Welcome to 8th episode of #SacredIndianHerbs ! Today we are going to elaborate a herb that has been used extensively in India since from ancient times. It is known as a powerful rasayana according to ayurveda and also adopted by western world for its wonders. “Ashwagandha” - the name coming from sanskrit language consisting of words 'ashva' meaning ‘horse’ and ‘gandha’ meaning 'smell'. Thus renowned for imparting sexual stamina that of a horse. Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic and anti-diabetic plant cultivated primarily in India and now in North America too.
The root and berry is used to make medicine. It is used as a medicine in a way similar to ‘Asian Ginseng’ is used in traditional Chinese medicine. But it is considered to have a broader spectrum as compared to the Asian ginseng and that is why called as Indian ginseng too. In Rajasthan, Nagaur city is famous for Ashwagandha and known as Nagori Ashwagandha in Indian dialect.
Scientific name: Withania somnifera
English name: Indian ginseng, winter cherry
Hindi name: Nagori ashwagandha, Ashwagandha
Description about the plant: This species is a short growing shrub, 3-4 feet tall with deep roots. The leaves are green and elliptic. The flowers are small and bell shaped. The fruits turn to orange-red color when ripe. The smell of ashwagandha is strong enough to be easily recognised from a certain distance. Ashwagandha roots are rich in withanolides, the main constituent of the plant. Withanolides have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and hormone balancing properties. Ashwagandha is best grown in loam soil containing mixture of both, sand soil and clay rich soil. It is ready to harvest in the second year. During this time withanolides (main constituent) are at the peak. The formation of fibrous tissue starts during the third year which decreases withanolides content making ashwagandha less effective. Hence, for the optimum benefits from the ashwagandha make sure while purchasing that the fibrous tissues are not present.
Ashwagandha potent usages
A stress reliever: We all undergo with some mental stress in routine life. But sometimes stress level gets alleviated for various reasons leading to depression / state of anxiety and bad health. Ashwagandha is packed with variety of antioxidants, amino acids, alkaloids, choline, fatty acids and a variety of sugars. It works as a natural adaptogen and helps to restore the hormonal balance which in turn alleviates stress and boosts energy level. Thus ashwagandha helps to release emotional tension and physical discomfort, and creates a foundation of wellness and stability in the body.
An aphrodisiac: Aphrodisiac is considered to be a food, drink or drug that stimulates sexual desire. Ashwagandha being a natural aphrodisiac increases semen quantity, sperm count and mobility. It is quite useful in treating premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction. It works by boosting the action of testosterone and improving muscle strength. As mentioned earlier, ashwagandha is a stress buster so it also relieves anxiety and depression, thus resulting improved sexual performance too. We can also use ashwagandha for treating female libido, female infertility as well as for the women who produce less breast milk after pregnancy.
Herbal health tonic: With passing age, problems like pain in extremities or lower back, insomnia and poor sexual power makes their space in life. Ashwagandha has been found to be useful in improving the muscular strength and having a positive impact on neuromuscular coordination. It replenishes the lowered energy of the body due to work, mental exertion, etc and prevents ageing signs by increasing the body energy and vigor. So after 30-35 years of age one can start taking ashwagandha powder regularly for a period of 3-6 months per year. It will not only improve the quality of health but will also enhance longevity of your life.
For youthful look: The antioxidant properties present in ashwagandha tones up the skin and slow down the ageing process. It also promotes production of vital substances and proteins required for healthy skin. So you can say bye-bye to those dark spots, wrinkles, fine lines, dry and sagging skin with ashwagandha internal and external usage.
Ashwagandha as dietary supplement
Ashwagandha is safe and can be taken regularly as herbal tonic supplement for both men and women. Some of the more common methods include as Ashwagandha powder/churna, pills, capsules made from Ashwagandha extract, a decoction, medicated ghee - known as Ashwagandha ghrita, a medicated wine - known as Ashwagandharishta. You should consult an ayurvedacharya in case of specific disorder. Typically ashwagandha powder is recommended for daily intake with a cup of hot milk (preferably desi cow milk) with standard dosage of 3-5g twice a day. For people suffering from insomnia and/or anxiety, taking ashwagandha before bedtime is beneficial.
Ashwagandha Pak: Ashwagandha is bitter and astringent in taste so it may be difficult for some people to consume it direct in powder form. Ashwagandha Pak is an Ayurvedic preparation mentioned in our classical texts which could be taken as daily supplement. It is prepared in the same way as we make semolina (suji) and wheat flour halwa at home. For ashwagandha pak, 100 gm of Ashwagandha powder is cooked in cow ghee and then 25g khoya, 5g trikatu powder and 10g-20g chironji or any other dry fruit is added. Trikatu powder is a herbal blend of pippali, dry ginger, and black pepper which is added to enhance digestion. Then all the ingredients are mixed over flame and heated for a while. You can also add sugar as a preservative and for taste. Refrigerate the ashwagandha pak for storage. You can consume 1 teaspoon of Ashwagandha Pak with hot milk twice daily. It is proved to be the best nutritive product for people with advancing age, for restoring memory and sexual power and for improving stamina and strength.
Word of caution
Ashwagandha does not produces side effects when taken in prescribed dosage, but high doses of ashwagandha can cause some problems. Ashwagandha, being a thermogenic herb is not advisable for the patients suffering from high blood pressure and somatic ulcers. Moreover, people who are heat intolerant should be careful. For such people, consuming Ashwagandha with hot milk can lead to intestinal problems. They could consume ashwagandha with cold milk for deriving benefits from it.
Ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogenic herb whose various benefits include rejuvenation, increased stamina, relief from stress, balanced hormone levels, lowered blood sugar levels, sexual desire enhancer, joint pain reliever, skin toner, and immune system booster.
While seeing such a versatile nature of this powerful herb, we should spread its recognition in the world for its extraordinary properties. Pick ashwagandha and enjoy various benefits of this wonderful herb.