What Is Ashwagandha? 10 Surprising Benefits Of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha plant.

Aswagna…ashwaganda…ashwagandha! Yes, that’s it! Quite a mouthful for one word, but it certainly evokes interest and deserves an explanation. This curious-sounding name bears an even more curious meaning. Ashwagandha’s literal definition in Sankrit is ‘smell of a horse’ – of all things! This is because people traditionally held that the herb could impart the strength of a stallion to its eaters. And because the roots of the herb have a distinctive, horsey smell.

Okay. Confession time. I was never into alternative medicine. Not until I heard about ashwagandha. I used to pop a painkiller for every little headache. And when I experienced chronic fatigue, I would run around taking blood tests, trying hard to find an explanation for my constant exhaustion and, more importantly, a cure. Little did I know that the mysterious cure lay in a humble herb all along. An herb with a rich history and unbelievable healing powers. Healing powers which have been overlooked by our modern society for way too long. Decades ago, the Indians had the presence of mind to make use of this remedy; but since then, the majority of mankind seems to have forgotten about the herb.

When I first heard about this incredible herb I was skeptical. But after learning about it and hearing real testimonies of its success, I realized I uncovered something big. I couldn’t wait to share it with all of you. Ashwagandha has waited too long to have its time in the sun. And you’ve waited too long to use this herb as a way to improve your quality of life.

What Is Ashwagandha? Where Does Ashwagandha Come From?

Ashwagandha shrub plant.

Ashwagandha shrub.

Ashwagandha has its roots in the ancient Indian medical practice Ayurveda. It is also known as Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal, Indian ginseng, King of Ayurveda, winter cherry and poison gooseberry. In Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is classified as rasayana because of its invigorating effects. Today the Ayurvedic herb is classified as an adaptogenic herb, which holds a similar definition. Ashwagandha belongs to Solanaceae, also known as the nightshade family.

The herb grows in dry regions such as India, Northern Africa, and the Middle East. In Yemen, the herb was one of many valued medicinal plants, with people turning it into a paste and using it to treat open wounds and burns.

Ashwagandha grows in a shrub about 35 – 75 cm tall. It sprouts pale green leaves and flowers that are a dull yellow, crowning around red-orange fruit about the size of a cherry. Today the herb also grows in semi-dry regions like the United States and is a popular form of altern med. People use it to treat a range of conditions. Some also think it can assist cancer patients, although there is little scientific evidence that ashwagandha treats cancer.

Ashwagandha’s unbelievable healing powers have intrigued medical researchers for years. Researchers have conducted over 200 studies into the herb’s special potency to heal. People have been using it for decades and traditionally it was one of the strongest natural remedies in Ayurvedic medicine. Ancient Chinese scriptures mentioned ashwagandha, and Native Americans and Africans used it. Today it is generally sold in capsules but can also be bought in powder form and as a liquid. Among other things, ashwagandha contains steroidal lactones glycowithanolides and withaferin A, alkaloids and flavonoids.

Top 10 Benefits Of Ashwagandha Benefits

Ashwagandha root.

Ashwagandha root.

1. Treating Stress and Fatigue

Are you constantly experiencing fatigue? Have you been feeling down lately? Can’t seem to pull yourself out of the mud? Do you feel anxious frequently? Are you experiencing chronic stress, and not always with reason?

Ashwagandha is most popular for its ability to treat fatigue, anxiety and stress. The herb works best for those suffering from stress-related anxiety but also benefits people who only suffer from anxiety. In a study conducted on individuals suffering from a combination of depression and anxiety, researchers administered a dose of 250g of ashwagandha root extract twice daily to the participants. A significant reduction in both anxiety and depression symptoms was seen after the participants ingested the herb.

The way ashwagandha works is that it helps lower your body’s cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone, as it’s produced by the adrenal glands when a person experiences stress.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, every year 40 million Americans suffer from some form of anxiety. Fifty percent of people who suffer from depression also suffer from anxiety. Imagine, thousands of individuals could benefit from this all-natural remedy! And with lower anxiety comes tons of other benefits such as reduced risk of heart disease. But treating fatigue and anxiety is not all. Ashwagandha carries tons of benefits for a person’s well-being…

2. Fertility

Ashwagandha is also known to increase fertility and benefit a healthy reproductive system in men and woman. There is little evidence to suggest that the herb boosts testosterone levels as some believe. Yet it does contain rejuvenating powers. It’s even sometimes used by athletes as an energy booster. After all, it’s in the name of the herb.

3. Cancer Treatment

Turmeric isn’t the only plant helpful in fighting cancer! People suffering from cancer often use ashwagandha. There isn’t much scientific evidence of its effectiveness in treating cancer, but it is beneficial if one takes it alongside cancer treatments. This might be due to the presence of alkaloids in ashwagandha. They have been shown to have anti-cancer effects. Research suggests that ashwagandha benefits the immune system of those undergoing radiation or chemotherapy. In addition, the calming effects of ashwagandha can help to reduce pain and nausea.

Research also shows that ashwagandha can help fight cancer by providing wild type p53 (cancer cells) tumor suppressor activity in certain cancers with a mutation.

4. Immune System

The herb does not only support the immune system of cancer patients – it benefits the immune system of healthy individuals as well, boosting antioxidants and helping to prevent illnesses.

5. Sleep

Woman covering half her face with blanket with eyes closed sleeping.

Ashwagandha can help you be calmer and sleep better.

Among other ashwagandha benefits, it is also known for its extraordinary capacity to induce calming effects and lift energy levels at the same time. This is not far from a miracle! The herb’s calming properties, both physical and mental, help to treat sleeping disorders. They contribute to proper sleep patterns in everyone, even individuals who do not suffer from insomnia.

6. Blood Production

Studies have shown that ashwagandha increases blood production. The herb possesses hematopoietic properties that increase red and white blood cell counts. This means that taking ashwagandha could prevent anemia.

7. Treatment Of Seizures

According to research, ashwagandha contains anticonvulsant properties. That’s why, in Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha has been used in the treatment of seizures and convulsions in addition to all the other conditions it is capable of healing.

8. Cataracts

Close up of eyes.

Ashwagandha can help treat cataracts.

Further research has found that ashwagandha has the ability to treat cataracts. The herb possesses antioxidant and cytoprotective properties that reduce ocular disease.

If you’re shaking your head with disbelief right now, hold on tight. This is not the end of ashwagandha’s healing capabilities. The truth is, when I first discovered this herb, I was overwhelmed myself by the extent of its healing powers. It almost seemed too good to be true! Until I came to terms with the fact that it’s true, and that the herb is just one of those godsends that we should be grateful for.

9. Managing Diabetes

Another pro of ashwagandha is its usefulness in managing diabetes. Ashwagandha can stabilize blood sugar, increasing blood sugar levels when they’re low or decreasing them when they’re high. This is one way which demonstrates ashwagandha’s adaptogenic properties.

Exactly how does ashwagandha work to help those with diabetes? It promotes the body’s release of insulin and increases muscle cells’ sensitivity to insulin.

Considering the jump in numbers of people suffering from diabetes over the last few years, ashwagandha is quite a handy tool!

10. Treating Alzheimer’s

Researchers at Newcastle University discovered that the use of ashwagandha impedes the creation of beta-amyloid plaques. These very plaques are what gathers in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s and related diseases.

Research is still being done to test the effects of withania somnifera on treating Alzheimer’s in people, but animal studies have led to promising results. The National Brain Research Center tested ashwagandha on mice with Alzheimer’s disease and found that with steady use, the mice improved in their cognitive performance. After only 30 days of ashwagandha, there was significantly less plaque in their brains and their brain function had returned to normal. Rather than changing the brain’s chemistry, the researchers found that ashwagandha promotes a protein in the liver which rids the brain of amyloid.

Further bolstering the claim that ashwagandha is good for combating Alzheimer’s is its ability to regenerate nerve cells and dendrite growth. Plus, it promotes the healing of damage to the nervous system.

Ashwagandha has also been shown to reduce oxidative stress, and consequently improve cognitive functioning, in rats.

While studies still need to be done, there’s lots of potential for ashwagandha to be a formidable opponent of Alzheimer’s disease.

Bonus Benefits

So, what additional ashwagandha benefits are there? It helps to treat rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatism, Parkinson’s disease and asthma. It also aids in muscle growth, controls cholesterol levels, and contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. And it can even boost a man’s sperm count. Years ago, Native Americans and Africans used this herb to prevent illnesses and infections. Ashwagandha also contains withanolide, a naturally occurring steroid.

Ashwagandha Side Effects Explained

You can break down the side effects of ashwagandha pretty simply. Do not take ashwagandha if you are pregnant – the herb possesses abortifacients. People who suffer from high blood pressure are also advised not to take ashwagandha. This is because its energy-boosting properties can increase blood pressure – which is why ashwagandha is beneficial for those who suffer from low blood pressure.

Ashwagandha can boost thyroid hormone levels, so it’s not recommended for people with hyperthyroidism. And it can make you drowsy, so it’s best not to take with sedative medications such as lorazepam.

Otherwise, it is generally safe to take and does not pose side effects unless you overdose on it. Too much of anything isn’t good for you. Overdosing on ashwagandha can cause an upset stomach, nausea, and diarrhea.

Consult with a healthcare professional before taking ashwagandha to be on the safe side. If you are taking other medications, check that ashwagandha does not interact with those medications before taking the herb. The key to avoiding ashwagandha side effects is being prepared.

What Is A Safe Dosage of Ashwagandha?

Bottle of Ashwagandha capsules

Ashwagandha capsules.

The recommended dosage for ashwagandha extract is anywhere between 50mg and 6,000mg, divided into three doses of 2,000mg. A dosage of 50mg could be enough to treat some forms of anxiety, while the maximum dosage is usually sufficient to treat most conditions. You should take ashwagandha with food. If you take it once a day, you should take it in the morning.  The herb is generally non-toxic when taken with food.

Ashwagandha Powder Explained

Traditionally, ashwagandha powder was mixed into a cup of warm milk with honey and taken before going to bed. Its calming effects benefit those suffering from insomnia or other sleep disorders. The herb is conducive to a good night’s sleep for anyone.  The recommended amount to take is up to 1 tsp of powder per 1 cup of water.

Ashwagandha powder in a bowl.

Ashwagandha powder.

According to Ayurvedic medicine, it’s best to take the herb together with a vehicle, and milk is a great vehicle to help the body fully absorb the healing properties in the herb. Ashwagandha also tastes better with milk, as the herb has a somewhat bitter taste when taken in its natural, raw, form.

Having ashwagandha root powder in milk is not the only way to ingest the herb. There are so many things you can do with the powder. You can even add ashwagandha powder to cookie dough mix so that you get all the health benefits in a delicious cookie!

Ashwagandha Tea Explained

Ashwagandha tea in glass tea cup.

Ashwagandha tea.

What do you do when your alarm goes off at 7 am and you wake up exhausted feeling like you just ran a marathon? If you’re one of 83% percent of American adults who drink coffee – surviving on your daily instant caffeine and energy boost – it might be time to change your habits.

Why am I saying this? No, not because coffee is necessarily bad for you. We’ll save that argument for another time.

Are you familiar with the letdown not too long after feeding your body caffeine? The energy levels plunging like the day is over when it is only 11 am…

I am. And that is exactly why I am a fan of ashwagandha tea. Ashwagandha shares the energy boosting properties of caffeine, but it is very different from caffeine. The herb gently lifts your energy levels so that they stay high for a lot longer; no more post-caffeine crash.

Dr Vasant Lad, Ayurvedic physician and president of the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico, recommends drinking one cup of ashwagandha tea daily. Ashwagandha tea should be drunk together with something cool, like licorice, honey or milk, because the tea warms you up more than other hot drinks.

To prepare the tea, you just need to boil up to 1 tsp of ashwagandha powder per one cup of water for 10 minutes. Don’t forget to add something cool before drinking.

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Conclusion

Ashwagandha can help your body cope with a wide range of issues. When taken safely in the right quantities, ashwagandha maintains homeostasis in the body and revitalizes and heals. It benefits physical and mental health. Also, it is all-natural, without the side effects of over-the-counter or prescription drugs. The amount of studies devoted to exploring a mere herb is astonishing. Ashwagandha must contain special qualities to evoke so much medical interest. It seems that researchers just keep discovering more unknown potentials in this herb.

Researchers and the results of clinical trials agree that ashwagandha is one miracle herb that can treat countless conditions. The herb’s ability to treat anxiety and stress, along with its revitalizing capabilities, is sustained medically and scientifically. Conflicting opinions do exist when it comes to the rest of the herb’s capabilities. For instance, studies differ on whether ashwagandha can treat cancer or not. There are practitioners who believe that the herb can treat cancer. But the dominant belief is that the herb can assist cancer patients alongside other treatments but shouldn’t be an actual treatment plan.

There is also one study which found that ashwagandha increases motivation levels. Yet it is unclear whether this is due to a reduction in anxiety or the properties which the herb contains. It’s best to get medical advice from your doctor before deciding to take ashwagandha for the first time. This is especially true if you are taking other medicines routinely, as the herb can interact with other substances. Otherwise, ashwagandha is generally safe to take and does not contain toxic elements. Yet keep in mind that it is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (the FDA).

Ashwagandha is truly a wonder herb that improves overall health and increases longevity. Start taking advantage of ashwagandha benefits today!

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