Ashwagandha is a medicinal herb with a long history. It is one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda, an ancient study of natural healing that has been practiced in India for more than 6,000 years.
Although it is known as ashwagandha, the small shrub native to East Asia and North Africa is referred to in many studies as Withania somnifera. Some traditional and medicinal uses of ashwagandha include: Promoting longevity, reducing stress, and treating chronic diseases
Modern research confirms some of these claims and points to additional possible health benefits. Ashwagandha consists of nutrients with anti-inflammatory , brain-protective and stress-reducing properties that can protect your body against many diseases.
In Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is best known for its mood-elevating effects. Scientific research supports its potential to treat clinical depressive disorders. Studies show that the effects are comparable to common prescription antidepressants.
These findings align with ongoing research into the herb's potential to treat a broader range of cognitive diseases, such as Parkinson's, Huntington's and Alzheimer's. Ashwagandha may also be helpful for people with attention deficit hyperkinetic disorder (ADHD).
Research also shows that taking ashwagandha can provide you with additional health benefits, such as:
Cortisol is a hormone your body releases in response to stress, triggering your fight-or-flight response. High and chronic stress levels have serious health effects over time, including reduced immunity, heart problems and nervous system problems.
Studies show that ashwagandha lowers cortisol levels in your body, reducing stress and symptoms such as increased blood pressure and heart rate. It also helps block nervous system activity associated with conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia and clinical depression.
Reduced risk of chronic diseases
Ashwagandha has anti-inflammatory properties. Although inflammation is a natural response to infection or stress, chronic inflammation over time has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis and intestinal disease.
The herb also contains high levels of many antioxidants that protect your cells from damage that can be caused by aging, your environment and lifestyle. Studies have found that these antioxidants in particular support healthy brain and nervous system activity.
Ashwagandha has long been thought to improve memory and concentration. Although modern research is still ongoing, early studies show that it can improve your cognitive performance and reduce the risk of cognitive decline and diseases associated with old age.
Reduced risk of diabetes
Research suggests that ashwagandha may help manage your blood sugar levels and possibly reduce insulin resistance – a condition in which the body does not use sugars properly. Scientists suggest that ashwagandha may help prevent and treat diabetes and other metabolic disorders.
Ashwagandha has been used safely for thousands of years to promote health and treat a wide range of conditions. However, the herb has a powerful nutritional profile that may pose health risks for some people. Talk to your doctor before adding ashwagandha to your diet.
Pharmacist Dirk Christiaen
Founder of Metis Supplements