Ashwagandha is a medicinal plant that grows throughout India and a few other South Asian countries, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. It is plentifully cultivated in China, Nepal, Sri Lanka, etc. The medicinal properties of the Ashwagandha plant are especially popular in the Indian traditional medicine systems.
The wonderful benefits of Ashwagandha have recently caught the attention of modern medicine as well. Numerous clinical studies are going on with Ashwagandha to identify and prove its benefits for diabetes care, sexual wellness, skincare, and most importantly, mental health.
Ashwagandha has chemical compounds that can help with stress and ease anxiety. In this blog, we are going to discuss ashwagandha's benefits for the body, its uses, and a few other details about it that people should be aware of.
The scientific name of the Ashwagandha plant is Withania somnifera. It is also known by the names "Indian Winter Cherry" or "Indian Ginseng.”
Ashwagandha is a short perennial shrub that can grow up to 75 cm or 30 inches for our American readers. That means it can flourish for more than 2 years, as compared to non-perennial plants that will die a year after flowering. It also has tomentose branches that are fully covered in dense matted hair. These branches extend radially from the central stem system. It is a flowering plant that can produce green bell-shaped flowers that can produce reddish fruit. The root of the plant is the most important part for us since it is rich in medicinal properties.
Ashwagandha in Ayurveda
Ayurveda is a school of medicine that originated in India. It is thousands of years old and propagates healing through natural means. Ayurveda primarily uses herbal medications, promotes a natural lifestyle, and employs holistic healing techniques.
Ayurveda uses medicines of natural origin, and hence, does not have as many side effects as compared with modern medicine. In short, Ayurveda is a lifestyle that is closely related to living a simple life close to nature.
From ancient times, Ayurveda understood the medicinal properties of Ashwagandha. It is an adaptogen and is known for its health benefits. It is a potent medicine that we can use to treat stress, anxiety, fatigue, pain, skin conditions, diabetes, arthritis, and much more.
As mentioned before, the root is the main part of the plant with powerful medicinal properties. The powder made from the root is usually taken with water, honey, or ghee.
The powerful chemical compounds inside the powder can work with the nervous system and improve brain function. There are different types of supplements now available on the market that utilize the power of Ashwagandha roots.
There are various names for Ashwagandha throughout the world. Some people call it "Indian Winter Cherry" and "Indian Ginseng". It is so named because of its similarities with the Chinese herb ginseng. Below are a few of the names under which Ashwagandha is known:
- Winter cherry
- Samm Al Ferakh
- Shui Qi
The importance of Ashwagandha is growing thanks to its use in Ayurveda. Modern medicine is also catching up with new research and clinical trials using the herb. Ayurveda uses ashwagandha in ‘Rasayana’ form and in its 'Churna’ form.
5 Benefits of Ashwagandha
As mentioned before, Ashwagandha has various applications in medicine. The most important benefits are:
1. Ashwagandha for diabetes
Diabetes is a lifestyle disease. It is also one of the major lifestyle diseases of the modern world. WHO stats indicate that around 422 million people in the world have diabetes. The number in India is even worse. Around one in six people suffering from diabetes is from India. An article published in ‘The Hindu" claims that around 77 million people in India have diabetes. We are only second to China in terms of numbers.
Diabetes is a condition where blood glucose levels soar above acceptable limits and cause various health hazards inside the body. This can be due to cells not absorbing glucose from the blood or to a lack of insulin secretion from the pancreas.
There is no cure for diabetes yet. But it can go into remission with proper health care and lifestyle. Ashwagandha is a plant that can effectively reduce blood glucose levels. Apart from that, research indicates that it can also improve insulin secretion and reduce the insulin resistance of the cells.
Withaferin A is a steroid that we can derive from ashwagandha. It can increase the glucose uptake of the cells, which has a promising anti-diabetic effect.
2. Ashwagandha for skin
Skin conditions are common in modern times due to an increase in pollution and solar radiation levels. Global warming and the rapid evolution of microorganisms didn’t help us either.
One in ten people suffers from dry skin, itching, fungal skin conditions, or any number of skin conditions. Wounds, pigmentations, scars, burn marks, acne, etc are also common these days.
Skin conditions are very common. It can affect anyone, regardless of age, sex, race, or geographical location. In India alone, there are as many as 15 crore people who have some type of skin condition.
Most of the time, skin conditions are easily curable with the help of proper medications and supplements. A natural lifestyle is best for the health of the skin. Harsh chemical products usually have adverse effects and can be harmful to the skin in the long run.
According to Ayurveda, Ashwagandha has Rasayana properties that can work wonders for skincare. It can work both internally and externally, through food and external creams, respectively.
Ashwagandha is rich in withanolides, saponins, and alkaloids. They are bioactive components that can moisturize, cleanse, and calm the skin. They can also protect the skin from pollution and promote the health of the skin.
There are numerous supplements and creams on the market with ashwagandha extracts for skin health. Ayurprabhava Body Cream is one example that effectively utilizes the rejuvenating properties of ashwagandha. It can fight itching, fungal skin conditions, dry skin, and pigmentation.
3. Ashwagandha benefits for anxiety and stress
Mental health is the most important aspect that people tend to ignore. Modern lifestyles, careers, peer pressure, stress, anxiety, self-worth, etc. are a few aspects that people often ignore. Ignoring mental health can sometimes have fatal consequences. It can affect our lives as a whole, career, relations with our family, friends, etc.
Mental health is a major topic in Ayurveda. There are important chapters exclusively dedicated to promoting mental health. We should immediately deal with conditions like stress, strain, and anxiety. Ashwagandha is an Commented [PS6]: Link to body cream page Commented [PS7]: Link to body cream page 5 effective herbal remedy to improve stress levels and fight anxiety. But mental health is a complicated condition and medications alone cannot help. A proper lifestyle, surrounding yourself with good people, having a positive atmosphere, etc. are all as important as the medication itself.
Ashwagandha can stabilize the body’s reaction to stressful conditions. It is an adaptogen that can enhance the body’s resilience to stress. Research shows that it can even protect the body against stress-induced gastric ulcers.
4. Ashwagandha for arthritis
Are you suffering from joint pain? There is a chance that you might have arthritis. The worst thing about arthritis is that there is no clinically proven cure for it. But there are treatment options to lower the symptoms and allow you to enjoy a normal life without much pain.
Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness in one or more joints. It may worsen with age. There are two main classifications of arthritis –– osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Infections, underlying diseases like lupus, too much uric acid concentration in the blood, etc. can cause arthritis.
Treatment in Ayurveda aims at reducing the symptoms and improving the quality of life by helping with pain. Ashwagandha is a major herb in Ayurveda that can help with the condition. Clinical trials have found anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic agents inside ashwagandha that can help with Rheumatoid and Osteoarthritis.
5. Ashwagandha for Sexual wellness
Sexual wellness is an age-old problem that can affect anyone at any age. Lack of stamina, vigor, passion, erectile dysfunction, and sperm count are all factors that can affect sexual health. A drop in sexual health can make the experience less pleasurable for your partner and yourself. But it is not something without an answer or cure; some herbs like ashwagandha can help.
Ashwagandha has aphrodisiac properties that can help with stamina and improve passion and vigor in bed. Regular use of ashwagandha can help fight erectile dysfunction. The powder made from ashwagandha roots can help with male infertility. It can bring reproductive balance by promoting sexual health and the body’s stress response.
Facts about Ashwagandha
- Withaferin A derived from ashwagandha can increase glucose uptake, with 10μM producing a 54% increase.
- Scientists found that ashwagandha can increase the stamina of rats during swimming endurance tests in clinical trials.
- The ashwagandha roots have a distinctive smell that resembles horse sweat, hence the name ashwagandha, which means ‘smell of horse.’
- ‘Bhavaprakasha,’ an ancient Ayurvedic textbook describes the healing properties of ashwagandha.
- Ashwagandha may cause side effects that include diarrhea, sedation, liver injury, miscarriage, and increased testosterone levels if taken in excess
What does ashwagandha do for your body?
Ashwagandha is an ayurvedic herb with several health benefits. It can reduce blood sugar levels, improve memory and mood, reduce inflammation and pain, relieve stress and anxiety, and help with sexual health.
What are the dangers of taking ashwagandha?
Takin ashwagandha in excess can have harmful side effects. Excess herb in the digestive system can cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Does ashwagandha make you gain weight?
No, it does not cause weight gain. Ashwagandha can help in reducing muscle wasting related to stress.
Does Ashwagandha cause hair loss?
Ashwagandha can help reduce chronic stress, which is a major reason for hair loss. Hence, it is an herb that can promote healthy hair growth.
Ashwagandha is one of the most popular and highly effective herbs in Ayurveda. The benefits of ashwagandha are numerous in Ayurveda. It has properties like anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antitumor, anti-arthritic, neuroprotective, etc. It can also reduce stress and anxiety.
There are a lot of clinical studies proving Ashwagandha’s benefits. We often call ashwagandha the "king of herbs," and the name is appropriate in every sense.