Updated: Aug 1, 2019
Ashwagandha is a powerful herb used in Ayurvedic healing. Learn more about its uses and health benefits today.
Ashwagandha, one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic healing, has been used since ancient times for a wide variety of conditions. It is most well-known for its restorative and rejuvenating benefits. In Sanskrit ashwagandha means “the smell of a horse,” indicating that the herb has the potential to impart the vigor and strength of a stallion. The ashwagandha root is also reported to have a smell reminiscent of horse sweat.
Traditionally, ashwagandha has been prescribed as a nerve tonic and adaptogen—an agent which helps the body adapt to various emotional and physical stressors. It has classically been used in India for nearly 5,000 years for conditions such as failure to thrive in children, weakness and debility in old age, rheumatism, constipation, insomnia, nervous conditions, stress, goiter, joint inflammation, parasites, hormone balance, and more. A paste made from the ashwagandha root powder applied topically to treat boils, ulcers, and other skin irritations and infections.
Ashwagandha is known to help people strengthen their immune system after illness, chemotherapy, or surgery. It is a highly effective, evidence-based remedy to help reduce levels of stress and anxiety—by lowering cortisol levels and mimicking the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA.
Ashwagandha is frequently referred to as “Indian ginseng” because of its rejuvenating properties, even though botanically, ginseng and ashwagandha are unrelated.
Belonging to the same nightshade family as the tomato, organic ashwagandha is a plump shrub with oval leaves and yellow flowers. It bears red fruit about the size of a raisin. This adaptogenic herb is native to the dry regions of India, northern Africa, and the Middle East, and today is also grown in more mild climates, including the United States.
Why Use Ashwagandha?
Do any of these common symptoms sound familiar?
Low endurance (mentally or physically)
The use of ashwagandha can help alleviate these symptoms and support an energetic and rejuvenating sense of well-being.
Ashwagandha Benefits and Healing Effects
Ashwagandha contains many useful medicinal chemicals, including with anolides (steroidal lactones), alkaloids, choline, fatty acids, amino acids, and a variety of sugars. While the leaves and fruit have valuable therapeutic properties, the organic ashwagandha root of the ashwagandha plant is the part most commonly used in Western herbal medicine remedies.
Medical researchers have been studying ashwagandha for years with great interest and have completed more than 200 studies on the healing benefits of this botanical. Some key examples of Ashwagandha health benefits are:
Protects the immune system
Helps combat the effects of stress
Improves learning, memory, and reaction time
Reduces anxiety and depression without causing drowsiness
Helps reduce brain-cell degeneration and improve cognitive function
Stabilizes blood sugar
Helps lower cholesterol
Offers anti-inflammatory and analgesic benefits
Contains anti-malarial properties
Enhances sexual potency for both men and women
May be an effective anti-tumor agent
Promotes new nerve growth
Ashwagandha as an Adaptogenic Herb
In Ayurveda, there are specific herbs with adaptogenic benefits—ashwagandha is one of them. Adaptogens are substances (a combination of amino acids, vitamins, and herbs) that modulate your response to stress or a changing environment. Adaptogens help the body cope with external stresses such as toxins in the environment and internal stresses such as anxiety and insomnia.
How to Add Ashwagandha to Your Daily Diet
According to Ayurveda, our bodies are woven from food. The nutrients we ingest are metabolized into the energy and information that form our cells, tissues, and organs. Every day our bodies need essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to maintain our body’s delicate balance.
Ashwagandha is classically taken as a fine powder mixed in honey or ghee. In western countries, it typically ingested in capsule form. The typical recommended dose is 500 to 1,000 mg. For people who suffer from insomnia and anxiety, having a cup of hot milk that contains a teaspoon of powdered ashwagandha or an ashwagandha capsule before bedtime is beneficial.
Medical Caution: Always consult with your healthcare practitioner before using supplements if you have any health conditions. Ashwagandha is not recommended for women who are pregnant.
Written By: The Editors at Chopra.com