Ayurveda has introduced us to some of the most cherished and beneficial herbs and tonics. One such herb that is gaining recognition is Ashwagandha.
Popularly called the Indian Ginseng, this shrub is cultivated in large numbers in India and Nepal for its medicinal properties.
"Ashwa" means horse. The roots of the shrub have a strong odor not different from the distinctive smell that horses have. The roots and the fruits of this shrub are used to create different alternative medicines and there are proven references of this herb being used as early as in 6,000 BC.
If you are interested in the wonders that natural and alternative medicine can do for your body and your mind, keep reading.
The correct way to use Ashwagandha
If you are a traditional medicine practitioner and are certified to create supplements using fresh herbs, then you can grow Ashwagandha shrubs at home and reap the benefits. For most others, this is not an easy thing to do.
Ashwagandha supplements are available in the form of powders, capsules, and liquids. You can choose the type that suits you and start consuming it.
Proven benefits of Ashwagandha
Here is a list of benefits of Ashwagandha proven based on various researches and clinical trials.
Helps reduce stress and anxiety
This is one of the most discussed properties of Ashwagandha. There are numerous clinical trials and tests that successfully link this herb with anti-stress properties.
This controlled study tests 64 subjects using various examinations and tests for their ability to handle stress. The result proves that the right dosage of Ashwagandha does improve a person's ability to resist stress and stay calm in different situations.
Improves male fertility
In a study that compared the effects of Ashwagandha with male fertility, the result was hugely successful. About 50 infertile men were chosen and they were asked to consume Ashwagandha root extracts in the dosage of 5 grams a day for 90 days. At the end of three months, about 14% of men were able to make their partners pregnant.
Boosts memory functioning
In a study done on 50 random individuals, few were asked to consume 300mg of Ashwagandha extracts twice a day and few were on placebos. At the end of 8 weeks, the individuals who consumed the supplements did considerably better in terms of immediate and general memory tests and were able to retain information and exhibit increased memory processing speed.
In 2012, a group of Indian cyclists were invited to participate in a controlled study to check the effects of Ashwagandha on cardiovascular endurance capacity.
The cyclists were divided into experimental and placebo groups and the experimental group was given 500 mg supplements of Ashwagandha roots for a period of 8 weeks.
Baseline treadmill tests were performed at the beginning and end of the study and the experimental group did much better at the end test and their time to reach exhaustion considerably increased.
Lowering blood sugar levels
Studies that measured the blood glucose levels of people who consumed controlled portions of Ashwagandha extracts for 30 days record that the fasting blood glucose levels considerably came down with the consumption of this herb. In fact, the effect of the herb was considered equivalent to the effect of any other oral hypoglycemic drug.
Here are other commonly noted benefits of Ashwagandha extracts.
- Strengthens immunity levels
- Improves cognitive functioning
- Is anti-inflammatory in nature
- Can reduce the risks of tumors
- Brings down bad cholesterol levels
- Promotes the growth of new nerve cells
How to choose the right Ashwagandha supplement
Choosing a supplement is no longer a simple task as there are hundreds of brands and thousands of choices available. Checking for these two points will help you pick a pure and effective supplement.
- Opt for organic Ashwagandha products
- Pick supplements enriched with Withanolides
- Choose supplements that are highly bioavailable at low doses
Is organic Ashwagandha a better option?
Organic ashwagandha supplements are sourced from farms that do not use harmful and chemical-laden pesticides to grow the shrubs. This makes the extracts purer and safer for consumption.
Always ensure that this key ingredient is present
Withanolides are a group of steroids that are naturally occurring in certain generic types of flora. Withanolides are also a part of the Ashwagandha plant. It takes experts to create supplements of this herb that contains a rich source of Withanolides.
Random supplement brands extract the powder or make capsules without worrying about the Withanolides concentration and these supplements do not work as effectively as they promise.
This group of steroids is known to be used in the treatment of many chronic diseases. All Ashwagandha supplements mention the percentage of Withanolides they contain. The more the percentage, the better is the supplement.
How to make Ashwagandha work for you?
Bioavailability is a term that talks about how much of the supplement actually enters the bloodstream for circulation and how long it stays in the system working its effects. It is only logical to choose supplements that have high bioavailability levels even in low doses.
Dosage levels of Ashwagandha
The dosage levels you consume everyday matters a lot. Too low a dosage might mean that the supplement does nothing to your health while too high a dosage can be harmful.
Experts suggest starting on lower dosages in the beginning and then consulting your doctor before increasing the dosage. Dosages as low as 100-200mg a day can bring amazing changes to your physical fitness and your mental health.
With doctor’s recommendations, dosages anywhere from 500 mg to 1000 mg can be consumed safely.
Things to take care of when you use Ashwagandha
Although Ashwagandha has always been a well-tolerated and safe herb, it is recommended that you do not overuse it. The recommended dosage levels will be mentioned in the supplement packs you consume. Follow that religiously to be on the safer side.
If you are pregnant, then Ashwagandha supplements are not for you. They are proven to have abortifacient (causing an abortion) properties. In some cases, they can also trigger early delivery. Breastfeeding women should also refrain from taking such supplements without talking to their doctor about it.
If you are already on diabetic medication, the use of Ashwagandha can bring your blood sugar levels lower than normalcy. Keep checking your glucose levels and adjust medication accordingly.
Ashwagandha supplements can interact with your blood pressure medication. A doctor’s advice is recommended before you start this supplement.
If you are on sedative drugs, using Ashwagandha can make you very drowsy and tired. Talk to your doctor before you start on the supplements.
The bottom line
When taken in safe quantities and with full approval from your physician, Ashwagandha is absolutely great and makes you healthier mentally and physically.
You will need to continue the supplements for at least 8-12 weeks to see a considerable difference in your health.
Along with this herb, make small changes in your lifestyle too for enhanced benefits. Choose healthier and fresher food and work out at least a couple of times a week.