Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub that grows in India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. Its roots and orange-red fruit have been used for hundreds of years for medicinal purposes. The herb is also called Indian ginseng or winter cherry.The name ashwagandha describes the smell of its root (like a horse). By definition, ashwa means horse.The herb is considered one of the most important herbs in the Ayurvedic medicine system, a healthcare practice that started in India over 3,000 years ago.Ayurvedic medicine uses herbs, special diets, and other natural practices as treatment for a variety of conditions.
In Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is considered a Rasayana. That means it’s an herb that helps maintain youth, both mentally and physically.> Reduces stress and anxietyAshwagandha has been shown to support the adrenals via normalising cortisol levels. This reduces the negative effects of high (or low levels) of this hormone. This is highly significant as ongoing stress can be detrimental to our health. Adrenal function is closely linked to thyroid function, therefore as Ashwagandha supports the adrenal glands, it has an indirect effect on improving thyroid function as well. Initial studies demonstrate ashwagandha’s ability to positively impact thyroid function by stimulating thyroid hormone activity.
> Increases energy, stamina and endurance
Ashwagandha has been shown to significantly impact athletic performance by improving heart and lung capacity while increasing energy levels. Not only is this useful for the purposes of exercise, it is also helpful for people who struggle with their energy levels or those with fatigue-related conditions.> Stabilises blood sugar
Ashwagandha has been shown to stabilise blood sugar levels, reducing blood sugar when it’s too high or increasing it if too low. This is an example of the herb’s adaptogenic effect. Considering the evidence of the impact on blood sugar levels in diseases such as depression and dementia, this herb can have a profound impact on health.
> Combats neurodegenerative diseases
The active ingredients in ashwagandha, called withanamides, have shown protective effects against B-amyloid-induced plaques in Alzheimer’s Disease. This is thought to be due to the natural antioxidants found in ashwagandha that scavenge free radicals to prevent cell damage. Studies also show promising results of ashwagandha’s protective effects against Parkinson’s Disease.
> Immune boosting and anti-inflammatory
It has also demonstrated excellent immune-boosting effects on our immune system. It has been shown to encourage anti-inflammatory and disease-fighting immune cells that help to ward off illness. As Ashwagandha has potent anti-inflammatory properties it is very useful in painful conditions such as arthritis. As the herb is rich in iron it also contributes to red blood cell count.