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Ashwaghanda : The Miracle Herb

VedicNutrition Ashwagandha

What is Ashwagandha?

One of the staples of ancient Indian medicine, Ashwagandha is commonly known as “Indian Winter cherry” or “Indian Ginseng”. You may have heard about Ashwagandha churna, a finely sieved powder that can be mixed with water, ghee or honey. It is extremely popular for its healing effects.

  1. The name Ashwagandha is derived from the Sanskrit words “Ashwa”, which means horse and “Gandha”, which means odour. An Ayurvedic Scholar Charaka (100 BC) had quoted - ‘One obtains longevity, regains youth, gets a sharp memory and intellect and freedom from diseases, gets a lustrous complexion, and strength of a horse.
  2. According to traditional Indian classification, Ashwagandha is considered a Rasayana which means that it helps in lengthening the lifespan.
  3. Modern medicine classifies ashwagandha as an adaptogen, which means it helps the body adapt to stress. The herb is most well known for its rejuvenating and therapeutic attributes.
  4. Ayurveda also classifies the herb as Bhalya - something which increases strength and Vajikara - something which promotes healthy sexual functioning.

Ashwagandha leaves, though bitter in taste, are rich in iron and can be consumed as herbal tea. They help in relieving conditions like anemia and blood loss due to heavy periods. Herbal tea prepared from Ashwagandha leaves also serves as an energy tonic and relieves fever and painful swellings. 

The flowers are astringent, depurative, diuretic and aphrodisiac. The seeds are anthelmintic (helps in destroying parasitic worms) and combined with astringent and rock salt to remove white spots from the cornea. Ashwagandharishta (an Ashwagandha health tonic) prepared from its seeds is used to treat hysteria, anxiety, memory loss, syncope, etc.

1. For Anxiety -

Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen which means that it helps the body to adapt to stress. It can boost brain function and help fight symptoms of anxiety and depression. Several controlled human studies have shown that this herb can reduce symptoms in people with stress and anxiety disorders. In a 60-day study with people with chronic stress, those in the group that supplemented with ashwagandha reported a 69% reduction in anxiety and insomnia, on average, compared with 11% in the placebo group.

2. For Inflammation -

Ashwagandha is one such herb which has proven to be effective in reducing inflammation. Ashwagandha herbal tea prepared from leaves is helpful in relieving inflammation.

3. For preventing and healing acne

Ashwagandha root has both antibacterial and antimicrobial properties which protect the skin from infections or acne. It also boosts the collagen in the skin which prevents it from ageing.

4. For Heart health

Ashwagandha has a variety of benefits to the heart, including providing treatment to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, chest pain and various other heart diseases. Including Ashwagandha powder in your diet helps in maintaining a healthy heart.

5. For Cancer

 Certain studies have found that withaferin, which is a compound in ashwagandha, helps induce apoptosis, which is the programmed death of cancer cells.

Ashwagandha appears to be a promising cancer fighter, too. In lab studies, ashwagandha appears to have anti-inflammatory effects, support proper cell cycle regulation, and reduce angiogenesis (the development of blood vessels around tumors), says Nielson, "which are three important factors in the proliferation of cancer." She notes that it has also been shown to improve quality of life in women undergoing chemotherapy.

"Because every person is different, it’s so important to talk to your doctor before taking any supplement during cancer care," she says.

7. For Alzheimer's treatment

Researchers have found that Ashwagandha inhibits the production of beta-amyloid plaques. These plaques, considered lethal to brain cells, grow in the brains of people with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. 

At the National Brain Research Center (NBRC), scientists conducted tests on mice with Alzheimer’s. After a few days of treatment cognitive performance of the mice improved significantly. At the end of one month, their brain function had returned to normal and the amyloid plaques that had been present in the mice’s brains were reduced.

Studies show that rather than altering brain chemistry directly, ashwagandha boosts a protein in the liver which clears amyloid from the brain.

8. It helps alleviate hair problems

  • Stress is a common reason for hair loss. By alleviating your stress levels, ashwagandha will help you minimise hair loss.
  • It helps in improving digestion. The better the digestion, the better will be the nutrient absorption and the better will be physical health. A healthy body leads to a healthy skin and shiny hairs.
  • Ashwagandha prevents melanin loss, the factor that causes premature greying. If you are looking for a chemical-free way of preventing hair greying, this herb is one of the best options.
  • It is used in herbal shampoos and conditioners, because it stimulates hair follicles, thereby promoting hair growth.
  • Ashwagandha is also known to treat dandruff and other scalp problems.

Side effects of Ashwagandha

There are no side effects known as such, but you may suffer from minor health issues if you consume this herb in large quantities. Further, this drug is not suitable for:

  • People who are suffering from HIV or AIDS
  • People who have recently undergone some form of surgery or are undergoing any treatment. This is because this herb may prolong the recovery process.
  • Pregnant and lactating women
  • People who are using sedatives and tranquilizing medicines
  • People who suffer from respiratory problems

Ashwagandha is a magical herb, but it should not be consumed on its own. Before you include it in your daily routine, contact your nearby Ayurvedic doctor to find out if it is suitable for you. The physician will also be able to tell you the exact quantity that you need to consume.