Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is called the king of Ayurvedic herbs, thanks to its many benefits, especially in helping the body cope with stress and anxiety. It’s a cream-colored root known by a number of names, including winter cherry and Indian ginseng. Ashwagandha is famous for being known as one of the strengthening and rejuvenating herbs in Ayurveda (an ancient branch of Indian herbal medicine).
Ashwagandha as an Adaptogenic Herb
Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogenic herb meaning, it promotes balance in various systems of the body. Adaptogens are substances that can modulate stress response or reaction to a changing environment. It has properties designed to help the body adapt to external stresses such as toxins in the environment, and internal stresses like insomnia and anxiety. It can support the nervous and the endocrine system, as well as cardiovascular and immune health. Ashwagandha is effective in modulating stress response because it’s mildly sedating. If you have anxiety, insomnia, and worry, this strength-imbuing root can help you sleep and even support long-tern sleep satisfaction.
In a human clinical study, ashwagandha has been shown to improve overall mental aptitude and reaction time. Meanwhile, it demonstrated significant stress-fighting abilities in animal studies. This is the key to the herb’s sex-enhancing powers. All kinds of stress factors compromise every system of the body, diminishing the function of glands and organs. In effect, stress ravages the human system, making the body experience fatigue, reduced immunity, and lower sex drive. The overwhelming stresses in life leave people feeling devitalized. But with ashwagandha, all these conditions can turn around. As an adaptogenic herb, the root can help the body normalize all aspects of a healthy function.
Traditionally, this herb has been prescribed to revitalize the immune system after recovering from illness. But today, it is also being used to treat different conditions, such as arthritis, depression, asthma, insomnia, bronchitis, backache, and chronic liver disease.
Why Use Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha contains many useful medicinal chemicals such as alkaloids, choline, fatty acids, amino acids, withanolides, and a variety of sugars. While the leaves and fruit of this plant have valuable therapeutic properties, the root part is most commonly used for treatment in Western herbal medicine.
For more than 200 years, medical researchers have been studying ashwagandha for years with great interest. Some examples of the health benefits of ashwagandha are:
- Relieves stress and fatigue, and combats its effects
- Improves learning, memory, concentration, and reaction time
- Improves sleep and helps treat insomnia
- Reduces anxiety and depression without causing drowsiness
- Protects the immune system
- Stabilizes blood sugar levels
- Helps lower cholesterol levels
- Helps reduce the potential of neurodegenerative disease and improve cognitive functioning
- Offers anti-inflammatory, analgesic and immunomodulatory benefits
- Contains anti-malarial properties
- Enhances sexual potency for men and women
- Acts as an aphrodisiac
- Can be an effective anti-tumor agent
- Promotes the growth of new nerves
Ashwagandha’s Horse Power
Ashwagandha is known to provide the stamina of a horse.
This root has a horsey smell – it’s actually evident in the name. In Sanskrit, “ashva” means horse, while “gandha” means smell. The fresh ashwagandha fruit has a strong odor likened to horse urine, but thankfully, the dried root has a mild odor and flavor. When it comes to texture, the ashwagandha root is a bit starchy and can be easily mixed into smoothies, cookies, porridges, and even hot cocoa and turmeric milk.
Energetics of Ashwagandha
Understanding the energetics of ashwagandha helps you point towards its ideal usage. Ayurveda teaches that nothing is right for everyone, but everything can be right for someone. Even though ashwagandha is versatile, it may not be the best thing for everyone all the time.
Here’s the energetics of ashwagandha:
- Rasa – Bitter, sweet, astringent
- Virya – Hot
- Vipaka – Sweet
“Rasa” indicates the initial taste of the herb upon ingestion. “Virya” describes whether an herb is warm, hot, or cool.
Meanwhile, “Vipaka” describes the post-digestive effect or the lingering effect an herb has on the body after ingestion. The warm, nourishing, and grounding nature of ashwagandha is perfect for people who tend to run cold, and are prone to fatigue and nervousness. For people with a warm constitution, ashwagandha can be combined with cooling herbs, such as licorice root, fennel seeds, and Shatavari root.
Ashwagandha is also a vital herb for people practicing yoga and meditation. Though it can boost libido, ashwagandha is used by yogis to transform their sexual energy as refined and subtle energy that gives rise to a sense of well-being, peace, contentment, and resiliency.
History of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha’s history can be dated back around 6,000 BC, where it was mentioned in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian tradition of medicine.
In the Ayurveda, ashwagandha is used to remedy a wide range of health issues, including anxiety, arthritis, tumors, respiratory ailments, and more. However, modern medicine is looking at the potential for this herb to address issues related to cognition and memory. Furthermore, it’s an effective stress buster and helps with symptoms of stress and anxiety.
The translation of ashwagandha is the “smell and strength of a horse,” alluding to its traditional use to support a healthy sex drive. The name of the species, somnifera, means “sleep-inducing” in Latin. It is used for inducing sleepiness and drowsiness. In Sanskrit, the word means “horse,” and “gandha” means “smell.” The herb’s potent odor is reminiscent of horse sweat and urine.
This ashwagandha plant is native to the Indian subcontinent, specifically in dry areas of India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. It also grows in some parts of Africa and in temperate countries.
How to Take Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is classically taken as a dried powder mixed in honey or ghee. In western countries, it’s ingested as a capsule. It’s inexpensive to buy ashwagandha in bulk as a dried powder, making it easy enough to keep on hand and incorporate in foods and beverages.
The best way to enjoy ashwagandha is by simmering it with warm, whole milk. If you avoid dairy, any non-dairy milk will do, as long as it’s fatty. Dairy and non-dairy milk with enough fat content can help deliver the herbs into the nervous system more entirely because the nervous system is lined with fat and responds well to fatty substances. Another way to induce ashwagandha is by adding the dried powder to food.
The typical dose for taking ashwagandha is 500 to 1,000 mg. For people suffering from anxiety and insomnia, drinking a cup of hot milk with a teaspoon of powdered ashwagandha or taking an ashwagandha capsule before bedtime can be beneficial. The optimal dose is 6,000 mg a day, split into three doses. The capsule must be taken with meals, and if taken once a day, it must be during the morning with breakfast.