Ashwagandha is the term used in Ayurveda for Withania somnifera or more commonly known in the western world as winter cherry or poison gooseberry. This is one of the most widely used herbs in Ayurvedic treatments. The word is a Sanskrit term, and is coined by combining the word “ashwa” meaning “horse” with “gandha” meaning “smell”. This makes the meaning of Ashwagandha “the smell of horse”. The name is given to the plant for two reasons: one is that it smells like a horse, and second it is believed to give vitality and strength of a stallion to the user. In Ayurveda, it is regarded as a “rasayna” meaning “rejuvenation”. The herb is a common adaptogen which means that it helps in coping under all types of condition.
The taste of the herb in the six tastes falls in bitter and astringent. The impact of this on the tridoshas is that it increases Vata, while decreasing the other two, Pitta and Kapha.
Major benefits of Ashwagandha
- Immunity: It strengthens the immune system, and increases blood circulation.
- Sexual Potency: The herb is often prescribed to improve sexual potency among men.
- Anti-Inflammatory: The anti-inflammatory properties of the herb allow it to cure any skin ailment like pimples, rashes etc.
- Inflammation: It helps in reducing joint inflammations.
- Cleansing: The herb removes toxins from the body providing it with more vigour, health and vitality.
- Metabolism: It promotes insulin production, helping diabetics.
- Weight-Loss: The removal of toxins and rejuvenation properties help in maintaining weight.
- Stress reliever: It is considered as a strong relaxant and antidepressant, lowering stress & anxiety.
- Anti-aging: Stops cell degeneration and promotes regeneration in old as well as new nerve cells.
- Cancer fighting: The antioxidant properties have been observed to be effective in destroying tumours.
The roots, leaves and fruits of the plant are used in Ayurvedic diets and treatments
. The herb is prescribed to be used in the following ways:
Ashwagandha and thyroid health
- Supplement: A dose of 600 to 800 mg is recommended, but this may vary according to the problem.
- Tonic: a tonic or tea can be made, and consumed twice a day that is, in the morning and the evening. This can be made by boiling ¾ tsp of the herb in a cup of water or milk. This is cooked for 15 minutes.
- Oil: the oil is used a toner for skin after mixing it with a large amount of almond oil. Rose water is added for additional benefits.
- Topical cream: use a pumice to make a paste of the roots of the plant with water. This is then applied to reduce joint and skin inflammations.
- Household uses: the roots are added during boiling milk to remove any infects in it. The berries are used for making cheese and yogurt.
- In combination with other herbs: Ashwagandha can be used with other herbs in any of the above listed methods.
Ashwagandha is thought to have a moderating impact on thyroid function. As such through an adaptogenic effect, Ashwagandha decreases thyroid activity
in cases where the thyroid is overactive. Conversely, if the thyroid gland is under active, Ashwagandha stimulates additional activity. And while Ashwagandha has a long history of use stretching many millennia without any significant side effects noted, it is still always important to first consult a healthcare provider before starting to take the herb to target a thyroid condition.
Ashwagandha and Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s is a disease that refers to the developing deterioration of the brain. Slow and steady loss of memory, poor cerebral ability, mental deterioration and change in personality are generally the predominant symptoms connected to the disease. Ayurveda carries the ability to treat Alzheimer’s, though the treatment does not promise a complete cure. As a matter of fact, no field of medicine has a complete cure to offer Alzheimer’s patients, as of today.
According to the principles of Ayurveda, Alzheimer’s is caused as a result of the imbalance in vata
- this imbalance is quite common as a person begins to grow in age. Alzheimer’s disease affects the vata - in the tissues of the central nervous system of the body - mainly the brain which then slowly becomes imbalanced.
Ayurveda therapy treatment in Alzheimer patients
begins with a vata balancing diet. Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) in the powdered form along with either ghee or milk is included in the patient’s daily diet. This helps charge and soothe the vata.
Herbs such as Brahmi and Ashwagandha that serve as nerve tonics are mainly used in treating Alzheimer’s disease
through the science of Ayurveda.
Ashwagandha and Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson's disease is caused by the degeneration of neurons in the brain that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine and depletion of the enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase (derived from the amino acid tyrosine), which is crucial to the production of dopamine. Elevated levels of free radicals and the damage they cause to neurons are also associated with the development of this disease. Research shows that extracts of Ashwagandha can regenerate parts of neurons, possibly counteracting damage to neurons that can lead to the development of Parkinson’s disease
. Studies suggest that its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties both play a role in Ashwagandha’s ability to reverse the biochemical processes associated with Parkinson’s. Ashwagandha also contains tyrosine, which is a necessary for the production of dopamine