Ashwagandha has carved a niche for itself in Ayurveda because of its rejuvenating properties that promote physical and emotional well-being. Ashva in Sanskrit means ‘horse’ and gandha stands for ‘smell’ and like it’s name the herb has a somewhat horse-like smell and imparts a stallion like strength to whoever consumes it. Native to India, North Africa, and the Middle East, Ashwagandha is a small shrib with yellow flowers and red fruit. The extract is typically taken from the berries or roots of the plant. It is also referred to as Withania Somnifera, Indian Ginseng or Winter Cherry.
Ashwagandha has been slowly getting a rep because of it’s healing properties. Many celebrities who regularly use it also boast of its magical properties. So much so, that even actress and health-guru Gwyneth Paltrow has mentioned it in her goop detox recipe. And unlike the other exotic variants of superfoods that find their way into celebrity diets, Ashwagandha actually does live up to its reputation. Read on to know more about how this wonder herb is good for your body, mind, and soul.
Ashwagandha is a natural adaptogen, and like most adaptogens it works towards restoring the balance in the hormone levels, which in turns alleviates stress levels and boost energy. Withanolides are an active component in this herb and are responsible to help the body cope with daily stress and improve one’s thinking ability. It increases immunity and improves focus and mental clarity which helps alleviate the symptoms of neurodegenerative and adrenal diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and hypertension. Adding a spoon of ashwagandha to milk before bedtime is shown to improve the quality of sleep. It’s no surprise that it is found in many tranquilizers and antidepressants since it helps to overcome mental and physical fatigue and stress.
Since it is a powerful adaptogen, ashwagandha increases an individual’s ability to adapt to external factors. It helps the body to maintain a balanced state while under physical stress and improves recovery. Unlike other stimulants like coffee or energy drinks, ashwagandha doesn’t produce a spike and then a consequent crash in energy. A recent study found that regular use can improve stamina and reduce fatigue in the long run. A group of 57 young male subjects with little or no resistance training experience were split in two groups. One group was given 300 mg of ashwagandha to be taken for a period of 8 weeks, while the other was given a starch placebo. They were then made to undergo moderate to rigorous resistance training during the duration of the study. It was observed that the group that opted for the herb showed a significant increase in muscle mass, strength, and respiratory functioning in comparison to the group consuming the placebo. Another study also found that along with muscle strength , ashwagandha also increased serum testosterone leading to a significant growth in muscle mass and decrease in body fat.
Stress is a major reason for pre-mature ageing. And since ashwagandha is a natural stress-buster, it has been known to also boost longevity and improve the quality of health. Packed with antioxidants, amino acids, and iron it helps protect the skin against free radical damage and slows down the ageing process. It has been used as an alternative treatment for several mental degenerative diseases due to it’s ability to promote the growth of new nerve cells and protect the existing brain cells. It is known to stimulate DHEA, which maintains adrenal and thyroid functioning and stimulates the production of natural skin oils and proteins such as hyaluronan, elastin and collagen.
Traditionally ashwagandha is used as a powder and consumed by mixing it with honey and warm milk. This concoction is usually had before bedtime as it helps to regulate the sleep and wake cycles. You can also add it to your morning coffee, green tea, matchas, or smoothies. Many also add it to apple cider vinegar and chug this mixture down as a morning tonic. Add a few droplets of liquid ashwagandha to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and 8 ounces of water. Ashwagandha is also found as an ingredient in Chyawanprash and is available in the form of powder capsules. Take your pick and enjoy the many benefits of this wonder herb.