Stress. We all experience it. Some of us deal with it much better than others. There are some herbs that have been known to help with stress in one way or another. One of my favorites is Ashwagandha, or Withania somnifera. This Indian herb, used for centuries in Ayurvedic Medicine, is most well known for it's ability to help our bodies adapt to stress and to flush out the stress hormones a lot faster. However, it's also a great herb to call upon in a number of other situations.
Native to India, and a member of the Solanaceae (Nightshade) family, Ashwagandha is one of Ayurveda's most important herbs. It has become so popular that it is now cultivated in western Asia, Yemen, and China. Some farmers are also trying to establish this herb, and other important Ayurvedic herbs, in America as well.
The name “Ashwagandha” actually comes from Sanskrit, and it translates to “the smell of a horse.” This comes from a few places, the first is that the fresh root smells like horse urine (eeew), the second is that it has a reputation as a great herb to help one attain the “stamina of a horse” in certain bedroom activities (yep, we all know what I'm talking about here).
Scientific Name- Withania somnifera
Common Names- Ashwagandha, Winter Cherry, Indian Ginseng, Poison Gooseberry
Parts Used- The roots and leaves are used traditionally, but most Western herbalists only use the roots.
Summary of Actions- Adaptogen, Alterative, Analgesic, Cardioprotective, Antispasmodic, Anti-inflammatory, Slight Sedative, Nerve Tonic, Diuretic, Nutritive Tonic, Thyroid Stimulant, and Aphrodisiac.
Ayurveda- Ashwagandha is used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine, so much so that it is considered one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda. Ashwagandha is used to help balance vata and kapha in excess. It can also unbalance pitta due to it's heating and building nature. However it's mostly used to balance vata, helping to strengthen and nourish healthy muscles and reproductive systems.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)- Known as Nan Fei Zui Jia in TCM, Ashwagandha works on the Lung, Heart, and Spleen meridians. It tonifies Qi, building immunity, strength, and aiding in recovery. It tonifies Lung Qi, helping to clear coughs, recover from illness, and lightens any “heaviness” in the chest. It tonifies the Spleen, helping to increase appetite, reduce diarrhea, improve memory, and reduce mental confusion. It also tonifies Jing, increasing male fertility and preventing impotence. But it's most well known for calming Shen, which reduces anxiety and other stress disorders, and helps improve sleep.
Stress, Anxiety, and Depression- Ashwagandha is considered to be one of the best adaptogens by many herbalists. It helps the body to adapt to stressful situations, reducing anxiety and helping to relieve some of the symptoms associated with depression. It does this, largely, by reducing the cortisol levels in your system. This helps to relieve adrenal fatigue as well, which helps to boost energy naturally, improve sleep, and improve mood.
Joint, Back, and Arthritic Pain- Ashwagandha is a great anti-inflammatory with some analgesic properties. This means that it helps reduce swelling and can also help reduce the feeling of pain in certain areas. Traditionally it has been used to treat joint and back pain, especially when associated with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal- Because of the amazing ability of Ashwagandha to help reduce stress, and help the body to recover from stress, it can be used to greatly reduce the impact of withdrawal from drugs and/or alcohol.
Regulates Blood Sugar Levels- Ayurvedic medicine has been using Ashwagandha as a treatment for diabetes for a very long time. Recent studies have shown that it has potential in this area as it has been proven to lower blood glucose levels in diabetic rats.
Circulatory System- Not only is Ashwagandha a great anti-inflammatory, but it also helps to strengthen the heart muscles and control cholesterol. It's also been shown to have some hematopoietic properties, helping to increase the production of new blood cells. This makes for an excellent combination to help strengthen and protect the entire circulatory system.
Thyroid Function- Ashwagandha has been known to help increase the production of the thyroid, which can increase libido, reduce joint pain, and help improve skin conditions that are a result of hypothyroidism.
Memory and Brain Function- Ashwagandha is currently being studied for it's possible use in treating cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer's. It's also a traditional treatment for senility, memory loss, and seizures.
Contraindications and Warnings- Large doses can cause abdominal discomfort and/or diarrhea. Pregnant women should use caution with this herb as large doses could cause early delivery. Ashwagandha does interact with certain types of medication, so check with your doctor before adding this herb to your routine.
I only included a basic introduction to this amazing and beautiful little herb. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
7 Amazing Benefits of Ashwagandha Root for Women: Global Healing Center: https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/7-amazing-benefits-of-ashwagandha-root-for-women/
11 Ashwagandha Benefits for the Brain, Thyroid, and Even Muscles: Dr. Axe: https://draxe.com/ashwagandha-benefits/
12 Proven Health Benefits of Ashwagandha: Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-proven-ashwagandha-benefits
15 Proven Benefits of Ashwagandha: Organic Facts: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices/health-benefits-of-ashwagandha-or-indian-ginseng.html
As Overview on Ashwagadha: African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicines: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3252722/
Ashwagandha: Banyan Botanicals: https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/herbs/ashwagandha/
Ashwagandha AKA Winter Cherry: White Rabbit Institute of Healing: https://www.whiterabbitinstituteofhealing.com/herbs/ashwagandha-winter-cherry/
Ayurveda Medicinal Herb – Ashwagandha: Ayurveda for You: https://ayurveda-foryou.com/ayurveda_herb/ashwagandha.html
Benefits of Ashwagandha: Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318407.php
What is Ashwagandha?: The Chopra Center: https://chopra.com/articles/what-is-ashwagandha
Why You Should Take Ashwagandha With Milk?: The Ayurveda Experience: https://www.theayurvedaexperience.com/blog/ashwagandha-with-milk/