What is Ashwagandha?

Let’s talk about this evergreen shrub which is found in India, Africa and the Middle East

Ashwagandha superfood powder and root on cutting board on wooden table from above.

by Piper Huxley |

Ashwagandha comes from a small shrub with yellow flowers that’s native to India and Southeast Asia. This herb is essential in the world of alternative medicine. For example, it is used in the practice known as Ayurveda, which is based on Indian principles of natural healing.

So, some studies suggest that this herb may contain a range of health benefits, including reducing anxiety and stress - as well as improving arthritis and memory. Extracts or powder from the plant’s root or leaves can be used alongside medical treatment to help with a variety of health issues. If you’ve spoken to someone about stress or anxiety, chances are that they’ve recommended it.

If you’re feeling a little sceptical, don’t worry. At Spirit & Destiny, we’ve done all the research for you. We’re here to offer advice on your journey into alternative and traditional medicine practice. Hopefully, we’ll demystify some myths along the way.

What do people use ashwagandha for?

People have used ashwagandha for thousands of years to relieve stress, increase energy levels, and improve concentration. Even today, living in a world with prescription medication, people are turning to herbs like ashwagandha to help with their problems – namely, their wellbeing.

Read More: What is wellbeing?

Some people prefer herbal medicines.

When it comes to dealing with stress, why not take a more natural and herbal route? After all, a healthy lifestyle is crucial to our mindfulness. Some of us may need extra support to get our lives back on a good and healthy path. Combining other mindful practices with medicine like ashwagandha will build your resilience to stress over time. Recovery, even, could be on the cards.

There is evidence to suggest that ashwagandha can have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects. Reducing inflammation can protect the body against a variety of conditions. In theory, ashwagandha may be able to help with stress, anxiety, pain, diabetes, endurance, muscle mass, performance, arthritis and general cognitive function.

What are the benefits of ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha, in Ayurvedic practices, is considered a Rasayana - which means that it helps maintain youth, both physically and mentally. We’re looking at traditional practice – as well as modern science – to demystify ashwagandha at Spirit & Destiny.

Regarding stress and anxiety, this herb may have a calming effect on their symptoms. For example, in 2019, a study found that ashwagandha significantly reduced people’s stress levels, including the stress hormone cortisol. Although research around ashwagandha is looking promising, scientists need to delve deeper before recommending the herb to treat anxiety.

Another traditional usage of ashwagandha is to treat arthritis. To clarify, this herb may offer great relief for those afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis. How? Well, it may act as pain relief by blocking signals that travel along the nervous system. Plus, ashwagandha may even have anti-inflammatory properties.

Though thought to be helpful for diabetes, there is limited scientific evidence to back this. So, ashwagandha may be able to lower blood sugar levels, benefitting some diabetics. It’s believed that compounds within this plant have an effect on insulin secretion and glucose absorption from the bloodstream.

When it comes to cognitive function, ashwagandha has been known to be beneficial. It is thought that ashwagandha may improve memory, reaction time, and the ability to perform tasks. Plus, research suggests that this herb may help reduce symptoms of depression and benefit people with some mental health conditions - such as schizophrenia. However, more research is needed.

Additionally, there is evidence that ashwagandha can help us sleep. No doubt this will help our wellbeing, too. After all, sleep is your body’s way of healing. It has the potential to improve your productivity and memory. Sleep and cognitive function are intrinsically linked. Ashwagandha could be beneficial for those of us who are feeling generally run-down.

Are there any precautions to take with ashwagandha?

According to Dr Yufang Lin MD, ashwagandha is generally safe to use:

“Most people can take this supplement, although it is always best to discuss it with your [GP] first. Ashwagandha is generally tolerated well. However, the most common side effects are diarrhoea, gastrointestinal upset, vomiting and nausea.”

However, it is unsafe to use ashwagandha when pregnant and/or breastfeeding. Unfortunately, there isn't enough reliable information to know if ashwagandha is safe or what the side effects might be. Plus, it may interact with some medications. So, make sure you’re checking with your GP and monitoring your general health if you start taking ashwagandha supplements.

How can you take ashwagandha?

People can buy different forms of ashwagandha from health food stores or online:

Capsules

DR.VEGAN Ashwagandha 500mg (30 Capsules)

DR.VEGAN Ashwagandha 500mg (30 Capsules)
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Powder supplement

Liquid extract

Ashwagandha Liquid Extract Drops, 100ml

Ashwagandha or Indian Ginseng (Withania somnifera) Roots Alcohol-Free Mother Tincture Naturalma | Liquid Extract Drops 100 ml | Food Supplement | Vegan
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