What is Ashwagandha?
Withania somnifera which is known as Ashwagandha is an Indian Ayurvedic herb. The name itself comes from the translation Smell of the horse which is attributed to the root itself smelling a bit like a horse and the idea that the root is supposed to give you the strength and virility of a wild horse. Ashwagandha is widely used to counter stress and other benefits to the body and brain. Ashwagandha has an unusually high number of phytochemicals that positively influence systems in our own bodies. The maximum benefit appears when fresh Ashwagandha powder is used.
The active constituents of ashwagandha include steroidal lactones, saponins, and withanolides, and alkaloids.
Benefits of Ashwagandha
- Reduce Stress: Ashwagandha is one of the best available medicines to relieve stress. It is an adaptogen which is a compound that helps the body to deal with the physical and chemical effects of stress.
- Reduce Anxiety: As Ashwagandha is known to relieve stress, no wonder that one of it’s most celebrated benefits is an apparent reduction in the feeling of anxiety and boost in mood resulting in an overall improved feeling of well-being and new positivity towards life.
- Reduces cortisol levels: Cortisol is the stress hormone and Ashwagandha possesses the direct ability to reduce the stress hormone cortisol.
- Lengthens lifespan: Ashwagandha is classified as Rasayana(tonic) and is used for various disease processes, especially as a nervine tonic which helps increase the lifespan of the individual.
- Increase in strength: Ayurvedic medicines also classify Ashwagandha as BHALYA signifying a belief it increases strength and it is also backed by a study in 2015 by the International society of sports nutrition.
- Boosts Testosterone: In the strength and bodybuilding community, it is often claimed that Ashwagandha directly increases the testosterone levels in the body which could lead to greater strength and fitness.
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- Decrease in C-RP: Consumption of ashwagandha has for over a month has seen that there was a decrease in C reactive protein levels by about a third meaning it reduces neuro-inflammation that is causative in feelings of depression and anxiety.
- Decreases blood pressure: Through the positive effects of ashwagandha on stress unsurprisingly it can cause a decrease in blood pressure.
- Prevention of cancer: There have been studies into the cancer-fighting abilities of some of the active chemicals of ashwagandha. Studies in live mice have shown growth inhibition in various types of tumors.
- Reduce inflammation at joints: The paste formed when the roots of ashwagandha are crushed with water is applied to reduce the inflammation at the joints.
- Increases sperm count: Ashwagandha also acts as a stimulant and increases the sperm count in the body.
- Treatment of Snake venom: The root of Ashwagandha in combination with other drugs is prescribed for snake venom as well as in scorpion-sting.
- Increase fertility in men: As Ashwagandha increases the testosterone and sperm count in men it directly boosts the fertility in men.
- Increase in muscle size: Consuming Ashwagandha did see an increase in muscle growth, this is possibly due to AntiOxidant properties of the herb on mitochondrial energy levels and functioning.
- Promotes healthy sexual functioning: Ashwagandha is classified as VAJIKARA that is it works as an aphrodisiac that promotes sexual functioning.
- Treats Diabetes: Ashwagandha stimulates the secretion of insulin in the bloodstream thus improving the breakdown of sugars in the blood. So the blood sugar levels remain low when you consume Ashwagandha.
- Cure insomnia: Ashwagandha is an aphrodisiac that can cure insomnia and slow down aging.
- Treatment for Alzheimer’s disease: There are dozens of studies that show that Ashwagandha slows, stops, reverses, or removes neuritic atrophy and synaptic loss. Therefore Ashwagandha can be used to treat Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases at any stage of the disease.
- Improves memory: Ashwagandha acts on the Central nervous system and is used to promote intellect and memory.
- Helps in treating OCD: Some studies have proven that ashwagandha can be used to control the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder when taken with prescribed medication.
Side effects of Ashwagandha:
The side effects of long term consumption of ashwagandha differ for each individual
- Autoimmune diseases: Ashwagandha can make the immune system more active which can backfire and increase the symptoms of autoimmune diseases.
- Premature delivery: Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid taking ashwagandha as it can cause premature delivery or miscarriage.
- Hypoglycemia: As ashwagandha can lower the blood sugar level of a person whose blood sugar levels are normal, possibly leading to hypoglycemia.
- Slows down the CNS: As ashwagandha can slow down the central nervous system it is advised not to take it before or after surgery.
- Mild Sedation: The overconsumption of ashwagandha can be Sedating and can cause Lethargic mood.
- Stomach upset: Some people have noted stomach upset when ashwagandha is taken for too long and also don’t take ashwagandha if you have an ulcer.
Ashwagandha is totally safe when used for a short period of time. It’s just a little plant that packs up a big punch when it comes to health benefits like relieving stress, boosts your focus, increases libido, kicks up your endurance, and eases arthritis symptoms. Overall Ashwagandha is one of the best herbs for medicinal purposes as it packs all kinds of benefits to it.
- Withania somnifera Dunal (Ashwagandha): potential plant source of a promising drug for cancer chemotherapy and radiosensitization.
- An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda.
- Research on Ashwagandha.
- Growth inhibition of human tumor cell lines by withanolides from Withania somnifera leaves.
- Naturopathic care for anxiety: a randomized controlled trial ISRCTN78958974.