WHAT IS ASHWAGANDHA?
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People, who started practising Ayurvedic medicine 3 thousand years ago, cherished several beneficial herbs that remained known till today. One of such ancient herbs is considered Ashwagandha or in Ayurvedic language called as Rasayana, which is straightly translated into tonic and has the meaning of youth supporter.
Nowadays, Ashwagandha is related to adaptogenic supplements. Russian scientist firstly defined the word “Adaptogen” in the middle of the previous century. Adaptogenic supplement, in this case - Ashwagandha -, provides a state of “nonspecifically increased resistance” for stress.
What is Ashwagandha?
When you hear the name of Indian Ginseng, Winter Cherry or Withania Somnifera (in Latin “sleep-promoting”) be sure it is the same Ashwagandha herb. However, let’s stick to the commonly used Ashwagandha supplement.
The translation of its name does not sound so sophisticated as it seems at first. In Sanskrit, “Ashwa” refers to a horse and “Gandha” stands for a smell. In the result, we have a name which indicates the herb, smelling like a horse. Even though today it is perceived as a repellent, in ancient India that meant a healthy sexual desire.
The appearance of this horse smelling herb reminds an ordinary evergreen shrub, mostly located in dry regions such as India, some parts of Africa and the Middle East. The most valuable part of Ashwagandha is its roots that contain the highest concentration of bioactive (sometimes leaves are also processed). According to Ayurveda legacy, the preparation of Ashwagandha root begins with drying then the next step is grinding with water or milk (ghee or honey also fits) till the form of a paste. Thus Ashwagandha beverage is made. Nowadays, the usual form of this supplement is Ashwagandha powder or Ashwagandha capsules.
If we divide Ashwagandha into smaller structures, we will see a group of steroids called Withanolides. Each Withanolide has its mission - for example, Withanolide IV has a beneficial impact on stress reduction and formation of neurons in our brain. However, each Withanolide hides in a particular part of the herb, that’s the reason why most people process the Ashwagandha root into a beverage - it stores the most valuable compounds. Besides, Ashwagandha leaves contain much higher levels of Withaferin A, which is toxic to cells (unless a qualified specialist knows how to prepare it). A very safe version of Ashwagandha is KSM-66 which is low-toxic.
To be more precise, in this article, we will be talking about the Ashwagandha supplement, provided by Raw Powders.
1. Ashwagandha as a stress fighter
Let’s start with the main benefit of Ashwagandha - stress relief. Ashwagandha is related to adaptogens, substances that have stress-resistant properties. Several studies have proved that Ashwagandha interacts with the Adrenal gland where various hormones, including cortisol, are produced. Cortisol is a steroid hormone, or in other words, a stress hormone, released in response to stress. In the first half of the day, Cortisol levels are rising regarding the accumulation of strength needed during the day time. In the other half of the day, levels are going down to prepare the body for night sleep.
Ashwagandha regulates cortisol release by preventing stressful emotions and anxiety symptoms. However, normal levels of cortisol determine not only stress relief but other features beneficial for body maintenance as well.
Studies revealed another feature of Ashwagandha, related to metabolism. Metabolism is a term which unites two diverse processes called anabolism and catabolism. The second one is responsible for dividing large molecules into smaller substances, while anabolism describes the creation of complex substances from simple ones.
Ashwagandha herb has an anabolic feature that maintains weight gain through a growing phase. This supplement supports healthy levels of haemoglobin and proteins and ensures the decomposition of fatty acids.
Some evidence speaks about Ashwagandha’s produced beneficial properties for thyroid gland functioning. This vital gland is an essential participant in metabolic processes which releases necessary hormones into the blood for body maintenance.
3. Reproductive health
Let’s get back to cortisol. When we are experiencing stressful situations, our Adrenal gland shows more attention to this specific hormone. As a consequence, increased release of cortisol suppresses testosterone, progesterone and estrogen production. Because of Ashwagandha’s feature to normalize cortisol levels, there is no harm made regarding other hormones. In other words, Ashwagandha supports normal levels of sex hormones.
4. Heart health
Several of Ashwagandha’s properties ensure the maintenance of heart health. For instance, Ashwagandha contains Saponins, responsible for the reduction of cholesterol and blood fat. Moreover, adaptogenic features are related not only with emotional stress but with physical stress as well, so when the blood sugar is too high, Ashwagandha comes in and decreases it. Do not forget that a high amount of sugar can cause worsening of such diseases as dementia or depression. And lastly, Ashwagandha might prevent certain heart malaise and unhealthy blood pressure, so do not underestimate this herb.
5. Ashwagandha for athletic performance
Other researchers have tried to relate Ashwagandha to exercising. After a variety of tests, the benefits for athletic performance were undeniable. Ashwagandha indeed supports body muscles by enhancing the recovery process and reducing muscle damage.
Our muscles contain certain enzymes, called creatine kinase or CK. Raised levels of CK indicates muscle damage, so what Ashwagandha does is normalizing those levels to keep it in a healthy range. Furthermore, this Ayurvedic herb maintains energy levels and improves the capacity of the lungs and heart to endure more.
6. Nerve system support
Ashwagandha is also known as a neuro-supportive herb that regulates the whole nervous system and its functioning. GABA gets superb support from Ashwagandha, which helps to build the pathways in our nervous system. To put it in other words, Ashwagandha takes care of natural calmness-providing processes in our body.
7. Joint health
Some studies have shown Ashwagandha’s capability to alleviate C-reactive protein or CRP whereby you could indicate the severity of the body’s inflammation. Ashwagandha decreases joint discomfort and pain so you can enjoy the healthy joints.
8. Antioxidants and anti-inflammation
Ashwagandha herb also has antioxidant properties which safeguard cells from damage caused by free radicals. Previous unstable atoms can trigger serious diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s and others.
And lastly, several studies have shown that Ashwagandha’s anti-inflammatory properties aid in the maintenance of your immune system. Combined with Grifola Frondosa, Ashwagandha may show incredible results on your health (read the study here).
Even though this supplement has low toxicity, Ashwagandha has a few possible side effects that you should be aware of. Firstly, diabetic people have to bear in mind that this herb can lower sugar levels in your blood and interfere with other medications you use. It also might lessen the blood pressure, so if you are suffering hypotension, carefully consider your choice.
If you are about to have a certain surgery, stop taking Ashwagandha 2 weeks before. Seeing that Ashwagandha decreases the activity of the central nerve system, some troubles can appear when you are undergoing anaesthesia.
Another side effect comes with auto-immune system diseases. As Ashwagandha raises the activity of your immune system, it can cause a severe malaise related to auto-immune diseases.
Stomach ulcer can be another obstacle for Ashwagandha users because this herb can cause worsening. We already informed you about interaction with the thyroid gland, despite it being beneficial, this can cause thyroid-related malaise to, for instance, too high levels of thyroid hormone.
Lastly, we will mention some of the rare cases that people reported regarding taking Ashwagandha. Among such side effects can be mentioned dizziness, heart rhythm disorder, skin-related issues (itching, skin rash or other), more often fatigue, diarrhoea or fever appear.
How to take Ashwagandha? Ashwagandha dosage.
If you are considering starting to use Ashwagandha, be aware that the studies cover only three months. Despite it, Ashwagandha is likely safe during that period.
Ashwagandha should be taken with meals, primarily in the morning (if you are seeking a better sleep quality - one or two hours before bedtime), the usual daily dosage varies from 400 mg to 2 g. For starters, we suggest beginning with lower dosages and then gradually raise it. Do not overdose and do take breaks to avoid unwanted side effects or addictive symptoms.