Ashwagandha is a very important herb in Ayurveda due its numerous health benefits for both mind and body. Its primarily used in Indian subcontinent for natural healing but its gaining popularity rapidly in the west as well.
Ashwagandha literally translates to ‘smell of horse’ as it increases energy, strength and vitality, qualities associated with a horse. Its botanical name is withania somnifera. It is also known as winter cherry and Indian ginseng(though its different from ginseng technically).
Many scientific studies prove Ashwagandha’s efficacy in relieving stress, curing insomnia, reducing cholesterol and increase in testosterone levels. There are various other benefits like better memory, increase in stamina and youthful skin but these benefits need more scientific evidence.
Ashwagangha can be consumed in powder and tablet form and is easily available online and in stores.
Health benefits of Ashwagandha
1 Stress relief
Research indicates ashwagandha suppresses cortisol which is a stress producing hormone. A study was conducted with healthy but stressed adults. Out of 3 groups, the group given highest level of ashwagandha supplement showed reduction in stress level by 30%.( 1)
2 Lowers blood sugar level
Several studies show ashwagandha stabilizes blood sugar level either when its too high or when its too low. It improves body’s insulin sensitivity and balances sugar in both diabetic and non diabetic people.
3 Increases stamina and energy
Ashwagandha is a known energy booster. It not only enhances athletic activity but is helpful for those who feel fatigued and tired all the time. Few studies indicate that it also boost muscle strength and reduces fat.(2)
4 Boost memory and improves brain function
Anti-oxidants and active ingredients called withanamides in ashwagandha may protect against Parkinson disease and Alzheimers. It also boosts task performance, attention and memory.(3). The nutrients also protect the brain from oxidative stress caused by free radicals(toxins).
5. May Increase testosterone levels and fertility in men
Some studies show that ashwagandha supplements increase sperm count and quality. It improves reproductive activity and testosterone levels in men.(4)
6. Lowers cholesterol level
Some studies have shown Ashwagandhas potency in lowering cholesterol level and triglycerides thereby improving heart health.(5)
7. Lowers inflammation and strengthens immunity
The anti-oxidants in ashwagandha protect the body against free radicals and support immune function by reducing inflammation at the cellular level and prevents heart diseases.(6)
8. May reduce anxiety and depression
According to researchers some studies have shown that ashwagandha when consumed in right dosage can reduce anxiety and stress.(7). It calms the nervous system and alleviates anxious behavior. It also reduces depression, though more evidence is needed to support this claim.
9. May protect against cancer
Animal studies suggest that a compound called apoptosis in Ashwagandha kills cancer cells and hampers the growth of new cancer cells. It may protect against breast, colon, ovarian and several other types of cancer.(8,9,10).
10. Beauty benefits of ashwagandha
When used topically, Ashwagandha can improve skin elasticity, help in production of collagen and other essential compounds to keep the skin youthful and nourished. It also improves scalp health, thereby reducing dandruff and hair loss. When used in shampoo or hair oil it can prevent gray hair and also reduce hair fall.
Few studies suggest that Ashwagandha can also prevent arthritis,ulcers, helps in weight loss and reduce ADHD and OCD symptoms.
How to use Ashwagandha
- Ashwagandha is easily available and can be consumed in powder, root and tablet form.
- Add a tsp of Ashwagandha powder in 1 cup warm milk and take before bedtime. Add sugar for taste.
- You can also roast a tsp of Ashwagandha powder, mix it with ghee and jaggery/coconut sugar(they are healthier options than white sugar). Consume half an hour before breakfast.
- To make ashwagandha tea boil a tsp of powder in 1 cup milk till it reduces to half quantity to extract its benefits.
- Or you can simply add a tsp of Ashwagandha powder in your fruit smoothies.
- For hair growth and scalp diseases simply make a paste with its powder and water, apply and gently massage the scalp with finger tips. Let it sit for 20-30 minutes then wash it off with lukewarm water. You can also add some olive/coconut/jojoba oil to the paste.
- For Acne mix Ashwagandha powder with few drops of lemon juice and rose water. Make a fine paste and apply. Wash it off after 15 minutes.
Probable side-effects and tips
Though Ashwagandha is a natural herb and mostly safe if consumed in right dosage. But there are few things to be mindful of-
- Not recommended for pregnant or breast feeding women.
- People with type 1 diabetes, lupus disease and auto immune diseases should also avoid Ashwagandha.
- Excessive amount can cause bloating, diarrhea, headache and allergic reactions.
- If you are on any medication, do consult your doctor before starting any new supplement as the herb may interact with certain drugs.
- If applying topically, do a small patch test beforehand.
- Always start taking anything new in very little quantity, increase to the recommended dosage once you are sure of its suitability to your body type.
- Make sure to buy organic products from a reputable source for maximum benefits.
There are immense health benefits of this super herb called ashwagandha. Try it for vitality, energy, anxiety or lowering cholesterol. Just be careful and always consult an expert for correct dosage and use. Eat natural, live healthy!