Health Benefits of Ashwagandha

What Is Ashwagandha?

Ayurvedic treatments are becoming more and more common these days. Some communities have been using herbs straight from the earth to heal themselves and give their bodies vitality.

Ashwagandha is one of the most powerful herbs used in Ayurvedic healing and has been used to treat a variety of conditions since ancient times. It is commonly known for its rejuvenating and restorative properties.

Ashwagandha is a Sanskrit word meaning “the smell of a horse”. This name was given to it partly because it was believed to have the potential to impart the strength and vigor of a stallion but also because its root was thought to have a smell likened to horse sweat!

Ashwagandha has clinically been used in India for nearly 5 thousand years both as a topical treatment and as an ingestible.

It is mostly prescribed as a nerve tonic and to help the body adapt to both physical and emotional stressors (adaptogen).

It has been used to treat conditions such as weakness and debility in old age, stress, joint inflammation, insomnia, constipation, nervous conditions, failure to thrive in children, stress, hormone imbalance, parasites and much more.

Topically, it can also be used to treat boils, ulcers and other skin infections and irritations. It is also used to strengthen the immune system after illness, surgery or chemotherapy.

Evidence shows that it is highly effective for treatment of anxiety and stress, lowering cortisol levels and acting like the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA.

If you are wondering why you have not already heard of this amazing herb considering all its benefits, you may have heard it referred to as Indian ginseng.

Although some call it this because of all its rejuvenating properties, botanically,  Ashwagandha and Ginseng are unrelated.

So, how would you know whether whatever has been sold to you truly is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is a plump shrub with yellow flowers and oval leaves. It belongs to the same nightshade family as tomatoes. Its fruits grow to about the size of a raisin.

Due to its proclaimed benefits, the shrub is now grown in many places with mild climates including the United States but it is native to the dry regions of North Africa, India, and the Middle East.

You should always ask where your Ashwagandha came from as sometimes, the changes in growing conditions may cause slight variations in the plant.

Common uses of Ashwagandha

  1. To lower blood sugar levels – Ashwagandha has been found to increase insulin secretion and improve insulin sensitivity in muscle cells
  2. Can help fight cancer – Studies has found that the herb can help induce the apoptosis which is the programmed death of cancer cells.
  3. Increasing male fertility and boosting testosterone levels – Ashwagandha seems to have powerful effects on levels of male hormones and reproductive health.
  4. Reduction of cortisol levels – Cortisol, commonly known as the stress hormone is released in response to stress when blood sugar levels are too low. However, the levels of cortisol may sometimes become chronically elevated leading to increased fat storage in the abdomen and high blood sugar levels.
  5. Reduction of stress and anxiety – Ashwagandha regulates chemical signaling in the nervous system.
  6. Increasing strength and muscle mass – A study conducted on men taking Ashwagandha daily showed an increase in muscle strength and size as well as a reduction in body fat percentage.

Ashwagandha is commonly ingested as a fine powder mixed in honey or ghee. However, in Western countries, it is typically taken in capsule form.

For people who take it regularly, for example, to help with insomnia and anxiety, it is recommended to take a dose of 500 to 1,000 mg with a cup of hot milk before bedtime.