The History and Uses of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is a central herb in Ayurveda, the traditional health system native to India.1 It's been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic practices as a tonic for almost everything from resisting the negative effects of stress on the body to promoting cognitive function.2 Ashwagandha has traditionally been used for promoting health and longevity, revitalizing the body, supporting sleep and generally creating a sense of wellbeing.
But What is Ashwagandha?
In the most basic terms, this revered herb is a humble evergreen shrub valued for its many healthy applications, including as a source of antioxidants which may support healthy aging.3,4
Native to India and northern Africa, Ashwagandha is sometimes called Winter Cherry or Indian Ginseng, but these names may cause confusion. Ashwagandha mustn't be confused, for example, with panax (Korean) ginseng or American ginseng. Although they share a name, ashwagandha is also distinct from Chinese Lantern (Physalis alkekengi), which is also sometimes called Winter Cherry.3
Is Ashwagandha an Adaptogen?
Yes, ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen.3 The term adaptogen refers to the chemical properties found in some plants and fungi which are generally believed to help the body deal with stress or fatigue.5 Ideally, an adaptogen must help promote a healthy stress response, be safe, must exhibit stimulating or relaxing effects, must not upset any bodily functions and must be devoid of negative effects such as withdrawal symptoms. Unlike other popular adaptogens, ashwagandha tends to have relaxing instead of stimulating effects.
Ashwagandha for Stress and Relaxation
The most popular use for ashwagandha is for helping to ease the effects of daily stress. Stress is commonly recognized as a leading cause of physical discomfort, accounting for millions of working days lost. Stress can affect health directly, through autonomic and neuroendocrine responses, but also indirectly, through changes to health behaviors.
Additionally, because the immune system receives signals from the brain and nervous systems, stress may play an indirect role in the body’s immune function. While short-term stress can be protective as it prepares the organism to deal with challenges, long-term stress suppresses or dysregulates innate and adaptive immune responses. As an adaptogen, ashwagandha may help ease the physiological, cognitive and psychological effects of stress.
What Other Benefits Does Ashwagandha Offer?
Over the centuries, herbalists and other practitioners of Ayurvedic traditions have extolled ashwagandha for numerous benefits covering a wide range of health concerns.
Today, scientists continue to study this herb to discover how it can be of measurable benefit to modern health issues common to people around the world.
Among the health benefits most commonly attributed to ashwagandha are the following:6
1. Heart health: ashwagandha is often used to benefit cardiovascular health due to its antioxidant properties and potential to support healthy glucose response.
2. Cognitive health: as an adaptogen, ashwagandha is believed to promote a sense of calm and to help the body deal with stress in a healthy way. Some herbalists also use ashwagandha to help promote better memory function.
3. Performance: ashwagandha has been studied for its potential hormonal benefits for both men and women, albeit in slightly different ways.
Which Ashwagandha Supplements Are Available?
If you're considering adding ashwagandha to your health regimen, you'll be glad to know that there are quite a few supplement options available.
Perhaps the most common form of ashwagandha supplement is as a capsule. These capsules are easy to swallow and may contain ashwagandha only, or may also contain additional ingredients to aid absorption, such as black pepper.
Another ingredient which may be included in a combination formula with ashwagandha is CBD hemp extract. This particular formula is often taken by those looking for a natural calming effect.
If you're not a fan of capsules, it's also possible to get your daily ashwagandha in a fun and tasty gummy. These gummies are convenient and offer all the benefits of ashwagandha anytime you need a boost!
Lastly, some folks enjoy incorporating their ashwagandha into teas or other beverages and recipes. For that kind of supplementation, you may want to consider a healthful ashwagandha powder formula.
Ashwagandha and You
However you choose to supplement with ashwagandha, you'll be joining millions across the millennia who have benefited from this humble plant in ways as diverse and unique as they.
Feel free to experiment and see what ashwagandha can do for you!
Always serving our customers,
Your friends at Swanson
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
1. Ayurveda. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Read source
2. Ashwagandha Overview. National Library of Medicine. Read source
3. Ashwagandha. WebMD. Read source
4. 4 Reasons Why Winter Cherry Is a Common Skin Care Ingredient. Himalaya. Read source
5. Adaptogens. Cleveland Clinic. Read source
6. Health Benefits of Ashwagandha. Forbes. Read source