Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) Overview

Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) other names: Ajagandha, Amangura, Amukkirag, Asan, Asana, Asgand, Asgandh, Asgandha, Ashagandha, Ashvagandha, Ashwaganda, Ashwanga, Asoda, Asundha, Asvagandha, Aswagandha, Avarada, Ayurvedic Ginseng, Cerise d'Hiver, Clustered Wintercherry, Ghoda Asoda, Ginseng Ayurvédique, Ginseng Indien, Hayahvaya, Indian Ginseng, Kanaje Hindi, Kuthmithi, Orovale, Peyette, Physalis somnifera, Samm Al Ferakh, Samm Al Rerakh, Sogade-Beru, Strychnos, Turangi-Ghanda, Vajigandha, Winter Cherry, Withania, Withania somnifera.

Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) image

The herb known as the ashwaganda is a small plant in the same plant family as the common garden tomato. The root and berry are used to make medicine.

This plant is a stout shrub which can grow to a height of about five feet-170 centimeters-when fully matured. The ashwaganda is similar to the tomato, in that it too bears yellow flowers and has a red colored fruit, the fruit is however, berrylike in size and shape and the resemblance to the berry of tomato is not very easy to recognize. 

This herb is endemic to south Asia, and the ashwaganda grows abundantly in the wild in countries like India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka-all of which are in south Asia and share a similar climate. Herbal remedies make use of all the parts of this particular herb-and many different herbal medicines are prepared from this herb.

In Ayurvedic, Indian, and Unani medicine, ashwagandha is described as “Indian ginseng.” Ashwagandha is also used in traditional African medicine for a variety of ailments.

Don’t confuse ashwagandha with Physalis alkekengi. Both are known as winter cherry.

Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) Health Benefits

The role of the herbal ashwaganda preparation in traditional herbal medical systems for more than 2,500 years has been as a "vitalizer" or energizer of the human body. These days, this herbal remedy is placed in the category of remedies known as the adaptogens. The herb has powers of rejuvenating the body; it can help in balancing and strengthening the body, and aids in calming the nervous system of an affected individual. 

There is some evidence that ashwagandha combined with deep breathing and a specific diet might reduce symptoms of anxiety. 

Some clinical research shows that a combination herbal product containing ashwagandha may improve attention and impulse control in children with ADHD.

Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) plant

The herbal remedies made from the ashwaganda are also very useful in brining effective relief from physical fatigue; ashwagandha can aid in alleviating nervous exhaustion, and improve the chances of recovery from memory loss suffered by a person. At the same time, the remedial properties attributed to the herb also include an aphrodisiac action; it has a great reputation in this regard and is believe to be capable of preventing the onset of sterility in males and also possibly aiding in the treatment of various sexual ailments. 

The herbal remedies made from the ashwaganda also acts as a mild sedative and it reduce mental turmoil and promote a calm sleep in a person with an agitated or stressed mind. The ashwaganda is also believed to promote rapid tissue regeneration and is believed to slow down the aging process in individuals using the remedy for long periods of time.

The ashwaganda is considered to be an excellent aid in bodybuilding and for enhancing performance in all types of sports which are physically challenging. This is because the ashwaganda gives the user an instant charge of very long lasting energy increases, precluding the need to use other chemical stimulants by the athlete.

The beneficial effects of the ashwaganda have been successfully used in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and in the correction of certain disorders with the memory and mental functions. Any loss in memory suffered by the patients is corrected by the ashwaganda through its ability of modifying the way in which the brain utilizes a chemical neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine; this chemical messenger is the agent responsible for transmitting messages from one nerve cell to the other nerve cell within the brain. The brain sometimes gets the acetylcholine it needs, by the destruction of its own cells especially in situations when the oxygen levels within the brain become very low. The transmission of nervous signals is blocked in areas where these cell remnants form neuro-fibrillary tangles and the consequence is that the person displays symptoms similar to Alzheimer's. The consumption of ashwaganda by a person will reduce the likelihood of this cannibalization process in the brain. The persistent continuation of such an action will result in a lowering the cognitive deficit and memory loss which come with memory diseases like the Alzheimer's disease and other brain disorders.

Preliminary research shows that ashwagandha in combination with an alternative form of medicine known as Ayurvedic therapy might improve balance in people with cerebellar ataxia.

Ashwaganda has also been used in the treatment of arthritis and the carpal tunnel syndrome. Studies conducted on animal test subjects indicate that many of the naturally occurring steroids in the ashwaganda herb have greater potency in the treatment of arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome, than the synthetic steroid hydrocortisone usually used to control the inflammation in such disorders. Furthermore, the natural steroidal compounds present in the ashwaganda also help to reduce the pain evident during arthritis as effectively as other compounds and medications including aspirin and the compound phenylbutazone - especially when they are taken in small amounts. At the same time, these compounds bring on these effects without the immune depressing side effects associated with the other medications.

Herbal remedies made from the ashwaganda are also effective against many autoimmune disorders of the human body. During the course of treatment for a common autoimmune disorder like lupus, taking the ashwaganda remedy can lead to an increase in the counts of both red and white blood cells following initial treatment of the affected patient using drugs such as azathioprine-lmuran, drugs like cyclophosphamide - generic names, Cytoxan, Neosar, or prednisone which are normally used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

There is some evidence that ashwagandha might reduce bloodsugar levels in people with diabetes.

Remedies made from the herb are also used in the treatment of cancer. The herbal extracts of the ashwaganda herb increases the platelet count, and the total red blood cell count, along with the total white blood cell count which tends to dip during the chemotherapy treatment with cyclophosphamide-Cytoxan, Neosar-used in the treatment of cancer. The ability of the ashwaganda to sensitize cancer cells against radiation treatment have also been demonstrated in several animal studies undertaken in the country of India, in fact, the use of the ashwaganda during the radiation treatment made the treatments approximately fifty percent more effective than normal. The ability of the ashwaganda and its effectiveness in putting cancer tumors into a state of regression has also been observed in certain studies.

Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) Side effects

Ashwagandha is possibly safe when taken by mouth short-term. The long-term safety of ashwagandha is not known. Large doses of ashwagandha might cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and vomiting.

It’s not known whether it’s safe to apply ashwagandha directly to the skin.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Do not use ashwagandha if you are pregnant. Ashwagandha is rated likely unsafe during pregnancy. There is some evidence that ashwagandha might cause miscarriages. Not enough is known about the use of ashwagandha during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) flower

Diabetes: Ashwagandha might lower blood sugar levels. This could interfere with medications used for diabetes and cause blood sugar levels to go to low. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar closely.

High or low blood pressure: Ashwagandha might decrease blood pressure. This could cause blood pressure to go to low in people with low blood pressure; or interfere with medications used to treat high blood pressure. Ashwagandha should be used cautiously if you have low blood pressure or take medications for your blood pressure.

Stomach ulcers: Ashwagandha can irritate the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Don’t use ashwagandha if you have a stomach ulcer.

“Auto-immune diseases” such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other conditions: Ashwagandha might cause the immune system to become more active, and this could increase the symptoms of auto-immune diseases. If you have one of these conditions, it’s best to avoid using ashwagandha.

Surgery: Ashwagandha may slow down the central nervous system. Healthcare providers worry that anesthesia and other medications during and after surgery might increase this effect. Stop taking ashwagandha at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Thyroid disorders: Ashwagandha might increase thyroid hormone levels. Ashwagandha should be used cautiously or avoided if you have a thyroid condition or take thyroid hormone medications.