Ashwagandha, the Amazing Adaptogenic Herb!

Ashwagandha is one of the most powerful herbs, as it is well known for its restorative benefits and its use as an adaptogen.  An adaptogen is a substance or herb that results in the stabilization of physiological processes within the body.  Adaptogens help the body cope with, or adapt to any type of stress, whether physical, psychological, emotional or environmental. Ashwagandha is regarded as one of the most important herbs in Ayurvedic medicine.

Being an adaptogen, ashwagandha has the ability to improve physical energy, improve the immune system, increase resistance to respiratory infections, increase physical endurance, improve mood and concentration and increase sexual capacity and fertility.

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Withania Somnifera

OTHER NAMES: Winter Cherry or Indian Ginseng.

FAMILY:  It is a member of the same family of plants that includes the common tomato, the Solanacaeae family.

PHYSICAL APPEARANCE:  It grows as a hardy small shrub with oval leaves.  The central stem and branches of the shrub are covered with small wool-like hairs.  The flowers have a central yellow section and light green petals that resemble mini leaves that bloom year-round.  It bears red fruit the size of a berry.

ORIGIN: It is native to dry regions of India, northern Africa and the Middle East. 

WHERE IT IS GROWN TODAY:  Today it is grown in mild climates up to a moderate altitude.  It prefers full sun and fairly dry conditions.  Ashwagandha can thrive in moderate drought conditions and is often found where other plants cannot survive. 

HISTORY:  The use of Ashwagandha can be traced back to at least 4000 years. It has been used predominantly as an adaptogen for therapeutic purposes in Ayurveda, used as a Rasayana tonic, or rejuvenating tonic.

PARTS USED:  Root and fruit.

ACTIVE COMPONENTS:  alkaloids (isopelletierine, anaferine, cuseohygrine, anahygrine), steroidal lactones (withanolides, withaferins) and saponins

PREPARATIONS: Tea (infusion), extract, tincture, capsule, powder, decoction. 

DOSAGE: 300 to 1200mg twice daily

USES

  • Nourishes the adrenal glands and thus is essential in cases of adrenal fatigue
  • Works as an anti-inflammatory
  • Improves mental ability, focus and concentration and nourishes the brain
  • Increases muscular endurance and physical stamina
  • Rejuvenates the body and fights fatigue
  • Is a powerful immune-system enhancer and increases white blood cell counts
  • Is a respiratory tonic and is helpful for treating respiratory illness and asthma
  • Boosts thyroid function and can increase the production of thyroid hormones
  • Is a powerful antioxidant and helps reduce the effects of aging
  • Relieves stress and helps promote calmness and mental satisfaction
  • Is essential in the treatment of anxiety, panic attacks and nervous tics
  • Can help relieve depression
  • Strengthens the heart muscle and can relieve high blood pressure
  • Is an aphrodisiac and can increase sperm count
  • Is a valuable treatment for insomnia
  • Can be used in the holistic treatment of ADD/ADHD
  • Is important in the recovery of long illnesses, tuberculosis or surgeries
  • Has been shown to slow tumor growth and help mitigate the effects of cancer treatment

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE:  Due to my hectic life, juggling family and a business, in addition to having a do-it-all type-A personality, ashwagandha has become an essential staple in keeping my body balanced.  During some very stressful times in my life, I would say that ashwagandha was a life-saving herb.  I use also use ashwagandha for my children during the cold and flu season and during times of increased stress so they stay healthy.  I have used it with much success for patients in the treatment of ADD/ADHD, anxiety, insomnia, depression, hypothyroidism, respiratory infections, low immune system, mononucleosis, and adrenal fatigue. 

POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS:  Contraindicated during pregnancy, as it can cause uterine contractions.  May cause slight drowsiness when one first uses.

DID YOU KNOW:  Ashwagandha received the name because its roots have the odor of a horse (in Sanskrit Ashwagandha means ‘smell of a horse’) and because it gives the body the strength of a horse.

 

 

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