Ashwagandha (withania somnifera) is an herbal dietary supplement grown in both North America and India. Also known as India winter cherry, it is part of the Solanaceae family. Ashwagandha is made from the brown roots of the shrub, and it is believed by many to benefit a number of ailments.
Ashwagandha has been used for centuries. Although people mainly associate the herb with India, Africans and even Native Americans have used it for infections and for warding off illness. Earning its fame in Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is now proving to be a powerful herbal remedy praised by the alternative health community.
Even modern science is beginning to grasp the potent abilities of this herb.
Numerous studies by researchers at India`s Banares Hindu University have investigated its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-stress properties. Seven companies in America have applied for a patent to include ashwagandha extract in the manufacture of certain products. Four Japanese companies also have applied for a patent.
Ashwagandha: Uses and Benefits
James A. Duke, writes in "The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook that Ayurvedic practitioners in India have prescribed preparations made with ashwagandha for centuries as a general tonic for everything from hiccups to a variety of gynaecologic concerns. The list of concerns treated by ashwagandha includes:
- Mild depression
- Rejuvenate exhaustion
- Improve concentration
In particular, it is known for its ability to calm, and some research indicates this herb can be used to promote sleep. Researchers have noted the similarities in the sleep-inducing properties of ashwagandha and the calming effects of the well-known amino acid GABA. Likewise, ashwagandha has also been shown to ease anxiety or restlessness, as well as to reduce the symptoms of drug withdrawal.
Its ability to stabilise moods and encourage adrenal recovery is highly valued by many herbalists.
In India, it is also used to help older patients with mental agility, cognitive ability, and memory. It is also known for its ability to fight off cold and cough symptoms. Preliminary studies give researchers reason to feel that ashwagandha also has the potential ability to decrease cancer cells without adversely affecting healthy cells.
Additionally, medical researchers have discovered that Ashwagandha has the power to assist with healing a variety of other health ailments. These include:
- Stabilising blood sugar levels
- Combating stress symptoms
- Improving memory, learning, and reaction times
- Reducing the degeneration of brain cells
- Lowering cholesterol
- Has anti-malarial properties
- Anti-inflammatory benefits
Ashwagandha is also considered by many to be an anti-aging supplement, and it traditionally was known for its ability to provide nourishment to bones and muscles.
Studies have also shown that the orange berries from the ashwagandha can be used topically to aid carbuncles, skin ulcers, and tumors. Further research looks to determine its effectiveness as a treatment for bone cancer, diabetes, bipolar disorder, constipation, impotency, rheumatism, nerve problems, memory loss, arthritis, and many other physical ailments.