Ashwagandha – The anti-stress herb
Ashwagandha, Withania Somnifera, is one of the most powerful herbal medicines in Ayurvedic and Western herbal medicine. And for good reason. It can treat such a wide range of health conditions as it has a powerful restorative and nutritive effect to the mind and body. In Sanskrit, Ashwagandha means ‘the smell of horses,’ which is a reference to the vigor and strength of a stallion that this herb imparts, and also due to its unique smell.
For the busy person who is constantly rushing about, not sleeping properly, using a lot of mental energy, or someone who’s always falling sick, this herb is for you. It provides mental clarity, energy, stamina, endurance and inner strength.
Ashwagandha is one of the strongest adaptogen herbs. Adaptogens are substances (a combination of amino acids, vitamins, and herbs) that modulate your response to stress or a changing environment. Adaptogens help the body cope with stresses on all levels – be it physical, mental or emotional.
External stressors include toxins in the environment, and internal stressors such as anxiety and insomnia. Ashwagandha supports the health of the adrenal glands and the Thyroid via its apoptogenic effects.
Ashwagandha is from the same family at the tomato, and is a plump shrub with oval leaves and yellow flowers which bears red fruit. It is commonly referred to as ‘Indian Ginseng’ even though these plants aren’t related. Its due to their shared healing benefits of that it gets this reference.
Why Use Ashwagandha?
If you are experiencing any of the following, Ashwagandha can greatly assist.
- Lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Poor immunity
- Thyroid and endocrine disorders
Just to name a few.
Benefits and Healing Effects
Ashwagandha is used to tone, support, and revitalise all bodily functions. It has been revered over time for its dual capacity to energise and calm at the same time. When taken in the morning Ashwagandha creates energy for the day ahead, yet at the same time calms down a hyper and over-active nervous system.
Taken at night it helps to promote deep and restful sleep by enhancing the release of our sleep neurotransmitters. Ashwagandha exerts its affect all over to supports the body’s natural functioning. It works harmoniously to promote homeostasis – a balanced state where the body functions at best.
This dual energizing/calming effect is due to Ashwagandhas many Phytochemicals (medicinal chemicals), including withanolides (steroidal lactones), alkaloids, choline, fatty acids, amino acids, and a variety of sugars. While the leaves and fruit have valuable therapeutic properties, the root of the plant is the part most commonly used in herbal remedies.
There are over 200 studies proving the healing benefits of Ashwangandha. They show it has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidizing, anti-stress, sleep-inducing and drug withdrawal properties.
Recent research on Ashwagandha conducted at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan reported that the leaves of Ashwagandha can selectively inhibit cancer cells.
Studies also show the following health benefits:
- Protects the immune system
- Creates health sleep patterns
- Helps combat the effects of stress
- Improves learning, memory, and reaction time
- Reduces anxiety and depression without causing drowsiness
- Helps reduce brain-cell degeneration
- Stabilizes blood sugar
- Helps lower cholesterol
- Offers anti-inflammatory benefits
- Contains anti-malarial properties
- Enhances sexual potency for both men and women
- Increase stamina and endurance
How to take Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is available in powder and tablet forms, and as a liquid extract. Traditionally it is taken at night before bed for people who suffer from insomnia and anxiety. Take a cup of hot milk that contains a teaspoon of powdered Ashwagandha. For nutritive and building properties, you can take Ashwagandha with ghee or honey.
Ashwagandha is a safe and well tolerated herb. It is not recommended for women who are pregnant in modern herbal medicine, although traditionally prescribed for this reason.
Caution: Always consult with your healthcare practitioner before taking any herbal supplement.
Written by Tegan Wallis
Naturopath, Ayurvedic consultant and Yoga teacher
If you would like to make an appointment with Tegan please visit here for more info.