Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as Indian ginseng, has been part of herbal medicine for at least the last 4,000 years. In Sanskrit, ashwagandha means "the smell of a horse," indicating that the herb imparts the vigor and strength of a stallion, and it has traditionally been prescribed to help people strengthen their immune system after an illness. It is renowned as a stress reducer, mind-booster, and performance enhancer.
Like ginseng, it functions as a general tonic, an "adaptogen," which means its potential benefits are wide ranging, such as helping the body cope with daily stress. Beyond that, as Suhas Kshirsagar, medical director of the Maharishi College of Ayurvedic Medicine in New Mexico, explains, "Ashwagandha strengthens and gives more flexibility to the heart muscles, for instance, and is also useful for treating uterine and menstrual conditions involving the muscles, such as menstrual cramps."
Historically, it has been used as a:
- Stress reducer
- Learning enhancer
- Brain cell protector
- Energy booster
- Legal athletic performance enhancer
- Sleep aid
- Sexual enhancer
- Immune enhancer
Ashwagandha as a Natural Stress Reducer
This herb has held the interest of medical researchers for some time. Due to this interest, there are over 200 clinical studies supporting the benefits of ashwagandha. Most notably, ashwagandha is considered an anti-stress agent. Our modern lifestyle puts an enormous amount of stress on our bodies. Actual stress, environmental toxins, and poor nutrition all create a detrimental effect on our bodies.
An example of how detrimental these factors are can be found in an animal study on the effects of chronic stress and degeneration. In the study, 85% of the brain cells in the animals exposed to chronic stress showed signs of cellular degeneration associated with long-term cognitive difficulties. However, when ashwagandha was given to the chronically stressed animals, the number of degenerating brain cells was reduced by 80%.
In a human study on stress and elevated levels of cortisol, participants who used ashwagandha reported increased energy, reduced fatigue, better sleep, and an enhanced sense of well-being. Overall, participants experienced a reduction of cortisol levels up to 26%, a decline in fasting blood sugar levels, and improved lipid profiles. These are a few of the reasons you’ll find ashwagandha as an ingredient in Jon Barron’s Warp Speed formula, a natural mental stimulant and body relaxer, and his 8-12Hz Neural Gum, a performance enhancer.
Ashwagandha for Natural Nerve Regeneration
Another study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in 2005 indicated that ashwagandha may actually stimulate nerve regeneration. The researchers were studying Alzheimer’s and the effects of ashwagandha on the recovery of brain function. They selected ashwagandha as the main part of the study since it is the most popular herbal remedy in Ayurvedic medicine.
Ashwagandha as a Natural Cancer Fighter
Some studies have even found that ashwagandha may help with fighting cancer as well. One laboratory study showed that ashwagandha extract inhibits the growth of human breast, lung, and colon cancer cell lines. In fact, the results achieved are comparable to the common cancer chemotherapy drug doxorubicin. Researchers also reported that a specific compound extracted from ashwagandha, withaferin A, is more effective than doxorubicin in inhibiting breast and colon cancer cell growth.
Ashwagandha for Thyroid Health
Studies show that ashwagandha may benefit overall thyroid health as well. In fact, some studies show that it may not only help provide support for people with sluggish thyroid issues, but also for issues with an overactive thyroid as well.
How to Take Ashwagandha
The typical recommended dose of Ashwagandha is 600 to 1000 mg, twice a day for the whole herb. If using a concentrated extract, 160 mg a day is adequate. For those who suffer from insomnia or anxiety, a teaspoon of powdered ashwagandha in a hot cup of milk may be beneficial.
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