Ashwagandha is a plant in the Solanaceae or nightshade family. Its scientific name is Withania Somnifera but is commonly known as ashwagandha. In some places it is called Indian ginseng or winter cherry. This herb is an evergreen shrub that has orange-red berries that look like cherries. It is mostly grown in India.
Origin and Uses
According to consulted sources, this medicinal plant has been used for millennia. It is a native plant from India and Northern Africa. Now it is also found in the Middle East, Nepal, China, Yemen and in other parts of Africa. It is grown in places with a Mediterranean type climate. It has become a commercially cultivated plant in countries around the world including North America.
Ashwagandha leaves, seeds, berries, and root are used for medicinal purposes in different ways. The leaves are used to make healing tea. The berries and the leaves have therapeutic properties yet it is the root that is mostly used for its valuable properties. There are people who say that the berries are edible while others disapprove of this suggestion because they claim that the berries distress their digestion.
The Healing Connection
Some sources claim that the medicinal properties of ashwagandha have not been extensively studied and that there is not enough research done. However, reliable sources present numerous studies and recognize the beneficial effects of ashwagandha for the symptoms of common ailments. This herbaceous plant has been used for thousands of years to alleviate, support, or deal effectively with:
- Skin conditions
- Lower cholesterol and triglycerides
- Increase muscle mass
- Reduce inflammation
- And more than a dozen other conditions.
What Makes Ashwagandha Work
Ashwagandha contains substances called adaptogens that have shown to help alleviate stress and bring balance. It also contains chemicals that support the immune system.
An article in Research & Reviews: Journal of Botanical Sciences presents the following on what ashwagandha contains, “Studies indicate ashwagandha possesses antioxidant, anxiolytic, adaptogen, memory enhancing, antiparkinsonian, antivenom, anti-inflammatory, antitumor properties.”
Scientific studies have shown that ashwagandha protects “against induced gastric ulcers,” and that it showed “anti-tumor effect” on an animal with “ovary cell carcinoma.” Other studies have shown that ashwagandha can be “useful in children with memory deficit and old age people with memory loss.” Many more research and studies reveal that ashwagandha can improve energy levels and can help with stress and neuronal related disorders.
Take Ashwagandha Responsibly
Ashwagandha is safe, especially if it is taken by mouth according to information on its short-term use. The effects on its long-term use are unknown. If large doses are taken orally it could cause digestive conditions like upset stomach, diarrhea, or vomiting.
Although taking ashwagandha is well tolerated, there might be other side effects that should not be overlooked. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should not take ashwagandha. People taking medicines for diabetes, blood pressure, or other health conditions could experience negative effects as a result of the interference of ashwagandha with their medications.
Ways to Take Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha powder can be taken as a superfood added to meals or it can be taken in pill form as a supplement. The powder can be added to warm milk and honey for a comfort drink. One can also mix it with warm water to make tea.
Remember to keep track of how often and for how long you take it. Follow the suggestions that accompany the package of ashwagandha products. Some people who are allergic to certain foods should consult with their doctor before taking ashwagandha or any other herb or supplement.