Ashwagandha: what is it for and how to take

This content is part of the Alternative Medicine category and may contain information that lacks scientific studies and/or medical consensus.

Have you ever heard about ashwagandha? Overall, this is an extract in powder or natural capsules made with roots of an Indian plant that has some health benefits. Learn what it is, what it is for and how to take this remedy that is a true gift of nature.

With the increase of adherents of healthy living, the herbal use of natural foods is becoming more popular every day. This is good news, as there are many foods, plants and roots that are real remedies available in nature, such as ashwagandha.

This plant has been used for centuries by oriental medicine, and it is still done so today. Rich in unique properties, ashwagandha has amazing nutrients and composition, which can be the key to the treatment and cure of some specific ailments.

See below for the most reliable information about the properties and benefits of this plant that is becoming more famous every day!

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha, also known by the Indian ginseng names is actually the Withaia Somnifera plant . A medicinal herb with a potent relaxing and aphrodisiac effect concentrated in its roots. It is a natural option that has appeared strongly in the alternative medicine scene, mainly to combat insomnia, stress and sexual impotence .

Belonging to the nightshade plant family, ashwagandha is a kindred species of tomato . Its fruits vary between orange and red color, are small, as well as the plant itself, which measures between 35cm and 75cm.

It is a very common plant in India, its country of origin, but it is also found in regions of countries like Nepal and China. There, its use is basically aimed at natural medicine. Its leaves and berries are used to treat burns and injuries. The roots, the main part of the plant, are used to produce teas and other remedies.

It is important, however, to understand that discoveries about this plant are still recent, despite its centuries-old use. There is indeed some scientific evidence and studies that demonstrate positive effects, but much research is still underway to understand the “mechanisms” of ashwagandha’s functioning.

Etymology of the word “ashwagandha”

You must be wondering what the correct pronunciation of the word “ashwagandha” is like, right? The word is pronounced “ashuaganda”. The term is the union of two words from the Hindi language (main language of India). “Ashva” means “horse” and “gandha” means “smell”. In other words, the name of the plant is basically “horse smell”.

With that, you can already see that the plant has a strong smell. Yes, it is believed that the name was chosen by ancient peoples precisely because it refers to the strong smell present in horses.

But beyond that, the name is related to the popular phrase “horse health”, which is an expression used to refer to those who are in good health and do not get sick. Therefore, you can also see that we are talking about a plant with impressive strengthening properties.

However, it is important to learn to differentiate Ashwaganda from Alkekengi. Both are plants known in some places by the name “winter cherry”, but they are very different from each other.

What is it for?

Ashwagandha has been used therapeutically for hundreds (maybe thousands) of years. With the advancement of medical and herbal science, several proven uses of this plant have been discovered for the benefit of human health.

Here you will learn about the main uses of this plant for human health. Ashwagandha can be found in the form of capsules or as an ingredient in teas. Among its many uses, the relaxing and stimulating sexual action stand out. Check out the benefits of Ashwagandha:

  • relieves stress
  • Decreases anxiety
  • It’s a natural sexual stimulant
  • Balances glucose levels
  • fights cancer
  • good for the memory
  • Improves the immune system
  • Provides energy for the body
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Regulates the thyroid

The properties of this plant are also able to fight tuberculosis, ulcers and adrenal fatigue. In addition, some researches have already obtained the first results that show that Ashwagandha helps in the treatment of arthritis.

Surprised? Yes, these are the benefits proven by science. In addition to those mentioned above, Ashwagandha is believed to have many other beneficial health benefits and properties.

Learn more about the benefits

Here you will find out a little more about each scientifically proven benefit of Ashwagandha. Discover how the properties of this plant root act in the body to serve as a miracle remedy for some common ailments.

relieves stress

First, it’s good to mention one of the main benefits of continued use of Ashwagandha: stress relief. Yes, this plant is so efficient in this case that it is called a “natural antidepressant”. It literally sends stress, anxiety and mental fatigue away.

The properties capable of relieving stress are in the composition of the plant’s roots. They act directly on the imbalance of hormones that cause or are caused by moments of stress.

Its anti-stress effect is similar to the effect caused by the drug imipramine, found in pharmacies. It works as a natural mood stabilizer.

Decreases anxiety

Another super important benefit of Ashwagandha is its ability to reduce anxiety. Those who suffer from this disease know that anxiety conditions are horrible and can come with very strong and uncomfortable symptoms. This plant can be of great help in these cases.

Again, this effect is a result of the medicinal properties found in the plant’s roots. Research indicates that the action of Ashwagandha is similar to the effect of drugs such as lorazepam and imipramine. However, it does not have side effects such as those mentioned.

Other studies claim that this benefit is only obtained if the patient follows a healthier diet. It is not yet known exactly which nutrients make the anxiolytic effect possible, but it is proven that in a poorly nutritious diet, this action does not happen in the body. Breathing exercises can also be very important when using Ashwagandha as a natural anxiolytic .

It’s a natural sexual stimulant

After the benefits associated with stress, nervousness and anxiety, the main medicinal advantage of Ashwagandha is its stimulating effect on sex. Some of its properties are considered aphrodisiacs, therefore, it increases sexual desire and fertility in men.

This benefit is more aimed at men, as Ashwagandha acts with the hormone of testosterone. Some research indicates that consuming Ashwagandha increases levels of this hormone, which stimulates male erection and sexual performance.

Furthermore, with the control and increase of testosterone levels, male fertility increases. As such, it is a great natural remedy to treat erectile dysfunction. It is also believed that this plant helps improve sperm quality, which benefits a healthy conception (when sex is made with the aim of getting pregnant).

Ashwagandha, on the other hand, cannot help with sperm counts, a trait that makes many men infertile when attempting natural conception. In these cases, research into other design methods is recommended.

Balances glucose levels

Ashwagandha could be the key to diabetes control! That’s right, the composition of the plant is based on substances that are capable of controlling glucose levels. Therefore, it is a great natural remedy for more controlled cases of diabetes.

It stabilizes sugar levels in the body. Therefore, it is highly recommended as a natural option for enhancing the treatment of diabetes. Science has proven that consuming this plant/root extract increases a patient’s sensitivity to insulin.

Using the plant as a natural aid in these cases can prevent unforeseen events from happening, such as glucose peaks that happen even with the use of insulin. Furthermore, it is very good for the bloodstream of diabetes patients.

fights cancer

Yes, medicine has recently proven that Ashwagandha has real benefits when it comes to fighting some types of cancer. Even some studies are hopeful that the plant may be one of the keys to a more effective treatment against this disease in the future.

Some substances and properties found in Ashwagandha are capable of preventing the growth of tumors, especially malignant ones. These properties are enough antioxidants to even make tumors shrink. But, of course, if the use is done correctly.

In addition, it makes the symptoms of treatments (chemotherapy and radiotherapy) decrease, which speeds up the process and provides better quality of life for patients. In cases where the disease is already advanced, the plant extract can prolong life with more quality than some artificial remedies.

In addition, some research claims that consuming Ashwagandha daily during cancer treatment makes cancer cells more sensitive to drugs, chemotherapy and radiation. Therefore, the chances of a cure increase!

good for the memory

In old age, Ashwagandha is considered a great stimulant for memory and general brain well-being. Its use can even protect this organ from serious diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (both cause the degeneration of parts of the brain).

First, it is important to emphasize that this plant is the source of two super potent medicinal properties: withaferin A and   withanolide D . Both have been used in brain medications for years. They act on the cognitive function.

This benefit has been proven by studies of African medicine, which have found that Ashwagandha is good for various brain disorders.

Improves the immune system

Many studies show that regular consumption of Ashwagandha root extract or tea stimulates and benefits the immune system. In addition to having some important nutrients, vitamins and minerals, Ashwagandha extract has substances that protect the body from various ailments.

Furthermore, medicine has already proven that consuming this plant improves blood circulation and improves blood quality. Therefore, the body is even more protected and prepared in case of illness.

Provides energy for the body

An important benefit of Ashwagandha is its ability to promote energy, disposition and endurance to the human body. Therefore, it is highly recommended for those who practice physical activities or study/work using their minds.

It acts as a muscle and brain enhancer . Therefore, it can be used both to energize the body and to energize the mind when needed. In addition, it helps to reduce physical and muscular stress, in addition to increasing cardiorespiratory endurance.

Some studies prove that this effect is real, as medicine observes that Ashwagandha is able to decrease the excessive production of the hormone cortisol.

Improves sleep quality

A study carried out with 18 volunteer patients proved to medicine that the consumption of Ashwagandha is able to improve sleep, in addition to giving more strength to the muscles and decreasing body lipids.

The volunteers were of both sexes and were aged between 18 and 30 years. Each of them received 3 doses of Ashwagandha a day for 10 days, without using any other medication. They also exercised and ate well during this period.

At the end of the research, examinations and reports showed that all had improved sleep quality and easier falling asleep. As such, Ashwagandha can be considered a great natural remedy to combat insomnia.

Regulates the thyroid

Ashwagandha extract is also able to help stabilize the thyroid functions, which is beneficial for those who have diseases or changes in this gland. But be careful with this use, it should only be done with the authorization and monitoring of a doctor. One should never try to alter thyroid function alone.

The studies found were done by observing the action of the plant in laboratory rats, but studies with humans already exist and the beneficial evidence is promising. It is possible that Ashwagandha will soon be a great natural remedy to regulate the thyroid.

However, the use of this plant is indicated for patients with diseases such as Hashimoto and Grave’s Disease. Even so, see an expert doctor for more information.

Medicinal uses under study

Despite citing a lot of proven medical benefits, there are some other well-known medicinal benefits that are still being studied. It is sensible to quote them as many people know Ashwagandha for these reasons. But we emphasize that they are not yet scientifically proven, despite some evidence.

  • Improves attention in children, combating attention deficit and lack of focus on learning
  • Decreases hyperactivity in children, relaxing muscles and stimulating sleep in case of childhood insomnia
  • Improves balance in patients with cerebral ataxia
  • Fights arthritis (when consumed with Articulin-F supplement)
  • Decreases pain from excessive physical activity
  • Fight night cramps
  • Fight tuberculosis
  • Decreases Fibromyalgia Symptoms

All these benefits already have studies in progress, and some of them are very close to being proven, as in the case of the improvement of arthritis and tuberculosis. However, there are no scientific articles or studies with these confirmed results.

But, every day Ashwagandha comes with new benefits. This is great, as we can be in front of the food that will be the key to the cure of various diseases!

How to take correctly?

The protagonist of Ashwagandha is the root. This is where most of the medicinal properties of this plant are. It is also the basis of Ashwagandha extract, which is the easiest way to find this plant in Brazil. However, berries are also used safely by natural medicine.

See how to properly consume Ashwagandha in various ways:

  • Tea: Drink 1 cup before bed
  • Capsules: Take 1 tablet before lunch and 1 before dinner
  • Liquid extract: Take 2 ml to 4 ml (40 and 80 drops, respectively) in half a glass of water 3 times a day

The tea and the liquid extract are recommended to combat insomnia, stress and anxiety, mainly. Ashwagandha capsules serve all the benefits mentioned in this article.

It is noteworthy, therefore, that if you consume the pill in the morning, you will enjoy its stimulating and energizing effect throughout the day. On the other hand, if you consume it at night, before bed, you will get the anti-stress and mild sedative effects.

How to prepare Ashwagandha tea?

Ashwagandha tea has a bitter taste and thermogenic effect, which helps you lose weight, sleep better and brings many other benefits. See how to prepare tea:

  1. Boil 1 cup of water and turn off the heat
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of dried Ashwagandha root and leave covered for 15 minutes
  3. then strain and drink

Since the flavor of Ashwagandha is strong, it is recommended to make the decoction with other herbs or even pieces of fruit, such as pineapple or apple. Thus, the flavor is masked without altering the medicinal benefits.

Where to buy?

Ashwagandha can be found in health food stores (main local), food and physical supplement stores, compounding pharmacies or even dry root online stores. It is always important to check, whether in person or online, if the product is 100% natural. This is very important!

Get recommendations and research before you buy. If possible, also choose with the benefits you want to obtain. See below for the best options for each objective.

  • Flavor: look for the fruit in its natural form, but it’s very hard to find
  • To lose weight in a healthy way: tea is recommended
  • Energetic benefits: Capsules or liquid extract are indicated
  • Sexual stimulation: Capsules are indicated
  • Relaxing, anti-stress and sleep-enhancing effect: Tea, extract or capsule
  • Diabetes improvement: capsules
  • Boost Immunity: Capsules
  • Benefits for the brain and memory: capsules

Contraindications and care

Despite the numerous benefits, we have already said that there are also some uncertainties about this plant, its use and the results obtained. Therefore, there are some contraindications and necessary care, at least for now. Check out:

It is contraindicated for:

  • pregnant or breastfeeding women
  • Patients with stomach ulcers
  • Patients with rheumatoid arthritis
  • lupus patients
  • Patients with multiple sclerosis
  • Patients with autoimmune diseases in general

Important care:

  • Do not consume with alcoholic beverages
  • Do not use together with sleeping pills
  • Avoid consuming at low blood pressure
  • Do not use it with diabetes medications (it can greatly decrease glucose levels, causing hypoglycemia.
  • Do not consume it before surgery as it may affect the effect of anesthesia and other medications.
  • Never use this plant extract directly on the skin, as it is not known if it is safe to do so.

Ellie Lauderdale

My name is Ellie Lauderdale, MD and I am USA based professional Nutritionist .

I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and board certified specialist in sports dietetics who is trained in integrative medicine. I have worked with hundreds of clients, from those suffering with chronic disease to professional and olympian athletes. My goal is to help optimize you from the inside so that you can feel, perform, and look your best on the outside.

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