Withania somnifera, also known as ashwagandha, is a powerful herb used for centuries due to its rejuvenating and healing properties.
What Is Ashwagandha?
Similar to tomatoes or tomatillos, ashwagandha is a fruit belonging to the nightshade family. This potent plant traditionally grows throughout southern Asia, particularly in countries such as Nepal, China, Yemen, and especially India.
Ashwagandha’s root extract, fruit, seeds, and leaves all have their own unique healing properties. Yemenis grind the leaves into a powder for treating burns and wounds. In most other cases, the plant’s roots and seeds are utilized for their various therapeutic properties.
Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurveda medicine for thousands of years due to the herb’s positive effects on the immune system, stamina, and overall physiological health. In this traditional Indian system of medicine, Ashwagandha is considered a “Medhya Rasayana.” This classification is reserved only for herbs with multi-fold healing properties targeting the body, cognition, intellect, and overall longevity. Ashwagandha is a premier herb that can be taken throughout life.
Due to its potent rejuvenating properties, Ayurveda medicine usually prescribes ashwagandha in combination with calming herbs such as Shatavari, licorice, or calcium.
You’ll typically find ashwagandha root in most western applications as a tea, supplement, or liquid extract.
What Are the Benefits of Ashwagandha?
The benefits of ashwagandha are far-reaching throughout the mind and body. Ashwagandha is a primary adaptogen that’s used to increase vitality and increased resilience. An adaptogen is a substance – usually an herb – that stabilizes the body’s physiological process. They support the immune system, ward off illness, and make the body more resilient to stress.
Ashwagandha root and ashwagandha root extract have been used for thousands of years due to their positive effects on energy, mental clarity, and other aspects of mental health.
- Feeling down or stressed: Biomolecules in the plant help balance brain chemistry while reducing cortisol – the stress hormone. This leads to an overall relaxed yet focused mental state and positive attitude.
- Trouble sleeping: In addition to its rejuvenating properties, ashwagandha also has hypnotic qualities. For insomnia, it’s best to combine the herb with other remedies such as valerian root.
- Memory: Research suggests ashwagandha may reduce symptoms of memory loss and may even slow disease progression. It’s perfect for general memory improvement too because it is said to repair brain neurons and reduce brain degradation.
- Energy: Ashwagandha benefits your central nervous system by increasing both mental energy and physical performance.
The benefits of ashwagandha penetrate nearly every aspect of the body including joints, skin, endocrine system, and more. These are just a few of the many ashwagandha benefits:
- Anti-inflammatory: The plant’s potent anti-inflammatory qualities may help reduce pain from menstrual conditions, joint pain, whole body pain, and many other inflammatory conditions.
- Antioxidant: The biochemical compounds found in ashwagandha root and ashwagandha extract can reduce free radical damage which leads to the negative effects of aging as well as some tumors.
- Antibacterial and antimicrobial: Ashwagandha benefits due to its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties aren’t limited to topical applications. The plant may even be taken internally to heal respiratory, gastrointestinal, and urinary infections.
- Heart and blood health: Due to the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and stress-reducing qualities, ashwagandha helps fortify heart health and may even lower cholesterol. It also helps increase both red and white blood cell production.
- Weight loss: Cortisol – the stress hormone – directly contributes to weight gain and inability to lose weight. Ashwagandha benefits weight loss by helping to reduce cortisol production. The herb also helps reduce blood sugar levels which, when elevated, can lead to weight gain.
- Thyroid: Studies in mice show that ashwagandha can stimulate thyroid hormone synthesis and secretion. It may increase the levels of T3 and T4 in the blood due to its stimulating action. Ashwagandha root has a positive effect on the endocrine system by balancing thyroid hormones, improving thyroid function, and reducing adrenal fatigue.
Ashwagandha Side Effects
The side effects of ashwagandha are most common when other conditions are present or you’re taking other medications. Make sure to check the interactions with all medications. Standard doses of ashwagandha are generally recognized as safe.
There isn’t much research available when it comes to using ashwagandha during pregnancy, so either avoid the herb or talk to your doctor.
Due to ashwagandha’s stimulation of the immune system, it may exasperate symptoms from autoimmune conditions such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, or rheumatoid arthritis.
If you’re diabetic, ashwagandha may dangerously lower your blood sugar so make sure to consult a doctor.
How to Take Ashwagandha: Pills, Supplements, and Extracts
If you’re ready to try this powerful therapeutic herb, look for ashwagandha pills, supplements and extracts. Don’t exceed the recommended dosage.
It’s up to you to decide which route would best fit your needs. However, make sure your ashwagandha pills or ashwagandha extract are free from heavy metals and other possible contaminants.
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