Health Benefits of Ashwagandha

ASHWAGANDHA

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera, Solanaceae) can also be referred to as ‘Indian Ginseng’ or ‘Indian Winter Cherry’.

One significant herb in Ayurveda is Ashwagandha which has been used as a Rasayana (tonic), a herbal or metallic concoction that promotes physical and mental happiness. Ashwagandha is the most prominent Ayurveda Rasayana herb.

Fresh leaves of Ashwagandha

Overview

Ashwagandha is considered to be a popular stress reliever.

Ashwagandha is available as a finely sieved powder that can be combined with water and ghee or honey.  

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It improves memory and boosts the function of the neurological system and the brain. The body’s stress resistance is enhanced as Ashwagandha is a stress reliever.

By increasing cell-mediated immunity, Ashwagandha boosts the body’s resistance to disease. It also has powerful antioxidant qualities, which help to protect cells from free radical damage.

What is Ashwagandha used for?

The flowers of Ashwagandha are used as diuretics and anti-depressants while its seeds have an anthelmintic effect. Ashwagandha is helpful for insomnia, leucoderma, constipation, goiter, etc. They are also used for treating pimples, boils, stomach worms and piles.

In combination with other medicines, Ashwagandha can be applied to the place of snakebite, ulcer and swellings.

The roots of Ashwagandha possess various medicinal properties, helping to treat conditions like stress, depression, arthritis, gastrointestinal issues,  fever, and memory loss.

The seeds, leaves and even the fruits of this plant have been used to treat a variety of ailments.

Health benefits of Ashwagandha

Stress & anxiety

Being an adaptogen, Ashwagandha works to counteract the negative effects of stress on the body by reducing cortisol levels, the “stress hormone”. Ashwagandha increases plasma corticosteroids that reduce stress and stress-induced stomach ulcers.

It helps to calm the mind. The plant has been shown to aid in the reduction of anxiety.

Ashwagandha has been shown to alleviate anxiety symptoms, including nervousness, a racing heart, sweating and emotions of impending danger and fatigue.

Neurological Disease

Ashwagandha can serve as a pain reliever by inhibiting the transmission of pain signals through the central nervous system. It acts as an analgesic and antipyretic by soothing the nervous system.

The anti-inflammatory property of Ashwagandha is found to be useful in treating Rheumatoid Arthritis and other types of Arthritis. Its anti-inflammatory effect helps reduce inflammation.

Ashwagandha is known to treat epilepsy. This, along with rich sources of omega 3 fatty acids like flax seeds, is said to delay the occurrence of Epileptic Seizures.

Skin conditions

Skin issues and concerns like acne, breakouts, pigmentation, premature ageing and skin cancer are rising with the increase in environmental pollution.

Small airborne contaminants become stuck in pores and cause harm to the skin by creating oxidative stress.

Diabetes

Ashwagandha intake helps in managing Diabetes by regulating insulin synthesis in the body. This improves the glucose breakdown in the blood, which in turn increases the secretion of insulin in the bloodstream.

When Ashwagandha is consumed as extracts for a longer time, the blood sugar level is noticed to be relatively low.

Ashwagandha can also alter the body’s metabolism, which is shown to be very beneficial for persons with Type 2 Diabetes.

Increases muscle mass and strength

Studies reveal that Ashwagandha intake is linked to a considerable gain in muscular mass and strength. This implies that Ashwagandha supplementation may be beneficial when used in combination with resistance exercise.

Improves sexual function 

The roots of Ashwagandha function as an adaptogen and helps in managing stress by lowering the stress hormone level in the blood. They also act as an energy booster.

Stress has a negative impact on sexual function; therefore stress management contributes directly to sexual health. Ashwagandha root also improves overall stamina, vitality and endurance.

Boosts fertility and testosterone levels in men

A boost in testosterone levels can be seen with Ashwagandha supplementation, along with increased sperm quality and high antioxidant levels.

As indicated by an increase in ejaculation volume, sperm concentration and motile sperm count, as well as an increase in testosterone serum levels, Ashwagandha root extract is effective.

Sharpens focus and memory

The herb, Ashwagandha promotes longevity while also assisting the mind and mental capacity.

The neuroprotective effect of Ashwagandha helps to improve memory, reduce oxidative brain stress, and prevent nerve cell degeneration. This also supports and maintains brain health throughout one’s lifespan, especially during older age.

Supports heart health

Ashwagandha has a number of heart health benefits, including the treatment of chest pain, excessive cholesterol, high blood pressure and various other cardiac conditions. Incorporating Ashwagandha powder into the diet is proven to be advantageous in keeping the heart healthy.

Healthcare practitioners such as a doctor must be notified when Ashwagandha is added to a person’s diet. Ashwagandha may boost or lessen the effects of other medications a person is taking.

How to take Ashwagandha?

How to Take Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha powder

Ashwagandha can be taken in the following form:

  • Tablets – One tablet of Ashwagandha twice a day can be taken along with warm water or milk or as per a doctor’s prescription.
  • Capsules – Ashwagandha capsules can be taken twice a day with warm water or milk or as directed by the doctor.
  • Powdered Ashwagandha (Churna) – Ashwagandha powder is ingested in many ways and can be incorporated into many dishes due to its wide range of health benefits.

        It is consumed as,

  • Add Ashwagandha with tea, Milkshake,
  • Ladoo of Ashwagandha
  • Shrikhand Ashwagandha
  • Mix with honey or milk

Recommended dosage

300 milligrams of Ashwagandha twice a day is an ideal dosage suggested by experts.

Larger doses may cause unpleasant side effects like vomiting and diarrhoea. Regular intake of lower dosages is recommended to get the most out of its balancing benefits.

Source of Ashwagandha

Source of Ashwagandha

Heavy metals such as cadmium, arsenic, mercury and lead among others, should be checked for in their products.

Side effects

‘Too much of anything is good for nothing’ is a popular proverb that can be applied to Ashwagandha consumption as well. Though Ashwagandha has a plethora of benefits, side effects can occur at times.

  • Continuous intake of Ashwagandha for up to three months is considered safe. The effect of prolonged Ashwagandha intake is unknown. When high doses are taken, it might cause diarrhoea, stomach distress and vomiting. Liver issues can occur in rare scenarios.
  • Healthcare practitioners such as a doctor must be notified when Ashwagandha is added to a person’s diet. Ashwagandha may boost or lessen the effects of other medications a person is taking.

Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

Ashwagandha intake during pregnancy is not recommended as it is not safe and evidence suggests that it may induce miscarriage.

The effect of Ashwagandha on breastfeeding women and breast milk is unknown. To be on the safer side, it is advised for lactating women to avoid it.

Surgery

Studies on animals suggest that Ashwagandha possesses a tranquillising and sedating effect that slows down the Central Nervous System.

Drugs taken during and after surgery, when combined with Ashwagandha, may exacerbate this nervous system slowness.

To prevent this, it is advised to stop taking Ashwagandha at least two weeks before surgery. A surgeon should also be aware if the patient is on any additional medications or supplements.

Thyroid disorders

Thyroid problems can be aggravating. Clinical trials have demonstrated that Ashwagandha can boost thyroid hormone levels in persons with low thyroid function who don’t need medical treatment (subclinical hypothyroidism).

Ashwagandha when combined with thyroid hormone drugs for the treatment of abnormal thyroid activity, may cause thyroid hormone levels to rise above normal. If the levels get too high, a person may develop thyrotoxicosis, a hazardous medical disease.

Interactions of Ashwagandha

Interactions of Ashwagandha with certain medications are mentioned below.

Immunosuppressants

Ashwagandha has the ability to stimulate the immunological system. Consuming it alongside immunosuppressants may reduce the efficiency of these drugs.

Some medications that decrease the immune system activity include:

  • Azathioprine
  • Basiliximab
  • Cyclosporine
  • Tacrolimus
  • Sirolimus
  • Prednisone
  • Corticosteroids

Benzodiazepines

Ashwagandha can induce sleep and make a person feel drowsy. Sedatives are medications that also have the same effect on humans. When Ashwagandha is used with sedative drugs, it might cause excessive sleepiness.

These sedative medications include

  • Clonazepam
  • Diazepam
  • Lorazepam
  • Alprazolam
  • Flurazepam

CNS depressants

Ashwagandha can make a person feel sleepy and drowsy. CNS depressants work by slowing the brain’s activity and relaxing an individual. It is sometimes used to reverse insomnia. When ashwagandha is used with CNS depressants, it might cause uncontrollable drowsiness and sleep.

These include,

  • Clonazepam
  • Lorazepam
  • Phenobarbital
  • Zolpidem

AntiDiabetes drugs

Ashwagandha has been shown to lower blood sugar levels. Blood sugar is also kept under control using Diabetes medications.

When Ashwagandha is used along with diabetic medicines, the blood sugar may drop too low causing Hypoglycemia.

Keeping a tight eye on the blood sugar levels is mandatory. It’s recommended that the dose of the Diabetes medication needs to be adjusted accordingly.

Anti-diabetic drugs are

  • Glimepiride
  • Glyburide
  • Insulin,
  • Metformin
  • Chlorpropamide

Antihypertensive drugs

Ashwagandha has the potential to reduce blood pressure. When Ashwagandha is combined with blood pressure medications, blood pressure levels can drop too low.

Antihypertensive medications include

  • Captopril
  • Losartan
  • Valsartan
  • Diltiazem
  • Hydrochlorothiazide
  • Furosemide

Disadvantages of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is known for its beneficial effects but they do cause side effects and can be disadvantageous in rare cases.

Stomach Upset

Excessive intake of Ashwagandha can cause inflammation in the lining of the stomach resulting in stomach upset. The symptoms disappear when Ashwagandha is not taken.

Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea can be a consequence of intolerance to Ashwagandha as well as irritation of the stomach which can be a result of high Ashwagandha consumption.

Nausea and vomiting

Large doses of Ashwagandha can cause gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and nausea. Ceasing Ashwagandha intake can resolve the effects.

Conclusion

The king of ayurvedic herbs, Ashwagandha, possesses a wide variety of health benefits. Being a prominent adaptogen, Ashwagandha is mostly known for its ability to relieve tension and anxiety, as well as its role in enhancing human sexual function.

Moderate intake proves to be useful, while overuse of Ashwagandha can cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach upset.

Doctor consultation is mandatory for Ashwagandha intake while already on other medications or during surgery.

FAQ’s

1.What is Ashwagandha beneficial for?

Ashwagandha relaxes the mind, reduces oedema, blood pressure and cholesterol levels and boosts sexual activity. There is a significant reduction in stress and anxiety levels while taking Ashwagandha due to the adaptogen properties.

2.What are the dangers of taking Ashwagandha?

High Ashwagandha doses might produce nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Precautions must be taken if a person has Diabetes, cancer, thyroid, ulcers, multiple sclerosis and lupus.

3.Does Ashwagandha result in weight gain?

It is very unlikely for Ashwagandha to cause weight gain. However, there is a potential for it to help in weight loss.

4.Does Ashwagandha really work?

Ashwagandha is safe for most people and works wonders. Its root is considered safe and beneficial for managing sleeplessness, stress and anxiety.

5.Can Ashwagandha lead to hair loss?

One important herb in ayurvedic medicine for preventing hair loss is Ashwagandha. It has been used as a stress reliever and to boost energy levels and concentration. This quality of Ashwagandha helps in managing the root cause of hair loss.

6.Can Ashwagandha be consumed daily?

Absolutely. Taking Ashwagandha on a daily basis is safe, however, it should never be taken in excess of the authorised doses or for longer than the recommended duration.

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