One herb that has been increasingly getting attention in the world of medicine is ashwagandha, also called Indian ginseng or Withania somnifera. This herb has been used for years in the ancient Indian system of medicine, Ayurveda, as well as Chinese medicine.
Ashwagandha has a wide range of health benefits. It has immune-boosting, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-stress, sleep-inducing, antibacterial and anticonvulsant properties.
The known biologically active components in ashwagandha are alkaloids, steroidal lactones, saponins, iron and choline. It also contains 18 different fatty acids and several polyphenols and phytosterols.
The roots, leaves and berries of ashwagandha plants are used for medicinal purposes. Ashwagandha root is easily available in the market in powdered, dried or fresh root form that can be chewed or brewed as tea. It is also available as tablet or capsule supplements and liquid extract.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of ashwagandha (Indian ginseng).
1. Relieves Stress
A 2012 study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine found that ashwagandha is highly beneficial in reducing stress as well as its side effects. People suffering from stress who took ashwagandha had lower levels of cortisol (stress hormones).
Ashwagandha can help both acute and chronic stress. It works as a tonic and helps your body adapt to stress, as well as strengthens the nervous system and the adrenals. Plus, it refreshes the body and mind and improves the quality of sleep.
2. Stimulates Brain Power
According to a study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2010, ashwagandha is effective in the treatment of Alzheimer’s. There are several chemicals in ashwagandha that help improve the production of acetylcholine, the main transmitter of neural signals. This in turn improves the cognitive abilities including thinking, concentration and memory.
It can even stimulate the growth of parts of the neural cells that have already been damaged and thus help reduce the risk of age-related mental illnesses like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
To protect your brain from degeneration, start taking an ashwagandha supplement but only after consulting your doctor.
3. Protects Against Cancer
Numerous studies have shown positive signs that ashwagandha can help prevent or stop the growth of cancer. It is high in antioxidants and cancer-killing properties.
Its components can be beneficial in preventing the growth of many types of cancer cells like breast, colon, leukemia, lung, melanoma, prostate and sarcoma.
Plus, it can enhance the effects of chemotherapy and radiation against cancer cells as well as protect healthy cells against damage from conventional cancer therapies.
4. Improves Immunity
Another important health benefit of ashwagandha is that it helps boost the immune system. Being high in antioxidants, it helps increase white blood cell production and improve the functioning of the immune system.
This ensures better overall health and reduces the chances of getting sick more frequently. Plus, ashwagandha can give you more energy when you feel weak and aid recovery after illness.
Drinking 1 cup of ashwagandha tea regularly will keep your immune system strong.
Note: Ashwagandha tea is not recommended for those who have high blood pressure.
5. Fights Depression
Ashwagandha has stress-relieving and antidepressant properties that are more effective than powerful drugs used to treat depression and anxiety.
A 2000 study by researchers at the Institute of Medical Sciences at Banaras Hindu University in India found that ashwagandha stabilized moods in patients with behavioral disturbances.
Plus, ashwagandha does not induce drowsiness, which is a side effect of many prescription medicines.
It should be taken orally under the guidance of a doctor to control depression and anxiety.
6. Works as a Natural Aphrodisiac
Ashwagandha works as a powerful aphrodisiac. In fact, a 2013 pilot study evaluating the spermatogenic activity of Ashwagandha confirmed that this herb can increase sperm count, semen volume and sperm motility.
- Mix ½ teaspoon of ashwagandha powder in a glass of warm milk and drink it twice daily.
- Alternatively, take 300 to 500 mg capsules, 2 times a day for about a month.
7. Treats Arthritis
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, ashwagandha is also very effective in treating rheumatism and osteoarthritis. Its anti-inflammatory properties come from the alkaloids, saponins and steroidal lactones present in it.
It helps reduce inflammation and pain in the joints and especially morning joint stiffness. Plus, it promotes energy, strength and vitality that are essential to lead a normal life when suffering from health problems like arthritis.
Topical application of ashwagandha root powder is highly effective against arthritis pain and inflammation.
8. Fights Diabetes
Ashwagandha has long been used as a remedy for diabetes in Ayurvedic medicine. Some studies have also indicated positive results, especially in controlling after-meal blood sugar levels.
Those who suffer from Type 2 diabetes have difficulty metabolizing carbohydrates. Ashwagandha can help with this. It may also increase insulin sensitivity as well as reduce the complications associated with diabetes.
Consult your doctor before taking ashwagandha along with diabetes medications as close monitoring of blood sugar levels is required.
9. Helps Increase Height
If you want to increase your height by a few inches, you can surely use ashwagandha. It can stimulate the production of growth hormone to help increase height. Plus, it is helpful in making the bone skeleton broader and denser.
- Add 2 tablespoons of ashwagandha powder and a little sugar to a glass of warm cow’s milk.
- Drink it daily before going to bed for a minimum of 45 days.
10. Stimulates the Thyroid
Being an adaptogen, ashwagandha can help people with both hypo and hyper thyroid issues. It can stimulate adrenal and thymus glands, which support the functioning of the thyroid gland.
This herb will also help alleviate fatigue and stress, common symptoms of hypothyroidism. It can also help increase your energy level.
Take ashwagandha root extract on a daily basis. Consult your doctor for the correct dosage.
Precaution: Though ashwagandha has so many health benefits, it must be used under medical supervision. In some people it may cause an allergic reaction, headaches, gastrointestinal and sleep problems. Also, this herb is not recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women.