Benefits of Ashwagandha and its Root Benefits
In Ayurveda, ashwagandha is one of the essential herbs. It has been hailed as an “adaptogen.” An adaptogen is any substance that balances body functions and helps to reduce the effects of stress. In ashwagandha’s case, it is especially beneficial for reducing stress and increasing energy.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a small evergreen shrub that grows wild in Africa and Asia, including India. The plant’s simple leaves are dark green and shiny; its fragrant flowers range from light to deep pink. The plant’s root has been used in herbal medicine for centuries.
The shrub’s common name is Indian ginseng, but it isn’t related to true ginseng (Panax spp.). Instead, ashwagandha belongs to the same botanical family (Solanaceae) as tomatoes and eggplants. Its genus, Withania, is named for the plant’s discoverer, a 16th-century Indian botanist named Dr. Colebrooke, who first classified it as Diana indica.
The English name ashwagandha (pronounced “uh-shivah-and-hah”) comes from the Sanskrit word for horse, Oshawa, and the Hindi word for smell gandha. Ashwagandha is also called winter cherry – a reference to its shiny leaves – and Indian ginseng. Traditional Ayurvedic texts are known as “the mightiest of all herbs” and “a universal rejuvenative name.”
Another ashwagandha is poison gooseberry, poison nightshade, and stinking nightshade.
Ashwagandha is native to India, northern Iran, the Arabian Peninsula, southern Siberia, western China, and East Africa. It has become naturalized in North America, where it grows wild along fence rows, abandoned railroads, and other disturbed sites. It is hardy to zone seven and makes an attractive ornamental plant in colder climates where it spends the winter outside or as a houseplant.
The shrub grows slowly; it reaches 2-3 m (7′-10′) high with a similar spread. The oval leaves are pointed and soft-textured, about 10 cm (4″) long and 5 cm (2″) wide. Each leaf has between 15 and 23 pairs of veins that form a grid pattern. The plant’s flowers range from pale pink to rosy purple and appear in drooping clusters at the ends of its branches.
The leaves are dotted with yellow glands that resemble stalks of wheat. These are secreting hairs made up of cells filled with volatile oils and terpenes. The scent is most pronounced when the leaves and stems are crushed or cut, although it can also be detected after heavy rain: the plant exudes a strong, musty odor similar to that of soiled bedding.
At the base of the leaf, the petiole is two bulbous structures called stipules that resemble leaves or little cabbages. They have modified branches similar to flower buds, but they never break through the surface of the leaf. The underground root is thick and knotty with finger-like gourd shapes.
The yellow glands in the leaves also line the flower’s five-pointed calyx and corolla. The flowers are big, with long petals; they range from light pink to deep purple. After pollination by insects, they develop into egg-shaped berries that start green but turn black when ripe.
The ashwagandha root is used to prepare herbal remedies. It is cut into cylindrical, finger-like pieces and either chewed or ground into powder. The source contains tannins, alkaloids, glycosides, amino acids, enzymes, flavonoids (including quercetin), sterols, phenolic acid derivatives, and several withanolides.
The most abundant withanolide is Withaferin-A, which is considered to be the plant’s primary active ingredient. It has anti-inflammatory properties that may help treat arthritis, asthma, cancer, leprosy, psoriasis, tuberculosis, and other conditions. The complex root also contains alkaloids that calm the central nervous system and sedative compounds that relax muscles.
Many modern herbalists combine ashwagandha with other plants to produce a synergistic effect. The most common additive is winter cherry (ashwagandha’s cousin), which enhances its tonic and rejuvenating properties.
When grown in temperate climates, ashwagandha is typically harvested during the second or third year of its life. The roots are dug up in late autumn or early spring. They are then cleaned and dried in the sun to reduce their moisture content before being used in herbal remedies or sold as raw pharmaceuticals.
The plant’s leaves are less prevalent in traditional medicine, but they are occasionally used to remedy fever and asthma. In addition, a commercially available product called ImmunoGuard is made from the leaves by drying them at low temperatures and high humidity. It is claimed to have an immune-stimulating effect that helps fight cancer, AIDS, arthritis, diabetes, and hepatitis B & C.
The ashwagandha root is often standardized, meaning that it has had its active ingredients extracted and measured in a laboratory. Extracts are used to make tablets, capsules, powders, teas, tonics, extracts (liquid or crystalline), topical ointments or creams, and even rectal suppositories (although that may be an urban legend).
The root of the plant is generally considered safe, but side effects are possible. Toxicity studies have shown ashwagandha to have no toxic effects on experimental animals’ liver, kidney, spleen, or blood cells. However, it should not be used by pregnant women or people with autoimmune diseases (such as lupus and multiple sclerosis) because it may cause immunosuppression.
Benefits of ashwagandha for men:
1. Supports normal testosterone levels
2. Promotes healthy sexual desire, functioning, and performance
3. Supports endurance and energy during daily activities
4. Naturally treats symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety
5. Increases strength and muscle mass for a more toned physique
6. Supports healthy cortisol levels
7. Helps regulate sleep patterns
8. Excellent for heart support
9. Natural way to help with allergies
10. Promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety
11. Promotes optimal health throughout the body by strengthening metabolic processes
12. Boosts immune system function
13. Promotes a healthy response to inflammation
14. Helps to maintain glucose levels already within the normal range
15. Can help lower blood pressure naturally
Ashwagandha tablets benefits:
1. Promotes muscle growth
2. Can help relieve stress and anxiety
3. Helps to reduce the severity of depression symptoms
4. Can help reduce the symptoms of both acute and chronic pain
5. A natural sleep aid, ashwagandha, helps to promote healthy sleeping patterns
6. Helps to prevent low bone density linked with osteoporosis
Ashwagandha root benefits:
1. Is helpful in preventing and treating both acute and chronic inflammation
2. May help to improve the body’s response to allergies
3. Helps maintain healthy glucose levels already within the normal range
4. Can aid in pain relief related to arthritis and other similar conditions
5. Supports heart health by reducing high blood pressure and encouraging lower cholesterol levels
6. Promotes healthy thyroid function
7. Can help lower anxiety and stress levels naturally
8. Supports optimal cognitive performance and memory
9. Helps to promote a sense of calm and relaxation throughout the body
10. Can improve respiratory disorders such as asthma and bronchitis
11. Can reduce the undesirable effects of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
12. Supports liver function by reducing internal swelling and tissue damage caused by illness
13. May help to improve digestive health
14. Has been linked to promoting a healthier immune system response
15. Supports healthy metabolic function in both men and women
Ashwagandha benefits for females:
1. Can help regulate menstrual cycles
2. Supports healthy fertility in both men and women
3. Natural way to help with PMS symptoms
4. Helps to reduce anxiety and depression
5. Supports a healthy response to inflammation
6. Promotes optimal thyroid health by regulating the production of thyroid hormones
7. Can help reduce levels of cortisol related to stress
8. Promotes relaxation to ease nervous tension
9. Supports heart health by improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure
10. Helps to improve cognitive function during menopause
11. Natural sleep aid
12. Increases energy within the body through improved metabolic function
13. Can help reduce or alleviate the effects of headaches and migraines
14. Promotes healthy uterine health to ease painful menstruation symptoms
15. Promotes bone health by maintaining higher levels of calcium within the body
Side effects of ashwagandha :
1. Possible mild side effects such as nausea, headache, and fatigue
2. May increase the risk of bleeding for those on blood-thinning medications like Warfarin
3. Though rare and only in high doses, there is a possibility of developing hypothyroidism with long-term use
4. There is a small risk of developing an allergic reaction to ashwagandha
5. In some cases, ashwagandha can cause mild stomach pain and indigestion
6. Because ashwagandha can lower both blood sugar and blood pressure, those who take medications to manage diabetes or hypertension need to monitor blood glucose and blood pressure closely
7. There is a possibility of developing goiter with long term use
8. Those on hormone replacement therapy should avoid using ashwagandha as it can interfere with hormone therapy
9. There is a possibility of developing hypothyroidism, especially during long term use
10. May increase sensitivity to sunlight and may cause sunburns more easily
Ashwagandha benefits for hair:
1. May increase hair growth
2. Can enhance the color of gray hair
3. Can be used to treat dandruff and other itchy scalp conditions
4. Promotes longer, thicker, stronger, healthier hair
5. May help prevent split ends caused by damage done to the hair strand from harsh weather