Featured Herb: Ashwagandha, Withania somnifera

Ashwagandha, Withania somnifera, is a member of the nightshade family. It is sometimes called Winter Cherry or Indian Ginseng, due to its importance in Ayurvedic medicine. Ashwagandha is considered a rejuvenating adaptogenic herb, useful for treating many debilitating conditions.



Identification:

Ashwagandha is native to India but can be grown in herb gardens across the United States. It is a perennial in warm climates with no frost. Ashwagandha likes sandy or rocky soil, full or partial sunlight, and moderately dry conditions.


The bush grows to a height of 2 to 3 or more feet, with dull green leaves. Light green, bell-shaped flowers appear in midsummer and orangeto red berries in the fall. Branches grow radially from a center stem.


Edible Uses:

The plant is not generally eaten, but its seeds are used in the production of vegetarian cheeses. The leaves are used to make Ashwagandha Tea.


Other Uses:

The fruits are rich in saponins or can be used as a substitute for soap. The leaves repel insects.


Medicinal Uses:

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that has been in use for thousands of years. It is highly valued for its ability to strengthen the immune system, balance hormone levels, and for its anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, and anti-inflammatory properties. Roots and leaves of the ashwagandha plant are used for their medicinal properties.


Root extracts in powdered or capsule forms are effective as are leaf extracts and tinctures. Powders can be added to food or drinks though they have a strong taste. Ashwagandha tea made from the leaves is also used. Adding a little honey improves the flavor.


Expect it to take two weeks or more to begin to notice the benefits of ashwagandha. Long-term use has not been studied and may not be safe, but many patients do well taking the herb long-term.


Root extracts in powdered or capsule forms are effective as are A


"Adrenal Fatigue" (=HPA Axis Dysregulation-HPA-D):

Ashwagandha supports adrenal function and overcoming "adrenal fatigue", though this term is really a summary of stress response symptoms that are often caused by a hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction. Essentially, HPA-D is our stress response system and a more accurate term for adrenal fatigue. Ashwagandha helps balance this.


Combats Stress, Fight or Flight, Anxiety, and Depression:

Ashwagandha has long been used to relive anxiety, improve mental health, concentration, vitality, and overall improve the quality of life. It also acts as a mood stabilizer and relieves symptoms of depression. It provides benefits similar to anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs without drowsiness, insomnia, or other side effects.


Reduces Cortisol Levels:

Cortisol is a stress hormone implicated in controlling blood sugar levels and fat storage in the abdomen. Studies show that ashwagandha helps significantly reduce cortisol levels chronically stressed adults.


Balances Blood Glucose Levels:

Ashwagandha is particularly beneficial to diabetic patients in reducing blood glucose levels. It may help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation.


Cancer:

Research shows that ashwagandha has anti-tumor effects. It reduces cancerous tumors by preventing cell growth and killing cancerous cells. Ashwagandha is useful in treating breast, lung, stomach, ovarian, and colon cancer cells. These benefits are due to its antioxidant abilities and their effects in helping the immune system.


In addition to reducing the growth of cancer cells, it can also help the boy deal with the side effects of conventional anti-cancer drugs in boosting immunity and improving the quality of life. Ashwagandha stimulates the production of white blood cells and helps cancer patients fight infections.


Memory and Brain Cell Degeneration:

Research suggests that ashwagandha protects the brain from the damaging effects of emotional, physical, and chemical stress. It protects the brain from cell degeneration, which may help in treating neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease.


Ashwagandha contains naturally occurring steroids and antioxidants that protect the brain and improve cognitive function. Patients notice improvement in attention, processing speed, and mental acuity.


Stamina, Endurance, and Muscle Performance:

Studies suggest that ashwagandha boots endurance and reduces muscle pain. It calms stress, energizes the brain, and enhances cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes. It increases muscle mass and strength in athletes engaging in resistance training and strenuous exercise when taken for 8-weeks or longer.


Anti-inflammatory: Joint Pain and Arthritis

Patients taking ashwagandha for eight weeks or longer experience improvement in joint function and a reduction in joint pain related to rheumatoid arthritis.


Sexual Function and Fertility:

Ashwagandha helps improve sexual function. It boosts testosterone levels and improves male fertility. When used for a period of 3 months, ashwagandha increases sperm count, sperm volume, and sperm motility. In women, it improves arousal, lubrication, and orgasm.


Immune Function:

Ashwagandha helps regulate immune function by reducing the body's stress hormones, reducing inflammation, increasing the white blood cell count, and increasing immunoglobulin production.


Harvesting:

Pick berries in the fall when read and fuly rip, then dry them for planting in the spring. For medicinal use, dig up the roots in the fall and clean thoroughly. Slice, dry, and powder for future use. Leaves are used fresh or can be dried to use in tea.


Warning:

The herb is generally believed to be safe and has an extensive history of use. However, there are no long-term studies on the safety and long-term use may make it more likely that side effects will be experienced. consult your doctor and watch for side-effects when using ashwagandha over the long-term.

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