Ashwagandha Benefits and Medicinal Uses

What is Ashwagandha?

Withania Somnifera, popularly known as Ashwagandha is used as a single herb or used in polyherbal or herbomineral formulations in Ayurveda.  The word ashwagandha in Sanskrit means ‘horse’s odor’ because of the characteristic odor of the herb similar to horse’s sweat.  It can also mean that the herb bestows the strength and vitality of a horse to the user.   Lots of studies are going on worldwide to test and verify the various healing properties of this herb.

Also known as Indian ginseng, Ashwagandha is used in Ayurveda to treat various disease conditions like epilepsy, tumors, gout, lumbosacral stiffness, stiffness of joints, cardiac failure, vitiligo, ulcers in genital area, diseases of the urinary tract in women, abscess, depression etc.  It has anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, cardioprotective properties.  It is used as a mild tranquilizer because of its sleep inducing property.  It has excellent thyroprotective and hypoglycaemic properties.  It is regarded as a broad spectrum remedy for various disease conditions.  Ashwagandha benefits all parts of human body and can be taken in powder, tablet or capsule form.  Ashwagandha.

Ashwagandha Health Benefits
 Ashwagandha Root Powder

Ashwagandha is also called winter cherry and grows as a small evergreen shrub to a height of 4 or 5 feet. It belongs to the Solanaceae family of which the tomatoes and eggplants belong. It is cultivated widely in central and north western India and used in more than 100 Unani, Siddha and Ayurveda formulations.  All parts of this wonder herb have medicinal value.  Ashwagandha leaves have anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective and antibacterial properties.  The fruits and seeds of the plant are used as diuretic.  It is the root that is mainly used in Ayurvedic formulations.  The root has anti-inflammatory properties and is used in treating swellings, tumors, rheumatism etc.

Chemical Constituents of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha has steroidal lactones called withanolides.  The pharmacological activity of the herb can be attributed to these steroidal lactones.  In addition to that, Ashwagandha also contains 18 fatty acids, some of which are sedative and hypnotic.  It has amino acids aspartic acid, glycine, tyrosine, alanine, glutamic acid and cysteine present in its roots.

Ashwagandha as Adaptogen

Adaptogens help our bodies to adapt to the stresses they are subjected to on a daily basis. They help normalize the physiological functioning of our bodies.  Ashwagandha is clinically proven to have excellent adaptogenic capabilities.  Double blind trial involving 60 healthy children of 8-12 years with oral intake of 2 gm a day of root powder showed an increase in mean corpuscular haemoglobin, total protein and body weight of the children.  No toxic effects were observed even after eight months of daily consumption.  Another study conducted on adults showed increase in haemoglobin and red blood cell count. There was a good reduction in ESR levels and improvement in sexual performance.  Thus Ashwagandha is found to be very helpful in restoring and maintaining general health. 
Ashwagandha for Skin
Ashwagandha for Stress and Anxiety

Ashwagandha root powder was tested in highly stressed individuals and found to safely and effectively increase an individual’s threshold levels to stress, thereby improving his/her quality of life.  Ashwagandha is found to be effective in treating insomnia.  It helps the body generate the necessary energy to settle and sleep and act as a rejuvenator and nervine tonic.  Thus it helps overcome stress related conditions in a positive way.  It rejuvenates the nervous system, eases out stress and takes care of insomnia.  Ashwagandha root powder can be taken with cow’s ghee or sugar to cure sleeplessness.  How much ashwagandha should I take for anxiety?  The usual ashwagandha dosage for anxiety is 3-6 grams a day.

Ashwagandha’s Diuretic, Hypoglycaemic and Hypocholesterolemic Effects

Ashwagandha was found to decrease blood glucose levels comparable to that of an oral hypoglycemic drug. It helps normalize high blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity.  Ashwagandha is an excellent diuretic and complements weight loss efforts.  A decrease in serum cholesterol levels was also observed on regular consumption of ashwagandha root powder.  Ashwagandha lowers blood pressure and is found to arrest formation of stress induced ulcers.
Ashwagandha and Cancer
Growth Promoting Effects of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is well known for its growth promoting effects in children.  Studies showed that a 60-day consumption of ashwagandha root powder 2 gm/day along with punarnava 2gm/day had a marked increase in haemoglobin levels, serum iron, MCV and increase in body weight of participants.  Ashwagandha root powder is an excellent growth promoter in children.  It is a well known memory booster.  Children can benefit from drinking a glass of warm grass-fed cow’s milk mixed with a spoonful of ashwagandha root powder every day morning after breakfast.

Ashwagandha has anti-arthritic effects and brings down arthritic pain in joints when taken regularly. A painful, dry, swollen and inflamed joint is taken care of with Ashwagandha herb.  One teaspoon of the root powder is taken in warm milk to reduce the arthritic pain.
Ashwagandha for Young and Old
Ashwagandha Benefits for Weight Loss

When used along with other weight loss supplements, Ashwagandha is found to improve their weight reduction capabilities.  This is due to its adaptogenic property of stabilizing stress related fluctuations.  This helps people who gain weight due to overeating. 

For weight loss efforts to succeed a strong immune system is imperative.  A vibrant immune system facilitates the body to continue its fat burning activities as the general tendency of the body in an immuno-compromised situation is to move away from fat burning mode as fighting the pathogens takes priority.  Hence a strong immune system is necessary for an effective weight loss regimen.  Ashwagandha comes in handy with its immunity boosting capabilities.  Ashwagandha reduces inflammation commonly observed in overweight people.

When adrenal glands produce cortisol in excess in a stressful condition, and when this happens day in and day out, it leads to weight gain, nervous eating, muscle loss etc.  Cortisol being a survival hormone, also stimulates production of glucose and triggers a hunger response in the brain.  Ashwagandha is known to bring down cortisol to reasonable levels thus protecting the adrenal glands and helping weight loss.

How to take Ashwagandha Powder for Weight Loss?

Ashwagandha powder is either mixed in milk or honey, and taken in the mornings after food.
Ashwagandha boosts Immunity

Ashwagandha Leaves for Inflammation

A paste made of ashwagandha leaves is applied topically on local inflammation for quick relief from pain.  Ashwagandha oil (made by adding ashwagandha powder to coconut oil) is used as massage oil for paralysis, sleeplessness etc.

Ashwagandha for Skin

Ashwagandha oil is also used in treating certain skin conditions.  Vitiligo responds favorably to the action of ashwagandha.  Paste made of ashwagandha powder is used in treating keratosis.  It is also an excellent skin toner.  For this purpose, a spoonful of fine ashwagandha root powder is mixed in organic coconut oil and made into a thick paste.  This is applied as a thin layer on affected areas of the skin.

Ashwagandha for Debility and Weakness

Regular intake of Ashwagandha churna helps improve old age weakness, brain fag, tiredness, spermatorrhea, loss of muscular energy etc.  Ashwagandha is very much helpful in patients suffering from chronic diseases like rheumatism, syphilis, and post-surgery recuperation etc.  It rebuilds the system that has been ravaged by the disease.  It is found to be very effective in treating retinopathy and conjunctivitis.  It is also recommended for treating uterine fibroids in women. 

Ashwagandha for Men and Women

Ashwagandha churna taken with honey and ghee in the prescribed format helps improve semen quality.  When taken regularly it helps overcome erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation.  It boosts libido and heightens sexual experience while promoting a calm state of mind.  It also benefits the female reproductive system and increases weight of the ovaries.

Ashwagandha and Cancer

Studies done in 2003 and 2007 have shown that ashwagandha is found to be beneficial in inhibiting the growth and spread of breast, lungs and colon cancers.

Ashwagandha an Excellent Anti-oxidant

Ashwagandha neutralizes and eliminates free radicals in our body’s immune system.  It is these free radicals that wreak havoc and cause breakdown of tissues which leads to rapid aging.  Lactating mothers can improve their breast milk’s nutritive quality with consumption of ashwagandha tablets.

Ashwagandha for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease

Ashwagandha is found to enhance memory and stabilize mood.  It improves the capacity to learn.  Further research in this direction is ongoing.

Though not many studies have been conducted with regard to bipolar disorders, a very limited study has shown promise in the mood stabilizing capacity of ashwagandha.  Mood and anxiety score levels remained stable in the subjects during the period of intake of ashwagandha.  Ashwagandha also benefits people with ADHD and ADD disorders.

The health benefits of ashwagandha are well known in the Ayurvedic world for thousands of years.  It has been used to treat a range of disease conditions.

Ashwagandha Dosage

There no recommended dosage of ashwagandha but it is safe to take 3 to 6 gm a day.  For better results fresh ashwagandha powder should be used, preferably organically grown.  Due to the increase in demand for the herb, commercial cultivation has gone up considerably.  Hence it is wise to look out for organically grown ashwagandha to reap full benefits of the herb.

How to take Ashwagandha Churna?

The term churna means powder and Ashwagandha can be taken in powder, tablet or capsule form. 

Side Effects of Ashwagandha Root Powder

Caution should be exercised when taking Ashwagandha along with barbiturates or sleep inducing compounds.  It is advised not to take Ashwagandha in such conditions.  Similarly, consumption of Ashwagandha when under the influence of alcohol is not advised.  No toxic effects were noted on regular ashwagandha root powder dosage of up to 6 gm per day.  Excessive consumption of the herb can cause stomach upset, vomiting and diarrhea.  It has a tendency to induce abortion in women, hence pregnant women should desist from taking this herb.

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