8 Health Benefits Of Ashwagandha (And How To Consume It)
In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of Ashwagandha, it’s properties, and how to consume it safely.
Ashwagandha is an evergreen herb that has its medicinal roots in ancient Ayurveda, with its first use dating almost 3000 years ago.
Found in the vegetations of India, the Middle East, and some parts of Africa, the plant’s roots and red-orange berries have been primarily used as a ‘miracle medicine’ for a wide range of health issues.
The literal translation of its name is ‘horse-smell’ (‘ashva’ meaning horse and ‘gandha’ being smell), because of the way the roots smell like a horse, and also because of the herb promising to give its user horse-like strength and vitality.
Properties Of Ashwagandha
The herb is also known as the Indian ginseng or the Indian wild winter cherry, due to the many medicinal properties it contains. Some of them are:
- Ashwagandha is classified as a Rasayana in Ayurvedic books, meaning it has rejuvenating properties for both the mental and the physical state of the body.
- The roots are anti-inflammatory.
- It can keep a check on hormonal balance.
- Its leaves are a potent antioxidant herb.
- The medicinal form also has anti-arthritic features.
- The herb possesses anti-cancer factors.
- It is also categorized under adaptogens, which are mainly medicines used for mental wellbeing.
- Ayurveda also cites its attributes that enable its use in beauty products.
There is a long list of health issues that can be treated with Ashwagandha, and it has been backed up historically with its positive usage in Ayurveda medicine for centuries.
As specified before, Ashwagandha is an adaptogen. This form of medicine helps the body to adapt and adjust to stress. One of the best-known uses of Ashwagandha is as a stress-reliever.
It works by inhibiting the production of cortisol, which is the stress hormone in the brain. By building up a resistance to extreme stress and anxiety, the plant gains recognition as an adaptogen supplement. It is an exceptional natural alternative to pharmaceutical treatments for depression and other mental disorders.
It has shown to have better calming effects than its allopathic counterparts. The rejuvenating factors of the plant help in curbing insomnia and nervous breakdowns to some extent, as well.
2. Thyroid Health
A thyroid that does not function properly can pose many health risks to the brain and body, such as weight fluctuations, hair loss, and brain fog.
Patients who either have an under-performing thyroid or a hyperactive one tend to seek alternative herbs and other natural solutions for their medicaments, including Ashwagandha.
The link between the herb and its abilities to reduce cortisol is responsible for its medicinal effects on thyroid issues. It restores the balance in stress responses, hence aiding in overall adrenal health.
By contributing to the normalizing of thyroid levels, it can be a successful treatment for specific disorders related to the gland.
3. Healing Abilities
Having a rich history of wound-healing capabilities in Ayurveda, it relieves aching by preventing the nervous system from sending pain signals to the brain.
Its anti-inflammatory properties enable its use for treating some forms of arthritis. Additionally, the leaves have been topically used to heal joint pains, skin sores, and to reduce swelling.
4. Cognitive Function
One of the biggest and proven benefits of Ashwagandha is that it helps improve the cognitive functions of the brain.
With age, the threat of cognitive function-related disorders is heightened. One of them is Alzheimer’s, a fatal brain disorder.
Ashwagandha cannot prevent or treat Alzheimer’s in a way to heal it completely. However, it can alleviate the cognitive symptoms associated with it.
The herb promotes antioxidant activity to protect the nerve cells from free radicals. Thus, it improves the retention of short-term memory and aids in better brain function, attention span, and the speed of processing information.
In addition to boosting overall immunity in the body, the herb has the potential to be a serious anti-cancer agent. It has been observed to induce apoptosis-programmed death of cancer cells, which is the process of eliminating cells that are heavily damaged due to cancer spread in the body.
While it is important to note that it cannot stop cancer altogether, the use of Ashwagandha, along with other cancer treatments, can aid in slowing down and delaying the multiplication of cancerous cells.
The use of this plant arrests the growth of harmful cells in lung, breast, and colon cancer.
6. Heart Health
Heart-related issues are one of the top reasons of health scares and deaths in the modern world. Although Ashwagandha does not directly impact the working of the heart, it affects factors that are related to the organ’s wellbeing.
High cholesterol and blood pressure can be controlled with the use of this herb. It reduces the level of unhealthy fats and triglycerides in the bloodstream.
Combining it with other ayurvedic medicines can aid in improving muscle strength and endurance. This positively impacts the working of the cardiovascular system.
7. Blood sugar
One of the most powerful benefits of Ashwagandha is that it helps to regulate the blood sugar levels in the body.
A high blood sugar rate would contribute to disorders like type 2 diabetes, which is accompanied by problems like fatigue, nausea, and blurred vision.
Ashwagandha regulates the level of sugar in the blood due to the various compounds, primarily flavonoids, present in the plant. These help in successfully attaining normal blood sugar levels.
As a Rasayana, Ashwagandha can slow down the aging effects on external beauty. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties primarily affect two factors, the skin coat, and hair.
Ashwagandha stimulates the production of vital compounds and proteins for healthy skin. The skin is kept naturally hydrated, supple, and firmed up against wrinkles, sagging, fine lines, and dark spots. It can also be used to make cleansing face-masks and pastes at home when combined with other traditional herbs generally found in the kitchen.
As for hair, the use of this herb promotes healthy and clean scalp upkeep. If used in shampoos or during hair washes, it is said to be an effective treatment for dandruff, and for enhancing the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for the color of hair. Hence it prevents the greying of hair with age.
A paste or oil made using Ashwagandha powder can also help relieve an irritated or inflamed scalp. It has seen to improve blood circulation in the scalp, which in turn also keeps prevents the weakening and thinning of hair roots.
How To Consume Aswagandha?
The roots, berries, and leaves of the plant can be used in cooking or directly consumed in warm drinks. Alternatively, there are also pills, oils, and powders available readily in medical or supplement stores.
There are minimal side effects related to its consumption, and they may differ from person to person. Usually, it does not need a prescription or the guide of a medical professional.
Benefits Of Ashwagandha: Conclusion
Once the star ingredient of many ancient ayurvedic medicines in India, Ashwagandha, is now available on a global scale.
From being used as a standard treatment for fever, wounds, and skin complications, to being incorporated in the medications of diseases like Parkinson’s, Rheumatoid arthritis, and tuberculosis, the versatility of the herb still upholds its household name as a ‘miracle medicine’.
August 27, 2020 Sam Bell