Ashwagandha: Ancient herb for modern-day stress

From the constant expectation to stay digitally connected to environmental pollutants, most of us are under a constant barrage of stressors. This constant bombardment of input nicks away at our body’s ability to restore it’s most basic of cellular processes. The results are fatigue, anxiety, early aging and inflammation. There is an herb that supports our body’s ability to adapt to stressors called Ashwaghanda.1


Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is commonly used in Indian and African medicine for a variety of health concerns related to inflammation, immune system restoration, sexual health, and as an adaptogen to counteract the effects of stress. The plant (withamia somnifera) is from the tomato plant family and contains many useful ingredients including steroid lactones, alkaloids, choline, fatty acids, amino acids and a number of useful sugars.


Stallion strength

Ashwagandha’s name is translated to the “smell of a horse,” meaning it offers health benefits that impart the power and strength of a stallion. The common name for the herb is Indian ginseng, and though technically unrelated to ginseng, both exhibit comparable restorative properties.

A number of research studies show that Ashwagandha may play a role in immune system protection, combating stress, reducing anxiety, improving cognition, helping with insomnia, reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure and managing blood sugar.2



Ashwagandha as an adaptogen

Herbs like Ashwagandha act adaptogens, which are unique classes of herbs, that “allow the body to counter adverse physical, chemical, or biological stressors.” Adaptogens do this by helping the body develop methods to resist stress, thus allowing the organism to ‘adapt' to the stressful circumstances. Adaptogens not only balance stressors, they also balance endocrine hormones and the immune system.


Youth-serum herb

Stress, chronic tension and fatigue can be a leading cause of premature aging. All of these factors play a role in increasing oxidative stress, which causes a decrease in vital antioxidant enzymes called catalase and glutathione peroxidase. However, Ashwaghandha significantly reduces the number of damaged cells by as much as 80%, according to animal studies.

Ashwaghandha reduces the cell destruction by balancing two opposing metabolic systems involved in aging – catabolism and anabolism. Catabolism is the system that is connected to stress and degeneration. Anabolism is the restorative counter balance to catabolism. Ashwaghandha favors the anabolistic mechanism of healing and restoration through a process called homeostasis.


Cortisol reducer

Another role that Ashwaghandha plays is to reduce cortisol levels. Stress and coritsol go hand in hand – when stress levels are high the body pumps out the hormone cortisol – which increases inflammation at the cellular level. This type of chronic inflammation is what can lead to heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. Ashwaghandha suppresses cortisol level by as much as 26%, according to a human clinical trial.3


Examples of other adaptogens

Ashwaghandha is a unique adaptogen that exhibits a well-rounded impact on the body, others like it include Panax ginseng and Siberian ginseng, as well as Holy Basil. Ashwaghandha is often blended with other adaptogenic herbs that support the immune system such as tumeric, ginger, green tea and rosemary. Other adaptogens provide the body with energy and stamina, such as gingko biloba and rhodiola rosea.


Contraindications

It is important not to understand that medicinal herbs like Ashwaghandha should not be used with some traditional pharmaceuticals and without the supervision of your physician. Your healthcare provider can assess your health and genetic makeup to determine the specific herbs your body needs to restore and regenerate yourself back to balanced health.


References:

1. Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul;34(3):255-62. Singh N, Bhalla M, de Jager P, Gilca M. An overview on ashwagandha: a Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2011;8(5

2. Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul;34(3):255-62. Singh N, Bhalla M, de Jager P, Gilca M. An overview on ashwagandha: a Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2011;8

3. Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul;34(3):255-62. Singh N, Bhalla M, de Jager P, Gilca M. An overview on ashwagandha: a Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2011;8(5. Gupta SK, Mohanty I, Talwar KK, Dinda A, Joshi S, Bansal P, Saxena A, Arya DS. Cardioprotection from ischemia and reperfusion injury by Withania somnifera: a hemodynamic, biochemical and histopathological assessment. Mol Cell Biochem. 2004 May;260(1-2):39-47.


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