What is Ashwagandha?
For centuries, Ayurvedic medicine has used the ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) plant as an aphrodisiac, to remedy general weakness and exhaustion, as well as for its stress-relieving qualities.1 In Ayurveda, certain herbal formulas are considered to be rejuvenating. These formulas are called Rasáyana tonics, and they are typically taken over long periods of time to regenerate both brain and body tissue.2 In rare cases an herb is so potent and has so many health benefits that Ayurveda considers it to be a Rasáyana therapy on its own.3 Ashwagandha is one such herb.
- boosts the immune system
- blocks tumor growth
- regulates hormones
- stabilizes mood and reduces anxiety
- regenerates nerve cells
With an abundance of antioxidants, iron, amino acids, and other phytochemicals, it’s no surprise that studies suggest ashwagandha has medicinal properties that can directly and indirectly prevent and treat a number of diseases.5 In fact, ashwagandha is often referred to as Indian ginseng because it is used to treat so many different conditions, just as ginseng is in Traditional Chinese Medicine.6
Even ashwagandha’s potential commercial use in boosting the immune systems in dairy cattle, which decreases the incidence of painful mastitis and reduced milk production, has indirect health benefits to humans.7 A fairly common occurrence, this infection is typically treated with antibiotics, which can contribute to the growing antibiotic resistance in many human pathogens.7 Ashwagandha also appears to have antibacterial and antiviral properties of its own, even against multiple-drug resistant strains of these microbes.8-9
Ashwagandha can also be beneficial in personal care products for the hair and skin. Traditionally used to prevent hair loss and signs of aging skin, ashwagandha’s antioxidant, hormone-balancing, and anti-inflammatory properties may very well prove to be effective in these areas.
- All Mayo Clinic health information topics 23 Apr 2014 | 12:00 am
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