Awesome Ashwagandha!

By Hari Prasad Nadig from Bangalore, IndiaUploaded by Vinayaraj (Ashwagandha) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Ashwagandha is quickly gaining popularity in the U.S. as an incredibly healthy herb with centuries-old medicinal qualities. This herb has a long list of attributes to its credit and one is its use as an adaptogen, meaning that it helps you manage stress. When ashwagandha is translated in Sanskrit it means “smell of the horse”. It exudes the peculiar odor of a horse and is known for its ability to increase strength and promote health when used regularly.

You might have heard it called winter cherry or Indian ginseng. This herb originated in the region of Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, and used by East Indian cultures for thousands of years. It has emerged in the West as a potent healing herb, with growing popularity only in the last 50 years. Asian ginseng, also an adaptagenic herb, is one of the most sought-after herbal supplements in the U.S. and has many things in common with ashwagandha.

This herb eases fatigue in cancer patients and improves Alzheimer’s as well as sharing a similar effect on infertility and emotional disorders.

Ginseng is better known and more powerful than ashwagandha, but it currently sells for $12 to $15 per pound while the ginseng can go up to as much as $100 for the same amount.    

A very important aspect of ashwagandha is that it has shown to fight many types of cancer. The most zealously tested benefits are in regard to its ability to combat inflammation and tumor growth.  In an animal study using chemically induced and oncogene-driven rodent cancer models, “new cancer cell growth was inhibited.” Programmed cell death, or cancer cell apoptosis, is one of the ways ashwagandha is thought to exert cancer-resistant effects and the ability to generate reactive oxygen species to kill cancer cells without harming normal cells. Research also shows that it may be valuable for combating lung, breast, colon and a particularly aggressive brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM.

Another valuable use for ashwagandha is its ability to lower blood sugar levels. The herb can be added to many healing herbs and spices shown to improve chronic inflammation that threatens individuals suffering from diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer. Reduced oxidative stress and inflammation has been shown in multiple studies to be helped by ashwagandha, and it may also be helpful for arthritis symptoms.

The body reacts to stress and an attribute of ashwagandha is its ability to induce calmness and clarity by regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin and the stress hormone cortisol. Research has also shown that consuming this herb may not only reduce cortisol levels but also as an adaptagen that can substantially reduce chronic stress and help your body to adapt to and alleviate the stomach-churning anxiety stress can cause.

Many other unrelated ailments and conditions could also be caused by stress. Infertility can cause stress. In a study of 120 infertile men where ashwagandha was given, the result was a decrease in stress improved level of antioxidants and improved overall semen quality in a significant number of the individuals.

Originally a traditional use for this herb was to improve memory and sharpen brain function.  It is found to boost an important antioxidant in the brain called glutathione that is an essential component for cell development, enzymatic activity and for clearing toxins from the body.

Using a plant with this many uses in regard to healing your body and mind makes it all the more clear that natural and alternative health care is much more effective and less threatening to your body than using those conventional medical practices. Take control of your health and arm yourself with the facts about disease. Learn what causes them and how you can prevent them, rather than to jump into the medication-driven forum for traditional disease and illness management.

-Dr Fredda Branyon

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