Ashwagandha also known as Indian ginseng is a powerful herb used to treat many health related problems
It can be used in the form of powder, capsule, tablet orally.
Also finds its use in tropical application in the form of hair oil, cream and shampoos.
Ashwagandha has numerous health benefits
Long term intake of supplements can lead to side effects
Be it a tea brand or any nourishing hair oil, ashwagandha has become a popular component of many products due to its numerous health benefits.
This shrub is in use for more than 3000 years as a Rasayana (rejuvinator) in a number of ayurvedic formulations. Ashwa means ‘horse’ and gandha is smell. The name implies the root of the shrub which smells like a horse.
Ashwagandha Benefits and Efficacy
Anti-anxiety effects and for neuro-health
Ashwagandha has been known to cause reduction in anxiety by reducing the stress hormone, cortisol. Due to its calming effect on the body, a study has found its beneficial effect on the people with sleep disturbances or insomnia(1).
Ashwagandha has been described as a nervine tonic(2) in Ayurveda. It has been used to treat Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's and other neuro-degenerative diseases. It appears to allay disease and induce immunity and longevity in the users.
Improvement in cognitive ability and memory
Ashwagandha may be effective in enhancing both immediate and general memory in people with MCI (mild cognitive impairment) as well as improving executive function, attention, and information processing speed as per the study published(3) recently.
Improvement in the symptoms of elderly population with alzheimer's(4) have also been seen.
Many animal studies have shown for ashwagandha to have antitumorigenic(6) properties on account of its antioxidant and immune-boosting properties. The anti-cancer properties have not only been seen in root extract but also seen in leaf extract which is a relatively under used part of the plant.
For muscular strength
Study on rats has shown that ashwagandha helps to improve muscle strength. Ashwagandha treated animals showed a significant increase in the duration of swimming time as compared to control.
It has anti-inflammatory properties, and has been known to be effective in treating some forms of arthritis especially rheumatoid arthritis.
Other benefits of ashwagandha
- For an under active thyroid - Ashwagandha has been shown to support a sluggish thyroid for people diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, or under active thyroid.
- Anti-diabetic effect - Both root and leaf extract of ashwagandha have been known to cause reduction in blood sugar levels as observed in a study done on diabetic rats.
- Helps in fertility problems - In Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha has been used as a natural aphrodisiac that can help to improve sexual dysfunction. Ashwagandha is also used to boost testosterone levels and improve male fertility.
- Improve the nutritional quality of the food - many studies(5) have been done where ashwagandha in combination with other herbs have been added to ready to eat foods like ladoos/ice cream/cookies, tea powder and so on. The results show improvement in shelf life of the food with an added benefit of its anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant properties.
- Ashwagandha and weight loss - Since stress is also associated with weight gain and obesity. Relieving stress using ashwagandha can also benefit in terms of weight loss and improved health. It helps in reducing fat and improving muscle mass, due to which many athletes include ashwagandha supplements in their diet.
- Ashwagandha curbs Hair loss - With stress leading to hormonal imbalance, the hair follicles gets affected, disrupting the resting and growth phase of hair. Using ashwagandha helps to reduce stress and cortisol levels in the body. External application with oil helps to make the hair shinier and strengthens the hair follicle.
Ashwagandha forms and recommended dosage
Ashwagandha is generally found in the form of churna or powder which is then mixed with ghee or honey or water and then consumed.
Commercially it is sold in the form of ashwagandha root powder, capsule, tablet, ashwagandha tea, hair oil, shampoo for tropical application.
- Less than 5g of ashwagandha powder + 100 ml milk + little cow ghee - helps in improving stamina, nourishment to the body, as an aphrodisiac, also recommended for malnourished children.
- 250 mg-500 mg, 2-3 times a day, taken with water is useful for calming nerves, acts as an antidepressant and also help diabetics in lowering blood sugar.
- Ashwagandha paste is used to treat swelling in joints.
- Ashwagandha siddha tailam - used for general weakness, to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
Side effects and contraindications
There are no known adverse effects of using ashwagandha. It is better to take ashwagandha in the doses and duration as advised by an ayurvedic practitioner.
- However it is recommended that this herb should be avoided by pregnant ladies as it leads to early delivery.
- Large doses for a long period of time can cause abdominal cramping and even diarrhoea.
- Since it has immune boosting properties, people with auto-immune disease like AIDS or lupus should take extra care while consuming this herb.
Even though there are plenty of health benefits of ashwagandha, it is advisable to take the opinion of an ayurvedic practitioner for the dosage and the duration of the medicine consumed.
1 Medicine (Baltimore). 2018 Jun; 97(26): e11299.