Withania Somnifera or Ashwagandha is the most common herb used in traditional medicine systems like Chinese, African and Indian Ayurveda because of its versatile therapeutic potential. It is also a fascinating topic for scientists since it contains a major bio-active constituent withanolides, responsible for incredible health benefits.
Ashwagandha, is a well-known herb in Ayurveda and is recognized for its strengthening and nourishing traits, the primary of which is support to the reproductive system and muscles. Ashwagandha is a tall plant with red berries and green or purple fruits and is abundantly found in India, especially Northern regions, Middle East, Africa and China. It also known as India Ginseng and Winter Cherry. Ashwagandha is an aromatic herb, which smells like a horse shoe. The name is derived from the Sanskrit words Ashwa (horse) Gandha (smell) and is known to provide horse like vitality and strength. It has a multitude of health benefits for treating ailments such as arthritis, insomnia, asthma, bronchitis, menstrual problem, fibromyalgia and chronic liver disease, anxiety, improving memory, fertility problems, tumor, depression etc. Another important use of Ashwagandha is to combat stress so it also works as an adaptogen. It relieves stress and anxiety and has a powerful cortisol-reducing effect and hormone balancing effect. Cortisol is the main hormone related to stress and is often referred to as the stress hormone.
Ashwagandha contains a high concentration of naturally existing, steroid like compound Withanolides with potent anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties. This main bio-active flavanoid helps the immune system, reduces long term inflammation and helps fight with free radicals and lowers oxidative stress in the body. Withanolides work as antibiotic, anti-arthritic, mild sedative, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-bacterial agents and most importantly it fights cancer and tumors. It supports the body's strength to resist the damage or stress and restore normal physiological functions of the body. It is bitter, astringent, an aphrodisiac, stimulant, thermogenic and diuretic in nature.
Benefits of Ashwagandha
- Improves Fertility in Men: Since ancient times people have used this potent herb as an aphrodisiac, to regulate and rejuvenate male hormones, improve fertility and restore vitality in men.
- Improves Fertility in Women: It has a balancing effect on women’s hormones, increases energy, helps in reducing menopausal symptoms and improves blood flow towards the reproductive organs.
- Improves Heart Health: Ashwagandha works as a hypolipidimic that helps normalize cholesterol levels and improve cardiac health by providing strength to muscles since it works against inflammation and oxidative damage.
- Ashwagandha Imparts Calmness: Ashwagandha improves emotional and physical health as it works as an antidepressant and calms the nervous system.
- Increases Energy: Ashwagandha has been found to increase myocardial energy substrate. This is the energy that keeps the heart functioning and prevents heart failure. Unlike allopathic drugs Ashwagandha does not cause a sudden spurt of energy but leads to a gradual increase. Since it is a plant it also does not lead to dependency and is great for sportspersons.
- Boosts Immunity and Blood Production: Several clinical research studies show that Ashwagandha significantly improves immunity and at the same time improves the RBC (red blood cells), WBC (white blood cells) and platelet count which speeds up hematopoietic process and prevents Anaemia.
- Manages Diabetes: It improves the sensitivity of insulin in the cells and normalizes blood glucose level.
- Reduces Anxiety and Stress: Various studies show that Ashwagandha is a very useful remedy to keep stress and anxiety away, improve emotional well-being and block stress pathways in the brain.
- Improves Memory: Its antioxidant property protects nerve cells from free radicals and reduces further damage, improves brain function and memory. It prevents brain degeneration so it may be helpful in Alzheimer's disease which is linked with memory loss, forgetfulness, haphazard thinking and varying behavior pattern.
- Prevents Arthritis Progression and Improves Bone Health: Arthritis is a disease which comes with joint pain, swelling and inflammation and in chronic cases may result in gout along with severe pain and redness. Ashwagandha preserves the density and strength of cartilage and reduces inflammation and free radicals at the site of pain, reduces tissue damage, protects the joints and restores bone health.
- Natural Anti-Cancer and Anti-Tumor Agent: It improves survival rate, controls the proliferation of tumor cells and selectively kills cancer cells through different biological pathways.
Thus, presence of various potent naturally occurring lactones, flavonoid and alkaloids in Ashwagandha provides a multitude of therapeutic uses and is responsible for making it an indispensable ingredient in various health supplements.