Scientific Name: Withania somnifera
Common Name: Indian Winter cherry, sometimes called Indian ginseng.
Parts Used: Root
Ashwagandha literally means ‘Ashwa-horse’ and ‘Gandha-smell’ in Sanskrit. It confers the strength and virility of a horse. It is a widely acclaimed Ayurvedic drug for people of all ages, that provides all sorts of other benefits for your body and brain. The plant is a short, tender, perennial shrub and a member of the nightshade family of plants.
Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen and is a tonic. The root and leaf contain the highest number of steroidal compounds that includes the lactones WithaferinA, and carbon-27-glycowithanolides, collectively known as Withanolides. It also consists of alkaloids [tropine, pseudotropine, isopelletrine, anaferine] and saponins. The root is an important herb in Ayurvedic medicine, used for around 3000 years.
Ashwagandha is a prominent herb and widely used in Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda recognizes the herb particularly for its building, strengthening and nourishing nature. It balances Vata and Kapha in excess. Due to Ashwagandha’s heating, unctuous, building nature; it can imbalance Pitta and worsen ama too. It is also referred to as ‘balya’ in Ayurveda meaning giving strength. It’s known to improve energy, increase stamina and endurance.
Ashwagandha has lots of uses as the adaptogenic herb helps to promote balance in key systems of the body that includes the endocrine, reproductive, immune systems and overall energy metabolism. It’s known to enhance thyroid functions. Ashwagandha is especially useful in fighting fatigue associated with stress. It is also applied to the skin for treating wounds.
- It reduces blood sugar levels through its effects on insulin secretion and sensitivity. It is also known to reduce fat and sugar levels in the blood.
- It has anti-cancer properties. Ashwagandha helps reduce apoptosis and also impedes the growth of new cancer cells; thereby it helps in treating several types of cancers – breast, lung, colon, brain & ovarian cancer.
- It is a stress-busting herbal adaptogen that help lowers the stress hormone ‘Cortisol’ levels.
- It is used in tranquillizers and anti-depressant drugs as it helps overcome depression and relieve physical and mental stress.
- It’s an aphrodisiac and supports sexual health. It helps increase testosterone levels and significantly boosts sperm quality & fertility in men. Ashwagandha has positive effects on your libido, sexual performance and fertility. It is also known to improve semen quality in infertile men.
- It can improve body composition, increase muscle mass, reduce body fat and increase strength in men.
- It may help decrease inflammation. It has anti-inflammatory properties that relieve joint inflammation and inhibits inflammatory enzymes, which makes it useful in managing inflammatory diseases.
- It lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, thereby improves heart health. Studies suggest it helps in reducing fasting blood sugar, LDL, very-LDL, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
- It also improves brain function, memory, reaction times and the ability to perform tasks. The withanamides in the herb exerts neuroprotective effects. These active constituents can cross the blood-brain barrier, hence being studied for stress-induced neurological disorders.
- It improves thyroid functions. The herb helps to support normal energy metabolism and thyroid health. It increases T4 (Thyroxine) in serum that supports thyroid functions, thereby promoting mood and immune functions.