Ashwagandha, whose scientific term is Withania somnifera is the most vital herb in Ayurveda, is nature’s gift to mankind. We have heard of its miraculous powers. It was extremely popular in the ancient times for its beneficial properties. Now, it has become the newest fad in town.
Let’s look at how we can use ashwagandha in our daily routine to reap the maximum health benefits.
What Is Ashwagandha?
- Ashwagandha is a short, woody shrub belonging to the Solanaceae family.
- It is native to the Indian subcontinent but is also found in the Middle East and North Africa.
- The plant bears small flowers and berry-like fruits. The flowers have a central yellow section and light green petals that look like mini leaves. The seeds are small in size, have a berry-like appearance and are less than 1 cm in diameter. The roots have a long and thick structure, similar to the shape of a carrot.
- Ashwagandha is a central component in Ayurveda. It has been used for more than 3,000 years in Ayurveda, the oldest medicinal practice in the world.
- The name ‘Ashwagandha’ comes from the Sanskrit language. It is a combination of the words ‘ashva’ that means horse and ‘gandha’ that means smell. It is believed that Ashwagandha gives the strength and vitality of a horse. It is described as ‘Indian ginseng’ in Unani and Ayurvedic medicine. It is also used in African medicine for a variety of ailments.
Benefits Of Ashwagandha For Health:
There are several health benefits of ashwagandha.
1. Immunity System:
While this short and stout plant has a plethora of benefits, the most widely recognized benefit of ashwagandha is its ability to boost the immune system. Several studies have revealed that it increases the production of the white blood cells in the body. Thus, it helps ward off diseases and illness. It is the best herbal medicine to help rebuild the internal system after an illness.
2. As An Aphrodisiac:
Ayurvedic practitioners prescribe Ashwagandha to treat concerns related to sexuality and infertility. It restores the male libido, cures impotence, and increases the sperm count in men. It is widely used in Southern Asia as a sexuality enhancing tonic. It also improves the overall health and stamina, leading to better sexual performance. Further, the herb calms the mind to elevate a person’s mood, increasing the sexual desire and performance.
Ashwagandha is used as an adaptogen to help the body in coping with stress and changing situations. This non-toxic herb works on a nonspecific basis to normalize psychological functions, working on the neuroendocrine system and the HPA axis.
4. Treats Insomnia:
Ashwagandha is very effective in treating insomnia. It is rejuvenating and the nervine properties produce energy which helps the body in getting a sound sleep. It rejuvenates the nervous system, eases stress, and erases insomnia.
5. Heart Health:
Ashwagandha boosts the cardiac health and reduces the risk of malfunctioning of the heart caused by several factors. It improves the blood circulation in the heart, thus, preventing blood clotting. It stabilizes the blood sugar and controls the cholesterol. It also helps in maintaining the blood pressure levels in the body.
6. Stress Reliever:
Ashwagandha has remarkable stress-relieving properties. Premature aging associated with chronic nervous tensions may lead to the increased production of oxidative stress. This oxidative stress is abolished successfully by the potent antioxidants present in ashwagandha. The stress-relieving properties of ashwagandha are comparable to the medicines used to treat depression and anxiety. It is also used in tranquilizers and antidepressant drugs.
7. Nervous System:
Ashwagandha protects the brain cells from the deleterious effects of the environment. It is a promising alternative treatment for a variety of mental degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Ashwagandha supports significant regeneration of the axons and dendrites of the nerve cells. Its extracts support the reconstruction of synapses, the junctions where the nerve cells communicate with the other cells. This makes ashwagandha a potential healer for nervous degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. It also promotes the growth of both normal and damaged nerve cells.
A study concluded that ashwagandha can successfully reduce the symptoms of anxiety and neurosis in patients. It acts like GABA(Gamma Amino-Butyric Acid) to reduce anxiety and panic attacks.
Ashwagandha contains compounds that possess strong antioxidant properties. It destroys the free radicals in the body that cause several diseases. This helps prevent the growth of tumors and other debilitating diseases in the body.
10. Anti-Inflammatory Properties:
Ashwagandha possesses significant anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it very beneficial for treating osteoporosis. It eases the pain and disability associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Ashwagandha oil, when applied to the areas affected by rheumatic inflammation, can provide quick relief.
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Recent evidences suggest that ashwagandha has the potential to inhibit cancer cells. Ashwagandha extract disrupts the cancer cells’ ability to reproduce – a key step in fighting cancer. It also possesses antigenic properties which prevent the cancer from forming new blood vessels to support its unbridled growth. It also normalizes the immune suppressing effects of chemotherapy.
The roots of ashwagandha have antibacterial and antifungal properties that are beneficial for warding off infection. The extracts of ashwagandha can relieve pain and secretion in women caused due to vaginal infections. It also helps in curing uterine infections and inflammation.
13. Blood Sugar Levels:
Ashwagandha helps regulate the blood sugar levels, which aids in suppressing sugar cravings. This makes it very beneficial in treating type 2 diabetes.
14. Food Poisoning:
The antimicrobial and antibacterial properties of ashwagandha protect against potentially dangerous bacteria called salmonella, organisms associated with food poisoning.
15. Strength And Vigor:
Ashwagandha restores strength and vigor in those lacking in dynamism and energy. It stimulates the immune system and promotes the healthy functioning of the organism. It is extremely useful for patients suffering from rheumatic fever or tuberculosis.
Benefits Of Ashwagandha For Skin:
16. Fights Signs Of Aging:
Ashwagandha contains high levels of antioxidants that savage the free radicals to fight the signs of aging like wrinkles, dark spots, fine lines and blemishes. It also protects from skin cancer.
17. Healing Wounds:
It is very useful for treating and healing wounds. The leaves of this plant provide a healing poultice, which quickly heals the wounds. Grind ashwagandha roots and make a smooth paste with water. Apply this paste topically on the wounds for relief.
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18. Treats Rough And Dry Skin:
Ashwagandha is useful for treating keratosis, a condition that leads to rough and dry skin. Consume three grams of ashwagandha with water twice a day to get rid of this skin condition.
19. Reduces Cortisol Levels:
High levels of the cortisol hormone in the body can wreak havoc on the skin. It inhibits the production of structural protein necessary for healthy skin. Ashwagandha is proven to reduce cortisol and increase DHEA, a hormone precursor to estrogen and testosterone.
20. Stimulates Collagen Production:
Ashwagandha contains steroidal compounds that can increase the estrogen levels in the body. DHEA and estrogen help in keeping the skin youthful by stimulating the collagen production and increasing the natural skin oils.
21. Used As A Skin Toner:
You can prepare ashwagandha skin toner to keep the skin healthy.
- Take 1 teaspoon of dried ginger, 2 teaspoons of dried ashwagandha root and 1 teaspoon of dried lemon peel.
- Boil all these ingredients in 200ml water and use this infusion as a toner to get a supple and glowing skin.
22. Fights Inflammation Of Skin:
Ayurvedic healers have long advised the use of ashwagandha for inflammatory skin disorders, including acne. It contains compounds known as withanolides whose extracts inhibit S. aureus bacteria, a major cause of skin inflammation.
Benefits Of Ashwagandha For Hair:
23. Controls Hair Fall:
Stress is one of the major causes of hair fall in both men and women. Ashwagandha controls hair fall by reducing the cortisol levels in the body.
24. Promotes Hair Health:
Ashwagandha improves digestion and flushes out toxins from the body, thereby, promoting the health of the hair.
25. Prevents Premature Graying:
Ashwagandha inhibits the loss of melanin in the hair to prevent premature graying. It contains tyrosine, an amino acid that stimulates the production of melanin in the body. The antioxidants in ashwagandha effectively prevent the corrosion of tissue and reduce the possibility of premature graying.
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26. Stimulates Hair Follicles:
Ashwagandha is also used in herbal shampoos and conditioners to stimulate the hair follicles and maintain the health of the hair.
27. Prevents Infections:
The regular intake of ashwagandha strengthens the immune system and aids the body in getting rid of infections and diseases. This promotes the overall health of the body, including the health of the hair.
28. Activates Hair Follicles:
Ashwagandha improves the blood circulation in the scalp and activates the hair follicles, accelerating the hair growth.
29. Fights Hair Loss:
Ashwagandha is also useful for combating androgenic alopecia, commonly known as balding. It helps in ameliorating metabolic syndrome, a health condition that causes premature balding.
30. Prevents Breakage:
Ashwagandha contains high amounts of antioxidants that protect our bodies from the cell damaging free radicals. Thus, the regular consumption of ashwagandha strengthens the hair, making it stronger and less prone to breakage.
31. Treats Dandruff And Other Skin Conditions:
The anti-inflammatory properties of ashwagandha are useful for treating scalp conditions like dandruff, scalp psoriasis and eczema.
Ashwagandha Nutritional Value:
Ashwagandha is rich in iron, antioxidants, tannins, potassium, nitrate, fatty acids and glucose. It also contains steroidal alkaloids – sominine, somniferine, withanolides and anferine. It is a rich source of flavonoids, acyl steryl glucosides and lactones.
Uses Of Ashwagandha:
Ashwagandha is used as a potent adaptogen for therapeutic purposes in Ayurveda. It is considered a potent ‘medhya rasayana’ herb. This implies that it rejuvenates the Ayurveda aspects of the mind – memory, recollection and comprehension.
- The root and berries of ashwagandha are used to prepare tonics and capsules.
- A water-based tincture of ashwagandha is also used as a medicine.
- The active ingredients in ashwagandha tend to degrade in potency when it is used in its tincture form. Hence, the powder form is more preferred to the tincture.
- In addition to its medicinal use, ashwagandha is also consumed in the form of tea. Dried ashwagandha root is boiled with tea for 15 minutes for a refreshing drink.
- Ashwagandha, in the form of capsules and liquid, has become widespread now. It is available in herbal health stores and through holistic supply sources throughout the world.
Side-Effects Of Ashwagandha:
There are no such debilitating side effects of ashwagandha, but it may give rise to some health problems if consumed in high quantities.
It is possible that after a week of consumption, you may feel a sudden rise in body temperature. It may also cause a drop in temperature, leading to cold, chest pain, and a running nose. The side effects of the over consumption of ashwagandha are mentioned below:
1. Ashwagandha possesses diuretic properties that can cause kidney lesions in some cases. It may also cause diarrhea if taken in high amounts. Severe abdominal pain may also occur in case of high dosage.
2. Ashwagandha possesses immune stimulant properties, rendering it unfit for people suffering from auto-immune diseases like HIV and AIDS.
3. Ashwagandha should not be consumed by patients undergoing an organ transplant as it may prolong the recovery time.
4. Ashwagandha is never prescribed for pregnant women and nursing mothers as it may interfere with the nutrition that the baby receives. It may also cause intestinal problems in pregnant women.
5. Ashwagandha, if used with other sedatives and tranquilizing medicines can be very harmful to the body. In extreme cases, ashwagandha can also lead to life-threatening anaphylaxis.
6. Another possible side effect of ashwagandha is sudden weight gain.
7. Using ashwagandha on its own is not recommended. It should be consumed in conjunction with other herbs to counter its strong rejuvenating properties.
8. Patients suffering from lupus and multiple sclerosis should avoid consuming ashwagandha as it may give rise to severe health problems.
9. Other possible side effects of ashwagandha include respiratory problems, decrease in blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms.
Therefore, it is advisable to always consult a healthcare professional before consuming ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha In Combination With Other Plants:
Ashwagandha can be combined with several other plants due to its numerous benefits. It works extremely well with goji berry, rhodiola. ginseng, tribulus, gingko biloba, thyme, eucalyptus, cannabis, turmeric, liquorice and several others.
- The general dosage of this plant is around 4 – 5 grams a day.
- Ashwagandha is often sold in the form of capsules.
- Take 1-2 two capsules every day in the evening.
- For preparing infusion and decoction, take 2 grams of dried root for one infusion. Boil the plant for 15 minutes and leave it to infuse for 10 minutes. Do not consume more than 2 cups of decoction per day. Ashwagandha has embalming properties and natural powers to heal the body and spirit.
Now, we know that ashwagandha is much more than what it is touted to be. Consume ashwagandha after consultation with your doctor and you will see a change in your afflictions. Ashwagandha is indeed a miracle herb. Stay fit, stay healthy!
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