With the recent resurgence in popularity of ancient Eastern healing modalities, we're becoming aware of the health benefits of certain herbs. Ashwagandha is one of these, and was first used within the realms of Ayurveda - an Indian system of health and wellbeing dating back thousands of years.
Ayurveda: The Science of Life
Ayurveda is a combination of the words Ayur, meaning ‘life, longevity, and wellbeing’, and Veda meaning ‘knowledge or science’. We can interpret this to mean that Ayurveda is essentially the science of life and longevity, and the tools that help us to live it well.
Herbs and dietary programmes are a big part of Ayurvedic medicine and lifestyle advice. As a system that focuses primarily on disease prevention rather than just curing symptoms, herbal formulas are popular within Ayurveda.
Herbs are used for everything from enhancing digestion to improving circulation, to boosting the immune system, libido, and energy levels.
There are many remedies, herbs and treatments, which look at bringing a person back to their natural state of balance after illness.
Ayurveda herbs (Photo: pxfuel CC0)
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is known as one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. It is widely recognised for its restorative and rejuvenating benefits. Native to India, North Africa and the Middle East, the plant belongs to the tomato family, and it’s the Ashwagandha root that is usually used in supplemental form.
The Benefits of Ashwagandha
In a modern world full of stress, over-exertion, and chronic cases of anxiety and fatigue, Ashwagandha is a useful adaptogen. Adaptogens are natural substances used in herbal medicine to normalize and regulate the systems of the body. They are particularly useful at helping the body and mind adapt to stress (be that physical, mental or emotional).
Other key benefits of Ashwagandha include:
- helping to protect the immune and nervous systems
- improving learning and reaction time
- helping lower cholesterol
- stabilising blood sugar
- boosting the supply of antioxidants to the body
- lowering levels of inflammation
- reducing cortisol levels in the blood
- reducing stress and anxiety without the side effect of drowsiness
- acting as an aphrodisiac and sexual health enhancer for both men and women
- benefitting reproductive health in men.
When these aspects of our health and well-being are out of balance, this can take its toll on our energy levels and overall enjoyment of life. By adding Ashwagandha to your daily supplements, it helps the body to rejuvenate. This makes it more effective at handling the pressures of day-to-day life.
What the experts say about Ashwagandha
Expert Ayurvedic practitioners and authors David Frawley and Vasant Lad say:
“It is the best rejuvenative herb, particularly for the muscles, and is used in conditions of weakness tissue deficiency in those debilitated by chronic diseases, those suffering from overwork, lack of sleep or nervous exhaustion”.
Ashwagandha is also known to be ‘Sattvic’ in nature, meaning it neither agitates nor dulls the mind or senses, but provides a sense of balance. Deepak Chopra says of the powerful herb:
“We use Ashwagandha at the Chopra Center for its tonic and rejuvenative effects. With its beneficial influence on the nervous system, we commonly prescribe it for people who complain of fatigue, difficulty in concentrating… and [it is] useful for people with insomnia and anxiety”.
Is Ashwagandha an Aphrodisiac?
In Sanskrit, Ashwagandha translates as ‘the smell of a horse’. It was given this name because when you take the herb, it is said that you obtain the ‘vigour and strength of a stallion’, and ‘the virility of a horse’. This refers to the fact that this powerful adaptogen can work as an aphrodisiac and sexual health enhancer for both men and women.
Ashwagandha: an ancient herb for modern life
It’s said that the old ones are the best. This appears to be be for the ancient herb of Ashwagandha, which has been trusted for thousands of years in the treatment of a wide range of conditions. What's more, the conclusions of many scientific studies support its effectiveness.
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