Ashwagandha is an ancient medicinal herb that plays a vital role in Ayurveda, an alternative medicine system that has its roots in the Indian subcontinent. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit term that means ‘the science of life’ and this approach to natural medicine has been practiced for more than five centuries.
Widely renowned for its uses as an immune support solution, the ashwagandha plant is also known by its Latin name Withania somnifera, as well as other names such as ‘Indian ginseng’ and ‘winter cherry’. This small shrub can be identified by its bright yellow flowers and grows freely in India and parts of North Africa.
The name ‘ashwagandha’ means ‘smell of the horse’, a double entendre that refers to its slightly musky, yet not unpleasant, smell and its apparent ability to boost strength and vitality. Extracts from the plant’s roots and leaves are normally made into a powder, which is the preferred way of administering this herb.
Today, ashwagandha is a popular supplement that is said to have a variety of health benefits which are largely attributed to its naturally high concentration of withanolides – a series of steroidal saponins that have been shown to have strong anti-inflammatory effects.
Ashwagandha is also classified as an adaptogen – herbal substances are used in traditional medicine for the claimed stabilisation of physiological processes and promotion of homeostasis of the nervous system.
Here are few of the most common uses of ashwagandha as we know it today:
Reducing blood sugar levels
High blood sugar can cause a variety of health problems when it goes untreated. It can damage the vessel that delivers blood to the body’s major organs, resulting in heart disease, strokes, vision complaints, kidney disease and more in the long run.
Ashwagandha can be used as a natural solution to lower blood sugar levels. Several studies have been done in this regard, which indicated that the herbal extract can increase insulin secretion and improve insulin sensitivity.
Reducing cortisol levels
Cortisol is a steroid hormone, also referred to as the stress hormone, or fight-or-flight hormone. It plays an important role in the body by helping it respond to dangerous situations or external stressors, but high levels thereof is not good for the body. It can lead to fatigue, irritability, headaches, intestinal issues, weight gain, high blood pressure, low libido and more.
Academic studies have found that ashwagandha can reduce cortisol levels in chronically stressed patients. It is a great supplement option to add to your wellness repertoire if you believe that your body may benefit from a natural cortisol reduction solution.
Addressing stress and anxiety
Ashwagandha has been indicated for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety in both animal and human studies. Our modern lifestyles make us very susceptible to chronic stress and anxiety. Between coping with the pressures of fast-paced careers and full family schedules, we often forget that our bodies interpret this ongoing stress as something it needs to fend off or run from.
By incorporating immune support solutions like ashwagandha in a regular supplementation regimen you can help your system to stay on track and reduce the likelihood of burn out, etc.
Soothing the symptoms of depression
Depression is a very common mental disorder. It is approximated that more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression globally. It is technically classified as ‘a mental health disorder characterised by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life’.
Ashwagandha can help to reduce the symptoms of ongoing depression, according to the findings of studies like these. However, it’s important to remember that the treatment of mental disorders requires a 360-degree treatment approach that should ideally be guided by a mental health professional.
Chronic inflammation is very bad for the body. It can result in a variety of unwanted symptoms, such as arthralgia, myalgia, insomnia, anxiety, mood disorders, constipation, acid reflux, and more. Left untreated it can damage healthy cells and tissues, leading to tissue death and internal scarring.
Ashwagandha has been shown to increase natural killer cell activity in immune cells that fight infection and decrease the most pronounced markers of inflammation.
Boosting brain function and memory
Approximately 40% of people aged 65 or older have age-associated memory impairment. One of the traditional uses of ashwagandha in Ayurvedic medicine is boosting memory and brain function in general. Controlled studies have also found that it may improve general memory, attention span and task-based performance.
These are a few of the most common uses of ashwagandha. This immune support solution has extremely interesting properties and can play a pivotal role in promoting overall well being as part of a holistic, integrated approach to whole-person wellness.
Always remember to consult with your primary healthcare provider before you start taking a new supplement to ensure that it does not have any contraindications with medication you may currently be taking.