arthritis, anxiety, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), body balance problems, insomnia, tumors, tuberculosis, asthma, leukoderma, bronchitis, backache, fibromyalgia, menstrual problems, hiccups, Parkinson’s disease, and chronic liver disease. No proper scientific studies were ever made on the medicinal properties and effectiveness of this plant.
Medicinal benefits of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is believed to be a wonder-working medicinal herb. Indian alternative medical literature describes a large number of medical benefits of Ashwagandha. Because of the capability to cure various health conditions, this plant is considered as the most important herb in Ayurveda. The leaves, root, seeds, and fruit are used to treat various ailments. Ashwagandha is an herb that helps to cure multiple ailments, it is a plant that is useful as a beauty enhancement supplement and this plant is a powerful source of sexual rejuvenation.
Ashwagandha is believed to have stress-relieving effects. Under stress, the body generates cortisol. Cortisol is the body’s natural alarm system. When the amount of cortisol in your blood is high it results in muscle weakness and stress. Ashwagandha reduces the secretion of Cortisol, thereby helping to relieve stress.
Ashwagandha is said to have brain enhancement capabilities. It protects the brain from oxidative stress and improves memory. This medicinal herb has been used for calming the nerves and stimulating brain energy. Ashwagandha is used in Ayurveda to help the body to use oxygen more effectively, as a result enhancing the cognitive functions like focus concentration and memory.
The greatest medicinal effect of Ashwagandha is associated with strength. People believed that Ashwagandha has the capability to strengthen the human body, equal to that of a horse. By relieving stress, the medicinal elements in ashwagandha protect your immune system and never allow the immune functions to compromise.
How can women benefit from Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha has been used to treat various female health conditions.
Enhance female reproductive health: Ashwagandha extracts are used to enhance reproductive health in women. The medicinal elements in the herb enhance communication within the endocrine system, strengthening the adrenal glands, reducing cortisol, and increasing the production of blood. The increased blood flow and regulated hormones have a positive effect on libido and menstrual health and can also aid in fertility.
- Maintain mood balance: Ashwagandha is known as a mood-boosting herb. Women are more prone to mood imbalances and mood swing. Ashwagandha supplements are used to help women with proper mood balance.
- Menstrual balance: Ashwagandha is called ‘nature’s pill’. This medicine has the capability of helping women with stress-free menopause. Ashwagandha is used to eliminate menopause-related hormone imbalances, hot flashes, anxiety, depression, sleeping trouble etc.
- Resolves hair loss: In Ayurveda, Ashwagandha is described as an effective cure for hair loss. Stress is the prime reason for hair loss in women. By balancing the stress the ashwagandha supplements help with hair loss.
Is Ashwagandha good for thyroid patients?
As per a clinical study published recently in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, certain Ashwagandha extracts were found effective to treat thyroid. A highly concentrated extract of Ashwagandha root was used for the trails and researchers noticed a significant improvement in thyroid hormone circulation.
How does Ashwagandha relieve anxiety?
Being an ‘adaptogenic’ herb, Ashwagandha helps to better adapt to anxiety or stress. The medicinal elements of Ashwagandha help with balancing the hormones associated with anxiety. This medicine can fire up your body and rejuvenate when you are fatigued. Ashwagandha is known as ‘stress tonic’. The results of a few studies conducted showed that ashwagandha benefits just about every measure of stress. Compared to those who got the placebo, those taking ashwagandha had 28 percent lower levels of cortisol. The ancient Ayurvedic literature claims that those taking ashwagandha are not feeling just less stressed but feeling more relaxed and mentally calm. The prime reason behind the stress relieving capability of Ashwagandha is believed to be achieved by lowering cortisol, the stress hormone in the human body.
The medicinal effects of Ashwagandha root
The roots are the most valued part of the ashwagandha plant. Roots have a strong aroma which is referred t aso ‘sweaty-horse-smell’. Ashwagandha root is used either alone or in combination with other medicines to treat diseases. The roots are used to make ‘Rasayana’, an Ayurvedic medicine, which is used orally to treat ailments like, stress, anxiety, fatigue and many more. It is the root of this plant that has more medicinal capabilities to treat and cure multiple ailments.
Common side effects of Ashwagandha
There haven’t been enough clinical studies on the possible side effects of Ashwagandha. However, this herb is generally considered safe and effective at lower doses. Classical Ayurvedic literature warns the use of ashwagandha at certain physical conditions.
- Miscarriage: It is generally advised to not use ashwagandha during pregnancy. There have been instances of miscarriage when ashwagandha was used during pregnancy.
- Diabetes: It is noticed that certain elements in ashwagandha lower blood sugar levels. If you are on diabetes medication, abstain from the use of ashwagandha products.
- Blood pressure: ashwagandha might lower your blood pressure. It could result in other medical conditions for people already have low blood pressure.
- Allergies: anecdotal evidence suggests that some people may develop allergies due to the use of ashwagandha. Allergic reactions may include skin rashes, pain in various parts of the body, inflammation, breathing difficulties etc.
- Bleeding: Another possible side effect of the use of ashwagandha is bleeding. Do not use ashwagandha if you are about to undergo a surgery.
- GI tract: It has been observed that ashwagandha easily irritates the gastrointestinal tract. Thus, do not use ashwagandha if you suffer from a stomach ulcer. Constipation and diarrhea are other possible side effects of ashwagandha.
- Autoimmune diseases: The use of ashwagandha might adversely affect if you are undergoing treatment for autoimmune diseases. Ashwagandha extracts are used to boost the autoimmune system. Medication used for treating autoimmune diseases decrease immune system response, and using ashwagandha with such medicines may reverse the results.
- Fever: Ashwagandha might cause fever in some people. The normal dosage of ashwagandha is believed to increase the body temperature. It is normal for the body to remain at a high temperature for two or three days, after the intake of ashwagandha. But, at instances, this might result in fever.
What is the ideal dosage of Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is prescribed for multiple ailments and disorders. Each condition requires different doses of intake.
- Anxiety: 500mg – 600mg of ashwagandha extract for 6 – 12 weeks is prescribed to treat anxiety.
- Blood sugar control: When used to lower blood sugar level 250mg – 3grams for over 1 month is advised. It has been noticed that one month use of ashwagandha extract could reduce blood sugar levels three times more than a placebo.
- Fertility treatment: Experimental studies showed that 5 grams of ashwagandha could increase sperm count and motility. 5 grams of ashwagandha is equally effective in women as it may boost their hormonal levels and rejuvenate fertility.
- Enhance body strength: Studies show that 600mg of ashwagandha for 8 weeks increase body strength, considerably.
- Inflammation: 250-500mg of root extract over 60 days is found effective to lower inflammation.
- Memory and cognition: 500mg of the medicine for 2 weeks may revitalize your cognitive capabilities and boost memory.
How is Ashwagandha powder used?
Generally, ashwagandha is used as a powder. Traditionally, this medicine is used with honey or ghee. But it also can be used with water or warm milk. Ashwagandha extract is made from either the roots or leaves. The powder is made from dried roots. The roots are dried in sunlight for one day and then ground into powder. Normal ashwagandha powder is of a light tan color with a slightly nutty fragrance. Today, ashwagandha is available to buy as powder capsules. Many experts are of the opinion that ashwagandha is to be taken as the powder as it is the natural source than the capsulated form. Also, the powder form has more surface area so it will give better results.
Is drinking Ashwagandha tea beneficial?
Ayurveda suggests ashwagandha tea to wipe off fatigue, stress, and anxiety. This also increases your energy level and boost libido. Ashwagandha tea is suggested for people suffering from sexual incapability. This herb is known for boosting sex drives. Ashwagandha tea is made from the root and leaves of the plant. The dried root or leaves is boiled for a quarter of an hour and strain it to make the tea. This tea is consumed for several health benefits. Three grams of the root is enough to make 3-4 cups of tea. Daily morning intake of ashwagandha tea is beneficial to be energetic and stress-free.
Ashwagandha tea is prescribed to expectant mothers and it may purify the blood and strengthen the immune system. The antioxidant elements in this herb are believed to be capable of lowering the risk of heart disease. Another benefit of drinking ashwagandha tea is that it may calm your mind and body. It boosts your energy levels and rejuvenates the immune system.
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