Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub that grows in different parts of India, the Middle East and Africa too. It has been in use for a very long time as traditional medicine.
Ashwagandha’s root and its orange-red coloured fruits are used for more than a hundred years for medicinal purposes. This herb is also commonly known as “Indian ginseng” and at times as “winter cherry.”
The name “Ashwagandha” stands for its root scent and means “like a horse”. By definition, Ashuwa means horse. Practitioners are using this herb as a common tonic to increase energy and reduce stress and anxiety. Others argue that herbs may be beneficial for certain types of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and anxiety.
Further research is going on. So far, promising studies on the health benefits of ashwagandha trials have been conducted primarily on animals, and it has been successful.
This post describes the traditional uses of Ashwagandha, how to take it, and the evidence behind its possible health benefits and risks.
What do people use Ashwagandha for?
Ashwagandha is an important herb in Ayurvedic medicine. It is one of the oldest medical systems in the world and one of the medical systems in India.
Ashwagandha is considered Rasayana in Ayurvedic medicine. This means that it helps you stay young both mentally and physically. There is evidence that herbs may have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation is the basis of many health conditions, and reducing inflammation can protect the body from a variety of illnesses.
For example, people use Ashwagandha for treating:
- Skin disease
Different treatments use different parts of the plant, such as leaves, seeds and fruits.
This herb is also popular in the West. Today, people can buy Ashwagandha supplements in the United States, the United Kingdom, and more.
What are its health benefits?
Scientific studies have shown that Ashwagandha can be beneficial for many medical conditions. However, researchers do not know much about how herbs react in the human body. Most studies to date have used animal or cell models. That is, scientists do not know if the same result will occur in humans.
There are a few pieces of evidence to support the use of Ashwagandha:
- Stress and anxiety
Ashwagandha may have a sedative effect on anxiety symptoms compared to the tranquillizer and anxiolytic lorazepam. A study suggested that the herb had a comparable anxiety-reducing effect with lorazepam, suggesting that ashwagandha might be as effective for reducing anxiety, and reduced levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone.
Ashwagandha may act as a pain reliever, preventing pain signals from travelling along with the central nervous system. It may also have some anti-inflammatory properties. Some research has proved it to be effective in the treatment of forms of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis.
- Heart health
Some people use Ashwagandha to improve heart health, including:
- Lowering high blood pressure
- Lowers high cholesterol
- Relief of chest pain
- Prevention of heart disease
Treatment of Alzheimer’s disease
Studies have examined Ashwagandha’s ability to delay or prevent the loss of brain function in people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. As these conditions progress, parts of the brain and its pathways are damaged, resulting in loss of memory and function. This review suggests that when mice and rats are given Ashwagandha in the early stages of the disease, it may provide protection.
How to take Ashwagandha
The dose of Ashwagandha and how people use it depends on the condition they want to treat. There is no standard dose based on modern clinical studies. Different doses were used in different studies. Some studies suggest that taking 250-600 mg daily may reduce stress. Although other studies use much higher doses. Dosages of Ashwagandha tablets often contain 250-1,500 mg of Ashwagandha. Herbs are provided in the form of capsules, powders, and liquid extracts. It has been found that taking a high dose of ashwagandha can cause unpleasant side effects too. It is advisable to check with your doctor about safety and dosage before taking ashwagandha supplements.
Are there any side effects?
People can usually tolerate Ashwagandha at low to medium doses. However, there is not yet enough long-term research to fully investigate possible side effects. High doses of Ashwagandha can cause indigestion, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. This may be due to inflammation of the inner wall of the intestine.
Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic herbal remedy. Some studies suggest that Ashwagandha may have many health benefits, such as reducing stress and anxiety and improving arthritis.
Pregnant women and people with pre-existing medical conditions should consult a doctor before using Ashwagandha. If a person decides to use this herb as part of a treatment plan, it is important to discuss it with their doctor first.