Health Benefits of Ashwagandha

By Ron Butters;

It is very challenging to balance modern life with our body's need for proper nutrition. Even when you do make an effort to eat a varied and balanced diet, the abundance of mass produced and overly processed food products on grocery store shelves often undermines your efforts and good intentions. One possible solution is to add wholesome herbal supplements to your diet to help your body fight the stress of poor diets and provide badly needed vitamins, minerals and rich natural compounds. Picking herbs that are known to have an adaptogenic effect on your body is the best place to start. An adaptogen has a wide spectrum positive impact on your body and it will aid all the systems in your body to function at their optimal levels. To this end, one of the best adaptogens is Ashwagandha or Withania Somnifera.

This wonder plant is a native of South Asia and a staple herb in the ancient Indian field of Ayurveda. The name Ashwagandha is derived from Sanskrit and translates literally to mean 'Horse Smell'. This name underlines the herbs potent smell that is reminiscent of a wet horse. Just as Ginseng has played a central role in the ancient Chinese traditions of health care, Ashwagandha has played a central role in India's indigenous health care traditions and culture. Sometimes the herb is also referred to as Indian Ginseng; however the two plants are not related, while Ginseng belongs to the 'Panax' genus, Ashwagandha belongs to the 'Withania' genus. The main active compound groups responsible for Ashwagandh's immense health benefits are alkaloids and steroidal lactones.

As an adaptogen, Ashwagandha promotes the body's natural ability to resist and counter environmental stresses. The human body has a tremendous ability to fight stresses whether they are caused by poor diet, environmental toxins and pollutants, disease or mental and physical stresses. However the increase in stress is inversely related to the body's ability to cope. This is where Ashwagandha is so beneficial. It helps maintain proper nourishment of the tissues, muscles and bone against the background of stresses impacting the body. The herb also supports the immune, adrenal, circulatory and reproductive systems aiding them to function at optimal levels. Such a wide spectrum impact helps the body to leverage its natural ability to fight stress and heal.

A study conducted in India also revealed that anti-oxidant levels in the body increase upon taking Ashwagandha. Specifically, levels of glutathione peroxidase, catalase and superoxide dismutase were shown to increase with the ingestion of Ashwagandha. These anti-oxidant properties of the plant are also thought to give it an overall anti-ageing (or rather age fighting) effect on the body. Furthermore, since anti-oxidants neutralize free radicals, Ashwagandha may also play a role as a preventive agent against certain types of cancers.

Those individuals prone to anxiety and panic attacks may also benefit from Ashwagandha. It has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety in various studies. The exact mechanism by which Ashwagandha helps alleviate anxiety symptoms is not understood, but one theory is that compounds in the plant attach to GABA receptors in the central nervous system; hence Ashwagandha is thought to have a similar impact as GABA towards fighting anxiety.

Since time immemorial, Ashwagandha has been prescribed by traditional practitioners in India to treat various conditions related to sexual function and infertility. Its positive impact on the reproductive system can be largely attributed to its adaptogenic properties. As an adaptogen, Ashwagandha improves overall vitality and stamina, which in turn would aid in increased semen production. Furthermore, since the plant aids in fighting anxiety and thus promoting calm, it is believed that the overall calming effect increases mood and helps in promoting sexual performance and desire.

Athletes may also benefit from using Ashwagandha. During times of extreme exercise, the body is exposed to tremendous physical stresses that tax all its systems. Ashwagandha promotes better oxygen flow to muscle cells allowing for greater strength and endurance. The body is also better able to counter the effects of stress hormones which are released during periods of intense exertion.

Ashwagandha provides all the aforementioned benefits to health without any significant known side effects. It is truly a wonder, and has been proven effective through its long history of use in India spanning many millennia.

Your question: Have you ever consumed ashwagandha? (post your comments below)

About the Author: Learn more about the Health Benefits of Ashwagandha at - the foremost portal for information on this plant.


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