Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as Indian ginseng is an amazing herbal plant offering numerous health benefits.
It has been used for over 4000 years in the Ayurvedic medical tradition in India and Hindu holy men considered it to be one of the finest herbal medicines.
It positively impacts almost every system in the body and restores balance to the body and mind since it is one of the most powerful adaptogenic herbs.
There have been over 200 studies on Ashwagandha’s ability to:
- Improve thyroid function
- Treat adrenal fatigue
- Reduce anxiety and depression
- Combat effects of stress
- Increase stamina and endurance
- Prevent and treat cancer
- Reduce brain cell degeneration
- Stabilize blood sugar
- Lower cholesterol
- Boost immunity
Whole Body Rejuvenation, Longevity and Cancer Fighting Properties
If you are anxious, Ashwagandha will calm you; if you are constantly fatigued, Ashwagandha will boost your energy and stamina.
It also quite powerfully stimulates the immune system, increases disease-fighting white blood cell production and activity, and elevates levels of superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase, two of the most powerful antioxidants and health-promoting substances known to man, which likely have quite a bit to do with its longevity-enhancing properties.
But where Ashwagandha’s benefits really shine is in its effects on the brain, nervous and endocrine systems, and its ability to bring the mind, body and spirit into balance and harmony.
Positive Effects on Mood and Stress
One of Ashwagandha’s most prized benefits is its positive effects on stress, anxiety and mood. Multiple studies have shown that taking a high-potency extract of Ashwagandha for five days produced anxiety-relieving effects as powerful as the prescription sedative lorazepam and antidepressant effects similar to those of the prescription antidepressant drug imipramine, without any of the negative effects or addiction potential.
Withania somnifera was also shown to reduce the effects that stress has on the brain by up to 80% or more, making it a key herb for anyone who feels burnout or lives and works in a high-stress environment. In fact, Ashwagandha has also been shown to reduce cortisol levels, a key stress-related hormone, by 26% on average.
Balanced Hormones and Increased Sexual Vitality
Governing nearly every system and process of the body is the endocrine system—a series of hormone-generating glands throughout the body. In many ways, it is the health of these glands that determines your overall level of health, particularly your mood.
As you might have guessed, Ashwagandha extracts powerfully harmonize and balance many of the key players in this system, particularly the thyroid and adrenal glands.
One of the most incredible aspects and benefits of Ashwagandha is that it can help people with both hyper (overactive) and hypo (underactive) thyroid issues. It has been shown in multiple studies to normalize thyroid hormone levels no matter what end of the spectrum you fall on.
The same goes for the adrenal glands, which are highly influential to your overall health and psychological balance. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, imbalanced or underactive adrenal glands cause fatigue, fear, anxiety, worry and weakness.
The health of the thyroid and adrenal glands have a direct impact on our sexual vitality, including our libido and, particularly for males, performance as well. Ashwagandha is often included in various “herbal Viagra” blends for this reason, particularly for its nitric oxide-boosting effects, which tend to enhance male performance and serve as a treatment for impotence.
In Ayurvedic philosophy, one of Ashwagandha’s benefits is that it is said to increase circulation of ojas, loosely translated as life force energy, which is the vital subtle energy that food is converted to and that fuels our body, mind and spirit.
Correlating to the idea of Jing (vital essence) in Chinese Medicine, Ashwagandha restores these two fundamental energies in the body, which increases overall well-being and has the effect of literally regenerating and rejuvenating the body from the inside out.
Ayurvedic practitioners have also traditionally used Ashwagandha to balance, strengthen and open the root chakra, making it a useful herb to support various spiritual practices concerned with Kundalini and balancing the energetic systems of the body.
Selection, Dosage and Usage
Ashwagandha comes in a variety of forms such as capsules, liquid extracts, powders and tablets and even special, high-potency standardized extracts utilized by doctors and naturopaths worldwide.
Although any dosage of Ashwagandha is quite safe, it is one of the more powerful and psychoactive herbs available, and as such, it is recommended that you start slowly and work your way up to higher dosages until you know how your body reacts.
Ashwagandha is an incredible herb, but it must never be given to pregnant women. The various chemical constituents of Withania somnifera can lead to abortion of the fetus.
Somewhat ironically, it is often used to correct sterility, but its use must be discontinued as soon as a woman conceives. If you are unsure, please contact your naturopath or midwife before use.