This miracle herb has taken the medical world by storm. And for good reason. The ashwagandha plant, or Indian ginseng, may look not-so-formidable, being a tender, short plant and only 35 to 75 cm tall. However, this power packed wonder is prized for its berries and roots that are utilized to make medicines.
Abundant in antioxidant, immune boosting, anti-inflammatory, sleep inducing, anticonvulsant, anti-stress, and antibacterial properties, this herb is like the one-stop shop for all ailments (1). Read on to discover the amazing benefits of Ashwagandha.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Ashwagandha?
- Ashwagandha In Ayurveda
- Why We Use Ashwagandha
- Ashwagandha Nutrition Facts
- Health Benefits Of Ashwagandha
- Benefits Of Ashwagandha For The Skin
- Benefits Of Ashwagandha For The Hair
- What Forms Is Ashwagandha Available In And How To Use It?
- Who Should Take Ashwagandha Supplements?
- Ashwagandha Dosage
- Ashwagandha Side Effects
- Ashwagandha In Combination With Other Plants
- Where To Buy Ashwagandha
What Is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha’s scientific name or binomial name is Withania somnifera. It is most commonly called ‘Indian Ginseng’ or ‘Indian Winter Cherry.’
Ashwagandha is cultivated predominantly in India’s drier regions, such as, Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur district, Sindh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Kerala). Apart from India, it is also cultivated in Yemen, China, and Nepal.
Now let’s see how this herb is related to Ayurveda.
Ashwagandha In Ayurveda
Ashwagandha’s leaves, fruits, seeds, and roots are used for medical purposes. In Ayurveda (India’s traditional medicinal system), ashwagandha is one of the most prized and fundamental herbs that has been utilized as a rasayana or rejuvenator for nearly millennia.
A rasayana is any herb that can boost one’s mental and physical health while simultaneously promoting a youthful state and increasing satisfaction or happiness. Amongst all the rasayana herbs found in India, Ashwagandha is the ultimate king and is fondly referred to as the SattvicKaphaRasayana.
Now, coming to the important question –
Why We Use Ashwagandha
The uses of Ashwagandha are truly multitudinous. Ashwagandha is known to boost brain power, enhance the nervous system, and bolster one’s memory. It also helps maintain a reproductive balance and a healthy sexual equilibrium.
A renowned adaptogen (read: natural stress adapter), it improves our body’s stress tolerance. It also possesses significant immunity-boosting properties as it can enhance your white blood cell mediated immunity (2).
And if that wasn’t enough, Ashwagandha is also a potent antioxidant that protects you from the toxic free radical damage from the sun that would have ideally hastened aging (3).
This herb’s wondrous benefits can be attributed to its constituents – which is what we will see now.
Ashwagandha Nutrition Facts
Rich in antioxidants, iron, tannins, nitrates, potassium, glucose, and fatty acids, Ashwagandha is a nutritional jackpot. It also contains some essential steroidal alkaloids like somniferine, sominine, anferine, and withanolides. Added bonus? It also possesses an abundance of flavonoids, lactones, and acyl steryl glucosides.
Health Benefits Of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha offers a lot of powerful benefits ranging from combating diabetes and cancer to relieving arthritis, high blood pressure, asthma, rheumatism, and stress (4). If that didn’t wasn’t enough to convince you to invest your life’s savings in Ashwagandha stocks, prepare to be even more amazed. Ashwagandha also possesses potent antioxidant, anticonvulsant, and antibacterial properties.
Let’s take a closer look at all of Ashwagandha’s superpowers.
1. Keeps Cholesterol Levels In Check
Ashwagandha is highly beneficial for cardiovascular problems due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It can strengthen the muscular walls of your heart while simultaneously keeping those bad cholesterol levels in check. Research shows that ashwagandha possesses hypolipidemic attributes that allow it to bring down bad cholesterol levels in blood (5).
2. Used As An Aphrodisiac
This magical herb is not only a powerful libido enhancer in men, but it is also prescribed as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. However, use ashwagandha for ED medicinal purposes only after consulting your doctor.
Apart from boosting the libido, ashwagandha can also aid in improving the quality of semen. A 2010 study showed that Indian ginseng significantly increased sperm mobility and sperm count, thereby improving the overall quality of semen (6).
Ashwagandha has been used as a potent aphrodisiac since the dawn of time. Studies have shown that ashwagandha was successfully able to improve sperm production in patients suffering from low sperm count as compared to those who consumed a placebo (7).
3. Treatment For Anxiety
For millennia, ashwagandha has been used as a successful anti-anxiety Ayurvedic treatment in India. In the year 2000, the impact of ashwagandha as a treatment for those suffering from depression was studied at Banaras Hindu University’s Institute of Medical Sciences, and the researchers concluded that it could be used as a mood stabilizer (8).
4. Fights Insomnia
A 2017 study conducted by the International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine at University of Tsukuba, Japan, identified triethylene glycol as the somogenic or sleep inducing active compound in ashwagandha leaves. This finding essentially showed that ashwagandha could be used to deal with insomnia (9).
5. Reduces Stress Levels
Modern day lifestyles can take a toll not only on our bodies but also on our minds. Stress is a prevalent problem across the globe, and ashwagandha is a possible natural alternative to toxic pharmaceutical drugs. Though the active compound responsible for ashwagandha’s anti-stress activity is yet to be discovered, studies have successfully exhibited its positive stress reduction behavior (10).
6. Treatment For Diabetes
Ayurveda has long utilized ashwagandha as a powerful diabetes combatant. A 2009 study conducted on diabetic mice concluded that ashwagandha root and leaf extracts were definitely beneficial in fighting diabetes (11).
7. Can Combat Cancer
In the last decade, science has begun to acknowledge what Ayurvedic medicine has always purported to be true – the many wonders of ashwagandha. And one surprising finding is its potential to treat cancer. Studies have found that ashwagandha can be a potential alternative treatment for cancer due to its remarkable anti-tumor activity (12).
8. Stimulates The Thyroid Gland
If you happen to suffer from hypothyroidism, this will definitely interest you. A study conducted on the impact of ashwagandha on the thyroid gland discovered that if ashwagandha root extract was given daily, the thyroid gland exhibited an increased secretion of the vital thyroid hormones (13).
9. Boosts Your Immunity
A study showed that the consumption of ashwagandha led to a significant boost in the immunity while simultaneously preventing the toxic effects on the bone marrow induced by the immunosuppressive drugs (14). Truly remarkable!
10. Treats Anemia
The body produces new blood via a process termed hematopoiesis. Studies indicate that ashwagandha possesses remarkable hematopoietic properties. Mice that were treated with ashwagandha displayed a significant rise in their RBC and WBC levels. This makes it a great treatment for several ailments, including anemia (15).
11. Prevents Seizures
For years, Ayurveda has utilized ashwagandha to treat epileptic patients. A 2008 study showed that the co-administration of ashwagandha root extract helped increase the seizure threshold in mice, hinting at similar possibilities for humans (16).
12. Can Help Strengthen Muscles
Body builders rejoice! Indian ginseng has been found to improve neuromuscular coordination and strengthen lower limb muscles.
13. Can Treat Eye Diseases
According to studies conducted by researchers from Hyderabad, India, the abundance of natural antioxidants in ashwagandha can make it a possible alternative treatment to help fight cataract blindness (17). The study found that ashwagandha could act as a cataracto-static agent, i.e., it retards the formation of cataracts.
14. Treats Rheumatological Problems
Renowned for its formidable anti-inflammatory properties, ashwagandha can be used to combat rheumatologic problems. According to a study, ashwagandha extract elicited a similar anti-inflammatory activity as hydrocortisone in albino rats (18). And it could possibly be used for the same purpose in humans.
15. Eliminates Infections
A study conducted by the Interdisciplinary Biotechnology Unit, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India, demonstrated the antibacterial activity of ashwagandha against pathogenic bacteria (19). It was found that both the root and leaf extracts of ashwagandha were successful in eliminating salmonella infection.
16. Ashwagandha For Arthritis
A 2014 study that evaluated the anti-inflammatory properties of ashwagandha root extract on arthritic rats found that ashwagandha extract was able to significantly decrease the overall severity of the arthritis while simultaneously suppressing any arthritic symptoms (20).
17. Improves Kidney Function
Ashwagandha has a nephroprotective effect, i.e., it can counter the toxic effects of certain drugs like gentamicin that can be damaging to your kidneys (21). This effect can be attributed to its antioxidant properties.
18. Aids Weight Gain
Ashwagandha is commonly featured as one of the ingredients in formulas purported to build muscles. However, there is no research to back its use for this purpose. Hence, consult your healthcare provider before trying ashwagandha to gain weight.
19. Boosts Brain Power And Enhances Memory
20. Ashwagandha For Alzheimer’s
Research conducted by Stanford University School of Medicine in 2011 showed how semi-purified ashwagandha root extract was able to successfully reverse Alzheimer’s disease progression (25).
21. Ashwagandha For Heart Diseases
Researchers from All India Institute of Medical Sciences were able to exhibit the cardioprotective effects of Indian ginseng. According to the study, chronically administered doses of ashwagandha successfully aided functional recovery of the heart by inhibiting cardiac apoptosis (a highly regulated cell death process) and restored the antioxidant status of the myocardium (26). However, further research is needed to warrant its use in treating ischemic heart disease.
22. Ashwagandha For Menopausal Support
Menopause is tough, agreed. But it doesn’t have to be. Ashwagandha can help relieve the more pressing symptoms of menopause, such as anxiety, mood swings, sleep troubles, a sluggish metabolism, memory lapses, low libido, and also depression.
23. Improves Vitality And Boosts Energy
Troubled by constant fatigue and just a lack of general inclination to work out? Well, worry not. Research suggests ashwagandha can boost your energy and endurance levels when exercising by reducing pain sensitivity and enhancing brain function (27).
24. Treats Adrenal Fatigue
What is adrenal fatigue, you ask? Well, your adrenal glands are responsible for the secretion of certain hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. If you are overcome by physical, mental, and emotional stress, it may lead to a condition called adrenal fatigue. In this condition, your exhausted adrenal glands disrupt the synthesis of other hormones like progesterone, thereby causing infertility and accelerating aging. But studies show that ashwagandha can actually counteract the effects of adrenal fatigue.
Benefits of Ashwagandha For Skin
If you’ve dreamed of possessing smooth, supple, and glowing skin, but the thought of a complicated and tedious skin regimen discourages you, don’t be disheartened – ashwagandha could be the answer to your skin care related woes.
25. Combats Signs Of Aging
As mentioned earlier, ashwagandha is packed with the goodness of antioxidants. This allows it to successfully fight the damaging free radicals produced via exposure to harmful UV radiation from the sun, which means you can say bye-bye to those pesky dark spots, wrinkles, and fine lines. Bonus? Ashwagandha also helps prevent skin cancer (28), (29). You can make an ashwagandha face pack to reap its anti-aging benefits. Here’s how. Mix a teaspoon of ashwagandha powder with some rose water to form a paste. Apply it as a face mask, leave it on for 15 minutes and then rinse it off.
26. Promotes Wound Healing
Ashwagandha is fantastic at healing wounds. Once applied, it acts as a curative poultice that accelerates your body’s therapeutic effects. Simply chop off ashwagandha roots and then grind them. Mix with some distilled water to create a smooth paste. You can also use ashwagandha oil instead of the powder.
27. Treats Keratosis
In Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is frequently used to treat patients suffering from keratosis. This is a condition where one can find non-cancerous keratin growth on their skin, making their skin rough and dry overall. To be rid of this condition, consume a solution of 3g of ashwagandha with water twice a day.
28. Decreases Cortisol Levels
If you’ve been under a lot of stress recently, the resulting high cortisol levels in your blood could really cause damage to your skin. Cortisol essentially halts the synthesis of one of the skin’s structural proteins. A study showed that ashwagandha was successful in keeping the cortisol levels in check (30).
29. Stimulates The Production of Collagen
Some of the steroidal compounds that are constituents of ashwagandha can help boost estrogen levels in your body. Estrogen and its precursor DHEA aid in maintaining your skin’s youthful suppleness by triggering the production of collagen as well as the skin’s natural oils.
30. Used As A Skin Toner
A toner is an essential part of any woman’s skin care regimen. After all, it’s responsible for cleansing and shrinking those pores. And ashwagandha is a wonderful skin toner. All you need is to mix 2 teaspoons of dried ashwagandha root powder, 1 teaspoon of dried lemon peel, 1 teaspoon of dried ginger, and 200 ml of water. Bring it to a boil. Strain the infused water and store it in a bottle for use.
31. Soothes Skin Inflammation
Ashwagandha has long been prized for its potent anti-inflammatory properties. It contains compounds called withanolides. The extracts of these compounds help inhibit the growth of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that is responsible for a range of inflammatory skin infections (31).
Benefits Of Ashwagandha For Hair
Tired of managing unmanageable hair? Ashwagandha to the rescue! At this point, you’re probably wondering if there something ashwagandha can’t achieve. Well, probably not world peace, but your hair? Ashwagandha’s got your back!
32. Improves Scalp Circulation
Ayurveda has long used ashwagandha to treat hair or scalp ailments as one of its many benefits is its ability to improve blood circulation to the scalp. Why should this matter to you? Well, when the blood circulation improves, your hair follicles receive more nutrients, resulting in stronger, thicker hair (32).
33. Makes Hair Stronger Hair
Ashwagandha and hair loss prevention are synonymous with each other. One of the major culprits responsible for frequent hair fall is stress. Ashwagandha has been known to bring down the cortisol levels, reducing the harmful impact stress has on your body, thereby reducing hair fall and breakage.
34. Helps Eliminate Dandruff
The anti-inflammatory properties of ashwagandha make it a powerful treatment for treating inflammatory scalp conditions such as eczema, scalp psoriasis, and dandruff.
35. Stimulates Hair Follicles
Ashwagandha is also incorporated in certain herbal shampoos and leave-in conditioners. It stimulates the hair follicles, thereby helping maintain the health and sheen of your hair.
36. Prevents Premature Graying Of Hair
Ashwagandha is known for boosting the production of hair melanin (33). Melanin is the pigment that gives your hair its natural color, and when its production is boosted, you can expect to see fewer grays.
Talking about the different forms…
What Forms Is Ashwagandha Available In And How To Use It?
Most commonly, ashwagandha is found in the churan or powdered form, which can be mixed with ghee, honey, or even water for consumption.
You can also purchase it online in the form of Ashwagandha tea, Ashwagandha capsules, concentrated Ashwagandha extracts for topical application, oral Ashwagandha tablets, Ashwagandha powder or Ashwagandha churan, or more specifically, Ashwagandha root powder.
Coming to supplements, there is something we must know.
Who Should Take Ashwagandha Supplements?
Traditionally, it is given as a tonic to young children. Older adults and those who are middle-aged can also consume ashwagandha to increase their longevity.
Ashwagandha was found to be beneficial for patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s diseases. Research shows that it has a positive effect on the formation of a part of your nerve cells. In traditional Ayurveda, ashwagandha is also given to patients suffering from insomnia, memory loss, nervous exhaustion, and spinal cord injuries (34).
Ashwagandha is also used in the treatment of patients suffering from stress, epilepsy, other neurodegenerative conditions such as cerebral ischemia or tardive dyskinesia, and also in drug addiction management (35).
It was found to be effective against multiple types of cancers. The roots and leaves of ashwagandha contain components that were found to prevent cancer, reduce tumor cell proliferation, and increase the effectiveness of radiation therapy while mitigating the side effects (36).
Ashwagandha’s anti-inflammatory properties have been found to be particularly useful for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis patients (39).
It is important to understand that at the moment, there aren’t enough long-term studies that can determine the appropriate oral dosage for ashwagandha. The optimum dosage would depend on the user’s health, age, and several other factors. Be warned that though this is may not be a synthetic product, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be safe at high doses.
Always ensure that you read the warnings and relevant instructions on the back label of the product. Consult a doctor or your local pharmacist before using ashwagandha. That being said, here are the general dosages recommended to give you an idea:
- Generally, it is recommended to consume 4-5g of ashwagandha per day.
- Ashwagandha is also commercially available in the form of capsules. You can take 1-2 capsules per day, ideally in the evening.
- To make an infusion water for oral consumption, use 2 g of ashwagandha root and bring to a boil in distilled water. Let it simmer for 15 minutes. Allow it to cool and infuse for another 10 minutes. Make sure not to drink more than 2 cups of the infused ashwagandha water per day.
We saw all the rosy stuff about ashwagandha. But there is another side to this herb –
Side Effects Of Ashwagandha
All good things come at a price, and so does ashwagandha. Though it doesn’t have any major side effects, certain health problems could arise if you consume ashwagandha in high amounts.
If you’ve been consuming ashwagandha for more than a week, it is possible that you may sense an unexpected rise in your body temperature. Inversely, it could also probably lead to a fall in your body temperature, thereby producing symptoms such as chest pain, a runny nose, and a general cold.
To make your life easier, here are all the side effects listed for your convenience:
- In some cases, ashwagandha, due to its diuretic powers, can cause lesions on your kidneys.
- Also, consumption in high quantities can possibly lead to diarrhea.
- A high dose of ashwagandha could also produce abdominal cramps.
- If you are a patient about to undergo an organ transplant procedure soon, do not consume ashwagandha as this could potentially delay your recovery.
- Since ashwagandha possesses immunity boosting properties, it may be dangerous for patients with autoimmune diseases (read: your own immune system acts against you), like AIDS, HIV, and Lupus.
- Ashwagandha should never be consumed by pregnant or nursing mothers as it has the potential to interfere with the nutrition received by the fetus or baby. There have also been reported cases of some pregnant women experiencing gastrointestinal problems.
- If you have been prescribed tranquilizing medicines or any other sedatives, avoid consuming ashwagandha. It might interact with the medication and could cause a fatal anaphalyctic shock reaction.
- Another one of ashwagandha’s side effects is weight gain. It can potentially cause an increase in your muscle mass, thereby increasing your overall weight.
- It is not recommnended to consume ashwagandha all by itself. You must consume it along with other herbs to take the edge off its strong rejuvenating powers.
- Multiple sclerosis patients are advised to not consume ashwagandha as it may worsen the condition.
- Ashwagandha consumption could also possibly lead to a fall in your blood pressure, arrhythmias (read: abnormal heart rhythm), and respiratory problems.
Hence, it is vital to consult a doctor before you go ahead and consume ashwagandha. This is especially important if you’re currently suffering from a chronic condition that you’re taking prescribed medications for.
We saw the effects (the good and the bad) of ashwagandha when it is consumed by itself. But how about combining it with certain plants?
Ashwagandha In Combination With Other Plants
This miracle plant can be used in combination with several other plants to augment its benefits. The following are a list of potential combination choices:
- Goji berries
- Gingko biloba
Talking about purchasing…
Where To Buy Ashwagandha
You can purchase Ashwagandha powder, Ashwagandha extracts, Ashwagandha tea bags, Ashwagandha oils, or Ashwagandha capsules from your local pharmacy, supermarket, or an online retailer.
Ashwagandha is a miracle herb. Period. If you let go of the controversial matter of Ashwagandha and weight loss, it truly is the one-stop cure for almost any ailment we can think of. Hence, if you’re stocking up on this king of Ayurvedic medicines, you are definitely sorted for life. Stay healthy!
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Is ashwagandha good for fatty liver?
If you aren’t a heavy drinker, ashwagandha can prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease as it can eliminate potential risk factors, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, PCOS, and high triglceride levels. It also has a high level of antioxidants that could aid in preventing or even reversing any existing damage to your liver that could have been due to the generation of free radicals via drugs like paracetamol and gentamicin. Ashwagandha can also help enhance liver function by balancing the production of thyroid hormones.
Is it ok to take an ashwagandha capsule?
Yes, Ashwagandha capsules have been approved by the FDA for consumption. That being said, it is important you consult a doctor before you take them. Usually, it is recommended you take 1-2 capsules per day, preferably in the evening, with a glass of warm milk to rejuvenate yourself and increase your vitaility.
Can ashwagandha cure or control asthma?
The anti-inflammatory powers of Ashwagandha, in combination with drugs such as hyrocortisone and selenium (antioxidant), can be used to successfully treat asthma.
Does ashwagandha powder increase height?
There isn’t any current scientific data on the impact of ashwagandha on height. However, in Ayurveda, ashwagandha is sometimes prescribed to increase height. Online users who have allegedly used the ashwaganda supplements that claim to increase one’s height in 45 days seem to be divided over the validity of these claims.
Is it okay to take ashwagandha before a workout?
As an Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha has been utilized by athletes for enhancing muscular strength, improving recovery from exercise, and increasing resistance to fatigue for years. Hence, it would be a good idea to take ashwagandha supplements to improve the quality of your workout.
Is ashwagandha good for the gut?
Yes. For patients with rectal bleeding, intestinal ulcers, and irritable bowel syndrome, an enema of ashwagandha water can be prescribed.
Does ashwagandha cause weight gain?
We are constantly plagued with questions like, “Does Ashwagandha make you gain weight?” or “Will I gain weight with ashwagandha?” and the answer is: Yes. But does it make you fat? No. In fact, it’s quite the reverse. Ashwagandha does cause you to gain weight but in the form of muscle.
How to use ashwagandha for weight gain?
There are multiple ways you could consume ashwagandha supplements to gain weight. You could take Ashwagandha capsules or even try making an ashwagandha milk drink. Mix 2 tablespoons of Ashwagandha powder into a glass of hot milk along with a tablespoon of butter or Do this for 2 months, and you will see results.
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