Ashwagandha (aka Somnifera dunal) is an adaptogenic herb that’s popular in Ayurvedic medicine. It has been used for more than 2,500 years. It’s actually the most commonly used and extensively researched adaptogen herb.
Ashwagandha is valued for its thyroid-modulating, neuroprotective, anti-anxiety, antidepressant and anti-inflammatory properties, which are just some of its many benefits.
In India, it is known as the “strength of the stallion” because it traditionally has been used to strengthen the immune system after illness. It’s also been referred to as “Indian ginseng” because of its ability to enhance your stamina and work as a natural stress reliever, and those aren’t the only benefits of ashwagandha.
In fact, the herb’s ability to work as a stress-protective agent is what makes it so popular. Like all adaptogenic herbs, it helps the body maintain homeostasis, even in moments of emotional or physical stress.
But the many ashwagandha benefits don’t stop there. This powerful herb has shown incredible results for lowering cortisol levels and balancing thyroid hormones. Plus, it’s been used for mood disorders and in the prevention of degenerative diseases, as it appears to help with these conditions as well.
What Is Ashwagandha?
The ashwagandha plant is botanically known as Withania somnifera root. It is a member of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family. Ashwagandha root is also commonly called Indian ginseng, winter cherry and somnifera root.
The root and leaves of the ashwagandha plant are most commonly used for their medicinal properties, and the presence of withanolides, a group of steroidal lactones, contribute to the herb’s health benefits. These withanolides include withaferin A, withanolide D and withanone.
The literal meaning of the word ashwagandha is “smell of horse” because the fresh roots of the herb are said to smell like a horse. As the story goes, it’s believed that when you consume it, you may develop the strength and vitality of a horse as well. In Latin, the species name somnifera can be translated as “sleep-inducing.”
There have been over 200 studies on ashwagandha benefits, including the herb’s ability to:
Improve thyroid function
Treat adrenal fatigue
Reduce anxiety and depression
Increase stamina and endurance
Prevent and treat cancer
Reduce brain cell degeneration
Stabilize blood sugar
Ashwagandha is an important herb in Ayurvedic medicine because it serves many purposes and benefits many body systems, including the immune, neurological, endocrine and reproductive systems. It’s often used as ashwagandha oil (sometimes called ashwagandha essential oil). The primary goal of Ayurvedic medicine is to help people stay healthy without the need for suffering, prescription drug options or complicated surgeries.
As part of this 5,000-year-old system, ashwagandha herb is used as a home remedy to relieve a number of health conditions and help the body remain in balance.
According to research published in Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy, “Ayurvedic medicinal plants have been the single most productive source of leads for the development of drugs.” Many of the Ayurvedic herbs, like ashwagandha root, have proved to be useful in relieving a number of health concerns.
In Ayurvedic medicine, this herb is characterized as a “rasayana.” This means it’s used to promote physical and mental health, defend the body against disease and damaging environmental factors, and slow the aging process. In India, it has been used as a broad-spectrum remedy for centuries, but more recently scientists have found that it possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that play a major role in the many ashwagandha benefits.
11 Ashwagandha Benefits and Uses
What are some ashwagandha benefits for men and women? There are thyroid, anxiety and weight loss benefits, among others. Here are some of the top uses once you diagnose an issue, with the supporting research indicating the herb’s benefits: