Have you ever sat through prescription drug commercials and realized that the lists of harmful side-effects get longer every day, with some medications resulting in worst health conditions? You are not alone, and there are many that turn to natural remedies to address pre-existing illnesses, as well as to boost the body's immunity towards common degenerative diseases. Studies demonstrate the potential of ashwagandha in increasing energy, cognitive function, cardiovascular health, and immune response, and treating chronic stress, depression, and anxiety [1-8].Read further to learn about how Ashwagandha can provide a natural option for your personal health needs.
Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera), also known as Indian Winter Cherry, is a perennial shrub that belongs to the Solanaceae family. It is also known as the Indian ginseng due to its similarity in therapeutic utility as ginseng (Panax ginseng) in Chinese medicine . It can be described as a plant having green bell-shaped flowers, red fruit, and dull green leaves.
This plant contains active compounds that work as stabilizing agents in the body, and as such, it is categorized among a group of medicinal plants referred to as adaptogens and antioxidants . Antioxidants can inhibit oxidative damage from free radicals (cell and DNA degradation) , and adaptogens are active ingredients that regulate stress response in the neuroendocrine-immune system. Scientific studies and clinical trials have demonstrated the potential of antioxidants and adaptogens in protecting nerve cells, reducing anxiety, fatigue, depression, and boosting cognitive functions . Extract from ashwagandha interacts with the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis to modulate the body's central stress response system . A review of the therapeutic potential of this herb demonstrates a wide variety of beneficial side-effects .
What are the benefits of Ashwagandha?
Anti-Aging, Energy, and Endurance
Ashwagandha has shown potential in slowing down the internal and external physical manifestation of aging. Human clinical studies indicate that when taken consistently, ashwagandha improves red blood cells, cholesterol level, hair melanin production, and sexual vitality . Its antioxidant property is beneficial in treating neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., epilepsy, schizophrenia, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's disease) linked with free radical oxidative damage . Additionally, Ashwagandha also improves cardiorespiratory functions and have reportedly enhanced endurance in athletes . There is also a correlation between ashwagandha supplementation and an increase in muscle mass and strength in individuals engaging in resistance training . Finally, it is an anti-inflammatory that helps with musculoskeletal diseases such as osteoarthritis .
Anti-Stress, Anti-Anxiety, Anti-Depressant
Human clinical trial shows that individuals administered with ashwagandha show improvements in mental states. In a nutshell, chronic stress promotes the build-up of free radicals in the body that damage cells and DNA. This process brings about negative physiologic byproducts including cognitive and immune response impairments, digestive disorders and diseases, and psychological disorders and diseases from imbalanced hormone production . The primary compounds withanolides from ashwagandha are acknowledged as antioxidants that treat oxidative stress from
free radicals, and adaptogens that improve mood, anxiety, and depression . With the number of harmful side-effects from anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, attention towards ashwagandha as a natural alternative is ever increasing.
Immune Boosting and Anti-Tumor
Reviews of clinical studies demonstrate ashwagandha's ability to slow down/inhibit the growth of cancer tumors . Extracts from the plant stimulate the production of lymphocytes that reduce tumor growth. Its chemopreventative effect is also attributed to the antioxidant capabilities of the bioactive compounds withanolides. Antioxidants prevent the build-up of free radicals, a known trigger for several human diseases. In particular, the antioxidant activity of withanolides has shown potential in decreasing tumor growth in breast, lung, colon, and skin cancer .
Summary of Ashwagandha's Health Benefits
There is a growing body of literature that discusses the potential of ashwagandha in slowing down the process of aging by strengthening musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and cognitive functions, as well as inhibiting the development of tumors [4. Furthermore, it has shown therapeutic potentials in addressing physiological manifestations of chronic stress such as anxiety and depression which lead to other serious diseases. Withanolides, compounds extracted from ashwagandha, are suspected to be the most responsible bioactive ingredient that contributes to the healing power of this herb. Overall, for those who are seeking a natural option for curing the blues, increasing energy, and improving mood, ashwagandha provide a safer alternative to many prescriptions drugs .
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