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Profile Ashwagandha

Danielle January 25, 2019

By Danielle, contributing writer

Ashwagandha is it’s most common name, but it’s also known as Indian ginseng, poison gooseberry, winter cherry, and its scientific name Withania somnifera. A perrenial herb, it grows up to 14-30 inches tall, with 4 to 5 inch elliptic sage-green leaves, a green bell-shaped flower, and bright orange-red berry. It is a member of the nightshade (Solonaceae) family.

Ashwagandha’s History

Ashwagandha has been used in Indian and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, reaching back 2,500 years. Typically the root is used in medicinals, however the berry (remember, nightshade!) and leaves are also used. Though Wikipedia will tell you there’s “insufficient research to prove ashwagandha has any medicinal properties,” it is actually the most commonly used adaptogenic herb in the world. Ayurvedic medicine has used ashwagandha to heal immune, endocrine, reproductive, and neurological issues.

The strange name “ashwagandha” actually means “smell of a horse.” This not only tells of the plant’s smell, but it’s long use for giving the immune system a boost (like a horse).  Another name, Indian ginseng, notes of its ability to increase energy amid stress, like ginseng. You could use the herb based off of these two age-old names, but there are so many more medicinal properties to be aware of, too.

Ashwagandha’s Medicinal Benefits

Ashwaganda contains a lot of compounds known to aid the human system, including amino acids, flavonoids, glutathione (a powerful antioxidant), tannins, alkaloids, withanolides, triterpenes.

Here are some of the many medicinal benefits of ashwagandha:

Lowers cortisol levels.

Many of us are stuck in fight or flight mode from the stress of everyday modern life. It is also common to deal with particularly high stress situations, such as the death of a loved one, long term emotional abuse, chronic illness, or job loss. Because of this, our cortisol is ramped up all day long. This may mean you have a hard time getting to or staying asleep.

Those who are in adrenal fatigue have cortisol issues, and ashwagandha can assist with that. This also means that ashwagandha can help lower stress, as the cortisol causes a domino effect in our stress levels.

Anti-oxidant.

Ashwagandha contains high amounts of anti-oxidants to help fight short term and chronic disease.

Balances Hormones.

Like all of our adaptogenic herbal friends, ashwagandha is amazing at balancing the hormones. This is critical for fertility, female help, and a whole host of health issues which hormones manage, including heart disease.

Thyroid Support.

Ashwagandha has shown to boost a slow producing thyroid (hypothyroidism) and also help those with Hashimoto’s.

Cancer benefits.

Research has shown that ashwagandha can help limit the growth of tumors and tumor cells.

Lower inflammation.

Ashwagandha has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Improve anxiety and depression.

In a number of studies, including a 2009 study published in PLOS One, ashwagandha performed the same as common anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals at relieving stress and anxiety. Another study showed the same was true for depression.

Help Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and even Memory loss.

Research shows that this herb can help limit and stop neural cell degeneration.

Fertility Benefits.

Ashwagandha has been used to not only prime the female system for fertility, but also to boost sperm count in males.

Regulates blood sugar levels.

Research has showed that ashwagandha helps regulate blood sugar levels in those with diabetes, and even improve insulin resistance.

ashwagandha

How to Use Ashwagandha

You can find ashwadandha in dried capsule form, dried bulk, extracts, or tinctures. Tinctures always contain the most concentrated amount of herbs. Teas and soups are also a possibility, especially if you are following ayurvedic medicine recipes.

A good starting dose is 300 milligrams twice per day. You can then increase to 750-1,250 milligrams per day as you see results. Some studies say it’s safe up to 6,000 milligrams per day. You want to be sure to find a supplement that details the amount of withanolide in the product, which is it’s main medicinal compound.

Follow the recommendations on the bottle of any tinctures.

Do not use if you already have low cortisol, as ashwagandha lowers cortisol. Be careful when consuming if you have issues with any herbs of the nightshade family. Consult your doctor before taking if pregnant or nursing.

Do you use ashwagandha?

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Danielle was born and always will be a farm girl, searching for God’s natural truths in an unnatural world. She’s a doula, health coach, natural health activist, and currently obtaining her naturorthopathic doctorate degree. When she isn’t reading about holistic healing, you will likely find her chasing a sweet little boy or a small flock of rebellious chickens in the Midwest mud.
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1 Comment

  1. Hi, Is Ashwagandha ok to take when pregnant?
    Thanks
    Regine daly

    Reply

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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