Ashwagandha is one of my favorite medicinal herbs since it is an adaptogen that can help reduce stress and promote balance. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. This plant is known to promote happiness, vitality and longevity. Health benefits of ashwagandha are quite numerous as it can increase energy levels, improve concentration, fight inflammation and tumor growth. In India it is used to strengthen the immune system after illness.
This plant is native to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. You can grow ashwagandha at home if you live in a warm area. Those that live in cold places must grow it as an annual. This herb is also known as Indian ginseng, even though it is not related to ginseng. Roots are harvested to be used medicinally.
How to Use Ashwagandha?
This herb has almost no calories and its nutritional content is minimal. However, it does contain many beneficial elements, including flavonoids and antioxidants such as glutathione (the best antioxidant), catalase, and superoxide dismutase. It also contains sterols, tannins, triterpenes, lignans, neurotransmitters, alkaloids and amino acids including tryptophan.
Health benefits of ashwagandha are usually taken from the root extracts, but there are also leaf extracts. Ashwagandha roots are taken in capsules or powder. Leaves and roots are often made into a tea. Powdered root is mixed with milk and honey to create golden milk which is a medicinal herbal chai that is often combined with ginger, turmeric and other health-boosting Indian herbs.
Start with a dose between 300 to 500 milligrams per day with withanolides in a range of 5 percent to 10 percent. Most supplements recommend taking between 1000 to 1500 milligrams per day and some sources recommend taking up to 6000 milligrams. It is best to consult a naturopathic before taking such high doses. Be consistent when taking this herb as its benefits may start appearing within two weeks, especially if you have chronic stress and high cortisol levels. Ginseng and maca root have similar properties to ashwagandha.
Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
Reduces Anxiety and Stress
Health benefits of ashwagandha include its ability to promote relaxation and calmness. Withanolides are phytochemicals found in this herb that act as precursors to the hormones that regulate stress in the body. They can be used for anxiety disorders that are associated with high stress levels. This herb is as useful as pharmacological drugs such as imipramine and lorazepam without the side effects they produce, including increased appetite, loss of sexual desire, insomnia and drowsiness.
Many people suffer from chronic stress, which causes inflammation and elevates the risk of illness. Cortisol, the stress hormone, impacts the immune system, blood sugar, and contributes to muscle and bone loss. Chronic high levels of cortisol increase the fat stored in the abdomen. Studies show that this herb can reduce cortisol levels by 30% in chronically stressed adults. Health benefits of ashwagandha include its ability to act as a mood stabilizer.
Some studies suggest that health benefits of ashwagandha may help alleviate depression. Its efficiency is similar to the antidepressant medication imipramine. It can help stabilize moods in cases of clinical depression.
Health benefits of ashwagandha include supporting the adrenal function which are endocrine glands responsible for releasing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, in response to stress. Mental, emotional and physical stress can lead to an overuse of your adrenals which causes fatigue. Exhausted adrenals can disrupt other hormones in your body, including progesterone. This can cause infertility and low levels of DHEA, which is needed to live longer and have a strong body.
Boost Testosterone and Fertility
Studies show that health benefits of ashwagandha include its ability to significantly increase testosterone levels in men. This herb can be used as a fertility treatment since it improves reproductive health. Ashwagandha increases antioxidant levels in the blood and improves sperm quality, as well as reducing stress. 14% of women became pregnant within three months of their partners being treated according to a study.
Ashwagandha is a natural aphrodisiac which can improve sexual dysfunction. A study found out that it helps improve orgasms, arousal and lubrication.
Ashwagandha’s scientific name is Withania somnifera. Somnifera means sleep inducing in Latin, so this plant is used to support sleepiness. One study found that taking 300 milligrams of the herb two times per day improved sleep. Another study done on animals found that triethylene glycol is what induces sleep.
Diabetes is a silent pandemic affecting a huge number of the population. Phenolic compounds, including flavonoids, found in ashwagandha help stabilize blood sugar levels in healthy people and diabetics according to studies. This herb can regulate the production of insulin and increase insulin secretion and sensitivity in muscle cells.
Adaptogen herbs may help people with thyroid problems. Millions suffer from thyroid problems and most don’t even know it. Health benefits of ashwagandha can help with weight loss since thyroid issues can lead to weight fluctuations. Ashwagandha can help people diagnosed with hashimoto’s disease, or underactive thyroid. This herb has thyroid enhancing properties. A study was done on patients with bipolar disorder who improved cognitive function after two months. It is not suitable for people with hyperactive thyroid.
Muscle Mass and Strength
Health benefits of ashwagandha may increase strength and improve body composition. A study done on men showed that they gained muscle strength after a month. This herb also more than doubled the reduction in body fat compared to the placebo group. Ashwagandha lowers stress hormones and energizes the brain which helps improve motivation, concentration and stamina.
This herb can help decrease inflammation. Studies done on humans found that ashwagandha increases the activity of natural killer cells, which help fight infection and stay healthy. This herb decreases C-reactive protein (CRP) which is linked to a higher risk of heart disease.
Lower Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Ashwagandha may improve heart health since it can reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels which are blood fats. This herb suppresses pro-inflammatory cytokines so it can be useful in treating inflammatory disorders.
Health benefits of ashwagandha include its ability to boost memory which has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. This herb promotes antioxidant activity that protects nerve cells from harmful free radicals. Ashwagandha protects the brain from cell degeneration which can lead to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
It may also help improve memory and brain function problems caused by disease or injury according to studies. Health benefits of ashwagandha help improve reaction time, attention and task performance. Withaferin A and withanolide D are the two main withanolides that improve cognitive function. These natural steroids are commonly found in plants of the nightshade family.
Withaferin, a compound found in ashwagandha, helps induce apoptosis (death) of cancer cells according to studies. This herb stops the growth of new cancer cells and spreading to other organs.
Ashwagandha has promising anti-tumor effects, since it helps reduce tumor cell growth and prevent cancer cells from growing. This is due to the immune-boosting and antioxidant abilities of the plant. Extract from this plant can help stop the proliferation of cancer cells, especially in patients with colon, stomach, lung and breast cancer. Health benefits of ashwagandha also help reduce the side effects of conventional cancer treatments.
A study discovered that one of the health benefits of ashwagandha is increasing white blood cells in the body which are needed for the immune system. Chemotherapy decreases white blood cells, putting patients at higher risks of contracting an infection.
Side Effects of Ashwagandha
This herb is considered safe for most people. Effects of long term use have not been studied. Stop using the health benefits of ashwagandha if you notice side effects such as diarrhea, upset stomach or vomiting. Pregnant and breastfeeding woman should not use this herb, since there is some evidence that it may cause miscarriages. Suspend its use two weeks before surgery that requires anesthesia since this herb slows down your central nervous system.
People with conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis should not take this herb unless authorized by a healthcare provider. Ashwagandha may increase thyroid hormone levels, so it could interact with thyroid medication. This herb can also interact with medication that controls blood sugar and blood pressure levels.