What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is a powerful plant-based herb in Ayurvedic medicine. The herb smells like the “sweat of a horse”, which gave rise to its name (ashwa = horse; gandha = smell). Since it has Vata balancing properties, it helps in the treatment of stress and anxiety. It is also considered to be a significant aphrodisiac. Ashwagandha is a readily available, over-the-counter remedy for mild and occasional stress.
A plant that has been around since ancient times is still relevant today. Ashwagandha is one of the most intriguing Ayurvedic plants, with its oval-shaped, small leaves and red berries, and it is still being researched. Although we consume only its root part, the other components (leaves, fruit) of Ashwagandha are still to be explored and hold their own significance.
Other names of Ashwagandha
- Withania somnifera
- Indian Ginseng
- Winter Cherry (not Physalis alkekengi)
How to consume Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is available in the form of
- Powder (churna)
The medicine is recommended to be taken orally. However, some available variants of Ashwagandha are intended for topical use (e.g., oil). Each form from different brands comes in its own dosage. So it is advised to consult a doctor and read the label carefully before ingesting any form of Ashwagandha.
6 benefits of Ashwagandha
- Since stress is usually associated due to the imbalance of Vata dosha, Ashwagandha has rejuvenating Rasayana properties that help aid stress and anxiety.
- Ashwagandha soothes stress-induced insomnia, and helps you maintain healthy sleep cycles. A 2017 study conducted in Japan revealed that adults who took Ashwagandha were able to improve their sleep patterns.
- Ashwagandha is a well-known immunity booster, and it was a widely popular supplement during the pandemic.
- When we are stressed, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol. Ashwagandha helps in reducing cortisol levels, thus bringing down stress levels.
- According to research, a group of people who regularly consumed Ashwagandha had enhanced cognitive functions and improved memory power.
- Ashwagandha is termed an adaptogen that aids in reducing physical and mental stress. Adaptogens help your body’s response to stress, anxiety, and fatigue.
Safety concerns and warnings
- Ashwagandha may also cause gastrointestinal disturbances.
- Doctoral advice is required while consuming ashwagandha during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Since Ashwagandha belongs to the nightshade family of plants, it is not suggested to people who are allergic to nightshade food.
- Ashwagandha might also increase thyroid hormone levels.
- Long-term and high-dose use of Ashwagandha is not advised since it can cause stomach upset and nausea.
- Since it strengthens immunity, Ashwagandha is not advised for people with auto-immune diseases.
- It is recommended to avoid Ashwagandha two weeks before and after a planned surgery.