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Ashwagandha: The Ancient Root with Modern Benefits

In today’s fast-paced and stressful lifestyles, people are seeking natural ways to manage stress, anxiety, and fatigue, making it a popular choice. Ashwagandha has renewing properties consequently promoting longevity and overall well-being.

Scientific evidence has shown the beneficial medical effects the Ashwagandha or Withania Somnifera plant has on many important aspects of the human body. Whether it be stress relieving, brain or nervous system control, or cardiorespiratory endurance.

As we progress in our modern-day, ever-changing lifestyles, the importance of a healthy lifestyle is paramount. This popular ayurvedic herb is so beneficial to promote our everyday health and so here is the why, what, and how:

The Ashwagandha or Withania Somnifera Plant.

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha, scientifically known as Withania somnifera, is an ancient medicinal herb with a rich history in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. Often referred to as the “Indian ginseng” or “winter cherry,” ashwagandha has gained popularity for its potential health benefits and adaptogenic properties.

The evergreen shrub in the Solanaceae or nightshade family grows in India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. Although part of the Nightshade family, the plant resembles more of a Tomato. Therefore, if you are allergic to eggplants, tomatoes, or peppers, you might also be allergic to Ashwagandha.

The Latin species name somnifera means “sleep-inducing”. The name “ashwagandha” combines the Sanskrit words ‘ashva’, meaning horse, and ‘gandha’, meaning smell, reflecting that the root has a strong horse-like odor.

When there is a case of a fever, an antihelmintic is given. This is an infusion of the plant’s leaves with a bitter taste and a distinct odor. In Ayurveda berries and sensitive leaves are used to treat tumors, tubercular glands, carbuncles, and ulcers.

The use of ashwagandha dates all the way back to 6000 BC. Originally, ground into a powder-like form and then mixed into tea or water with added honey. In Modern medicine, it is easily accessible in powder form to add to smoothies or simply take in capsule form!

Different Forms of Ashwagandha/ Withania somnifera
  • Root ExtractAshwagandha extract is a concentrated root extract form of the herb. It is made by extracting the active elements from the roots using alcohol or water. Liquid extracts can be added to water or other beverages for consumption.

  • Ashwagandha PowderAshwagandha powder is made from dried and ground roots from the plant. It is the most traditional and adaptable form of Withania Somnifera. The powder can be mixed with water, milk, or smoothies, and consumed orally.

  • Ashwagandha SupplementsThis is a convenient option for those who prefer a pre-measured dosage. Capsules or tablets usually contain powdered extract or standardized root extract. Ashwagandha is most commonly found in capsule form and is mostly recommended to take 200 – 300mg daily.

  • Ashwagandha TeaAshwagandha tea is made by steeping dried roots or powder in hot water. It is a soothing and calming beverage often consumed before bedtime

Ashwagandha in three forms, originally bare root, powder and capsules.
What is Ayurvedic medicine?

Ayurvedic medicine, also known as Ayurveda, is a traditional system of medicine, involving Ayurvedic herbs. It originated in ancient India over 5,000 years ago. It is one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems. Ayurveda is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit.

In Ayurveda, ashwagandha is a tonic to revitilize and restore, particularly for the nervous system. It helps balance the body’s energy, strengthen the immune system, and promote overall vitality.

There are many well-known mental health benefits of ashwagandha. It is a medhya rasayana, which means that it helps maintain youth, both mentally and physically. As well as a substance that enhances cognitive function and supports mental clarity. It promotes memory, focus, and concentration while reducing anxiety and promoting a calm state of mind.

Modern Health Benefits of Ashwagandha

Health benefits from ashwagandha are often attributed to its high concentration of withanolides (naturally occurring steroid). The prevention of inflammation and tumor growth is one of the advantages.

Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects on Stress and Anxiety Management

Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen, a natural substance that helps the body adapt to stress and maintain balance. It works by modulating the body’s stress response system, including the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. By regulating cortisol levels and supporting adrenal gland function, it will help the body cope with various stressors more effectively.

Ashwagandha has been studied for its anxiolytic properties, meaning it may help reduce anxiety symptoms. By modulating neurotransmitters such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and serotonin, it regulates anxiety and mood. By enhancing GABAergic activity and serotonin signaling, it promotes relaxation and alleviates depression and anxiety symptoms.

Ashwagandha’s adaptogenic and anxiolytic effects contribute to its ability in reducing stress. It may help alleviate symptoms associated with chronic stress, such as fatigue, irritability, and poor sleep quality. Promoting balance and relaxation, it can therefore reduce stress and support overall well-being in times of stress.

Chronic stress can lead to an imbalance in cortisol levels, which can have negative effects on various bodily systems. Cortisol levels, both in individuals with high cortisol levels and those with low levels, can be normalized with the use of Ashwagandha.

Chronic Stress can cause an imbalance in cortisol levels, Ashwagandha will help normalize those levels.

Cognitive function and mental well-being

Some studies have explored the effects of the Ayurvedic drug, ashwagandha on cognitive function and mental health. It is believed to have neuroprotective properties on your central nervous system and may support memory, attention, and overall brain function. Ashwagandha has also been investigated for its potential in managing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders.

Supporting Cognitive Dysfunction

Cognitive dysfunction is a decline or impairment in cognitive abilities, including thinking, memory, attention, problem-solving, and decision-making. It can present as difficulties with concentration, memory loss, confusion, decreased mental agility, or other cognitive deficits. Cognitive dysfunction can have various causes, including age-related changes, neurological conditions, mental health disorders, medication side effects, or underlying medical conditions.

Ashwagandha improves cognitive functions as it helps improve cognitive functions as well as decreasing oxidative stress. A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled clinical study tested the efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha Root Extract on Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults. The study showed ashwagandha treatment once daily for 90 days improved memory and focus, psychological well-being, and sleep quality, reduced stress levels, and was safe and well-tolerated.

Energy and vitality

Traditionally, used for enhancing energy levels and improving overall vitality. Some studies suggest it may help improve physical performance and increase muscle strength and endurance. It supports healthy metabolism and promotes a sense of rejuvenation.

As an adaptogen, ashwagandha may help the body adapt to stress and promote a state of balance, which can contribute to increased energy and vitality. By supporting the adrenal glands and regulating cortisol levels, it may help counteract the effects of chronic stress, which can contribute to fatigue and low energy.

Ashwagandha may support a healthy metabolism, which can play a role in maintaining energy levels. It influences certain metabolic processes, such as increasing insulin sensitivity and improving blood sugar and lipid profiles. Ashwagandha may contribute to overall energy and vitality by promoting balanced metabolic function.

Ashwagandha possesses immune-modulating properties, meaning it may help regulate immune system activity. While research in this area is still ongoing, some studies suggest that ashwagandha may enhance immune function and support overall immune, brain, and nervous system health, therefore supplementation can improve physical and mental health, leading to more healthy athletic adults.

Anti-inflammatory effects

Ashwagandha contains compounds with potential anti-inflammatory properties. It helps reduce inflammation in the body and some studies have examined ashwagandha’s effects on specific inflammatory conditions. For example, research suggests that ashwagandha may help reduce inflammation in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and asthma.

Reduced levels of certain inflammatory markers in the body are a result of taking Ashwagandha. Studies have reported a decrease in markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), and interleukin-6 (IL-6) after supplementation.

Ashwagandha may modulate various pathways involved in inflammation. It has been found to inhibit the nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) pathway, which plays a crucial role in promoting inflammation in the body.

Ashwagandha has been studied for its potential analgesic (pain-relieving) effects which may be beneficial when suffering from an inflammatory disease such as rheumatoid arthritis patients.

Ashwagandha has a pain releiving effect on inflammatory diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Testosterone levels

Several studies have found that ashwagandha supplementation can boost testosterone levels. For example, a placebo-controlled study involving infertile men with low sperm count showed that daily supplementation with root extract for three months resulted in a significant increase in testosterone levels.

Potential benefits in improving sexual function and fertility in both men and women and improving reproductive hormone levels has been found by using Ashwagandha as an aphrodisiac.

Several studies have explored the impact of ashwagandha on sperm quality. Sperm count, motility, and morphology may increase with supplementation. These effects could potentially enhance male fertility and improve reproductive health.

Antioxidant activity

Ashwagandha exhibits antioxidant effects, which may help protect against oxidative stress and cellular damage caused by free radicals.

Ashwagandha contains various bioactive compounds, such as withanolides, alkaloids, flavonoids, and polyphenols, which act as antioxidants. These compounds have the ability to scavenge and neutralize free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules that can damage cells and contribute to various diseases.

Ashwagandha increases the activities of natural antioxidants in the body, including superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, and glutathione peroxidase. These enzymes help protect cells from oxidative damage and maintain cellular health.

Ashwagandha’s antioxidant activity helps reduce oxidative stress by preventing or minimizing the damage caused by free radicals. Oxidative stress is a direct cause of the development and progression of various chronic conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative disorders, and certain cancers.

The role of ashwagandha as an antioxidant aids in its neuroprotective benefits. It may help protect brain cells from oxidative damage and support cognitive function.

Common Neurodegenerative Diseases

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Multiple Sclerosis

Precautions

While Ashwagandha has a long history of traditional use, it’s important to note that individual experiences may vary. As with any herbal dietary supplement, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating Ashwagandha into your routine, especially if you have specific health concerns or are taking medications.

Side effects of Ashwagandha could be harmful to those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, diabetic, have high or low blood pressure, have stomach ulcers, have auto-immune disorders, and those about to undergo surgery.

Diabetes Medication:

Ashwagandha may interact with certain diabetes medications, altering their effects. For example, ashwagandha may enhance the blood sugar-lowering effects of drugs like metformin or sulfonylureas, leading to a greater risk of hypoglycemia. On the other hand, it may counteract the effects of medications like thiazolidinediones (TZDs) that improve insulin sensitivity.

Thyroid Medications

Ashwagandha may potentially affect thyroid hormone levels. Some studies suggest that it may increase thyroid hormone levels, as a consequence could potentially interfere with the dosage and effectiveness of medications used to manage thyroid disorders, such as levothyroxine. If you are taking thyroid medication, it is important to monitor your thyroid levels closely if considering ashwagandha supplementation.

Blood Pressure Medications

In some studies, hypotensive (blood pressure-lowering) effects were a result of taking Ashwagandha. If you are taking medications for high blood pressure, such as beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers, as well as ashwagandha, furthermore combining them with ashwagandha may further lower your blood pressure. Regular monitoring and potential dosage adjustments may be necessary.

Recommended Ashwagandha Supplementation

The Well of Life’s Ashwagandha with Black Pepper

For generations, boosting mental and physical energy while also reducing the effects of stress has been achieved by this Auveydic herb. Modern science has confirmed that this time-honored adaptogen helps reduce cortisol levels and stress signs and symptoms. However, The Well of Life’s Ashwagandha supplement has added black pepper, a beneficial addition.

Black Pepper

Not just an average kitchen staple, black pepper should be essential in any household. Black Pepper, is also known as the “king of spices” not to mention its use in ancient Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years due to its high concentration of potent, beneficial plant compounds. Black pepper and its active compound piperine have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

The Well of Life's Ashwaganda capsules with Added Black Pepper.

Key Notes

In conclusion, Ashwagandha, the ancient root with modern benefits, holds a significant place in Ayurvedic medicine and not to mention it is increasingly gaining recognition in the world of holistic health. It has adaptogenic properties, rejuvenating effects, and abilities to enhance mental function, consequently making it a valuable herb for combating stress, promoting overall well-being, and supporting cognitive health.

In today’s fast-paced and stressful world, Ashwagandha stands out as a natural remedy that bridges ancient wisdom with modern science, offering a holistic approach to achieving balance, vitality, and mental well-being. By tapping into the power of this remarkable herb, we can harness its potential benefits and embark on a journey toward optimal health and vitality.

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