The Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
Latin Name: Withania somnifera
Other Names: Ashwagandha is also known as winter cherry, Indian ginseng or poison gooseberry.
History: Ashwagandha is a very important herb in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medicine system used to overcome numerous health problems. Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurveda for about 3,000 to 4,000 years.
Ayurvedic texts like Charaka and Shusruta Samhitas extoll the virtues of this wonder herb, especially as a restorative tonic for the elderly to increase vitality; it is, in fact, excellent for increasing vitality in persons of all ages.
Ashwa means horse in India and Gandha means smell. The leaves of Ashwagandha when crushed emit a smell akin to horses and the herb is thus so named.
Ginseng, which is native to China but today is known worldwide, has similar but fewer properties to Ashwagandha.
The Withania somnifera Plant
Profile: The ashwagandha plant is a short stout shrub that is about five feet in height. It belongs to the tomato family. The plant bears yellow flowers while the ripe fruit is red in color and the size of a raisin.
Geographic Location: Ashwagandha is native to India, northern Africa and the Middle East.
Health Benefits: Ashwagandha is said to be an adaptogen which is a substance or plant that helps to normalize and regulate body systems.
Though ashwagandha is not related to ginseng, it can compare to some of the most renowned herbal tonics of the world such as:
- Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
- Astragalus (Astraglaus membranaceus)
- Dang gui (Angelica sinensis)
- Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)
- South American Suma (Pfaffia paniculata)
Some might say ashwagandha is more efficient than many of the above-listed plants. While ginseng takes seven years to mature for harvesting, ashwagandha can be harvested after just one year of growth.
There are two types of ashwagandha plants:
- The cultivated variety has thinner and smoother leaves. The roots of the cultivated variety are harvested for their medicinal properties.
- The wild variety has rough and thick leaves. The wild variety is harvested for its leaves.
Health Benefits Of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha has antioxidant, antitumor, anticancer, antiepileptic, antistress, antibacterial, antifungal, restorative, anti-inflammatory and healing properties. Ashwagandha has strong stress-relieving properties than the current day drugs used to treat anxiety and depression. It has excellent effects on the nervous system and can benefit a great deal in degenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's (Singh et al., 2011).
It has powerful immunity-boosting properties, increases white blood cells, and helps to keep diseases at bay.
Some other health benefits of Ashwagandha in ayurvedic medicine are:
- Increases breast milk
- Lowers cholesterol
- Regulates blood sugar
- Has diuretic properties
- Relieves arthritic and rheumatic pains
- Nourishes muscles, bones and nerves
- Reduces fatigue, increases energy levels and vitality
- Increases concentration and memory
- Increases hemoglobin levels
Ashwagandha, in fact, has been used to keep the immune system parameters normal during chemotherapy. Animal studies have indicated that ashwagandha is well tolerated and safe, though Ayurveda has used it safely since the times of yore.
In Ayurvedic Medicine, the dose for ashwagandha churna, also known as powder, is 1 to 3 grams per day for adults. It's important to talk to your doctor before taking ashwagandha to avoid contraindications
- Ashwagandha extract is available as tablets. The dosage I take is 2 to 4 tablets or 250 mg per day.
- Ashwagandha is also available as ashwagandha ghruta, which is a decoction made with ghee, and as a medicated wine, ashwagandha rishta.
Side Effects of Ashwagandha
- Large doses of ashwagandha can cause fetal abortion. This herb should not be used by pregnant women.
- Do not take with sedatives or anti anxiety drugs.
- Large doses can lead to an upset stomach, diarrhea and vomiting.
Home Remedies Using Ashwagandha
It's important to talk to your doctor before taking ashwagandha to avoid contraindications.
General Fatigue and Exhaustion or Weakness
- Take 250 grams to 1 gram of ashwagandha root powder three times a day, or,
- make a decoction of 1 teaspoon (tsp) of dried root in 120 milliliters (mL) of milk or water simmered until it has reduced to half its volume.
- Mix 1 tsp of ashwagandha root powder in a glass of milk and drink daily.
Strength and Tissue Building
- Mix 1 tsp of ashwagandha powder in ghee and honey and take everyday.
- Grind 12 grams of ashwagandha root and add 12 grams of sugar.
- Add to 1 liter of water.
- Simmer until the quantity of water reduces to one eighth, or becomes about 125 mL.
- Strain and drink.
Leucorrhea and Infertility in Women
- Mix 3 grams of ashwagandha powder with 12 grams of sugar two times a day with milk.
- Take 25 grams of ashwagandha root powdered coarsely, 400 mL of water, 100 mL milk, and 2 to 3 mL of ghee.
- Add the powdered root powder to 400 mL water. Boil till the water reduces to 100 mL.
- Now add 100 mL milk and heat this till it again reduces to 100 mL. Filter this decoction.
- Take 30 mL of this in the morning before food along with about 2 mL ghee for about 2 to 3 months.
- It is best to take this hot and do not reboil this milk.
- Mix ashwagandha powder well in oil like mustard or sesame and massage on the effected area.
Remedies From Acharya Balkishan of Divya Yoga
These recipes are recommended by Acharya Balkishan of Divya Yoga.
- Take a leaf of ashwagandha and crush it to make a ball. Swallow this with hot water. Take it three times a day, in the morning, afternoon and evening for three days. Repeat after 15 days.
- Along with this do yoga, pranayama and eat less food.
- This will help reduce weight fast.
Pain and Swelling in Arthritis
- Boil some ashwagandha leaves. Add sendha namak (rock salt) and cook it. Foment the painful joint with this, as it reduces swelling.
- Take big leaves of ashwagandha and apply some pain reduction oil to the leaves. Heat the leaves and tie on the spot while they are warm. This relieves pain.
- Take the bark of Arjun plant and ashwagandha in equal quantities. Grind this to a powder and take morning and evening. It relieves pain and gives strength to the heart.
- For those with diabetes, leucorrhea, spermatorrhea and urinary diseases will also benefit from ashwagandha consumption.
Arthritis/Rheumatism/Sciatica/Slipped Disk/Raised Uric Acid Levels
- Take an equal quantity of dry turmeric, fenugreek seeds, dry ginger and ashwagandha. Powder all these together and take 1 tsp of this mixture morning and evening.
- Take ashwagandha powder 1 tsp in the morning and then in the evening.
Adams, Case. (2019). Ashwagandha Can Treat More Than 50 Medical Conditions. Real Natural.
Singh, N., Bhalla, M., de Jager, P., & Gilca, M. (2011). An overview on ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, 8(5S).
Tierra, Michael. (ND). Ashwagandha: Wonder Herb of India. Planet Herbs.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2014 Rajan Singh Jolly