ayurvedic herb ashwagandha

by Paul Fassa
Health Impact News

Apparently the herb ashwagandha is as old as the ancient medical practices of India and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Some of their herbs are currently catching on as tonics and even medicines that inexpensively promote overall health as well as reversing ailments without the side effects of pharmaceuticals.

Ashwagandha is currently promoted more and more by holistic doctors and herbal practitioners because it’s safe and effective for so many maladies and symptoms that are difficult to trace because they are confusing even though often resulting from improper hormonal distribution.

Why Using Ashwagandha is Vital in Our Stressful Culture

Ashwagandha, Indian Ginseng, and Winter Cherry, are the common terms used for Withania somnifera. We’ll stick with the most commonly used label, ashwagandha, in this discussion, although many studies refer to it as Withania somnifera. It is a tonic herb, which means it can be used over long periods of time.

Ashwagandha is second only to turmeric’s curcumin in international peer reviewed study scrutiny. There are at least 200 studies that have demonstrated various positive health effects from ashwagandha. Some of the studies demonstrated recovery from anxiety and depression without adverse side effects.

Several PubMed studies are available here.

Ashwagandha promotes vigor and healthful longevity by establishing wellness in the body, releasing emotional tension and physical discomfort. It also improves cellular energy on the mitochondrial level. It doesn’t get anymore basic and influential on overall health than that.

It is a uniquely adoptogenic or immunomodulatory herb, which as the names imply adapts according to your body’s needs. It goes whatever way is necessary to achieve hormonal homeostasis or organ function balance necessary for healthy longevity.

For example, if your immune system is lacking, it boosts it. If your immune system overreacts, ashwagandha calms it.

Ashwagandha Reduces Stress Induced Physiological and Mental Damage

Adrenaline and cortisol set up physiological reactions internally to put the body into sudden survival modes (“fight or flight”) based on hormone production and distribution.

Unfortunately, we humans tend to emotionally and psychologically turn many situations that are not really life threatening into chronic stressors. This creates an imbalanced Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis.

The hypothalamus located in the middle of the brain serves as a neuroendocrine connection between brain neuron signals that react to different external stimuli, including stressful situations real or imagined.

This in turn affects the nearby pituitary gland, which serves as the master endocrine gland to send various hormones throughout the body to functions related to sex, energy, and the immune system. At the end of the line are the adrenals located above the kidneys.

Sleep deprivation, excessive caffeine, constant worries and stress, and a dangerous or hostile work or domestic environment that’s beyond one’s control contribute to a confused HPA axis. The resulting hormonal confusion creates excess cortisol, which over time creates the following commonly experienced ailments:

  • Decreased thyroid function or hypothyroidism
  • Excessive thyroid function or hyperthyroidism
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Diminished mental acuity and memory
  • Insulin resistance
  • Increased abdominal fat
  • Cardiovascular threats
  • High blood pressure
  • Mood disorders, depression and anxiety
  • Compromised immune system
  • Burnout and adrenal fatigue
  • Sleep disorders

What if one inexpensive herb taken in small amounts twice daily could monitor and regulate the HPA axis and help keep that list of ailments at bay? That’s what Ashwagandha is all about in addition to the vital energy boosting quality that has earned this herb anti-aging accolades. (Study source)

Dr. Josh Axe has even discussed ashwagandha on the “Dr. Oz” show. The following video features Dr. Axe without Dr. Oz.

There is only one caveat:

You can’t expect good results if your body, especially the GI tract, is loaded with toxins. A detoxing has to be made some weeks before or during ashwagandha use. Begin by eliminating all junk food, especially sodas, processed foods, and unhealthy fats from your diet.

Indulging in the standard American diet (SAD) will block all other efforts at enhancing health. Chlorella can help detox the liver and provide protein. (Source)

What are healthy fats? Coconut oil, dairy products, and unprocessed meats from animals that graze on natural grass and are not injected with hormones, antibiotics, and not confined in filthy feeding areas while being fed GMO soy and corn mush. (Source)

Grass grazing healthy livestock products and coconut oil are a good place to start for consuming healthy fats that provide the needed cholesterol to manufacture hormones.

Also – if your work involves lots of sitting with little body exertion, consistent moderate exercise is recommended. You don’t have to pump iron or go crazy with aerobics if those don’t appeal to you. Walking briskly (not necessarily power walking) at least 20 minutes a day four to five days weekly is sufficient for many of us.

Ashwagandha helps create balance among most necessary hormones, which, again, are cholesterol based, making it important to maintain a diet rich in healthy fats while avoiding statin drugs. (Source)

As is the case with most tonic herbs, it can take some time, weeks or months of daily use depending on your condition to recover from the adverse conditions created by an HPA imbalance.

Though some whose diets are pretty good report quick fixes with their HPA axis imbalances from ashwagandha, long term bad health habit consequences usually take time to reverse completely. But there are no serious adverse side effects from ashwagandha and it’s not expensive.

Ashwagandha is available in powders, tablets, and tinctures. A hint for purchasing ashwagandha is to stick to labels that specialize in herbs from organic sources, and if imported are not irradiated or “pasteurized.” These are quality rules for herbal efficacy regardless of its type.