Ashwagandha is the Sanskrit name of the medicinal plant Withania somnifera, commonly known as Indian ginseng or Indian winter cherry. The term Ashwagandha literally means ‘smell of horse,’ directly referring to the musky odor of the leaves and stem of the plant, while indirectly alluding to its invigorating effect on the mind and the body. On the other hand, its Latin name somnifera means ‘sleep-inducing,’ which happens to be another effect of the plant.
Ashwagandha is widely used in the ancient medical stream of India known as Ayurveda, which roughly translates to ‘the Science of Life.’ This short perennial has a wide distribution in the foothills of the Himalayas and the surrounding arid plains. It grows wild in undeveloped areas but is cultivated on a large-scale to meet the high demand.
- Ashwagandha provides an energy boost
When people complain of general fatigue or lack of mental and physical energy and initiative, Ashwagandha is often the first remedy recommended by Ayurvedic practitioners. In fact, what people first notice when they start using an Ashwagandha supplement is a perceptible increase in energy, accompanied by a sense of well-being. It is this effect that has earned it the epithet Indian ginseng. However, unlike stimulant drugs that cause a sudden spurt of energy, it does not result in an overexcited state. What’s more; Ashwagandha does not lead to dependency or addiction.
The energy boost is more balanced and is usually apparent as an increased ability and stamina to perform normal tasks without tiring easily. Clinical studies have shown that Ashwagandha uses results in higher blood cell production and enhanced circulation. Researchers could contribute this to high energy levels since every cell and organ in the body requires a good supply of oxygen-rich blood for optimum performance.
- Ashwagandha is excellent for stress relief
This herbal preparation is one of the best stress buster found in nature. It reduces anxiety without making you drowsy. Clinical studies have proven the efficiency of Ashwagandha root extract as an anti-anxiety medication time and again.
A 300 gm dose of full strength Ashwagandha was administered twice a day to one group while others were given a placebo. On comparing their serum cortisol levels at the start of the study and after completing a 60-day period of Ashwagandha use, a marked reduction was observed in the group that was given the drug.
Cortisol is a steroidal hormone produced by the adrenal gland in response to stress. This hormone is essential for the body to kickstart appropriate responses that help us survive real stressful situations. However, constant high levels of cortisol due to chronic stress can be detrimental in more ways than one.
- Ashwagandha promotes restful sleep
One surprising effect of Ashwagandha is that it gives an energy boost whenever it is required, but relaxes the mind and promotes restful sleep when it is sorely needed. In other words, you may find that a morning dose of the herbal preparation provides you with extra energy to go through the day; while an evening dose helps you have a fitful sleep. While this may sound contradictory, it is not difficult to see how a good night’s sleep can make you more energetic the next day.
The sleep promoting the effect of Ashwagandha alone is sufficient to make it a popular therapeutic, given the fact that insomnia is a so prevalent in our modern society. The reasons could be stress and strain at workplaces and in relationships, not to mention environmental stress, but insomnia puts us at greater risk of developing metabolic disorders like diabetes and hypertension. People with sleep disorders have been found to have an increased risk of congestive heart failure too. Regular use of Ashwagandha can restore healthy sleep patterns for the benefit of the body as well as the mind.
People who took Ashwagandha reported an improvement in nighttime sleep and an enhanced sense of well-being. The reciprocal effect of stress reduction and sleep is quite clear here. Restful sleep naturally reduces stress levels, while lower stress levels lead to good sleep. Both have an overall positive effect on the body and mind.