Ashwagandha Benefits & Uses
Ashwagandha benefits everyone at all stages of life, but what is ashwagandha exactly? Native to India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, the leaves, berries, and roots of this odiferous plant provide a range of restorative health benefits. It is one of the primary herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine and ancient scriptures reveal how ashwagandha benefits general health. In particular, it can increase one’s lifespan because it has numerous anti-aging properties. Like all adaptogens, it simultaneously calms the nervous system and energizes our physical, mental, and emotional body, bringing it back into balance. It sparks the mental alertness and stamina that popular stimulants such as caffeine and sugar provide, but it feeds the body healthy, sustainable energy without the subsequent crash that can result in lethargy and headaches. Reported ashwagandha side effects are mild compared to other commonly-used drugs.
Also known as the Indian ginseng because of its restorative properties (though not related botanically to Chinese or Korean gensing), ashwagandha benefits the body by relieving anxiety, helping the body fortify itself against common stressors, and boosting its immunity. As a supplement, it can heal common conditions that occur as a result of a weak immune system or poor diet and lifestyle choices. In specific preparations, ashwagandha is used to treat more serious illnesses, such as chronic or degenerative diseases. It is most effective when combined with a dosha-specific diet and sattvic lifestyle practices like yoga and meditation.
How can a simple herb provide such far-reaching benefits? And will it have any noticeable effect on someone who doesn’t subscribe to a purely yogic lifestyle? The short answer is ashwagandha benefits everyone’s health, but when to take it and how to take it depend on your individual constitution. Its most common uses are for general wellness and to counter the harmful effects of stress. Continue reading to find out how.
Why Ashwagandha is One of the Top Three Ayurvedic Herbs
But it’s not merely an antidote for illness, nor is it a quick fix for a health problem. When taken daily, it can restore and maintain optimal health and rejuvenate the body, mind, and spirit for years to come and it’s suitable for all constitutions in various forms and doses. Don’t let its sweaty horse scent dissuade you from taking advantage of this miraculous herb. Let’s take a look at how ashwagandha benefits health and why it receives such extraordinary acclaim in Ayurvedic science and natural medicine, and how it can help you.
The Body’s Response to Stress
In order to know how ashwagandha benefits us by supporting a healthy mind, body, and overall constitution, we must understand what causes the body to become unhealthy. Any number of days on this earth, from the time of birth to the moment of death, deliver us experience with the main culprit of poor health: Stress.
Not all stress is bad; rather, our bodies have a built-in stress response that helps protect us against threatening external stimuli. But not all stress is obvious. Myriad insidious stressors sneak up on us unaware, causing our body to respond in a way similar to those immediate threats, but in smaller doses and over a sustained period of time. This accumulated tension is often the most damaging to our health because our body must work constantly to regain equilibrium and restore its energy.
Stress raises cortisol levels and depletes our body of prana, our vital life force and ojas. Ojas is the body’s subtle essence responsible for life, longevity, and well-being. When ojas is sufficient, the body is healthy but a deficiency can cause premature aging and make us more susceptible to disease. Ashwagandha benefits include alleviating stress and restoring ojas.
The most evident stress manifests in the physical body. Indeed, it is usually what prompts us to seek health advice and reflect on our current lifestyle habits. Environmental contaminants like air pollution, devitalized foods high in preservatives, inadequate sleep, prescription drugs, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, excessive sex, as well as the erratic schedules we keep to meet the demands of work and family impact the body in both subtle and palpable ways. Stress taxes our adrenal glands and weakens our immune systems. Mental and emotional stress too, such as sustained sorrow or negative thought patterns, can cause ill health and it manifests in various ways during different times in our lives. Ashwagandha benefits not just the physical body, but also our emotional and psychological health.
Nature’s Balancing Act
This is where ashwagandha benefits us the most and why it is gaining popularity across ages and cultures. It rejuvenates the body and mind not only by balancing cortisol levels and acting as an antidote to stress but also by strengthening the body’s resilience to the unavoidable strain of everyday life. Ayurvedic expert Dr. Axe cites aswaganda as a powerful remedy for helping the body overcome adrenal fatigue caused by excessive stress. And like holy basil or tulsi, it is an adaptogenic herb so it boosts the body’s defenses, balances hormone levels, and adapts to our body’s specific needs, enabling us to manage anxiety, fatigue, and stress effectively.
Dr. Axe also explains how ashwagandha benefits and stabilizes the thyroid. It can be used to treat mild thyroid disorders that cause excess body weight and hair loss or thinning by maintaining healthy levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). (You can find this video further below). Ashwagandha thyroid benefits are based on its adaptogenic properties that help stabilize TSH. It simultaneously increases and lowers TSH according to the body’s requirements, making it a safe, natural, and ideal weight loss supplement.
Ashwagandha benefits the body’s cultivation of energy. According to Ayurvedic specialist Dr. Gerson from the Gerson Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine, it is also the most effective of the Ayurvedic rasayana herbs. Rasayana is a critical part of Ayurvedic therapy for correcting imbalances and restoring physical and mental youth. In Sanskrit, rasa means essence, ayana means to increase or circulate, so we can understand rasayana as a therapy that restores and circulates the essence of life–ojas–throughout the body. Practically speaking, it encourages the delivery and assimilation of nutrients to the body. In the realm of herbal treatments that exist in Ayurveda, this stress-reducing herb supports rasayana therapy by replenishing the body’s physical, mental, and emotional energy.
Ashwagandha also has several properties cited as powerful antioxidants that protect the body from the wide-ranging damage of free radicals. This explains the variety of ways ashwagandha benefits the human body, from acting as a natural aphrodisiac to healing broken bones. In his review of ashwagandha as an herbal supplement, Dr. Sahelian cities studies that have demonstrated how aswagandha influences GABA-like activity in the body (GABA is an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter in the Central Nervous System), which can calm nerves and alleviate anxiety. Indeed, exploring the different ways ashwagandha benefits our health is an intriguing lesson about human body.
Ashwagandha Main Benefits
TREATS RESPIRATORY SYSTEM DISORDERS
Combined with the right diet, yogic exercises and pranayama (yogic breathing), ashwagandha benefits lung health. When prepared as a tonic, it can treat respiratory issues in vata types, including asthma or shortness of breath from exposure to air pollution. Indeed, such an effect can improve overall stamina and energy levels, and rebuild lung energy as increased oxygen recirculates throughout the blood and body tissues. For convalescent lung conditions, such as pneumonia, Frawley recommends an ashwagandha milk decoction as a suitable lung tonic for re-strengthening the lungs towards recovery.
ENHANCES REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND SEXUAL STAMINA
Particularly well known for its positive effects on the male reproductive system, ashwagandha benefits the male sex drive and increases sperm count. Dr. Michael Tierra cites it as “the most potent tonic aphrodisiacs in the entire botanical kingdom”. It’s also mentioned in the Kama Sutra for heightening the sexual experience and restoring sexual health. Indeed, its literal translation of ‘horse’ is often stretched to ‘stallion’ in popular Ayurvedic literature to symbolize its contribution to a healthy male libido.
But ashwagandha benefits for men are similar to those for women. Several experts note that ashwagandha benefits female sexual health too. It rebuilds reproductive tissue, ameliorates the female sex drive, and might also help to reverse sexual dysfunction and impotence. Ayurvedic expert Frawley suggests that for the treatment of female infertility, which is most commonly a vata-type issue, an ashwaganda tonic is an effective therapy when combined with an vata-reducing diet (this also has positive results on male reproductive conditions including an enlarged prostate). Further, in a 2015 clinical study in India, Dongre, Langade, & Bhattacharyya found that its root extract improved female sexual dysfunction, particularly arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and satisfaction. It goes without saying then that ashwagandha benefits our overall mood too–for men and women!
FIGHTS AGING AND CHRONIC CONDITIONS
Espoused as one of the most powerful anti-aging herbal supplements, ashwagandha makes an overall excellent tonic for the elderly. It is the primary Ayurvedic herb for preserving bone and joint strength, and it fights age-related conditions, such as impotence, premature ejaculation, urinary incontinence, and leucorrhea (vaginal discharge).
Ashwagandha benefits more serious conditions too. In their 2011 study, Singh, Bhalla, de Jager, & Gilca examine and cite the powerful anti-arthritic and analgesic effects of of this wondrous herb. Where there is degeneration and atrophy of the bones, tonics have powerful anti-arthritic properties that calm the nervous system during the body’s pain response. It also makes it useful in the treatment of cancer and post-surgery to relax the mind and strengthen ojas.
Degenerative conditions that involve the nervous system, like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or epilepsy can also benefit from a regular ashwagandha dosage. Known as the best nervine tonic herb, ashwagandha benefits the body more significantly when combined with supplemental therapies.
REMEDIES CIRCULATORY SYSTEM DISORDERS
Consider this herb ideal medicine for a broken heart–really! Combined with super-power herb arjuna, it makes a tonic suitable for overall heart health. It also explicitly targets vata-type heart disease when part of a lifestyle that includes yoga, meditation, time spent in nature, and general relaxation. Ashwagandha with equal parts valerian and gotu kola has also been used to treat vata hypertension. Further, studies show that ashwagandha benefits cardiovascular health by reducing cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure.
BENEFITS PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH
How can an herb boost the brain and improve mental health? Ashwagandha benefits the brain by influencing an optimal level of cortisol. When cortisol levels are low, stress and inflammation decrease allowing the brain to release greater levels of the amino acid L-tryptophan. L-tryptophan creates serotonin in the brain, improving our mood and sleep. As we’ve all experienced, a rested mind can better concentrate, remember, and manage information. In short, ashwagandha benefits cognition by supporting recuperative sleep–a key factor in optimal brain health.
The miraculous herb has shown to alleviate more severe psychological issues too, such as depression and neuroses. When combined with a sattvic lifestyle, including meditation, pranayama, and yoga, ashwagandha benefits mental and emotional health by calming and nourishing the mind. It has a particularly potent effect when used in shirodhara, which involves pouring a preparation of sesame oil and ashwagandha on the forehead at the Third Eye chakra. This ancient practice is especially helpful for vata-type depression.
In all the benefits of ashwagandha anxiety relief is one of the most notable. It is also the best Ayurvedic herb for treating anxiety and strengthening the nervous system.
More Compelling Facts
Ashwagandha benefits women during menstruation and menopause. As an adaptogen, it helps stabilize hormones and reduce hot flashes and other uncomfortable symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle.
Ashwagandha benefits rehabilitative health. For substance abuse and vata-type addictions, it is the best herb for rebuilding the nervous system, encouraging pranic healing, and strengthening our body’s life force.
Combined with an vata-reducing diet, a potent ashwanga tonic can alleviate hyperactivity in children, and is cited by Singh, Bhalla, de Jager, & Gilca as one of the best natural medicines for children.
It acts as an effective treatment for diseases of the urinary tract, such as edema (excess water in the system) and UTIs. Combinations that include other Ayurvedic herbs such as gokshura strengthen the kidneys and alleviate edema, which is a symptom of high kapha. Diabetics can also use it in ghee and tonics to stabilize insulin levels.
An ashwagandha compound can be used to treat vata-type herpes and a tonic is suitable for AIDS patients because it is one of the most robust Ayurvedic herbs for rebuilding ojas.
Milk decoctions of turmeric, cinnamon, and ashwaganha can be used to aid in the treatment of traumatic injuries such as broken bones.
Where Can You Buy Ashwagandha?
At the world’s current pace, our optimal physical, mental, and emotional health has never been more important–or difficult–to achieve. With the range of fad diets, hard-core exercise regimens, and abundance of information about health and wellness, sussing out how to achieve optimal health in the face of everyday stress is a daunting task. Understanding how a herbal supplement like ashwagandha benefits the body is as imperative as seeking out the right one for you.
Ashwagandha benefits everyone. Consider it a botanical deus ex machina that can rescue us from a world of stress. It remedies our most common ailments, including those caused by our environment and the hormonal imbalances that everyone experiences. We can all take advantage of this incredible herb–from athletes and children to the elderly or those in poor health or suffering from anxiety or mood disorders. We don’t need to live a yogi lifestyle to reap the benefits it affords us in the face of either serious or minor health conditions–though it helps!
No pharmaceutical on the market today can offer the range of benefits this Indian plant is scientifically proven to deliver naturally. While over the counter drugs provide temporary, symptomatic relief, ashwagandha benefits us long-term by building the body’s natural defenses and bringing the body back into balance and harmony. Discover for yourself why more and more people espouse it as an excellent daily herbal supplement to a healthy lifestyle.
Luckily for you, you don’t have to go far to find where to buy Ashwagandha supplements, because you don’t have to go further than right here at Jiva Botanicals. If you’re still interested in learning more about the benefits of other Ayurvedic Herbs then be sure to go back and check out our guide on Ayurvedic herbs and their benefits.
Frawley. David (2017). Ayurvedic Healing: A Comprehensive Guide.
Iyengar, B.K.S. (2005). Light on Life: The Journey to Wholesness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom.
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