What is Ashwagandha? Ashwagandha Health Benefits Explained
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Ashwagandha. Yes, you read correctly. Quite a mouthful for one word, but 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 the herb has traditionally been believed to impart the strength of a stallion to those who ingest it – 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 suffered from chronic fatigue, I would run around taking blood tests, trying hard to find an explanation for my constant exhaustion and, more importantly, a cure – there had to be something. 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 that has 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 all about it and hearing real testimonies of its success, I realized I was on to 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.
What Is Ashwagandha? Where Does Ashwagandha Come From?
Ashwagandha has its roots in the ancient Indian medical practice – Ayurveda, and is also known as withania somnifera, Indian Ginsberg, King of Ayurveda, winter cherry and poison gooseberry. In Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is classified as rasayana because of its invigorating effects. Today the herb is classified as an adaptogen which hold 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 turned into a paste and used to treat open wounds and burns.
Ashwagandha grows in a shrub about 35 – 75 cm tall sprouting pale green leaves and flowers that are a dull yellow, crowning a round, red – orange, fruit about the size of a cherry. Today the herb is also grown in semi dry regions like the United States and has become a popular form of alternative medicine. It is used to treat a range of conditions, and is also believed to assist cancer patients, although there is little scientific evidence that Ashwagandha treats cancer.
Ashwagandha’s unbelievable healing powers has intrigued medical researchers for years. Over 200 studies were conducted into the herbs special potency to heal. It has been used for decades and was traditionally considered one of the strongest natural remedies in Ayurvedic medicine. It is also mentioned in ancient Chinese scriptures and was used by the Native Americans and Africans. Today it is generally sold in capsules but can also be bought in powder form and as a liquid.
Ashwagandha Benefits Breakdown
Are you constantly overwhelmed with fatigue? Have you been feeling down lately, and cannot seem to pull yourself out of the mud? Do you feel anxious or stressed, frequently, and not always with reason?
If you are nodding your head to any of these, a dose of ashwagandha may be in order.
Ashwagandha is best known for its ability to treat fatigue, anxiety and stress related issues. 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 individual suffering from a combination of depression and anxiety, a dose of 250g of ashwagandha root extract was administered twice daily to the participants. A significant reduction in both anxiety and depression symptoms was seen after the participants ingested the herb.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, every year 40 million Americans suffer from some form of anxiety, and 50% of people who suffer from depression also suffer from anxiety. Imagine, thousands of individuals could benefit from this all-natural remedy! – but treating fatigue and anxiety is not all…
Ashwagandha is also knwn 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 like some believe, but it does contain rejuvenating powers, and is sometimes used by athletes as an energy booster – after all, it’s in the name of the herb.
Ashwagandha is commonly used to assist cancer patients. There isn’t much scientific evidence of its effectiveness in treating cancer, but it is beneficial if taken alongside cancer treatments. Research suggests that ashwagandha benefits the immune system of those undergoing radiation or chemotherapy. In addition, the herbs calming effects can help to reduce pain and nausea.
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.
Ashwagandha is known for its extraordinary capacity to induce calming effects and lift energy levels at the same time – not far from a miracle! The herb’s calming properties, physically and mentally, helps to treat sleeping disorders and contribute to proper sleep patterns in everyone – even individuals who do not suffer from insomnia.
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.
According to research, ashwagandha contains anticonvulsant properties. That’s why, in Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha has been used to treat convulsions and seizures, in addition to all the other conditions it is capable of healing.
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.
So, what’s more? Ashwagandha helps to treat arthritis, diabetes, rheumatism and asthma. It also aids in muscle growth, controls cholesterol levels, and contains antibacterial properties. Years ago, Native Americans and Africans used this herb to prevent illnesses and infections.
Ashwagandha Side Effects Explained
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, as its energy boosting properties can increase blood pressure even more, that’s why ashwagandha is beneficial for those who suffer from low blood pressure.
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 doctor 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.
What Is A Safe Dosage of Ashwagandha?
The recommended dosage for ashwagandha 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. Ashwagandha should be taken with food, and if taken once a day, should be taken in the morning. The herb is traditionally known to be 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.
According to Ayurvedic medicine, any herb is best taken together with a vehicle, and milk is considered the best 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 packed into a delicious cookie!
You can look up The Ayurveda Experience for ashwagandha recipe ideas.
Ashwagandha Tea Explained
What do you do when your alarm goes off at 7am and you wake up exhausted feeling like you just ran a marathon? If you are one of 83% percent of adult Americans who drink coffee – surviving on your daily coffee run and 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 11am…
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, and don’t forget to add something cool before drinking.
When taken safely in the right quantities, ashwagandha maintains homeostasis in the body and revitalizes and heals. It benefits physical and mental health – and, it is all natural without the side effects of over the counter or prescription medicines.
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 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 most 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 should not be referred to as an actual treatment plan. There is also one study which found that ashwagandha increases motivation levels, but it is unclear whether this is due to a reduction in anxiety or the properties contained in the herb.
As with all medical matters, it is best to consult with a doctor before deciding to take ashwagandha for the first time, especially 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.
Ashwagandha is truly a wonder herb that improves overall health and increases longevity.