Withania somnifera (more commonly known as ashwagandha, Indian ginseng, and winter cherry) is a plant belonging to the nightshade family, and a common herb used in Ayurveda medicine. The herb is grown in dry regions of India, and has been used for thousands of years to increase energy and stamina. The herb is considered an adaptogen, which is a class of substances that aid the body in handling stress and anxiety. Ashwagandha is one of the most common herbs used in traditional Indian Ayurvedic treatments, and has been used to treat conditions ranging from ear infection to asthma.
What Are the Health Benefits Of Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha has shown to have potent antioxidant properties, making it effective in protecting the body from the damage caused by free-radicals and oxidation. In a study conducted by Banaras Hindu University In India, the antioxidant properties of ashwagandha were evaluated in rats. The results showed that rats injected with ashwagandha compounds had elevated levels of the antioxidants glutathione, peroxidase, catalase, and superoxide dismutase. Another 2003 study, performed by the Department of Zoology at the Kurukshetra University, in Haryana India, showed that ashwagandha significantly increased the activity of glutathione peroxidase (the enzyme responsible for reducing oxidative damage) in the spinal cords of rats suffering from copper-induced lipid peroxidation. Additional research on the herb has shown the herb to be effective in stabilizing blood sugar, lowering cholesterol, improving cognitive functioning and memory, and enhancing the immunological response.
Anti-Inflammation Properties of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha has also been shown to help reduce inflammation in the body. A clinical trial of ashwagandha on inflammation resulted in a significant decrease in inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. The study included two groups with osteoarthritis. One group received ashwagandha, while the other group received only a placebo treatment. The group given ashwagandha demonstrated reduced inflammation, as well as a reduction in pain and swelling associated with the condition.
Stress and Anxiety
Ashwagandha is most notably used for its anti-stress and anti-anxiety properties. In a 2012 study, performed at the Department of Neuropsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry, in Hyderabad, India, and published in the Indian “Journal of Psychological Medicine,” the effects of ashwagandha were observed on individuals suffering from chronic stress. The group of 64 participants were divided into two groups; one group was given 300 milligrams of ashwagandha extract daily, while the other group was given a placebo. After 60 days of treatment, the groups were then evaluated to determine their levels of stress. The group given ashwagandha extract showed a significant decrease in the symptoms of stress and anxiety, as compared to the control group.
Are There Other Uses For Ashwagandha?
Another common use of this herb is as an aphrodisiac, and as a treatment for certain sexual dysfunctions, including impotence and infertility. It is believed that the herb is effective in treating these conditions because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammation properties, both which support overall health. An overall increase in vitality can increase sexual libido, as well as the body’s ability to produce semen. In addition, the herbal properties lend themselves to increased endurance and stamina, and ashwagandha has been used by athletes to improve athletic performance.
What Are the Suggested Dosages of Ashwagandha?
The recommended dose of the herb ranges from 600 to 1000 milligrams, taken twice daily. You can buy ashwagandha in most health food stores in pill form, or as a tincture. There are few reported side effects of Ashwagandha, including drowsiness, diarrhea, nausea, and bloating. Pregnant women are advised not to take the herb, as high doses of ashwagandha have shown to induce early labor in pregnant animals.
Ashwagandha is an age old Indian folk remedy that has stood up to the test of time. Research demonstrates its efficacy in treating anxiety, stress, inflammation, and improving overall health. Before taking ashwagandha, however, consult with your health care practitioner, as the herb can interact with certain medications.