Ashwagandha is a combination of two words, Ashwa and Gandha. Derived from the Sanskrit language, Ashwa means horse. While Gandha means smell. The name Ashwagandha describes the smell of its root which has a strong horse-like aroma. It is a plump, fruit-bearing shrub with oval leaves. This adaptogenic herb bears a red fruit about the size of a raisin.
This medicinal herb is considered as an adaptogen because it helps our body cope and manage stress and as a general nerve tonic. It is beneficial agent that aids our body adapt to various emotional and physical stressors. Adaptogens help to normalize physiological processes in the body and help with proper adaptation, hence, keeping the balance and reducing stress. It is also found that Ashwagandha contains chemicals that helps reduce swelling or inflammation, lower blood sugar levels and blood pressure and aids in calming the brain and alter the immune system.
Among the many health benefits of Ashwagandha are the following:
1. It helps reduce blood sugar levels – studies show that ashwagandha has effects on insulin sensitivity and secretion, hence, it aids in lowering the blood sugar levels in diabetic people.
2. Ashwagandha is also known to help strengthen one’s immune system especially after illness, surgery or even those who have undergone chemotherapy. It can also help to strengthen immunity against common colds, flus, and other common infections. Ashwagandha has also been shown to have immunosuppressive effects which helps to inhibit delayed hypersensitivity (allergic reactions) which in turn powers up microbial killing power of the immune cells.
3. Stress hormones, also known as Cortisol, may also be reduced with the help of Ashwagandha. In some studies, stressed people supplemented with Ashwagandha were assisted to lower their cortisol levels.
4. Testosterone Booster – For men, Ashwagandha will also be of great help in increasing fertility. It is believed to show increase in sperm count and motility. Ashwagandha supplements have powerful effects on reproductive health and shows great benefits to testosterone levels.
5. Helps reduce Inflammation - the markers of inflammation are linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that intake of Ashwagandha helps reduce inflammation in the human body and increase natural killer cell activity. Withanolides, an active compound in Ashwagandha, have both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties which acts to speed up the production of prostaglandins, which are pro-inflammatory chemicals.
6. Just like inflammation, having high level of bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels will lead to risk of heart disease. By taking Ashwagandha supplements, which is also known to reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol and decrease triglyceride level, this may lead to impressive improvement to lessen the risk of having heart diseases.
7. As an Antioxidant – An adequate level of free radical scavengers must be present in our body to help it combat many diseases which are characterized by oxidative damage. One good source is the Ashwagandha supplements because of its active components, such as the free radical scavenging enzymes; superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), and glutathione peroxidase (GPX).
8. Increases Hemoglobin and Melanin - Ashwagandha have demonstrated significant improvements in hemoglobin, red blood cell count, increasing the production of melanin in hair cells, which decreases the rate at which they turn grey, strengthen hair follicles to prevent hair loss and can even help to reduce dry skin on the scalp and get rid of dandruff.
9. Balance the hormones that contribute to anxiety – It has shown good effects for mood stabilization. It helps reduce symptoms and attacks as it suppresses the stimulatory hormones, namely cortisol. It increases resilience to stress and serum cortisol levels were reduced substantially on patients with anxiety.
10. For brain and memory function – When supplemented with Ashwagandha, it demonstrates significant improvements on cognitive performance and memory. There is an increase in the speed of information processing, executive functioning and sustained attention. This is because Ashwagandha is found to enhance the regeneration of neurons and synapses reconstruction, hence, boosting the brain function and contributes in memory enhancement.
From an adaptogen to memory enhancer to immune booster, there are several benefits derived from Ashwagandha supplements. While there are many other alternatives to choose from on how to take and incorporate this herb in our diet, it is still highly recommended that we keep a healthy lifestyle to achieve a fit and fab body! And supplementing our diet with Ashwagandha, may be an effective way to improve our health and quality of life.