Ashwagandha, known as the king of Indian Ayurvedic herbs, is popular for its medicinal properties, especially in relieving stress and anxiety among people. The herb is mostly found growing in India, the Middle East, and also in some parts of Africa. Since centuries this medicinal herb has been used to treat different types of health problems and diseases, making it one of the most important medicine in the Indian Ayurvedic care. Evidence of Ashwagandha being used can be dated in ancient times and makes this Ayurvedic herb around 3000 years old.
How did the ‘Ashwagandha’ word originate?
Ashwagandha is a Sanskrit word Ashwa meaning 'Horse' and Gandha meaning 'Smell'. It got its name due to its roots having a strong horse' sweat like odour. The herb is also popularly referred to as the 'Indian Ginseng' or ‘Winter Cherry’.
Historical uses of Ashwagandha
In the past, this medicinal herb was predominantly used to treat various diseases and health conditions, some of which are stress, anxiety attacks, Insomnia, Arthritis, diabetes, memory loss, fever, and gastrointestinal problems constipation, skin problems, and snake bites.
This herb's roots are found to contain elements essential in providing health benefits to old and young people alike. Even the leaves, seeds, and fruits of the plant had been used in the Ayurvedic medicine in the past as well as in the present.
Among its various benefits, Ashwagandha had and is still being treated as a 'Rasayana', meaning that the herb is magically infused with anti-ageing properties, helpful in maintaining both mental and physical youthfulness in a person.
Benefits of using Ashwagandha in Ayurvedic treatment
Many studies conducted till now have shown the beneficial effects of Ashwagandha in several ways. While most of such studies were conducted on animals, little has been proved about its effects on humans. But one cannot shy away from the fact that the medicinal herbs have been a trusted and highly popular source of Ayurvedic treatment in India.
Be it a low risk or high-risk disease, Ashwagandha has been acting as a catalyst in treating these diseases. It has also been classified as an ‘Adaptogen’ by acting greatly in relieving stress, depression, and anxiety in patients, by enhancing the body's cope up mechanism in such situations. It can even help in maintaining blood sugar and cortisol levels, enhancing cognitive abilities, and in many other ways.
Treating diseases/health problems using Ashwagandha
We will be dealing with the uses of Ashwagandha in treatments methods of different diseases from scientific and Ayurvedic point of view:
- Science : Many scientific experiments have proven the benefits of Ashwagandha in reducing stress levels in a person. Consumption of Ashwagandha powder helps in reducing cortisol levels, which is a 'Stress Hormone' and thereby healing the patient from any stress like condition like fear or irritability effectively.
- Ayurveda : Any fluctuation in VataDosha is the cause of stress in a person. By taking the Ashwagandha root powder can help reducing anxiousness, fear, irritation, and ultimate any form of stress. It can be consumed in the form of tea, a concoction of root powder, boiled water, ginger, or honey.
- Science : Like stress, Anxiety issues can also be treated with the help of Ashwagandha. Reducing the level of Cortisol (stress hormone) can bring anxiety levels down in a patient considerably.
- Ayurveda : Imbalanced or excessive Vatadosha causes anxiety issues in a person who can be healed with Ashwagandha's help. It can help in balancing the Vata in your body, thereby preventing even problems like anxiety attacks.
- Science : Hypertension results due to elevated blood pressure in the human body. Ashwagandha may help reduce high blood pressure by lowering the Cortisol levels in a person associated with such stress and anxiety-related issues. The herb's root powder, taken either in the form of tea or mixed with water, can prevent hypertension effectively.
- Ayurveda : Hypertension or RaktaGataVata in Ayurveda is one of the common results of high stress or anxiety issues in a person. In Ayurveda, Ashwagandha is found to treat hypertension by effectively lowering its root cause such as stress or anxiety levels, and ultimately resulting in normal blood pressure.
Diabetes mellitus( Type 1 and Type 2)
- Science : Ashwagandha may help control sugar levels in people suffering from diabetes by stimulating the production of insulin and enhancing sensitivity to insulin. It can also give rise to insulin secretion by multiplying insulin-producing cells.
- Ayurveda : Many studies have proven the benefits of this herb in making the cells less insulin resistant, thereby helping the body cells to fully utilize glucose levels. Ayurveda classifies treatment of diabetes into two types:
Aptarpana and Santarpana : Aptarpana or de-nourishment is a therapy used for Kapha-body type people suffering from obese diabetes. Whereas, Santarpana or replenishment is a therapy used for lean diabetic people with a Vata or Pitta body type. This herb balances both the Vata and KaphaDosha in a patient, thus helping in managing diabetes.
- Science : Male suffering from stress-related infertility issues can take the help of Ashwagandha, which is a known aphrodisiac.This herb improves the testosterone in a person’s body with the help of its antioxidant properties in fighting off free radicals, thereby preventing any sperm damage. So it lowers the risk of any such problem in stress-induced male infertility.
- Ayurveda : By lowering the stress levels, Ashwagandha helps in preventing any resultant male infertility issues due to its effectiveness in balancing Vata. Ashwagandha increases both the quantity and quality of sperms and overall sexually healthy male body.
- Science : Studies have found Ashwagandha in pain caused during Arthritis due to its analgesic property. By taking the roots and leaves of this herb will produce pain relievers like Prostaglandins. This helps in reducing inflammatory and pain problems associated with Arthritis.
- Ayurveda : In Ayurveda, Arthritis is known to occur due to an excessively increased VataDosha in a person. This is known as Sandhivata. Ashwagandha is taken in powder for infusing the body with Vata balancing properties and helps in relieving the with any kind of pain or swelling in joints or bones.
- Science : Ashwagandha can also be used in reducing the risk of Parkinson's disease or any other memory loss problem in a patient. As it contains antioxidant properties, this herb can greatly help in preventing any damage to nerve cells, and ultimately lowering the risk of such disease.
- Ayurveda : According to Ayurveda, Parkinson's disease can be considered akin to “ Vepathu" which is similar to the former in terms of its symptoms. In Ayurveda, this is caused by vitiated Vata. Ashwagandha taken in the powdered form will help in balancing Vata and thereby controlling the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Forms of Ashwagandha in Ayurveda with Recommended Dosage
Ashwagandha in the Ayurvedic treatment is used in tablets, powder, or capsule form. Each of these forms of Ashwagandha can be used to create different types of herbal tonics or tea or milkshake with a prescribed dosage amount. If you have not consulted with your doctor regarding the dosage amount for each Ashwagandha form, you can then follow these dosage recommendations:
- Ashwagandha Tablets: 1 tablet twice a day, preferably after lunch and dinner.
- Ashwagandha Powder: 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon of powder (churan) twice a day, preferably after lunch and dinner.
- Ashwagandha Capsules: 1 capsule twice a day, preferably after lunch and dinner.
In case you have consulted with a doctor, then it is advised to stick to their recommended prescriptions.
Types of Ayurvedic Care with Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is also available in powder form, taken from the roots as a means to prevent or lower the symptoms of stress, anxiety, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, etc.
Tips: As prescribed by your doctor, you can mix the ashwagandha root powder in milk or warm water. You can use the ashwagandha powder to make ashwagandha tea, milkshake, laddoo, or even Shrikhand.
Ashwagandha's roots or powder can be taken in the form of tea in curing ailments like Stress, Diabetes mellitus, and Hypertension.
-Boil 2 cups of water in a pan.
-Add 1 teaspoon of ashwagandha root powder.
-Let it mix completely in water.
-Boil till the mixture reduces to half.
-You can add some milk, honey (not recommended for people with high blood sugar levels), and ginger to enhance the tea's taste.
-Drink while it's hot.
-Drink one cup of ashwagandha tea every day.
Ashwagandha taken in the form of a milkshake can be an excellent alternative to normal milkshakes, which are devoid of any health benefits. This way, you will not only get closer to a healthy lifestyle without compromising on the taste.
-In a pan, take a spoonful of ghee and roast 4 tablespoons of Ashwagandha powder in it.
-You can even add honey to this mixture or leave it, especially if you are a diabetic patient.
-Mix this mixture with warm milk.
-With cold milk, you can blend them to get a frothy milkshake.
-You can even store it in the refrigerator for future consumption.
Ashwagandha taken as a sweet will not only be an interesting alternative to powder and tablets form the herb but will also help as effectively as any other form.
-Mix two tablespoons of Ashwagandha powder and 1 tablespoon of jaggery well.
-You can add salt, black pepper, honey (avoid if you have blood sugar problems) for an enhanced taste.
-Knead the mixture well to form a soft dough-like consistency.
-In circular motion give a ‘ladoo’ shape to the small dough balls.
-Store up to 4 days or consume them at once.
Ashwagandha Shrikhand is also another unique way of improving your health.
-Take 250 gm of thick curd and hang it in a muslin cloth to drain all the excess water.
-Take the resultant hung card and divide it into 4 parts.
-Mix ashwagandha powder and honey/ jaggery/ sugar, dry fruits as per your choice to the hung curd.
-Knead the mixture into a soft dough and cool off in a refrigerator for later use.
Ashwagandha tablets are also available for consumption about treating the health conditions mentioned above.
Tips: Take one tablet of Ashwagandha mixed with warm water or milk after lunch and dinner, twice a day, or as prescribed by your doctor.
The Ashwagandha is also available in capsules form, which you can take with warm water or milk, one each after lunch and dinner.
Tips: Mix with warm water or milk. You can even add ginger, honey, to satisfy your taste buds. However, it is not recommended to take more than 2 doses of these capsules unless prescribed by your doctor.
Side effects of Ashwagandha
While Ashwagandha is magically infused with healing properties, it is also found to have certain side effects, especially in people suffering from kidney or heart-related issues, pregnant ladies, and diabetes. Certain after-effects of using Ashwagandha have been shown in some scientific studies:
- Low blood pressure
- Abdominal cramps or pain
- Excessive sleepiness when consumed together with alcohol
Both science and Ayurvedic experts recommend consulting a doctor before taking Ashwagandha as it can create certain gastrointestinal issues, such as diarrhoea. People with a septic ulcer should especially avoid using Ashwagandha without prescription.
Precautionary guide while using Ashwagandha?
For Diabetic Patients
-View of Science Experts :
According to scientific experts, taking Ashwagandha may reduce glucose levels in the blood. Therefore, it is advised to take a regular check on the blood sugar levels in case you are consuming Ashwagandha in any of its forms and supplements. Maintain a limited intake of such herbs while you are on anti-diabetic drugs.
For Thyroid Patients
-View of Science Experts
Thyroid patients or even those susceptible to thyroid-related issues should be avoided in large amounts. According to the scientific view, Ashwagandha may increase thyroid hormone (T4) in a body, making a person more prone to the thyroid. Thus it is advised to regularly monitor thyroid levels in your body. People already suffering from hyperthyroidism should avoid using Ashwagandha while undergoing treatment.
For Heart Disease Patients
-View of Science Experts
According to modern science experts, people with heart-ailments should limit their intake of Ashwagandha as it might lower blood pressure levels in your body. Keep a check on your blood pressure regularly if you decide to continue using Ashwagandha and its supplements while undergoing treatment.
For Pregnant Ladies
-View of Science Experts
Using Ashwagandha during pregnancy is shown to increase uterine contractions, resulting in premature delivery. Therefore, avoid using Ashwagandha during those months.
-View of Ayurvedic Experts
It is advised to get a consultation from your doctor for using Ashwagandha while you are pregnant. Any self-medication should be strictly avoided.
For Ladies, while Breastfeeding
- View of Science Experts
No scientific proof is available showing any good effects of using Ashwagandha during breastfeeding months. Thus, avoid using Ashwagandha and its supplements during pregnancy as well as breastfeeding period.
-View of Ayurvedic Experts
It is advised to get a consultation from your doctor for using Ashwagandha while you are breastfeeding. Any self-medication should also be strictly avoided.
For Patients with Kidney related issues
-View of Science Experts
Patients dealing with kidney ailments should avoid using Ashwagandha and its supplements as it is found to have diuretic properties. Consumption of such herbs can result in lesions in the kidney, thereby aggravating the condition too worse. People with a previous history of kidney-related issues should also consult a doctor before using it.
FAQ’s about Ashwagandha
Can Ashwagandha cure cancer?
According to science experts, Ashwagandha can help in curing or preventing cancer as it helps stop the growth of cancer cells. It also helps in reducing the side effects of chemotherapy treatment.
How is Ashwagandha oil used?
Ashwagandha oil is found to maintain Vata and Kaphadosha in a person's body and help energetically increase Pitta levels. You can find ashwagandha oil for full or local body applications.
-Take a few drops of oil and gently massage the area you want.
-Cover the area with a towel or blanket.
-Let the oil infuse with the body cells.
-Avoid immediate contact with the outside environment, especially in the cold weather.
Is it safe to take Ashwagandha before surgery?
According to science experts, Ashwagandha should not be taken before any surgery since it can increase the risk or create side effects harmful for you. Ashwagandha can slow down the central nervous system, and such consumption before or after any surgery can even slow down the system further. Thus it is advised to stop using Ashwagandha at least 2 weeks before or after surgery.
How is Ashwagandha beneficial for men?
Science experts vouch for the Ashwagandha's effectiveness as it helps in dealing with stress management, bringing down anxiety and hypertension, and building strength and stamina in men.
Ayurvedic experts list the following qualities of Ashwagandha, which are highly beneficial for men:
-Improving Vajikarna meaning sexual desire
-Rasayana herb to rejuvenate the body and soul of the person
-Increasing body strength (balya)
-Improving ShukraDhatu (Semen) in both quality and quantity
-Lowering Tanav (stress)
Can Ashwagandha help with weight loss?
Yes, the use of Ashwagandha can help reduce weight as it helps manage the cortisol levels. By lowering the cortisol levels, the urge to over-consumption of food items is reduced to a great amount, resulting in weightlessness.
An increase in weight results in an accumulation of ‘Ama’ in a person’s body. Here ashwagandha leaves can be of help as it can reduce Ama by managing the obesity levels and increasing metabolism in a person. It can also balance MedaDhatu, which will help in overcoming the obesity problem.
Can Ashwagandha prevent hair fall?
Yes, Ashwagandha can greatly help in reducing stress-induced hair loss problems. When a person is stressed, it leads to an increase in the secretion of ACTH hormone (adrenocorticotropic hormone), which ultimately results in aggravated cortisol levels. Ashwagandha is a known adaptogen that effectively deals with stress-related issues like hair fall.
Stress induces imbalanced Vatadosha in a person, and according to Ayurveda, Ashwagandha can have a counter-effect on stress by balancing the Vatadosha in a person. This medicinal herb is also infused with essential oil (Snigdha property) for a healthy scalp. This can overcome hair-related problems like hair fall, dry ends of hair.
Tip: gently massage ashwagandha oil, preferably 3 times a week. Continue using at least up to six months.
Can Ashwagandha prevent Insomnia?
Yes, Ashwagandha can help in the betterment of sleeping patterns of people, and also prevent sleep-related problems like Insomnia. Being an adaptogenic medicinal herb, Ashwagandha can help in dealing with stress-related Insomnia effectively. It can calm the nerves and lead to better sound sleep for a patient.
Since Ashwagandha is known to reduce cortisol levels in a body by lowering the ACTH hormone, any issues or problems related to stress will thus be cured. This also includes Insomnia.
Andra (Insomnia), according to Ayurveda, is a result of an aggravated VataDosha in a person’s body. This herb has relaxing properties to calm down the nerve cells, thereby balancing Vata in the person and helping him/her to get a sound sleep.
When can Ashwagandha cause nausea?
High or overconsumption of prescribed dosages of Ashwagandha can result in nausea, as well as other side effects.
When a person consumes Ashwagandha in its powdery form, he/she might feel nausea. This is specifically seen in those people with weak PachakAgni, causing problems in digesting the powder form of the herb. Tip: if you are new to Ashwagandha, start with either tablet or capsule intake, and then gradually feel free to use the powder form of the herb.