Ashwagandha, botanically known as Withania Somnifera, is a member of the nightshade family. Both the plant’s roots and leaves have medicinal purposes. In Ayurvedic medicine, it benefits the immune system, neurological system, endocrine system and reproductive system.
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that is very popular in Ayurvedic medicine and was around for more than 2,500 years. It has shown to reduce tumor growth and may help to prevent cancer. It is know to be beneficial for thyroid balancing, anti-anxiety, antidepressant and anti-inflammatory properties. In India after any type of illness, it is used to strengthen the immune system. Ashwagandha like other adaptogenic herbs, help the body remain in homeostasis. The list of benefits of this herb goes on and on and is worth trying.
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1. Improves Thyroid Health
It is great for both underactive and an overactive (hypothyroid or hyperthyroid) thyroid conditions. It has shown to be helpful to those with Hashimoto’s or Graves Disease Autoimmune Disease.
A study from the Journal and Complementary Medicine, showed during a 8 week period, patients that had subclinical hypothyroidism were evaluated. The treatment group received 600 milligrams of ashwagandha root extract daily and the control group received starch as the placebo. Researchers found that the herb improved the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and T4 levels compared to the placebo. According to the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, it is also known to have thyroid enhancing properties.
2. Relieves Adrenal Fatigue
Research shows that ashwagandha may help with supporting the adrenal glands and help with adrenal fatigue. Your adrenals are responsible for releasing hormones and your response to stress.
It can lead to adrenal fatigue, If your adrenals are overworked due to high levels of stress. When this occurs, other parts of the body suffer. One part is your progesterone, which controls your fertility levels and DHEA, a hormone that keeps your body strong.
3. Helps Decrease Stress and Anxiety
One of the most known benefits of this herb is a remedy for anxiety. Compared to antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications that may cause side effects such as insomnia, loss of sexual desire, increased appetite and others, research indicates that there is no or minimal reactions when taking it.
Compared to antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications that may cause side effects such as insomnia, loss of sexual desire, increased appetite and other side effects. In 2009, a study from the PLOS One showed ashwagandha to be comparable to common medication (pharmaceutical drugs) such as lorazepam and imipramine without the side effects.
4. Improves Depression
People with signs of depression can benefit from this herb as well. Stress is a known to cause depression. This herb helps with both stress and hormone imbalance. For clinical depression, Ashwagandha is used as a mood stabilizer.
5. Balances Blood Sugar Levels
Those that have blood sugar issues are shown to benefit from using ashwagandha. It contains phenolic compounds, including flavonoids that help to balance your blood sugar levels.
6. Helps Fight Cancer
Ashwagandha has shown to reduce tumor growth and may help to prevent cancer cells from growing. There are a few types of cancer that improved from his herb such as, lung, stomach and colon cancer.
An article published in the African Journal of Traditional Complementary and Alternative Medicines explained, it can enhance the lifespan of cancer patients. Ashwagandha had shown to increase the white blood cells in the body that help protect your immune system from disease and other harmful invaders. Most people when treated for cancer with chemotherapy have a major decrease in white blood cells. This put them at a risk of infection in the body.
7. Improves Memory and Brain Health
One of the reasons this herb is great for brain health is because it contains antioxidants that destroy free radicals that cause aging. Recent research has found that ashwagandha protects the brain from cell degeneration, which can lead to diseases like Alzheimer and Parkinson’s.
Winthaferin A and Withanolide D are the two ingredients in this herb. These ingredients help improve your cognitive function. Ashwagandha is a natural steroid. Found in plants of the nightshade family, it also improves your memory, your attention, and processing skills.
8. Boost Immune Function
This herb is great for reducing inflammation in the body. When your immune system is compromised, ashwagandha helps with many inflammatory disorders.
9. Increases Energy
Ashwagandha has shown to increase energy and reduce body pain after physical activity. This herb will calm and energize you brain at the same time.
10. Helps Improves Fertility and Sexual Function
It can also be useful for those with a sexual dysfunction. It helps boosts testosterone levels and improves male fertility. Research has shown to increase sexual function, specifically in areas of arousal, lubrication and orgasm.
Ashwagandha Types and Dosage
Ashwagandha supplements are available online and in health food stores. The most popular form of this herb is the root extract. There are also leaf extracts available if interested. You can find these extracts in powder or capsule forms. When you are choosing the supplement forms, make sure it’s for human consumption. When purchasing the withanolide content, it should range from 1–10 percent. Not all brands provide this but it is important you find a high-quality brand to guarantee your product is high in withanolides. The higher the withanolide content, the stronger the effects of the supplement.
I would recommend starting with 300 to 500 milligrams per day withanolides in a range of 5–10 percent. You may slowly increase your dosage to between 1,000- 1,500 milligrams a day. The smell of ashwagandha isn’t very appealing, so maybe choosing a powder that you can mix in smoothies is a great idea
Ashwagandha Side Effects & Precautions
Steroidal lactones or withanolides make up ashwagandha. Some parts of the plant can contain more of these compounds than others, so you must pay attention to where the plant is from. Usually, high levels of withaferin A, which are used to kill cancer cells, are found in leaf extracts.
For other health conditions you should use the root extracts. When taking the appropriate doses, this herb was researched to be safe. However, there are some side effects which include, upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea. If you notice any of these side effects, stop taking the herb right away. This herb should never be used by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.