Ayurveda is the most sacred science of life, practised in India since more than 5000 years ago. The discovery of Ashwagandha in Ayurveda was a milestone.
Ashwagandha was discovered as a powerful rejuvenating medicinal herb for treating emotional and physical conditions.
What is Ashwagandha?
In Sanskrit, Ashwagandha translates as Ashwa, meaning horse, and gandha, meaning smell. Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub that grows in various parts of India and Africa. The Ashwagandha root smells like a horse, hence the given name. Many others consider the meaning of Ashwagandha to be the power of the stallion horse, which refers to bringing the stamina and strength of the stallion.
The oldest medical system in the world, Ayurveda, considers Ashwagandha a Rasayana, meaning it maintains youth both emotionally and physically. Therefore, ashwagandha is also considered an adaptogen.
What are the benefits of ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is best known for its role in combating stress and anxiety, though there are many other astonishing benefits that can’t be ignored.
- Stress and anxiety reduction
A study published on Ashwagandha in recent years and its effects on anxiety showed that the participants given Ashwagandha for a period of 12 weeks had a 55.0% reduction in anxiety score compared to the participants with no Ashwagandha treatment. The major findings concluded that there were no side effects observed. In fact, the findings indicated that participants taking Ashwagandha had improved concentration, less fatigue, and an overall improvement in quality of life.
- Thyroid hormone function is improved.
Research studies found that Ashwagandha root extract has a positive impact on a sluggish and underactive thyroid. The key findings were that the root extract significantly improved serum levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroxin (T4) levels.
It is also important to note that Ashwagandha increases thyroid function and, therefore, it may not be suitable for people with hyperactive thyroid conditions.
- Balance blood sugar levels
Ashwagandha has been observed to play a role in reducing blood sugar levels in diabetes. Due to the presence of flavonoids in Ashwagandha, it is believed to reduce blood sugar levels. Flavanoids possess hypoglycemic qualities.
A study on rodents showed that Ashwagandha extracts from both root and leaf when fed to diabetic rodents achieved normal blood sugar levels.
Numerous studies on Ashwagandha also suggest that it has a role to play in improving insulin sensitivity.
- It improves skin texture and promotes hair growth.
Skin: Ashwagandha can promote the production of natural oils present in the skin along with important compounds like collagen, hyaluron, and elastin. The production of these compounds in the skin makes the skin remain firm, hydrated and supple.
Hair: Ashwagandha has been found to be associated with an increase in the production of melanin. This is the pigment that gives natural colour to hair. Thus, Ashwagandha can help in delaying greying of hair.
Ashwagandha has been found to have different benefits for both men and women.
Health benefits of Ashwagandha in men
According to studies, Ashwagandha increases testerone hormone levels and improves male fertility.
Numerous studies were carried out on men with both low sperm counts and men with normal counts. It showed both groups had a significant rise in the levels of semen volume, sperm concentration, and motility.
Ashwagandha has also shown its role in increasing muscle mass and strength. Research findings suggested there was significant growth in muscle mass and strength when a group of young men with less experience in resistance training were given Ashwagandha supplements for a period of eight weeks compared to the other group who were not given one. It also observed a rise in testosterone levels and a decrease in body fat in those young men.
Ashwagandha’s health benefits for women
Research studies showed that Ashwagandha has a positive impact on reducing hot flashes, a classic symptom of menopause. The study was carried out to check the effect of Ashwagandha on menopausal women. The Ashwagandha supplement was given for eight weeks to menopausal women and showed that along with the reduction of hot flashes, there was a reduction in night sweating. Another finding from the same study also showed a reduction in common psychological aspects of menopause like depression, mood swings, anxiety, and irritability.
Ashwagandha has also shown positive results in women with low libido. The study concluded that women with the less sexual drive or sexual dysfunction who were given Ashwagandha for one month showed marked improvement in sexual arousal and orgasm.
However, more research is required in terms of irregular periods, period pain, and other health conditions.
Can Ashwagandha prevent stress-related weight gain?
Stress increases the levels of a stress hormone called cortisol. The cortisol hormone has a role to play in increasing fat deposition in the body. Therefore, cortisol is strongly linked to obesity.
Leptin is another hormone that regulates energy balance by suppressing food intake and thereby promoting weight loss. Stress reduction helps to maintain normal leptin levels and therefore can control obesity. This link between the two hormones further supports that treatment with Ashwagandha can be helpful in limiting stress-associated weight gain by reducing cortisol levels in the body.
Are there any side effects of Ashwagandha?
Long-term studies have not yet been carried out to rule out any particular side effect of Ashwagandha. However, women with PCOS ( polycystic ovarian syndrome) should avoid Ashwagandha administration as it can increase the testerone hormone levels, which are already high in PCOS patients.
Pregnant women should avoid taking ashwagandha as it may cause distress to the foetus and premature labor.
What form does Ashwagandha come in?
Ashwagandha comes in three forms: powder, tablet or capsule form, and liquid form. One can have whichever way best suits him or her.
What is the best time to take Ashwagandha?
Most research studies indicate morning is the best time. However, it can be taken anytime either day or night.
It is recommended that patients must discuss with their doctor the exact dosage based on their medical condition and include Ashwagandha in their daily regime.
Ashwagandha has truly proved to be the scientific miraculous discovery of ancient Indian scientists. Furthermore, research studies may help to discover more potential benefits of Ashwagandha, therefore making it a treatment for people with varied emotional and physical conditions.