Ashwagandha: Ancient Herb for Modern Problems
Ashwagandha: Ancient Herb for Modern Problems
Ashwagandha has been an important component of traditional Indian medicine, called Ayurveda, for over 3,000 years. This herb, known scientifically as Withania somnifera, winter cherry or Indian ginseng among others, is native to northern Africa and the Indian subcontinent.
This small plant with yellowish flowers hides many a health secret. Due to its high content of withanolides it has been known for fighting inflammation. Nowadays it is a popular herbal supplement and championed for its ability to help manage stress. But what are some of the lesser known, but still highly beneficial effects of this herb? That’s the topic of this article!
It’s very important to know exactly what we’re putting in our bodies and how exactly it might affect us. Ashwagandha is a safe supplement for most people, with relatively few and far between exceptions.
First off, if you’re pregnant and/or breastfeeding, avoid this supplement. It’s classified as being “likely unsafe” for pregnant women and has been linked to a number of miscarriages.
People with autoimmune diseases should also not take ashwagandha. Diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and diabetes type I can all be exacerbated by a number of herbal supplements. Generally, steering clear of supplements is a good idea when suffering from an autoimmune condition.
If you have problems with your blood pressure or blood sugar, and/or are taking medications – you should ask your physician about using the supplement, it is known to interact with a number of different medications.
There are many ashwagandha-containing supplements on the market these days. Ashwagandha extracts are generally more effective than root or leaf powders/liquids. The doses of these vary considerably, and no two products are the same, so it is generally a good idea to consult the label.
All in all, a regular joe/jill should have no problems using ashwagandha and might even benefit from it. We’ve all heard it a thousand times before but keep safe, follow instructions on supplement labels and consult your doctor!
Ashwagandha for your endocrine system
Researchers tend to argue a lot when it comes to nutritional/herbal supplements. When it comes to these products the question of efficacy always arises. But ashwagandha has, in fact, demonstrated a number of positive effects confirmed by studies.
Blood sugar levels are significantly affected by ashwagandha supplementation. During studies the researchers were interested, whether it had an effect on two types of patients: healthy individuals and patients with diabetes. A decrease in blood glucose (sugar) levels was observed in both groups. Laboratory studies later revealed, that ashwagandha not only increased insulin secretion but also increased insulin sensitivity, thus explaining its effects.
Ashwagandha is also known for decreasing stress and promoting well-being. This happens due to decreased cortisol levels. Cortisol is also widely known simple as the “stress hormone” and, in excessive amounts, can have numerous damaging effects on our bodies. Ashwagandha decreases the release of cortisol, thus helping to relieve stress.
For centuries the root of the ashwagandha plant was considered a natural aphrodisiac. How and why this herb improved performance in the bedroom was unknown till quite recently. It turns out that ashwagandha may be able to boost testosterone levels in men, as well as improve sperm counts. This has led to research on ashwagandha as a potential treatment for infertility in men. The testosterone enhancing effects are not only limited to libido though! Increased muscle mass and reduced body fat percentages are also associated with routine ashwagandha supplementation.
It’s remarkably easy to see why this plant has been so venerated in traditional medicine. The numerous endocrine changes associated with ashwagandha combat some of the main causes of disease and, over a larger period, contribute to a healthier lifestyle.
Ashwagandha for your brain
Compared to the data obtained about the endocrine effects of ashwagandha, the neurologic effects are more often disputed. Even though the quality of the research on this topic is not as high, the findings are extremely interesting nonetheless!
There is evidence to suspect that ashwagandha may aid those suffering from depression and anxiety. Research conducted on this matter, however, is extremely weak. Mostly due to the fact that the patients selected were self-diagnosed with depression, as opposed to being diagnosed by a physician.
Animal studies have shown improvement in memory and reaction time with ashwagandha supplementation. Ayurvedic medicine has been championing withanolides as a cure to memory loss for centuries. The research is quite controversial and more work has to be done. In the meantime, it’s probably not a good idea to treat Alzheimer’s without your physician!
Ashwagandha for a quality life
There are numerous other effects attributed to ashwagandha: reduction in heart disease risk, managing triglyceride (fat) levels in your blood, having anti-inflammatory effects among others.
Though the claims might sound too good to be true, some of them are well-established through research and the negative incidents with this herbal supplement have been few and far between. Overall, we can confidently state that ashwagandha can form a cornerstone for a healthier life.