Review of "Ashwagandha"

published 14/12/2006 | supreah
Member since : 04/10/2005
Reviews : 18
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Excellent
Pro Has anti-stress, adaptogenic, rejuvenating, aphrodisiac, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-ageing, anti-oxidant, antibacterial, anti-tumour, antibiotic, and memory boosting properties
Cons To be avoided by people with peptic ulcers
very helpful
Value for Money
Side effects
Effectiveness

"Ashwagandha, the Indian Ginseng"

Ashwagandha plant

Ashwagandha plant

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known in English as "Winter Cherry", is a commonly used herb in Indian traditional medicine, Ayurveda. Roughly translated as "Science of Life", Ayurveda is one of the world's oldest medical systems, which has a positive concept of health to be achieved through a blending of physical, mental, social, moral and spiritual welfare. Ayurvedic herbs have been effectively and safely used in India for thousands of years. Amongst all these important herbs is Ashwagandha, one of the best researched and effective herbs in Ayurveda. Unfortunately, very little is known about this herb in the West, which explains its lack of popularity here.

Ashwagandha is a Sanskrit word and when literally translated means "having the smell of a horse". The name must have probably originated from the odour of its root which resembles that of a horse.

The Ashwagandha plant is a small evergreen shrub that belongs to the Solanaceae family. It can grow to a height of two to three feet and bears bright red fruits and small yellowish green flowers. This plant requires temperate climate for its growth and is suitably grown in the dry parts of India, Africa and Middle East. Although all parts of the plant are useful, it is the root of this plant that is used medicinally.

The active compounds present in the roots of Ashwagandha plant (Withania somnifera) are called withanolides. Although withanolides impart the characteristic odour to the roots, they are responsible for the multiple medicinal applications of Ashwagandha.

In what forms is Ashwagandha available?
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Ashwagandha is available in the form of powder, liquid extract or in the form of capsules. The powder is brown in colour with a characteristic odour and slightly bitter taste. Thus consuming Ashwagandha in the form of capsules is the most desired form of intake. A bottle of 60 capsules costs around £7.50 and is easily available on the websites selling Ayurvedic products. One such site is http://www.ohmhealthcare.com. Ashwagandha is also often combined with other herbs in a number of useful preparations.

Ashwagandha, a proven adaptogen
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Ashwagandha is a proven and potent adaptogen. Let us first understand the meaning of the word adaptogen. An adaptogen is a specific plant extract that controls the level of the "stress hormone" cortisol, which is produced in excess at times of stress. The presence of higher and prolonged levels of cortisol in the blood stream can have several negative effects on our body. Some of them include higher blood pressure, depressed immune function, impaired inflammatory response, decrease in muscle function and bone density, hyperglycemia, suppressed thyroid function, increased abdominal fat and an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. It is therefore vital to keep the cortisol production under control. Ashwagandha reduces the amount of cortisol released by the adrenal glands of our body and thus directly opposes the reaction of stress.

In addition to that, Ashwagandha fulfils all the three key properties of an adaptogen by helping the body to adapt to stress, supporting cells at a healthy state and being totally non-toxic to our body cells.

Medicinal uses of Ashwagandha
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Ashwagandha is a very valuable herb in the Ayurvedic system and has a myriad of benefits. It is an adaptogenic herb and helps to improve body's immune, hormonal as well as nervous system.

In addition, it is considered to be a premiere anti-ageing herb due to its rejuvenating and longevity enhancing properties. The anti-inflammatory properties of this herb have been effectively demonstrated in a variety of rheumatologic conditions.

Ashwagandha promotes both vitality and virility by strengthening both female and male reproductive systems. Its aphrodisiac properties help improve the libido. Excessive physical training leads to higher levels of cortisol in the body, which in turn eats up the muscle protein. With its adaptogenic qualities, Ashwagandha helps preserve muscle protein and therefore is the perfect natural anabolic training aid for endurance athletes. By increasing the number of immune cells in the body, it also helps to fight infections.

Because of its high iron content, Ashwagandha is often used to treat anaemia. Its cognition enhancing and memory-improving effects have been effectively proven in humans. Ashwagandha reduces anxiety and is helpful for insomnia. It has powerful antioxidant properties that scavenge the free radicals responsible for ageing and numerous disease states. It is therefore the herb of choice for health concerns like stress, arthritis, fatigue, memory problems, aging, etc.

Other uses
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The twigs of Ashwagandha can be chewed to fibre and can be used to good effect as a toothbrush.
The berries of the Ashwagandha plant are used as a substitute for rennet, to coagulate milk in cheese making.
When combined with almond oil and rose water, it can be used as a facial toner.

Side effects
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Ashwagandha has an excellent safety profile and is believed to be safe for most people. It is contraindicated with barbiturates (sedative medications used to treat anxiety) and pharmaceutical diuretics. Because of its heating properties, it is best to be avoided by people having stomach ulcers. Also large doses of Ashwagandha should be avoided during pregnancy.

Conclusion
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Today's life is full of tension and stress. When we feel stressed out, the first thing that we reach out for is probably a cup of coffee, tea, or maybe a cigarette or a bar of chocolate. Although we might experience the short-lived "perk-up" effect due to the above so-called "remedies", little do we realise that in the long run we fall victim to a number of horrendous side effects, the most common one being addiction.
What could be better than the wonder-drug Ashwagandha to cope with stress and the hassles of everyday living? It is an effective, safe and non-addictive herb that has been tried and tested in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years! With its myriad properties which include anti-stress, adaptogenic, rejuvenating, aphrodisiac, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-ageing, anti-oxidant, antibacterial, anti-tumour, antibiotic, and memory boosting, Ashwagandha is undoubtedly the prima donna of the herb kingdom.

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Comments on this review

  • torr published 11/03/2007
    Most interesting. I regret that I've never heard of it, or, to my knowledge tried it. But I'll look out for it. Duncan
  • hewks published 10/01/2007
    Never heard of this but I really like the sound of it, will have a look for it! Great review xx
  • vixsta14 published 23/12/2006
    Great review, I am quite tempted to give this a try xxx
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