As Ayurveda continues to entrench itself amidst the overwhelming presence of medical science, many in the west are now becoming privy to some of its most powerful ancient remedies in the form of herbs. One of its greatest ancient remedies is the use of Ashwagandha aka Indian Ginseng.
Ashwagandha is known as an adaptogen, which basically means that it belongs to a group of medicinal plants that aid the body in adapting to and managing stress, physical or otherwise. Although the west has only recently opened up to its benefits, it has long been a very powerful Ayurvedic medicinal herb used in India, the Middle East, and Ancient Africa to tackle an array of physical and mental ailments.
Its newfound popularity has put it front and center of many researches being conducted on its medicinal proclivities around the world, and the results so far have been extremely promising. From brain to blood sugar, there is so much Ashwagandha can do for the overall wellbeing of your mind and body. In this article, we will look at some of these benefits and explain why you should have this precious herb in your daily diet.
Understanding Ashwagandha in Context with Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda, the Ashwagandha root is considered to be the drug of ‘Rasayana’. ‘Rasayana’ in Sanskrit translates to the ‘path of essence’ and deals with the science of lifespan longevity. Ayurveda chronicles a bountiful of health benefits that one can harness via the consumption of Ashwagandha.
However, many do not get to enjoy this herb’s benefits to their maximum potential because they do not consume it properly. Ashwagandha gets most of its potent properties from a kind of steroidal lactone called ‘withanolides’ that are found in its roots. You have to consume these properties and pass them through the intestines to experience the root’s maximum potential.
It is also categorized in Ayurveda as a ‘Medharasayana’ which is a food or nutrient that promotes learning and memory retrieval.
Benefits of Ashwagandha
Reduce Cortisol Levels
We’ve already mentioned how ashwagandha is defined as a popular adaptogen and has been long used in the Middle East, India, and Sri Lanka for its ability to reduce both mental and physical stress. Stress can be associated with the release of excess cortisol hormones in your brain.
A study conducted in 2011, found that ashwagandha in fact regulated serum cortisol levels in our body. The subjects of this study also reported that they were enjoying a much better quality of life than before.
Lowers Blood Sugar
A very low scale study in the year 2000 had found that the powder made from ashwagandha root has the ability to conclusively reduce blood sugar levels in individuals suffering from Type 2 Diabetes. Researchers believe that ashwagandha directly affects the cortisol levels in our body, which may eventually lead to a reduction in blood sugar levels. Another study in 2008, wherein one group of patients was given ashwagandha and the other a placebo, found that the people with a dosage of ashwagandha experienced low blood sugar levels than their placebo counterparts.
Improve Fertility in Men
Ashwagandha also exhibits great promise for men with fertility issues. A study on this subject conducted on 75 fertile and 75 infertile men, found that both the sperm count and motility of infertile men increased significantly.
Another study in the year 2011 found men who were given ashwagandha showing reduced stress levels, increased antioxidants, and improved sperm quality. The study also showed that men who took ashwagandha also exhibited boosted testosterone.
Potential Cure for Arthritis
Ashwagandha has been used since ancient times to heal inflammation. In fact, its roots were mashed and the resulting paste was then applied as a pain reliever on affected areas to reduce inflammation.
Although more studies need to be conducted on this subject, initial studies have shown ashwagandha exhibiting positive effects while fighting inflammation in the body. As inflammation is one of the major reasons behind arthritis, it can be a powerful ally in our fight against it.
A study conducted in 2011, did find ashwagandha providing relief from pain and swelling in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.
Improved Heart Health
Now there are very solid studies that associate ashwagandha with optimal heart health. One study found that ashwagandha did in fact lower the levels of bad cholesterol and serum triglycerides in the body, which are the main building blocks of fat in humans. This only proves how potent it is in taking care of our hearts.
Increases Muscle Strength
Ashwagandha’s ability to increase muscle strength and energy have been its most prominently known advantages. There are ample amount of studies that only go further to validate ashwagandha’s abilities in this regard. In one study, where participants were given regular doses of the ashwagandha herb, it was found that many witnessed a change in their strength within a period of 30 days.
Improves Functioning of the Brain
Ashwagandha’s benefits for the brain have long been chronicled and prescribed throughout the texts of Ayurveda. In the Middle East, it is used to induce sleep, strengthen cognitive ability, and improve memory recall.
A small study conducted in the year 2014, proved that ashwagandha did in fact boost memory and improve the ability of the brain to process information.
Ashwagandha for Mind and Body
Ashwagandha today is a widely available herb that you can find in a health store, or purchase online. It is available both in its raw form and in the form of supplements. You can have ashwagandha in its most traditional form, which is in the form of powder.
You can have this powder blended with warm milk and honey. This helps in calming the Vata and regulating your sleep cycle. For those seeking more convenience, you can consume the herb in the form of a pill after consulting with an Ayurvedic practitioner.
Please note, we do not recommend this herb to pregnant and breastfeeding women. People with auto-immune disorders like Hashimoto’s disease or lupus should also stay away from ashwagandha. It is always good to consult an Ayurvedic Practitioner or Primary Care Physician.