Ancient Herbal Remedies: Ashwagandha
As interest in herbal remedies grows in Western cultures, it’s important to have some information about the various ingredients making their way to the supplement aisle or natural foods store.
These are ancient herbs used in traditional medicines for thousands of years. In the case of ashwagandha as part of Ayurveda, an Indian form of alternative medicine.
What is Ashwagandha?
Like all herbal remedies, ashwagandha comes from a plant, in this case, the Withania somnifera shrub native to the Middle East, India, Africa, and China. While traditional medicines may have used the whole plant centuries ago, today ashwagandha mainly uses the root of the plant.
The name ashwagandha, interestingly, refers to the smell of the root, comparing it to a horse. Today ashwagandha is mostly seen in supplement form—as a powder or in capsules.
What is Ashwagandha Used For?
Ashwagandha is part of a group of substances known as adaptogens. Adaptogens have compounds or properties that help your body adapt to stress, hence the name. Not all adaptogens have the same function. Ashwagandha’s main adaptive function is stress reduction.
Anxiety and Stress Relief
Stress increases your body’s production of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is important for many body functions but like most hormones, it’s important to maintain a proper balance. Chronic stress can lead to an excess amount of cortisol in your system.
Ashwagandha may either reduce the stress that increases cortisol production or reduce excess cortisol itself. This rebalances the system and increases your body’s resilience to further stress.
Ashwagandha also helps reduce the frequent companion of excess stress—anxiety. Studies have shown a decrease in anxiety and related insomnia in people taking this natural remedy. Some studies indicate that it may have similar effects to prescription anti-anxiety medication.
The Vast Potential of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is also thought to have anti-inflammatory properties and may promote antioxidants, those amazing substances that neutralize cell-damaging free radicals.
Decreasing excess inflammation has a variety of health benefits, from promoting heart health to reducing pain associated with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Other heart-healthy benefits may include lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
Ashwagandha has also been linked to lower blood sugar levels, is being studied as a cancer treatment, may reduce depression, could increase muscle mass and strength, and may even increase male fertility.
A lot more research needs to be done to document the effectiveness of ashwagandha on these illnesses and conditions, but modern science is not ignoring its potential.
Image by Azzaryiatul Amar from Pixabay
How is Ashwagandha Used?
Ashwagandha is available as a supplement in powder or capsule form. It is also used as an ingredient in herbal remedies that combat stress and anxiety. At Proerba we use ashwagandha in combination with other ingredients in our Stress Functional Support drops, to help reduce stress and promote calm.
Ashwagandha is a fairly accessible supplement, but new users should check with their doctor before beginning any supplement regimen. Ashwagandha is not recommended for pregnant or lactating women and like many herbal remedies can interact with other medications.
Making herbal remedies part of your overall healthy lifestyle requires some due diligence. Check with your doctor and be sure to find reliable sources for any herbal remedies you decide to try.