Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an herb commonly used in Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India. Although it's not botanically related to ginseng, ashwagandha is often called "Indian ginseng" due to its supposedly rejuvenating effects.
Ashwagandha is regarded as an adaptogen (a type of herb said to strengthen your resistance to stress while enhancing your energy). Often used to support the immune system after an illness, ashwagandha is also included in formulations that aim to treat these conditions:
• rheumatoid arthritis
• gastrointestinal disorders
• skin infections
Research on ashwagandha is limited, but several studies have shown ashwagandha may be useful in addressing the following health problems:
For a 2008 study, scientists tested ashwagandha's effects on human cartilage and found that the herb may help protect against inflammation and cartilage damage associated with osteoarthritis.
In an animal-based study published in 2000, researchers found ashwagandha had an anti-anxiety effect similar to that of lorazepam (a medication used to treat anxiety disorders). The herb also appeared to support brain health and ease depression.
3) Type 2 Diabetes
Ashwagandha may help normalize high blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity, according to preliminary, animal-based research published in 2008.
In a 2003 study, tests on human tumor cell lines revealed that ashwagandha may slow the growth of lung, breast, and colon cancer cells. Published in 2007, another study on human cells shows ashwagandha may inhibit tumor growth without harming normal cells.
How to Use Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is available in capsules, powders, and tinctures, all of which can be found on our Healthy Goods website. Personally, I prefer the powdered or tinctured form of adaptogens because I find them more potent and effective. However, ashwagandha capsules are also available. The herb is also commonly featured in adaptogen blend formulas, which may contain other adaptogenic herbs like ginseng and rhodiola.
Ashwagandha can also be incorporated into recipes, such as Ashwagandha-infused Moon Milk, Ashwagandha Chocolate Chunks, and Ashwagandha Hot Chocolate.
Is Ashwagandha Safe?
Although ashwagandha is generally considered safe, the herb may induce abortion when taken in very large doses. Therefore, pregnant women should avoid the use of ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha may also increase the potency of barbiturates (a class of drugs that depresses the central nervous system).
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods
Article courtesy About.com's Alternative Medicine, found with sources, here.