If you’re a health and wellness enthusiast, you’ve probably heard about ashwagandha. But what is it, and what does it do? Ashwagandha is an herb that has been used for centuries within Indian Ayurvedic medicine.
Many people believe the herb can promote brain and nervous system function, help to improve memory, balance the reproductive system, fight disease, protect the body against cell damage. But is this true, or outdated information? This article will explore the history of ashwagandha and the modern science behind its use.
Withania somnifera, better known as ashwagandha, is a plant in the Solanaceae (nightshade) family. This perennial shrub is now typically cultivated in India, Nepal, China, and Yemen. For use as an herbal remedy, the root ground into a powder and mixed into tonics and food. Ashwagandha also goes by other names such as Indian winter cherry and Indian ginseng.
The herb was a staple of Indian Ayurvedic medicine, with its first uses tracing as far back as 6000 B.C. It’s said that the herb got its name from the word “ashwa,” the Sanskrit word for horse. Supposedly, this name derives from not only the scent of the root but also the ancient taking the herb gives you the power of the horse.
People around the world claim many different uses for ashwagandha; some individuals employ the herb as a tonic, narcotic, aphrodisiac, diuretic, astringent, or stimulant. Due to the widespread popularity of the herb and its ancient use, scientists and nutritionists have conducted considerable research to prove or disproves its effectiveness.
Researches have delved deep into the following claims surrounding ashwagandha use:
- Increasing Immunity– Many users tout numerous immune function benefits of ashwagandha. Animal studies have shown a positive correlation between ashwagandha intake and white blood cell and platelet counts, which are essential to immune health.
A study on humans also proved that drinking ashwagandha tea boosted ex vivo natural killer cell activity, which plays a role in the immune system’s early response to infections.
- Reducing Stress– Many people consume ashwagandha for its stress-reducing qualities. One study proved that ashwagandha use does, in fact, “improve[s] an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.” Reduced stress, in turn, has many positive effects on the human body. For example, it helps maintain heart health and may even influence fertility.
- Combating Cancer– Ashwagandha shows promise as a tool for fighting the growth of cancer cells in numerous organs and tissues. While studies have found evidence of this in animals, the cancer-fighting effect on humans needs further research and testing.
- Reducing Inflammation– Studies show that ashwagandha helps promote cell growth that helps to defend against inflammation within the body.
- Improving Memory– Ashwagandha may even promote brain function, including treatment for memory loss caused by illness or injury. While more research has to be conducted, tests on animals have shown positive results.
How to Take Ashwagandha
Historically, ashwagandha has been ground up and ingested in tonics, milk, and more. The process of consuming ashwagandha hasn’t changed much over the years. You can purchase ashwagandha in a variety of forms, such as powder, tea, and capsules.
The ground-up powder remains the most popular form of ashwagandha supplements; just like in ancient times, you can use this powder in a variety of ways, such as mixing it with food or beverages. Some creative ashwagandha-filled recipes include enhanced versions of the following:
- Coffee or tea lattes
- Flavored milk or hot cocoa
- Energy balls
Ancient Health and Wellness For Modern Times
Ashwagandha is an herb that has been used as a remedy to a multitude of ailments for thousands of years. Many modern, scientific studies have proven individual ancient claims or shown great promise in animal testing or other early studies. The current popularity of the herb shows that ashwagandha has endured the test of time and earned extensive consumer support.