Ashwagandha is a native plant of India which has been used for centuries as a medicinal herb. Also known as the Indian Ginseng or Winter Cherry, it has long been a part of Ayurvedic cultural medicine, and for plenty of good reasons. It’s a bit of a wonder substance, and as a supplement, can deliver a wealth of great benefits to many different parts of the body and brain which can promote longevity and youthful vitality.
What Makes Ashwagandha Work?
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which primarily acts to reduce stress sources in the body. It’s also considered part of the Rasayana class of drugs, which are for longevity. The name comes from Sanskrit meaning “Smell of the Horse” which speaks for both its rich earthy scent and also for its incredible power in the body. It’s most naturally meant to be ingested through the intestinal walls as part of the herb it’s attached to, but extracts, powders and concentrate supplements can boost the effectiveness in many different ways.
What does Ashwagandha Do?
Ashwagandha has been observed to create various positive health effects both in short term digestion and long term consumption.
As an Adaptogen, Ashwagandha is best at relieving stress by controlling the mediators such as cortisol and heat shock proteins. It also reduces activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis which regulates the body’s stress response, so you feel less of the stress that you naturally absorb.
Natural Muscle Enhancer
Much of Ashwagandha’s power is derived from the withanolides that come with it, which are naturally occurring steroidal lactones within the plant root. These need to be absorbed through the intestines, no shortcuts or cheats, but in return it has shown marked improvement of oxygen use and muscle growth over long periods.
Mental Health Checker
Ashwagandha has been seen to help curb the effects of depression and bipolar disorder over a clinical trial period more than placebo. Test study subjects experience a large decline of depression symptoms, up to 75%, over the course of two months of daily supplements.
Testosterone and Fertility
Ashwagandha and the herb it comes from have long been used as herbs to promote youth and longevity, particularly in men who may feel like they’re on the lacking side, energy wise. The boost in DHEA-S, a testosterone producing hormone, is minor but definitely noticeable and inspired bouts of energy out of bed, and the energy and concentration of their sperm as well.
For Women, Too
It’s not just a supplement for men. Women who took doses of ashwagandha at regular intervals reported reversal of certain sexual dysfunctions and improved responses to arousal and satisfaction. These findings were self-reported, but if it worked for some it may stand to work for others with the same conditions.
Regular exposure to ashwagandha may have a positive respect on high blood sugar levels, enough to help control the effects of diabetes, particularly when combined with other compounds such as withaferin A. It is not a replacement for proper treatment, but a supplemental addition to a diet may help push someone over the edge to recovery.
Ashwagandha has been seen to display anti-inflammatory responses and activity in the body. It’s also effective against rheumatoid arthritis as a treatment, and has been since ancient times when all it needed to be was a slightly processed powder. It works by decreasing C-reactive protein levels which are markers for inflammation as well as pathways in the bodies that are commonly the cause of most inflammation.
Brain and Memory
Ashwagandha achieves the feeling of improving longevity by making the brain work better. Even for older adults who suffer from cognitive impairment differently from other mental illnesses. It can increase attention, retention, reaction time, cognitive tasks and higher level thinking. In the short term, immediate and general memories and information processing speeds went up after a few routine doses.
Sleep and Rest
As part of the anti-anxiety and relaxing properties as an anti-inflammatory drug, ashwagandha can help promote easier access to sleep of a higher quality and more wakefulness afterwards. This occurs over a period of time and regular exposure through controlled doses.
Keeps the Heart Healthy
By increasing the VO2 levels - the maximum bodily intake of oxygen - ashwagandha can improve the circulation of oxygen in the bloodstream and particularly through the heart.
How to Take Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is safe, nontoxic, and widely available as a whole root, grated, powdered, or pressed and compacted into a capsule. The lattermost option may be the easiest to get in international markets. Adverse side effects that have been reported are rare. Those who did have it experienced mild upper gut discomfort, drowsiness or diarrhea from overdosing.
Dosages should be taken between 200 mg and 300 mg at a time to promote maximum ingestion into the gut. Benefits mostly show up after several weeks of taking the supplement at regular intervals. Certain benefits may require very high doses of up to 1,000 mg but these are not advised without a physician’s consultation. If you are taking a hormone-related medication, consult a doctor before taking supplemental doses of ashwagandha. If it’s just part of the food you happen to be eating, low doses included in spices or flavoring should be fine.
As a food, it can be eaten and has an earthy, dirt-like flavor. It’s commonly prepared in cardamom milk tea, but can also be combined with turmeric in various dishes or added to curry - be mindful of its bitter flavor and balance it out to add it into your own daily diet and reap the health benefits over time.
Bohl, M., & Zielinski, L. (2022, June 1). 8 ashwagandha benefits proven by research. Health Guide. Retrieved August 13, 2022, from https://ro.co/health-guide/benefits-of-ashwagandha/
Kubala, J. (2022, January 7). 9 proven health benefits of ashwagandha. Healthline. Retrieved August 12, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ashwagandha
Silva, L., & Gandhi, B. (2022, August 8). 7 science-backed health benefits of ashwagandha. Forbes. Retrieved August 12, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/health/body/ashwagandha-benefits/