Has the daily grind left you chronically tired and drained? Do you want to restore your vigor and energy? Try Ashwagandha. It is a small, perennial shrub that grows in the dry, arid regions of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Sindh.
The roots of this plant have been prescribed for everything from impotence, fatigue, low sperm count, nervous exhaustion to general debility. No wonder Ashwagandha is called a Rasayana or life extender in Ayurveda.
Ashwagandha will give you the vitality of a horse
The word Ashwagandha literally means ‘scent of a horse’. Apparently, the roots extrude a strong smell when powdered. It may also imply that taking Ashwagandha can give you the vitality and strength of a horse. For this reason, Ashwagandha is also called Indian ginseng. Here are some more benefits you can derive from Ashwagandha.
Lowers blood pressure
Hypertension is a dangerous disease because if left untreated, it can damage and weaken your blood vessels. Over time, these blood vessels become narrow leading to blockage. In extreme cases, it may even lead to stroke. This herb enhances nitric oxide production in your body causing the blood vessels to dilate, reducing blood pressure. Anxiety and stress can also cause blood pressure to shoot up. Ashwagandha, a known stress buster can bring them under control.
Helps the body combat stress
Ashwagandha is a well known ‘adaptogen’. An adaptogen is a herb that helps the body adapt to stress, caused by changes in environment or lifestyle. Ashwagandha is packed with antioxidants that fight free radicals in your body. In fact, the anti-anxiety and anti-depression properties of Ashwagandha are found to be equal to that delivered by prescription medicines. The herb can help you cope with both external stress (environmental toxins) and internal stresses (physical pain, tension).
Treats anxiety and tension
If you are suffering from chronic physical/mental fatigue, depression, anxiety or mood swings and if physiological or psychological factors have been ruled out, try Ashwagandha. A major benefit of Ashwagandha is, it treats these conditions without causing drowsiness. The herb is an extremely potent treatment for anxiety. It can also be used to treat phobias like agoraphobia. In a 2012 study, 64 random subjects were asked to take either Ashwagandha or a placebo. After 60 days, it was found that the group on Ashwagandha had less stress than the other group.
Increases mental alertness
If you are suffering from mental fog or if you want to improve your mental alertness and become more productive at work, Ashwagandha is just the thing for you. Studies on lab rats have found that Ashwagandha leaves a positive effect on neurotransmitters so essential to memory formation. Ashwagandha also protects the brain, improving symptoms in people who are suffering from brain degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
It is anti-inflammatory
Ashwagandha is very effective against inflammation. One study says the anti-inflammatory activity of Ashwagandha could be compared to hydrocortisone (the medical name for cortisol), a powerful topical corticosteroid. Cortisol is used to treat conditions like asthma, dermatitis and rheumatoid arthritis. In another study, five plants were tested for their anti-inflammatory activity. Of these five plants, Ashwagandha had the highest efficacy. In addition to this, ashwagandha also decreases triglyceride and cholesterol levels, improving heart health.
It is an aphrodisiac
Ashwagandha has been traditionally used as an aphrodisiac. It can increase the supply of blood to your genitals. In a study on a group of 100 men given Ashwagandha, more than 71 of the men said their sexual performance had increased after taking the herb. It works on both men and women. Low motility of sperm and low sperm count are two main reasons for male infertility. The good news is, Ashwagandha can improve sperm motility and sperm count.
It has antioxidant properties
Researchers at the Kolkata’s Drug Research and Development Center and Varanasi’s BHU have found that Ashwagandha contains chemicals with antioxidant properties. These chemicals reduce oxidative stress in your body which is one of the major reasons for free radical formation. In a study on mice, it was found the herb significantly reduced oxidation in the liver while enhancing antioxidant enzymes such as glutathione peroxidase, catalase and superoxide dismutase. These antioxidant properties are in a way responsible for the herb’s anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and cognitive enhancing effects.
It improves immunity
Ashwagandha improves your immunity by increasing the levels of white blood corpuscles, platelets, antibodies and key proteins like IFNγ and IL2. It also enhances marrow cellularity, helping your marrow produce more disease-fighting agents. Cancer patients should also take Ashwagandha because it can reverse the immunity-reducing effect of anti-cancer drugs. Chronic stress depresses the immune system. Since Ashwagandha reduces stress, taking Ashwagandha can bring back your immunity hampered by stress.
Reduces menstrual pain
Dysmenorrhea also known as menstrual cramps or painful periods is a common condition affecting between 20%-90% of women. Many women dread their periods for this reason. Ashwagandha not only relieves pain during menstruation, it also induces menstruation in women suffering from irregular periods. The herb also strengthens your reproductive organs so it is a valuable aid to women trying to conceive but are unable to.
Improves your memory
Ashwagandha has been used as a nootropic for more than 3000 years. A nootropic is a substance that enhances cognitive functions like creativity, motivation and memory in individuals. A study that analyzed the impact of Ashwagandha on psychomotor and cognitive performance found that taking Ashwagandha for 14 days increased reaction time without any sedative effects. So to improve your memory, decrease brain stress from oxidation and prevent degeneration of nerve cells, try taking Ashwagandha.
The scientific name of Ashwagandha is Withania somnifera. A somniferous substance is something that is capable of inducing sleep. But Ashwagandha is not a sedative. It acts by reducing stress, improving vitality and making the body more active and robust, thus restoring the natural sleep mechanism of the body. So if you are suffering from insomnia, especially the kind brought on by stress, drinking Ashwagandha herbal infusions might help you.
Ashwagandha is a complete herb. It fights stress, tension, anxiety, depression and even cognitive degenerative diseases. Taking Ashwagandha regularly can improve sexual function in both men and women. It also enhances your cognitive ability, making you more mentally alert and focused. You can take Ashwagandha either in powder form (by mixing with milk), as a capsule or as an herbal infusion.