Ayurvedic and traditional medicines and plants are really taking off in the Western world, and with good reason! Medicinal plants have been used for centuries to alleviate the symptoms of many different conditions, and have a number of proven health benefits. Whilst research is ongoing into the safety and efficacy of certain plants and practices, the world is truly embracing their beneficial properties, especially those of adaptogenic plants.
One of these adaptogens is Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). Also known as Indian Ginseng or Indian Winter Cherry, it is an evergreen shrub found primarily in Africa, India and certain regions of the Middle East.
It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years to alleviate anxiety, pain and inflammation, as well as helping to increase energy. It is also well known to combat stress and, as I’m sure we all know, the world can be a stressful place to be! Stress can cause a whole host of mental and physical conditions, and it is believed that the use of adaptogens can help to combat this.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of Ashwagandha!
Stress busting! When we become stressed, the levels of cortisol in our system become elevated, our hearts beat faster and we generate more glucose in case we have to run away from whatever is threatening us. However, many of the pressures of life often seem to be never ending. When stress becomes chronic or long-term, it can cause the onset of physical conditions such as obesity and heart disease. Taking ashwagandha can help to balance cortisol levels, and reduce our response to stress, which can reduce the chances of developing chronic conditions relating to stress. Remember, ashwagandha will not cure stress, but it will help you to manage its symptoms alongside a healthy lifestyle.
Sleep better: In a similar way to stress management, ashwagandha can benefit sleep quality by reducing levels of stress and anxiety. No more sleepless nights!
Lower blood sugar levels and better heart health: This is connected to the lowering of the stress response. When we enter our response, the body creates glucose to provide a burst of energy. Lowering our cortisol and stress levels can help to reduce the amount of sugars in the blood, and has been seen to lower the levels of triglycerides (a fat) in the blood as well. This can help to lower cholesterol, improving the health of our circulatory system and our blood pressure.
Boosts fertility: Studies have shown that ashwagandha can be used to alleviate symptoms of sexual dysfunction in women, and boosts testosterone production in men. It is also thought to improve reproductive hormonal balance in men, leading to improved reproductive capability.
Better memory: Ashwagandha has been shown to boost cognitive function and improve memory recall, as well as helping to increase attention and focus. It is also thought to be an aid to memory in those with degenerative cognitive conditions, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Anti-inflammatory properties: It has been shown that ashwagandha might have analgesic properties, helping to reduce pain, as well as helping to reduce inflammation. This can be especially beneficial for those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, and other types of joint pain.
Builds strength and endurance: Studies suggest that ashwagandha can have a beneficial effect on athletic performance by increasing the maximum amount of oxygen our bodies can use when engaged in heavy activity or exercise. This suggests that it can have a positive effect on the health of our heart and lungs.
Are there any side effects of Ashwagandha?
It is recommended that those with thyroid issues consult their doctor before incorporating ashwagandha into their lives, as it can cause problems with the production of certain hormones. Secondly, if you have an auto-immune condition, it might not be suitable for you.
There is evidence to suggest that ashwagandha can increase the function of the immune system, which may exacerbate the symptoms of auto-immune conditions. There are also certain medications which might be affected by taking it, so it is always wise to consult your doctor before taking an adaptogen if you are on medication.
It is absolutely not recommended to take ashwagandha whilst pregnant or breastfeeding as it has been known to cause early menstruation and could possibly have a link to miscarriage. Research is ongoing in this area, but it is definitely better to remain cautious and avoid ashwagandha whilst pregnant.
Always make sure that you are buying supplements from a source which tests for heavy metals and other contaminants so that you can be sure you are doing the best by your body. Exposure to heavy metals in your food over time can lead to kidney failure, amongst other things.
How do I take Ashwagandha?
You can find ashwagandha in capsule, tablet or powder form. Research suggests it is better to take it in small increments as lots of ashwagandha at once may upset your stomach, and you might not be able to absorb it all, negating some of the wonderful benefits of this adaptogenic plant.
If taking it at night, why not consider an indulgent MAGIC Raw Hot Chocolate, the perfect way to relax before bed! Alternatively, if chocolate isn’t your thing, you can make Moon Milk by mixing powdered ashwagandha with spices into warm plant-based milk, and rose petals.
Our range of adaptogenic lattes have a wide range of properties, which are all designed to work together in order to benefit your body in balance. WHOLE, our nutritional shake, contains ashwagandha to offer a little stress relief on busy days, as well as an extra nutritional boost.
Yummy! (I still prefer the hot chocolate though!)