Age affects all of us. Wrinkles, weakening muscles, and a less reliable mind are all signs that another year has gone by.
There’s no such thing as turning back the clock, but that hasn’t stopped human beings throughout history from trying their best to slow the march of time. Ancient medicine books are filled with herbs said to rejuvenate the body and mind.
Ashwagandha is one of these herbs. For thousands of years, practitioners of Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine) have prescribed Ashwagandha for a stronger body and mind. But what does modern research say about this ancient herb?
What Is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is one of the most revered plants in traditional Ayurvedic medicine in India. The plant itself is short with yellow or greenish flowered and small, orange-red berries. Ashwagandha is classified as a “rasayana” in Ayurvedic medicine. In ancient times, rasayana were considered rejuvenating and were used for lengthening lifespans and invigorating the body.
The modern word used to describe ashwagandha is adaptogen. Adaptogens support the ability of an organism to cope with stress and thereby conserve energy. Ashwagandha rejuvenates and tonifies the entire system, especially the endocrine and immune systems.
Because its adaptogenic properties are similar to Chinese and Korean Ginseng, ashwagandha is sometimes referred to as Indian Ginseng.
For 6,000 years, ashwagandha has been a staple of Indian medicine. As more people rediscover the gift of ancient healing practices, they discover ashwagandha and all the amazing benefits this incredible plant has to offer.
Top 4 Reasons To Try Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha May Improve Mental And Emotional Health
Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen and is commonly touted for its ability to relieve stress and anxiety. Over long periods of time, these conditions can cause all sorts of health complications from high-blood pressure to insomnia.
Ashwagandha is loaded with anti-stress agents which studies show inhibit cortisol release during times of stress. Cortisol is the stress hormone. Studies in humans and animals have shown decreased cortisol levels in subjects who received ashwagandha prior to testing.
One study found that ashwagandha had the following effects:
- Reduced cortisol levels
- Reduced symptoms of stress
- Reduced symptoms of depression
- Increased testosterone in males (but not females)
Ashwagandha May Improve Sleep
The word “ashwagandha” is Sanskrit. It means, “smell of the horse” or (translated differently) “essense of the horse”. This is because of the ancient belief that Ashwagandha imbued strength, life, and vitality.
Ashwagandha has another name, though. Its botanical name is “Withania Somnifera”. This name is a Latin phrase meaning “dream carrier”, a reference to ashwagandha’s use in supporting restful sleep.
One study found that administering ashwagandha was associated with improvements in sleep quality and general quality of life of the participants. It makes sense, right? One of the biggest inhibitors to sleep is stress, and ashwagandha is known for its ability to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Ashwagandha May Enhance Sexual Function In Men And Women
One of the oldest uses for ashwagandha is the restoring of sexual function and libido in aging persons, and modern research is beginning to support this use. Ashwagandha root extract is often advocated as a treatment for erectile dysfunction in men and diminished sexual desire in women.
Impaired sexual function can be the result of many factors ranging from stress to poor circulation. Positive sexual experiences are related to health and well-being throughout life and a strong predictor of quality of life. For people struggling in this regard, research suggests that ashwagandha may be a game-changer.
One study on women observed a “significant improvement in the number of sexual encounters… after 4 weeks and 8 weeks” of ashwagandha supplementation. The study also observed improvements in “arousal, lubrication, orgasm, [and] satisfaction” in women using ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha May Improve Physical Performance
As mentioned earlier, ashwagandha’s name is a bit of a pun. It means “smell or essence of a horse”, and we can only guess that whoever gave it that name meant to say that ashwagandha will make you “strong as a horse!”
But what does modern research say about this ancient claim?
According to one study, “Muscle strength increased significantly [after supplementing with ashwagandha] and, although body weight and body mass index (BMI) did not change significantly, there was a trend toward increased lean body weight and decreased body fat percentage”
Another study performed on mice found that mice given ashwagandha were able to swim for an average of 740 minutes, nearly double the 385 minute average of mice who were not given ashwagandha.
Other Benefits Of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha contains powerful antioxidants which some research has tied to the following positive health outcomes.
In addition to the benefits listed earlier in the article, ashwagandha may:
- Improve Memory
- Improve Concentration
- Improve Immune Function
Ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogen with a history more than 5000 years long. In that time, it’s been used to treat a wide range of health conditions, and modern research is finally beginning to corroborate many of these uses.
Ashwagandha may be particularly useful for those people looking to reduce stress, improve sleep, improve sexual function, and increase their energy levels.
You can’t jump in a time machine, but ashwagandha may help you turn back the clock a little, so you can feel younger and better than you have in years.
Chopra A, Narsimulu G, Patwardhan B, Saluja M, Sarmukaddam S, Tillu G. Evaluating higher doses of shunthi-guduchi formulations for safety in treatment of osteoarthritis knees: a government of India NMITLI arthritis project. J Ayurvedic Integr Med. January 2012;3(1):38-44.