Powerful Herb Series: Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine to promote overall longevity and wellness.  It is commonly referred to as Indian ginseng for its powerful rejuvenating and restorative properties.  It has a wide range of powerful benefits and is one of the best herbs you can take to counteract the effects of chronic stress.

 

Benefits

  • Has been used for millenia in Ayurvedic medicine as a tonic for vitality
  • Slows down the aging process
  • Powerful adaptogen that helps restore balance in the body
  • Promotes a feeling of “relaxed energy”
  • Supports body in times of stress and adrenal fatigue
  • Boosts immunity
  • Improves memory
  • Relieves anxiety and depression
  • Improves libido, infertility, and impotence
  • Healing for thyroid
  • Relieves symptoms of menopause
  • Balances hormones
  • Has anti-inflammatory property and reduces joint and muscle pain, especially associated with arthritis
  • Promotes restful sleep
  • Can prevent and treat cancer
  • Stabilizes blood sugar
  • Lowers cholesterol

 

Studies & Resources

  • A study in 2000 concluded that ashwagandha has a variety of therapeutic effects with little or no toxicity.  The study indicated that ashwagandha has anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antistress, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, hemopoetic, and rejuvenating properties.  Although not yet fully understood, it was found to have a positive effect on the endocrine, cardiopulmonary, and central nervous systems.
  • A 1997 study found that ashwagandha root powder possesses free radical scavenging activity, which slows down aging, showing significant results after 30 days of use.
  • Two studies, one in 1993 and one in 1996, were performed by the Department of Radiobiology at Kasturba Medical College.  Both found ashwagandha to successfully fight tumors in the body and said it showed promise as a chemotherapeutic herb.
  • A 2013 randomized, double blind study, gave ashwagandha to one group, and a placebo to a second group.  After 60 days, there was a significant decrease in anxious mood for the group that took the ashwagandha.
  • A 1999 study found that ashwagandha extract stimulated thyroid function in female mice after 20 days of use.

 

Preparations & Dosage

Ashwagandha is typically taken in capsule form, but can also be prepared as tonics, elixirs, or mixed with ghee.

 

For capsules, take 450-2,000 mg per day, split into two doses for best results.  If you find that it makes you tired, only take the herb in the evening before bed.

 

To make tonics, mix ashwagandha powder into milk or tea.  It can have a strong and unpleasant taste, so mixing in flavorful herbs or sweeteners such as cinnamon or honey can be helpful.

 

Grow It

Originally from the hot, dry climate of India, ashwagandha is a short, bushy plant that somewhat resembles a tomato.  It grows about 3 ft high and 3 ft wide.  The fruits are bitter but edible.  The plant’s green flowers become the papery wrapper that encloses round, shiny, orange-red fruits.

 

Ashwagandha likes a hot, dry climate and well-drained soil.  Make sure it is planted in sandy soil, where it will get full sun.  It will not survive frost, so unless you live in a tropical climate or are growing indoors, treat ashwagandha like an annual. It doesn’t need a lot of water.

 

You can propagate by taking cuttings or starting from seed.  They will need plenty of light and temps of 70 degrees or more to germinate.

 

To harvest, dig up the roots before the first frost, or else the roots will mold and die.  Harvest the berries when they are red and ripe.  Cut the root into small pieces to dry them.  You can either set the roots out as is or follow the Ayurvedic tradition of boiling the root in milk before drying.

 

Ashwagandha Bedtime Tonic

Take this tonic a few hours before bed to relax and fall asleep.

Ingredients:

1 cup milk

1 tsp ashwagandha powder

1 tsp cinnamon powder

1 tsp honey

Heat the milk and then add the powders and honey.  Adjust to taste.

[Source: Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide]

Warnings: Do not use if you are pregnant, and do not mix with barbiturates as they may intensify their effect.

 

 

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