Origin of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) also known as Indian ‘Winter Cherry’ or ‘Indian Ginseng’, is a small evergreen shrub that produces yellow flowers. It’s commonly native to India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa but has the capability to be cultivated elsewhere in temperate climates. The roots and leaves have a long history of use throughout ancient medicine and are considered to be one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda (1) (an alternative system of medicine practiced in India as far back as 6000 BC).
It’s known as a ‘Rasayana’ (2) which translates to ‘the path of essence’ in Sanskrit, a term that refers to the ‘science of lengthening a lifespan’ (3). ‘Ashwagandha’ is Sanskrit for the smell of the horse due to the roots literally smelling like a horse and the horse-like strength/energy that is said to come after consuming.
How it’s Used
Leaves: Ashwaganhda leaves can also be made into a tea by boiling the dried leaves. As they are rich in iron, they may help in cases of anemia (4) and blood loss due to heavy menstruation. Some additional benefits include relieving fevers, reducing swelling, and boosting energy.
Roots: When the roots are ground and mixed with water to form a paste it can be applied to areas of swelling to reduce inflammation in the joints. This paste can also be applied to boils, pimples, and ulcers to promote healing and help reduce swelling in the affected areas. It’s said that the maximum benefit (5) from ashwagandha occurs when using it in powder form. The root carries a bitter, earthy flavor so it helps to add it to a sweet beverage, like a smoothie or tea. If tea isn’t your thing don’t worry! Ashwagandha powder can also be taken in capsule form, like our Be Good Sleep & Relaxation Capsules with added botanicals.
Let’s break down some of the most well-known potential benefits of Ashwagandha:
*research is still being conducted to continue proving these medicinal benefits, this is what we know so far*
Stress & Anxiety: Ashwagandha is said to have a calming effect helping to reduce anxiety and stress. Recent studies (6) have shown that taking a daily dose of 240mg-600mg greatly reduced people’s cortisol levels (stress hormone) when compared to taking a placebo.
Anti-Cancer: Ashwagandha contains a compound called ‘withaferin’ that was found in animal and test-tube studies to help spur on apoptosis as well as impeding the growth of new cancer cells (9). Not only could it be anti-cancer, but there are also animal studies that indicate this compound may have a positive effect on tumor treatment as well. That being said, there’s no current research on humans despite the promising results found in the animal and test-tube studies.
Depression: There is little research done so far on the effects of ashwagandha on depression, however, there have been a few studies conducted that propose there may be a connection to alleviating depression. In one particular study (10), 64 adults over the course of 60 days were either given a 600mg dose of high-concentration ashwagandha extract per day or were given a placebo. Those who were taking the extract reported a 79% reduction in depression while the placebo group only reported a 10% increase. It should be noted that only one of these adults had a history of depression so there is much more research to be conducted to fully grasp the effects on those who struggle with depression daily.
Fertility/Testosterone: As stress has been found to be a factor in male infertility, there is the understanding that ashwagandha may help improve fertility by way of stress reduction. In one particular study (11), a group of men was given 5g of root powder per day over the course of three months. It was found that it resulted in an overall improvement of semen quality for many, as well as a decrease in stress levels and an increase in antioxidants levels. Within those three months, 14% of the patients that participated ended up conceiving.
Although much more research needs to be conducted to fully understand the full benefits of ashwagandha, the findings thus far and the long history of use in Ayurveda gives us hope.