Ashwagandha is Ayurveda’s best-known rejuvenating herb with an increasingly global presence. Famous as an adaptogen herb, that helps the body to manage stress. It truly is nature’s gift to Ayurveda and Traditional Medicine. It is cultivated in dry regions and is native to India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and China. This herb has an increasing demand in Western countries due to its incredible health benefits.
Physical Structure and useful botanical parts:
This is an evergreen shrub with tuberous roots that belongs to the Solanaceae family commonly known as nightshade. It has small greenish-yellow flowers and an orange-red, smooth, and fleshy fruit with multiple tiny seeds. The most important part of this plant is the root which is an important ingredient used for various herbal formulations in traditional medicine. The leaves as well the fruit are also used for therapeutic applications but rarely as compared to the root.
Ayurvedic properties and therapeutic benefits:
It is dominant in Katu, Tikta, and Kashaya Rasa that is, Pungent, Bitter and Astringent tastes respectively. This has a post digestion effect known as Vipaka in Madhura Rasa which gives it the Balya quality, that is improving strength and vitality. It is Laghu that is light and Snighdha which is oily, that helps in its micro absorption even at the cellular level very well. The active compounds present in this adaptogen are various alkaloids, steroidal lactones, withanolides and saponins which are natural anti-stress chemicals. The somniferous compound is known for its sedative and anxiolytic effects.
It is known to have tremendous health benefits. It is used in various Ayurvedic and herbal health tonics being a potent Rasayana. Some prominent health benefits of this herb are:
- CNS stimulator – It is known to be beneficial for boosting the functions of the CNS being a nootropic herb. It is a famous and widely used Rasayana herb, that is a nervine as well as an overall health improvement tonic in Ayurveda.
- Antioxidant action – Ashwagandha helps to keep off the free radicals and improve the immune system by its antioxidant properties. This property of Ashwagandha is studied clinically and is found to be supportive for cancer patients also.
- Anti-inflammatory – Inflammation is often seen as the root cause of joint pain. Ashwagandha possesses anti-inflammatory properties that reduce inflammation and act as a natural pain reliever.
- Immunity – Ashwagandha is a natural Immunomodulatory herb that provides complete immune support. It has anti-viral and antibacterial properties which fight off viral infections and prevents the body from frequent illness.
- Degeneration – Degenerative conditions such as Arthritis and low bone density is common as age advances. Ashwagandha is a powerful supplement that promotes healthy ageing.
- Mental health – Stress, Anxiety and Depression are commonly seen mental health conditions in the urban population. Adaptogenic action with anxiolytic effects of Ashwagandha is useful to balance mental health effectively.
- Insomnia – Somniferin is an active compound that acts as a natural sedative that is present in Ashwagandha. Ayurveda recommends taking this herb to promote restful and sound sleep without being habit-forming.
- Reproductive health – Male and Female reproductive systems both have benefits with Ashwagandha. It helps in testosterone synthesis as well as improves vigour being a natural aphrodisiac, helpful in erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. In women, Ashwagandha helps to balance hormones and the menstrual cycle.
- Strength building– Ashwagandha is a Balya Rasayana which means it helps to increase muscular strength and stamina. It is a natural supplement that can be used to build muscle.
- Fibromyalgia – Chronic body ache, fatigue is seen due to increased stress in the body which are common symptoms of fibromyalgia. Ashwagandha helps to reduce these symptoms by its Balya (strength-giving) qualities and reducing inflammation.
- Thyroid dysfunction – Clinical studies have shown that Ashwagandha improves the secretions of the thyroid gland by balancing T3 and T4 hormones, as well overall improvement of symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, and joint pain.
- Diabetes – Anti-diabetic properties of Ashwagandha such as being Kashaya and Tikta as per Ayurveda, helps to maintain the blood glucose levels.
- Weight management – Ashwagandha is a versatile Rasayana herb that is useful in weight gain as well as in weight loss by improving metabolism. For weight gain, it is used with adjuvants like Milk to increase muscle mass, and for weight loss, it is used with herbs like Triphala.
Clinical Studies on Ashwagandha and outcomes:
Various clinical studies have been conducted on Ashwagandha to understand this nootropic herb for its health benefits. It is studied and evaluated for its benefits on the central nervous system, reduction of inflammation marker C-reactive protein, and improving male reproductive health.
An excerpt from a publication mentions that,
“Ashwagandha is used as a household remedy by Indians, who consider it as the best tonic for old people and children, and as an aphrodisiac by young people. It is one of the best nervine tonics of Ayurveda, the most ancient system of Medical Sciences. Our clinical experience showed that besides the enumerated neurological conditions, brain strokes causing paralysis and neuronal deficit also improve in the long-term treatment with Ashwagandha. We are also using it in all forms of cancer including prostate and lung cancers, especially in last stages, giving the patients lot of health benefits.”
Traditional remedies, applications, and uses of Ashwagandha:
- Ashwagandha root powder is often the main ingredient of various Ayurvedic formulations. Common usage is cow milk infused with Ashwagandha powder which is consumed to improve physical strength as well as mental wellbeing.
- Ashwagandha extract is used in the form of capsules or tablets as a dietary health supplement. This form of the herb is most preferred due to its ease to carry and consuming.
- Ashwagandha by itself and along with other herbs such as Shatavari, Liquorice and Guduchi is an excellent immunomodulator and strength enhancer.