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Ashwagandha – Powerful benefits and uses

written by Vidya Sury April 23, 2011
Ashwagandha benefits uses and sideeffects

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Ashwagandha or the Indian Winter cherry aka Indian Ginseng or Withania Somnifera is a revered herb of the Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine as a Rasayana (tonic). Ashwagandha is a small evergreen shrub that grows in India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. The root and berry are used to make medicine. It has long been considered as an excellent rejuvenator, a general health tonic and a cure for a number of health complaints.

How does Ashwagandha work?

Ashwagandha contains chemicals that help calm the brain, reduce swelling (inflammation), lower blood pressure, and alter the immune system. Ashwagandha is usually available as a churna or powder that can be consumed by mixing with water, ghee (clarified butter) or honey.

Ashwagandha benefits uses and sideeffects

Overview of Ashwagandha benefits

It is a sedative, diuretic, anti-inflammatory and generally respected for increasing energy, endurance, and acts as an adaptogen that exerts a strong immunostimulatory and an anti-stress agent. An adaptogen is a substance which helps minimise stress related fluctuations in the diet.

  • It treats cold and coughs, ulcers, emaciation, diabetes, conjunctivitis, epilepsy, senile dementia, leprosy, Parkinson’s disease, nervous disorders, rheumatism, intestinal infections, bronchitis, asthma, impotence and a suppressant in HIV/AIDS patients.
  • It is effective for insomnia but does not act as a sedative. Its rejuvenative and nervine properties produce energy which in turn help the body to settle and sleep.
  • In arthritis, which involves joints that are painful, dry, swollen and inflamed, this would be the herb of
  • It lowers blood pressure and is highly effective in stopping the formation of stress induced ulcers.
  • Stimulates the immune system, combats inflammation, increases memory, and helps maintain general health and wellness.
  • It is believed to be helpful for people who either overeat or under eat due to environmental stress. It may also help boost metabolism and eliminate irregularities in digestion.
  • It increases hemoglobin (red blood count) and hair melanin. It stabilizes blood sugar and lowers cholesterol.
  • Increases the production of bone marrow, semen, and acts anti-aging.
  • As an anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory agent it is approved in several studies.
  • Its steroidal is much higher than that of hydrocortisone which is a common treatment in cancer cases.
  • Treats diseases like TB, chronic upper respiratory diseases and HIV due to its strong immuno-stimulatory activity
  • It is recognized as a blood tonic, especially in gynecological disorders including anemia and irregular menstruation.
  • It improves the function of the reproductive system promoting a healthy sexual and reproductive balance.
  • It improves the body’s defense against disease by improving the cell-mediated immunity.
  • It possesses potent antioxidant properties that help protect against cellular damage caused by free radicals.
  • It lowers cortisol levels, and helps fight symptoms of anxiety and depression.

How to use Ashwagandha

  • A paste of Ashwagandha leaves when applied on a local inflammation acts as anti-inflammatory.
  • The herbal massage oil with the herb is useful in many conditions like paralysis, epilepsy, sleeplessness etc.
  • The preparation of the herb processed with ghee, sugar and honey is a very good aphrodisiac and increases semen quantity, sperm count and mobility. It is effectively used in Erectile dysfunction, low libido and premature ejaculation.
  • Churna or powder of the herb when used regularly helps to improve the conditions like senile debility, rheumatism, in all cases of general debility, nervous exhaustion, brain-fag, low of memory, loss of muscular energy and spermatorrhoea. It increases body energy and vigor. It helps to rebuild the body system which is worn out due to chronic diseases like syphilis, rheumatism etc. It also replenishes the lowered energy of body due to over-work, mental exertion thus preventing early ageing.
  • A good remedy to balance sweet cravings for vata can be prepared using Ashwagandha. Roast an ounce of the herb in ghee and add a tablespoon of date sugar. Store in a screw top glass jar in the refrigerator. This can be eaten in the morning about twenty minutes before breakfast, in the mid-afternoon— if sweet cravings arise— and at bed time with a cup of hot milk.
  • When used regularly, is very useful in emaciated children. It increases body weight and body energy.
  • Regular use helps to reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
  • Fine powder of the herb well mixed with oil is very use full in many skin conditions.
  • Ashwagandha also acts as galactogogue and thickens and increases the nutritive value of the milk when given to nursing mothers.

Specific Ashwagandha benefits

Ashwagandha benefits all parts of the body and can be used as a tonic or in oral form. Several studies have shown that it is useful in addressing the following health problems:

1) Osteoarthritis: A study in 2008 , scientists tested Ashwagandha’s effects on human cartilage and found that the herb may help protect against inflammation and cartilage damage associated with osteoarthritis.

2) Anxiety: In an animal-based study published in 2000, researchers found that Ashwagandha had an anti-anxiety effect similar to that of lorazepam (a medication used to treat anxiety disorders). The herb also appeared to ease depression.

3) Type 2 Diabetes: Ashwagandha may help normalize high blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity, according to preliminary, animalbased research published in 2008.

4) Cancer: In a 2003 study, tests on human tumor cell lines revealed that ashwagandha may slow the growth of lung, breast, and colon cancer cells. Published in 2007, another study on human cells shows that it may inhibit tumor growth without harming normal cells.

5) Anti-Oxidant: Ashwagandha used as an antioxidant, as studies have shown that it can eliminate free radicals from your immune system. Free radicals are the agents that cause the breakdown of your body’s tissue, alternatively known as aging.

6) Provide energy: Studies show that supplementing with ashwagandha can provide the energy needed to get through long workouts while also allowing for maximum recovery and cell re-growth.

7) General tonic: Ashwagandha is a tonic, which increases sperm count and sexual potency. In the rural areas, this plant is cooked and given to tuberculosis patients. It also increases the iron content in the blood.

Side effects

Excessive doses of ashwagandha have been reported to cause abortions, so pregnant women should avoid this herb. Do not take this herb with other sedatives or anti-anxiety drugs. Large doses can cause diarrhea, stomach upset and vomiting.

Here is an overview of Ashwagandha

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