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What Is Ashwagandha And How Is It Used

what is ashwagandha

What Is Ashwagandha.  

Ashwagandha is a short and stout shrub, with rounded leaves and occasional yellow flowers, well known for its healing properties. Ashwagandha is regarded as one of the most potent herbs in Ayurvedic healing, which is considered the most comprehensive mind/body connection focused health practices.  

There are records of Ashwagandha being used for medicinal purposes in the far east for thousands of years, but it has only recently been gaining popularity in the west. This most likely a result of free travel around the world, the integration of cultures, and the increased willingness of westerners to try natural medication as the multiple health benefits come to light. 

Frequently labeled as 'Indian ginseng' due to its revitalizing properties, Ashwagandha is actually closer related to nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, than anything else.  

All parts of the plant can be harvested and used for medicine, but the traditional method consists of mostly the root, and sometimes the bark and leaves.  

The Ashwagandha plant thrives in warm weather and is native to the middle east, northern Africa, and the dryer regions of India, although, due to demand, Aswagandha has been introduced to American soil and is currently being cultivated in multiple US states.     

How Is It Used?  

In a traditional application, Ashwagandha is used as a nerve tonic and adaptogen – an aid for the body to help it adapt to both physical and mental stressors.  

In India, Ashwagandha has been used for:  

  • Failure to thrive in young children
  • Weakness and frailness in the elderly
  • Rheumatism  
  • Digestive issues, including constipation  
  • Sleeping disorders, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, sleep paralysis, etc.  
  • Mental health issues, anxiety, depression, stress, etc.
  • General inflammation  
  • Joint pain
  • Goiter  
  • Parasites/worms
  • Hormone imbalances and low sex drive

When made into a paste and applied topically the root can also be used to treat many skin irritations and infections, including boils, ulcers, and eczema.  

There is some evidence to suggest that Ashwagandha can also help to boost and stabilize the immune system after surgery, chemo and some serious illnesses.  

ashwagandha benefits

Common Ways To Take Ashwagandha.  

The basic teaching behind Ayurveda is that our bodies are made up of all of the nutrients that we digest, and once metabolized, they start to form our DNA, cells, organs, and tissue. This brings new meaning to the belief "you are what you eat".  

The most common way to take Ashwagandha is through eating/digesting. This can take form in many different ways, be it a hot tea, a concentrated tonic or the traditional method of mixing the fine powder of the root with honey.  

In countries such as America in the west, Ashwagandha is almost exclusively consumed in capsule form, filled with 500mg - 1000mg of Ashwagandha powder.  

Sufferers of sleep disorder are recommended to mix the powder into a hot decaffeinated drink, such as a herbal tea or hot milk and honey.  

Some say that taking Ashwagandha with sugars like honey or fats such as ghee may help the root to be absorbed quicker and work more effectively.     

Making a paste out of any part of the plant, including the berries can also be applied as a topical ointment. There are many studies to support the effectiveness of topic application, especially for skin inflammations such as eczema.   

Ashwagandha health benefits.  

The ashwagandha benefits are incredibly broad, especially due to the positive effects it can have on the mind. There is solid evidence and scientific backing to support the notion that the health of the mind directly influences the health of the body.  

Stress is probably the best example to use, as it affects people of any age, race, gender, etc. When mentally stressed, physical symptoms are incredibly common: Hair loss, joint pain, digestive issues, weight gain and so on, are all typical in those suffering from stress and the same can be seen those suffering from anxiety and depression.  

The health benefits of taking Ashwagandha has made it somewhat of a super medicine, with countless positives and very little (if any) negative side effects.  

12 scientifically-backed health benefits of Ashwagandha and what is ashwagandha used for.  

1. Readily available, and considered safe for most people.

A wild, exotic root that can only be found in far corners of the amazon rainforest could cure anything and be the best medicine in the world, but it would be almost useless if it wasn't accessible or sustainable.  

Luckily the Ashwagandha bush is not such a plant and grows fruitfully in warm conditions.  

Fast to grow and easy to cultivate, the ashwagandha plant is now being grown not only in its native countries of India, North Africa and the middle east, but also in the united states.  

Like most herbs and natural medications, ashwagandha is widely considered as a safe product, and as such, it is easy to buy at most health and supplement stores – no need for a prescription!  

Some individuals, such as pregnant or breastfeeding women, are advised not to consume Ashwagandha root (or any non-prescribed medicine for that matter), as it may interfere with other medications.  

The same goes for those who have an autoimmune disease or diabetes, as taking ashwagandha might reduce the effectiveness of their regular medicine.  

2. Reduces inflammation.  

One of the most desirable attributes of Ashwagandha is its ability to reduce inflammation in the body.  

Whilst it can reduce acute inflammation (such as a bump on the knee,) it is more useful for managing chronic inflammation.  

Chronic inflammation is when the body produces a low-level, persistent, general inflammation throughout the body, in response to a perceived threat. Inflammation is useful when there is a threat of infection, or to heal injury, but when there is no reason it only produces negative side effects.  

As well as joint pain, headaches, and arthritis, chronic inflammation can lead to diseases such as cancer and heart disease.  

Following an 'anti-inflammatory diet' full of fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, as well as taking herbal medicines such as ashwagandha, is the best way to reduce/avoid chronic inflammation.

3. It can improve brain function and improve the recovery rate of an injured brain.  

Ashwagandha has been found to be full of powerful antioxidants that help to protect the body from free radicals and oxidization.  

Free radicals are atoms in the body without electrons and because atoms like to be paired up with electrons, they are constantly on the hunt for one to join with.

This process causes damage to cells, tissue, and DNA; if free radicals are left unmanaged, they will eventually lead to a decline in health in both the body and brain.  

ashwagandha health benefits

Free radicals occur naturally in the body as a result of normal bodily function, but not enough to damage the body. Damage only occurs when free radicals reach unproportionate levels.

There are 2 ways to manage free radicals:  

  1. By avoiding certain foods, particularly fried and avoiding carcinogens such as alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.  
  2. Consuming plenty of antioxidant foods.  

The antioxidant properties of Ashwagandha positively promotes brain health by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.  

A small 8-week study also found that brain damage sufferer's rate of recovery improved when supplementing with 500mg capsules of Ashwagandha.  

4. Regular use can lead to a reduction in blood pressure.  

Due to the anti-inflammatory properties of Ashwagandha, it is also considered an effective medicine for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.  

High blood pressure is the result of excess 'bad' cholesterol in the blood, settling on artery wally and forming plaque.  

Plaque is a waxy fatty substance that narrows the walls of the arteries, which in turn increases blood pressure.  

High cholesterol and blood pressure are the leading cause of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.  

The stress-relieving qualities of taking Ashwagandha can also promote general heart health.  

5. Boosts testosterone and promotes fertility in men.  

Regularly consuming ashwagandha has a significant effect on how the body produces hormones and the efficiency of which it can use them.  

Testosterone levels are notably improved when supplementing with ashwagandha and this, in turn, promotes fertility and a healthy male reproductive system.  

Testosterone plays a key role in:  

  • Producing body and facial hair
  • Muscle mass
  • Strength
  • Bone density
  • Sex drive/libido
  • Mood and mental awareness 
  • Memory and brainpower
  • Metabolism
  • Fertility  

A recent study of 80 infertile men, found that supplementing with ashwagandha can greatly improve sperm count and sperm mobility.     

6. It can improve muscle mass and promote weight loss.  

Because of the testosterone boosting properties of Ashwagandha, it can also be used and a fitness supplement.  

Increased levels of testosterone levels are directly linked to increased lean muscle tissue and reduced body fat.  

Having more muscle and less fat can encourage a faster metabolism, which in turn will further fat loss.  

If you are looking to put on the few pounds of muscle, and lean out in the process, then Ashwagandha could be a fantastic natural alternative to synthetic supplements.  

7. Reduces depression  

Depression is one of the most common mental health issues and it can be incredibly difficult to manage without the right treatment.  

There is a massive misconception surrounding depression, and that is that it is the same a being a little down, or regularly having bouts of the blues.

Depression is a serious condition that can be caused by both physical and environmental factors – it can also lead to other conditions such as anxiety, stress, and troubles with sleep.  

There is not a lot of evidence that specifically proves that ashwagandha is an effective anti-depressant, however, most users do demonstrate elevated mood, and decreased levels of stress.  

8. Relife from stress and anxiety  

Feelings of stress and anxiety can spring up at the worst of times, but luckily for most of us, these feelings are temporary and short-lived. For sufferers of chronic stress and anxiety, however, this is not that case.

Chronic stress and anxiety are more common than most would think, and it is not something that is openly spoken about. Some people believe that feeling stressed or having anxiety shows weakness, but this is could not be further than the truth.  

Along with lifestyle changes and daily practices, stress and anxiety can be successfully managed and controlled. The worst thing to do when having such feelings is to bottle them all up and try to ignore them.  

The reason why some people get stresses or anxious easier/more often can be because of the chemical composition of their brain.  

Mood altering chemicals that the brain produces, such as serotonin, can greatly affect one's ability to process emotions and stay clear-minded. People who have natural imbalances in these chemicals are at a far higher risk of developing mental illnesses.  

Ashwagandha has been found to be effective at rebalancing these chemicals and has the ability to block stress-related neuro-pathways, which reduces stressful thoughts.  

9. can reduce cortisol levels.  

Another stress-related benefit of Ashwagandha is its ability to reduce cortisol levels.  

Cortisol is released when blood sugar levels get too low, and is how the adrenal gland responds to feelings of stress.  

Usually dubbed the 'stress hormone', those who experience the highest levels of stress, also demonstrate higher levels of cortisol.  

what is ashwagandha used for

The theory is, that by limiting the production of cortisol, the body is somewhat tricked into thinking that it is no longer stressed. The suppression of cortisol is usually achieved through supplementation of synthetic drugs, however, it has been found that Ashwagandha could be equally effective, without posing any negative side effects.  

10. shows promising anti-cancer properties.  

It would be too much of a stretch to say that Ashwagandha cures cancer – but it certainly can help.

Briefly mentioned in point 2, Ashwagandha can help to reduce the risk of developing cancer, all thanks to its anti-inflammatory characteristics.  

Chronic inflammation is known to increase the risk of cancer, and worsen the symptoms in sufferers.   

Withaferin, a chemical compound found in Ashwagandha, could further its anti-cancer traits. Research surrounding withaferin has been limited to animal studies, but the results have been promising, and there is hope that the compound will have a similar effect on cancer in humans as well.  

Tests have found that Withaferin promotes apoptosis, which is the programmed death of cancerous cells.

A recent mice study also found that the use of withaferin reduces cancerous tumors by 70%-80%.  

It is unclear whether or not pure form Ashwagandha contains enough withaferin to be regarded as 'anti-cancerous', but research is moving quickly and is encouraging.  

11. Ashwagandha is all-natural.  

Not a specific health benefit, but more of a general one, Ashwagandha is a 100% natural supplement, which means no nasty chemicals, no unrecognized ingredients, and no unwanted side effects.  

Ashwagandha can be used as a powerful natural remedy, but it is still gentle on the body.  

Some medications can cause a huge list of problems while trying to fix just one. Ashwagandha is considerate of the whole system and does not help one part of the body, and the expense of another.  

Natural supplements also tend to be much safer than synthetic ones, which makes them better younger children and greatly reduces the risk of overdosing.  

Other herbal medicines.  

Chamomile.  

Chamomile is a soft herb that is widely used to reduce feelings of anxiety and encourage relaxation. Usually consumed as a tea made from the dried flowers of the herb, however, fresh chamomile is equally if not more effective. 

Chamomile can also be used topically to reduce inflammation and swelling. 

Garlic.  

Possibly one of the most widely used cooking ingredients, garlic is also a fantastic natural medicine.

Garlic is an amazing anti-fungal and is also effective at reducing blood pressure and cholesterol.  

The best part about garlic is that it is so easy to use and can be added easily to any savory dish.    

Ginger.  

Ginger root can be used in raw or dried form and is an excellent natural remedy for motion sickness and nausea. Frequently used in far east herbal medicines, ginger is also a gentle medicine for suppressing feelings of morning sickness in pregnant women.       

Ginseng.  

Ginseng is one of the most powerful natural medicines, as such, it is one of the few that requires caution. Ginseng has been used as a tonic and aphrodisiac for thousands of years and is recently being regarded by many as a 'cure-all'.  

The quality of ginseng varies greatly, so its effectiveness may vary each time you use it.  

Ginseng can also lead to high blood pressure with excess use, so it should always be consumed in moderation.    

Milk thistle.  

Milk thistle is an ancient natural medicine that originates in the Mediterranean. Milk thistle is a large thistle push, as the name suggests, with bright purple and pink flowers.  

Milk thistle is often used to treat liver problems, and to protect the liver from medication that may damage it. 

Valarian.  

In the united states, valerian is used to flavor the popular drink, root beer. but the root itself in its natural state can be used to reduce sleepiness, and decrease levels of anxiety.  

There are very few studies to support these claims, however, it's uses are widely used and advocated by many.    

Health Benefits Of Natural Herbal Remedies.  

There are many health benefits of the use of natural herbal remedies that can improve both mental and physical health, as well as general well-being.  

Natural herbal remedies such as the ones listed above are less invasive on the body as typical medication, and as a result, have far fewer negative side effects.  

For almost every health concern, there is a natural remedy.

Some people believe that natural herbal remedies are only placebos, and do not have any place in modern medicine, however, science has proven time and time again that there is fact to a lot of the claims.  

Of course, a 'cure-all' herb or root is unrealistic, but there are many natural plants that can genuinely have a positive effect on health, and help to manage illnesses.  

Natural medicine to stop anxiety.  

Anxiety is one of the most crippling mental health concerns, and it usually leads to others, such as depression, stress, and OCD.  

A health professional may want to push you towards using medication to help ease anxiety symptoms, but it does not take a lot of research to find out that prescription medication usually just masks the problems, instead of solving them.  

There are also countless negative side effects of these medications, and many say that symptoms present themself to far worse after stopping medication, than they were before starting.  

If you do not wish to take synthetic medications but are still struggling to deal with your symptoms, there are many natural medicines that you can try, which have the potential to help significantly.  

  • Chamomile tea
  • Passionflower
  • Valerian  
  • Lavender
  • Lemon balm
  • Cannabis/CBD  

Stopping anxiety is no easy task, and it would be wrong to think that a herb alone can cure your worries.

In Conjunction with councilling, emotional support, and active therapy (self-help or professional) natural herbs can be used effectively to help reduce anxiety and promote a healthy state of mind.       

medicine to stop anxiety

Other Ways To Reduce Stress and Anxiety Naturally.  

As well as emotional help, and natural medication; stress, and anxiety can be greatly reduced through daily practices.  

The practice of mindfulness, yoga, and meditation is regarded as one of the most effective ways someone can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

The best part is that all 3 can be done for free, without any special equipment or guidance, and they are 100% natural.  

Mindfulness:

Is the act of being in the present, no thoughts of the past and no imagination of the future. By practicing mindfulness, you can teach your mind to stop thinking anxious thoughts and to stop dwelling on the past.  

This does not mean that these types of thoughts won't pop up in your mind every now and again, but when they do, instead of giving them your undevoted attention, you simply learn how to let them pass.  

Practicing mindfulness and being 'present' is incredibly effective for relieving stress and anxiety.  

Meditation and yoga:  

Meditation and yoga are both mindfulness practices. Meditation is like mindful exercise for the mind, and yoga for the body.  

Meditation can involve sitting down in a quiet place and focusing on your breath, or it could involve paying close attention to the flickering flame of a candle. My personal favorite form of meditation is 'walking meditation', in which you walk barefoot on the earth, and focus on connecting yourself with the ground with every step.

The goal of meditation is to not pay any attention to thought, but instead putting complete focus on just being present.

Yoga Is the manipulation of the body through various stretches and poses. Yoga has many health benefits for the body, but also the mind.  

When practicing yoga it is also encouraged that you are not distracted from your session, but instead completely in tune with your body, feeling the stretches, and the power of your poses.