Ashwagandha: Benefits, Uses and Side Effects You Should Know

Ashwagandha is an ancient medicinal herb that started in India over 3000 years ago. In Ayurveda, ashwagandha is considered as Rasayana, means an herb that keeps you young. Today, ashwagandha leaves, seeds, and roots are used to treat various medical conditions. It has infinite benefits for your body and brain such as it boosts your brain function, fight against anxiety and depression, control blood sugar level, and more. However, the herb should be avoided by pregnant women as it can lead to early delivery. Read in detail ashwagandha benefits, used, and side effects.

India is popularly known as the home to Ayurveda and other medicinal herbs. One of the richest herbs from the reservoirs is Ashwagandha, also known as Ajagandha or Amarguna.

Here is an insight of what is Ashwagandha, Benefits of Ashwagandha, its uses, and the side-effects:

ashwagandha

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is an Indian grown shrub that has been used for making medicines for hundreds of years. The elements found in its roots and fruits are known for pacifying the brain, boosting the immune system and lowering blood pressure. Thereby, it is categorised as an Adaptogen implying that it manages the stress level in the human body.

Facts about Ashwagandha

  • The name Ashwagandha is derived from the Sanskrit language which means ‘Smell of a Horse’, referring to the horse-like smell of its roots and ability to boost body strength.
  • It is suggested that Pregnant Women must not consume Ashwagandha as it stimulates early delivery.
  • It is also known as Indian Ginseng or Winter Berry.
  • It is recorded that Ashwagandha’s healing qualities have helped in the treatment of chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s, Cancer, and Anxiety.

Uses of Ashwagandha

For its medicinal properties and elements, uses of Ashwagandha includes-

  • Curing stress and anxiety
  • Treatment of Arthritis, Insomnia and Skin conditions
  • Helps in preventing memory loss
  • Induces Insulin and reduces Blood sugar level
  • Lowers bad cholesterol
  • Helps in boosting testosterone level in Men
  • Helps in curing Alzheimer’s
  • Treats gastrointestinal issues

Benefits of Ashwagandha

It is a distinguished herb from India’s Ayurvedic reservoir and is credited as a popular supplement because of its vital constituents. Here are some of the benefits of Ashwagandha-

  1. To reduce stress

After several types of research, it is deduced that Ashwagandha has the ability to help reduce stress. When tested on rats, it was noted that the elements present in the herb caused the blocking of stress trails in the brain by sending chemical signals in the nervous system. Hence, it came to be categorised under Adaptogens. But, there is no solid evidence of the other claimed uses.

Consumption of the root extract called KSM66 twice in a day after meals and Shoden on a regular basis can help improve the symptoms of stress.

Analysis: According to a continuous 2-month study of individuals with chronic stress issues, it was recorded that consumption of supplement with Ashwagandha helped reduce anxiety & stress up to 69%.

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  1. Reduction of Blood Sugar Level

As per several human studies conducted by researchers, Ashwagandha stimulated the secretion of insulin in the body of both a healthy person and a diabetic person. As a result of which the blood sugar level in the body was reduced.

Analysis: A similar study on people with type-2 diabetes recorded lowering of fasting blood sugar level. However, the results were questionable which implies that there is only a little evidence that this herb entirely reduces blood sugar.

  1. Beneficial for Certain Cancers

Animal and Test-tube studies have recorded that there is a component of Ashwagandha called Withaferin which helped in inducing Apoptosis- a form of ‘programmed cancer cell death’.

Moreover, studies on animals showed that the same element helped in reducing lung tumor. There have been a lot of speculations that Ashwagandha can slow down human cancers such as breast, lung, kidney, and prostate cancer. However, there is no proper evidence of the speculations.

Analysis: The bioactive compound in the herb, Withaferin, caused a reduction of cancer cells in Animal bodies but whether it has a similar impact on the human body or not, is still unclear. 

  1. For Arthritis

Regular but controlled consumption of supplements containing Ashwagandha has shown positive results in curing Arthritis. Its elements act on a nervous system and prevent the sending of pain-related signals in the body. Moreover, because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it is used to treat arthritis.

Analysis: Studies have shown that people who consumed Ashwagandha, gained muscle strength and size. Nonetheless, in some cases, it also resulted in body fat percentage. 

  1. Lower Cholesterol

Uses of Ashwagandha include consumption as a medicine to reduce cholesterol levels in individuals with high cholesterol. The herb decreased the level of blood fat in the Animal bodies. And, a study in rats recorded that taking cholesterol reduced cholesterol by 53%.

Analysis: According to a study conducted for 2 months in chronically stressed adults, 17% decrease in LDL (Bad cholesterol) has been recorded after taking high doses of ashwagandha extract. 

  1. Alzheimer’s

Individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s often undergo loss of memory and brain functions because of damages that connect parts of the brain. Studies conducted on rats during the early stages of the disease showed that the herb may provide protection from excessive health damage.

Analysis: As per the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine, a few examinations have inspected that the use of Ashwagandha relaxes or obstructs the loss of brain functioning in individuals suffering from Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

  1. Boosts Testosterone in Men

The report of a few studies conducted on Animals suggests that Ashwagandha may mitigate problems in brain functioning caused by injuries or damage. It offers protection to nerve cells and advances antioxidant activity.

Analysis: In the study performed on healthy individuals showed that consumption of 500mg of Ashwagandha extracts improved the reaction time, performance of different tasks as compared to the individuals who received a placebo.

Side Effects of Ashwagandha

It is suggested that one should take the limited and controlled dosage of Ashwagandha in order to avoid some side-effects which are not favourable for a healthy body.

Some of the side-effects of Ashwagandha include-

  • Oral Consumption: Taking the herb for maximum of three months is considered a possibly safe intake. Taken frequently and in larger portions may cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and vomiting.
  • Can Cause Miscarriages: It is advised that pregnant women must avoid consuming the herb as it may cause early delivery or miscarriage.
  • Stomach Ulcers: Use of Ashwagandha can cause irritation in the gastrointestinal tract leading to stomach ulcers.
  • Thyroid: Frequent consumption of the herb may increase hormones causing thyroid in the body. Hence, it must be avoided if a person is suffering from Thyroid or is taking related medicines.
  • The slowdown of Nervous System After Surgery: In some cases, Ashwagandha causes a slowdown of the nervous system, and different medications taken during or after surgery might cause major damage. One should stop the intake of the herb at least 2 weeks before the surgery is scheduled.

In a nutshell,

Ashwagandha and Ayurvedic medication despite everything, remains to some degree, a puzzle to current science. Several studies have been conducted but turned out too small, performed distinctly on creatures, or had a few imperfections in the overall plan. Therefore, specialists can’t state with conviction that it’s a successful treatment. However, the advantages cannot be disregarded either.

It is highly advised that Ashwagandha shouldn’t supplant any clinical medications suggested by your primary care physician. If you are planning to use the herb as a major aspect of your treatment plan, make a point to initially examine it with your primary care physician.