It also helps prevent arthritis, asthma, hypertension, and rheumatism. Furthermore, ashwagandha boosts the supply of antioxidants and regulates the immune system. What’s more? It also has antibacterial and anticonvulsant properties.
What is Ashwagandha (Indian Ginseng)?
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a medicinal herb that has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It is an adaptogen, which means that it has the ability to help the body to manage stress. It belongs to the Solanaceae family and is also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry.
The use of Ashwagandha for so many centuries has aroused the curiosity of modern medical science, leading to an interest in investigating the medicinal properties of the plant. Preliminary studies indicated the presence of potential therapeutic abilities and it also showed no associated toxicity to the chemical constituents of the plant.
A 2011 scientific report on the plant, published in the Journal of Stress Physiology & Biochemistry, indicates that it has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidizing, anti-stress, sleep-inducing, and drug withdrawal properties. Many formulations that are made from this herb improve musculoskeletal problems such as arthritis and rheumatism. It also acts as a tonic that boosts energy and improves overall health and longevity.
Watch Video: 8 Best Benefits Of Ashwagandha
Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
The regular consumption of Ashwagandha can result in various health benefits. Let us look at these health benefits in detail below:
Controls Blood Sugar Levels
Ashwagandha has long been used for diabetes in Ayurvedic medicine. A research report published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences revealed that the flavonoids found in the roots and leaves of ashwagandha are used to cure diabetes. As part of the experiment, diabetic rats were administered with the extracts of W. somnifera root (WSREt) and leaf (WSLEt). It was concluded that ashwagandha possesses antidiabetic and antihyperlipidemic properties that significantly decrease the blood sugar levels in diabetic rats during fasting and the post-lunch period when consumed for 4 weeks or more.
Controls Cholesterol Levels
Organic Ashwagandha root, with its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, is good for cardiovascular problems. It strengthens the heart muscles and can also control cholesterol. A study published by the University of Arizona in the World Journal of Medical Sciences indicates that it possesses hypolipidemic properties that help in bringing down blood cholesterol levels.
Ashwagandha extract is believed to reduce the cortisol levels in the body and thereby possesses anti-stress properties. Traditionally, it had been administered to induce a soothing and calming effect on a person. A study published in the Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry found that laboratory rats treated with the herbal extract of Ashwagandha could withstand multiple stress tests that they were subjected to, as compared to a passive control group.
Ashwagandha supplements help in reducing anxiety. In India, natural Ashwagandha has been traditionally used in Ayurveda to improve both physical and mental health. The effects of this medicine, particularly on depression, were studied at the Institute of Medical Sciences at Banaras Hindu University, India. The study supported the benefits in relation to anxiety and depression.
Increases Fertility in Men
In addition to increasing the testosterone levels, Ashwagandha also helps in improving the semen quality. A 2010 scientific study published by the American Center for Reproductive Medicine indicated that Ashwagandha plays an important role as an aphrodisiac as well as a way to improve semen quality by increasing sperm count and sperm mobility. This has been the reason why, for many centuries, people have been using it as a medication to please their partner in bed.
Aids in Muscle Growth
Ashwagandha has been found to be useful in improving the muscular strength of the lower limbs and helping recover weakness. It also has a positive impact on neuro-muscular coordination.
Helps with Erectile Dysfunction
Suffering from erectile dysfunction? Intake of Ashwagandha for libido and sexual health is a traditional Ayurveda remedy however, there are not many scientific studies supporting the claim.
Note: It should be used for ED only under the recommendation of a professional medical practitioner.
Stimulates the Thyroid Gland
In cases of hypothyroidism, Ashwagandha can be used to stimulate the thyroid gland. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology on its effects on the thyroid gland revealed that the root extract if given on a daily basis, would increase the secretion of thyroid hormones.
Research studies have shown that the consumption of Ashwagandha led to significant modulation of immune system reactivity and prevented myelosuppression in mice induced by immunosuppressive drugs. Ashwagandha capsules can help increase the red blood cell, white blood cell, and platelet count, which in turn help boost immunity.
Increases Blood Production
Hematopoiesis is the process of producing new blood. According to research published in Alternative Medicine Review, Ashwagandha possesses hematopoietic properties. The study showed that red blood cell and white blood cell counts increased significantly in rats which were administered with the herb. This could mean a positive effect on human red blood cells as well, thereby helping to prevent conditions like anemia.
Ashwagandha natural herbal formula and extracts have been a widely used remedy for seizures and convulsions in Ayurvedic medicine. Another study, published in the Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry, also showed the presence of anticonvulsant properties in this wonderful plant.
Reduces Ocular Diseases
The antioxidant and cytoprotective properties of Ashwagandha are ideal for fighting cataract diseases.
Ashwagandha has been found to be effective in dealing with a variety of rheumatologic problems. The herb is known to act as a cyclooxygenase inhibitor that decreases inflammation and pain. Research conducted at the Los Angeles College of Chiropractors suggests that the herb has anti-inflammatory properties that come from the alkaloids, saponins, and steroidal lactones found within it.
According to Ayurvedic medical texts, Ashwagandha is effective in controlling bacterial infections in humans. A 2011 study, published in the Alternative Medicine Review, showed that this herb possesses antibacterial properties. It also concluded that it was effective in urinogenital, gastrointestinal, and respiratory tract infections when consumed orally.
Side Effects of Using Ashwagandha
- Pregnant Women: Pregnant women are advised to avoid the consumption of this herb as it possesses abortifacient properties.
- Medical Interactions: Doctors advise caution because it can interact with regular medications, especially for those who are suffering from diseases like diabetes, hypertension, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
- Gastrointestinal problems: Avoid consumption in large amounts as this may have side effects such as diarrhea, upset stomach, and nausea.
The root is available in the market in powdered, dried, or fresh root form. 1-2 tsp or 5-6 grams of the powder is recommended when you consume it for general well being. You can also take Ashwagandha for anxiety relief. You could also consume organic Ashwagandha root powder, along with a glass of hot milk before going to sleep. However, when you take the herb for treating any specific disease you should consult a medical professional such as an Ayurvedic doctor for the dosage.
Ashwagandha tea: You can make the tea by boiling the powder in water for 10 minutes. Don’t use more than a teaspoon in one cup of water.
Quick Fun Facts
- In Sanskrit, it is known as Ashwagandha, which means the odor of a horse. It is named so because of the odor of horse sweat that the roots seem to emanate.
- The plant originated in India and it grows best in dry regions.
- It is a robust plant that can survive in very high and low temperatures too, ranging from 40°C to as low as 10°C. It grows from sea level to an altitude of 1500 meters above sea level.
- Ashwagandha has had a great significance in Oriental medical schools of thought, especially in the ancient Indian system of medicine, Ayurveda, for many centuries.
- It had also been used by Native Americans and Africans in an effort to keep away several types of infections.