When was the last time you felt fatigued or overly stressed? Perhaps you experience difficulty sleeping? Or maybe you feel like you could use an extra boost of energy and focus throughout the day?
If any of these questions ring a bell for you, then keep reading.
This may be your first time hearing about (or attempting to pronounce) ashwagandha, which is an ancient herb that has been used for centuries in various systems of healing. Notably, ashwagandha has played a prominent role in Ayurvedic, Indian, and Unani medicine, as well as in traditional African medicine. The name “Ashwagandha” comes from the Sanskrit language, combining the word “ashva” (which means “horse”) with the word “gandha” (which means “smell”), reflecting the root’s strong aroma. This name was also intended to convey the vigor of a stallion, as ashwagandha was traditionally used to strengthen the immune system.
In addition to boosting immune function, ashwagandha may be capable of:
• Alleviating the effects of stress
• Improving learning and mental clarity
• Reducing anxiety and depression
• Preserving brain health
• Stabilizing blood sugar
• Helping to lower cholesterol
• Reducing inflammation
• Enhancing sexual potency
In experimental models, ashwagandha increased the stamina of rats during a swimming endurance test. Research has also indicated that ashwagandha may be useful for children with memory deficit and for elderly people with memory loss. Ashwagandha has even been shown to promote the formation of dendrites (which help form connections among brain cells).
Moreover, ashwagandha is an adaptogen. Adaptogens are substances that help modulate your body’s response to stress or a changing environment. Adaptogens help your body deal with both internal stressors (such as restlessness) and external stressors (such as environmental toxins). In essence, these substances help balance your body by normalizing your physiological functions.
Although empirical evidence for the applications of ashwagandha in Western medicine is still emerging, the root has been used for arthritis, anxiety, insomnia, tumors, tuberculosis, asthma, bronchitis, backache, fibromyalgia, menstrual problems, and chronic liver disease. This ancient plant shows great promise in healing a variety of ailments, but it is important to remember that much of the support for ashwagandha comes from anecdotal evidence. As always, consult with your doctor before adding this root to your diet or supplementation regimen as it may interact with medications.
Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD is the creator of Brain Tune Nutraceuticals and Brain Optimization Intensive Retreats, and also the best-selling author of Face Your Addiction and Save Your Life. Visit his websites at www.doctorsunder.com and www.mindandbodytreatment.com
Jeff Bohnen, BSc studied Psychology and Music at the University of Michigan. He’s currently studying Integrative Neuropsychiatry at the Mind & Body Treatment and Research Institute before beginning medical school in July.