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Ashwagandha: The Miracle Herb

March 05, 2020

Ashwagandha: The Miracle Herb

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera, fam. Solanaceae) is a perennial herb. Its species name reflects one of its long-time purposes. Somnifera means sleep-inducing in Latin. Besides this calming effect, ashwagandha has other health benefits. You can read some of there in this and this article.

 

Ashwagandha, the herb

Ashwagandha is also called winter cherry and Indian ginseng. It is a short shrub that grows only up to 75 centimeters (30 inches). It is a member of the nightshade family and related to eggplants and tomatoes.

 

Its branches shoot out from a central stem. Its leaves are dark green that can grow up to 12 cm (5 in) long. Its flowers are small, shaped like a bell, and green in color. When the fruit is ripe, it turns orange-red. Its roots smell like a horse.

 

The plant likes dry soil, which is why it is cultivated in the drier parts of India, Nepal, China, and Yemen. It like sunny to partially shady spots.

 

Ashwagandha and Ayurveda

Ayurveda is the traditional medicine system of India. It has been practiced for more than 3,000 years. Ayurveda considers ashwagandha as one of the most important herbs. The plant is a Rasayana, an herb that maintains a person’s mental and physical youth.

 

Ashwagandha may come from very traditional and ancient usage. But this plant is now being used to various scientific studies. These studies have used animal and not human subjects. The results, though, are promising even for human health.

 

Uses of Ashwagandha

To recap its benefits, ashwagandha is proven as a/an:

  • adaptogen (helps manage stress levels)
  • anthelmintic (helps kill parasites like worms)
  • anti-inflammatory drug (helps reduce fever, rheumatoid arthritis, painful swellings)
  • anti-venom (fights snake venoms and scorpion stings)
  • aphrodisiac (increases libido and testosterone levels among men)
  • astringent (improves skin conditions like pimples and boils)
  • cardiovascular medication (helps lower blood pressure, cholesterol; improves heart endurance and muscle strength)
  • diuretic (helps with urinary problems)
  • narcotic (aids with anxiety, hysteria, nervous breakdowns)
  • stimulant (increases energy levels and vitality)
  • thermogenic (increases body heat and burns fat)

 

Further, this wonder herb has the following potential health benefits:

  • anti-cancer drug (a compound may be able to induce apoptosis, which kills cancer cells)
  • anti-depressant (may reduce the symptoms of depression)
  • insulin alternative (it may be able to lower blood sugar levels)
  • memory booster (may mitigate brain function and memory; may even help ease or prevent Alzheimer's disease)
  • muscle formation (may help to improve muscle mass, size, and strength)

 

In the United States, ashwagandha is sold primarily as a supplement or health food. The dosage depends on the formulation of the supplement.

 

Words of caution

As with other herbs, Ashwagandha may have side effects. It may seem like the miracle herb of all miracle herbs. It has many proven and potential health benefits. But its long-term benefits are still unknown.

 

Since it can be a stimulant, pregnant women should not use it because it could lead to contractions. Those on medication or with autoimmune diseases might also need to avoid it.

 

But if you want to include it in your diet, then discuss it with your doctor. It may just be the best supplement for your health.