Ashwagandha also known commonly as Indian ginseng, poison gooseberry,or winter cherry is a plant that flourishes in India and North America. The roots of the ashwagandha plant have been employed for millennia by Ayurvedic healers. Numerous modern studies have found that ashwagandha shows great promise for being effective in reducing inflammation, decreasing stress, increasing mental activity, invigorating the body, and as an antioxidant.
It is even known to relieve arthritis better than medication. Ashwagandha leads to larger amounts of three different natural antioxidants: superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase. It has been shown to decrease blood cortisol levels by up to 26% in chronically-stressed individuals and boosts immune function, endocrine function, mental functioning and enhances libido -- all features of an anti-stress adaptogen.
Eight weeks of supplementation with the Ayurvedic herb in combination with a resistance training program were associated with significantly lower levels of exercise-induced muscle damage, significantly greater levels of testosterone, and a significantly greater decrease in body fat, compared with placebo.
Indian researchers also report in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition that participants in the ashwagandha group also experienced significantly greater muscle size increases in the arms and the chest.
The flagship herb of Ayurveda
Ashwagandha has been gaining traction in the mainstream US market with consumers embracing its wide-ranging body of health benefits, which include supporting stress, cognitive function, sleep, metabolic wellness, adrenal function, sports performance, and more.
According to a monograph from the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP), the herb has a history of use in ayurvedic medicine that dates back as much as 4,000 years to the teaching of renowned scholar Punarvasu Atreya, and in subsequent works that make up the ayurvedic tradition. The name of the herb derives from Sanskrit, and means "smells like a horse", which refers to the strong smell of the root which is said to be redolent of horse sweat or urine.
Ashwagandha root is prominently advocated as an ergogenic aid to improve strength and vitality in traditional Ayurveda texts.
"While there are other published studies demonstrating the effectiveness of ashwagandha in increasing strength and stamina, this is the first study using a standardized, branded ashwagandha extract and demonstrating significant effects on muscle strength, size and recovery," said Kartikeya Baldwa, Director of Ixoreal Biomed.
The researchers recruited 57 young men to participate in their clinical trial. The men were aged between 18 and 50 and had limited experience in resistance training. They were randomly assigned to receive either placebo or supplements of ashwagandha root extract (600 mg per day) for eight weeks. All the men trained during the intervention period and improvements were recorded in both groups. However, significantly greater improvements were observed in the ashwagandha root group, said the researchers.
Participants in the ashwagandha root group displayed significantly greater increases in muscle strength on the bench-press exercise and the leg-extension exercise, they said.
In addition, testosterone levels were also significantly higher in the ashwagandha group, compared to the placebo group.
"This study confirms previous data regarding the adaptogenic properties of ashwagandha and suggests it might be a useful adjunct to strength training," wrote the researchers.
"This study has the following limitations which should lead us to interpret the findings with some caution: the subjects are untrained and moderately young, the sample size of 50 is not large and the study period is of duration only 8 weeks. Research studying the possible beneficial effects of ashwagandha needs to be conducted for longer periods of time and for different populations including females and older adults of both genders."
Commenting on the study's findings, Baldwa said: "From the scientific literature, we know that the ashwagandha root increases energy production, increases cognitive focus, and promotes balance in the body to increase or decrease key hormone levels to bring them to appropriate levels. These effects are perhaps responsible for the strong results we see in this study."
Indications For Ashwagandha
- It is considered as most important adaptogens in ayurvedic system of medicine.
- It works in suppressing pains of any sort. It possess this property due to its ushan virya potency, which helps in eradicating vata that is the reason of initiation of pain in body.
- Good results have been seen in diseases like Amavata (rheumatoid arthritis), sandhi gata vata (Osteoarthritis), vatarakt (gout), gridhasi (sciatica) and other vata dominant diseases.
- Works as anti-inflammatory substance therefore helps in reducing swellings and restoring blood supply.
- Its local application also has tremendous results in lymphadenopathy, goiter and on any body part which is supposed to have inflammation and pain
- Possess great healing properties therefore has great effects in healing wounds and injuries
- It relieves stress due to presence of vata suppressant properties which helps in nurturing nervous system
- Helps in promoting calmness and mental satisfaction in mind due to its good penetrating powers, which helps to counter negative adaptogens.
- It helps in relieving from the feel of numbness and burning sensation in extremities.
- Helps in providing nourishment to the brain for its better function and greater ability to work.
- It is often given in a person who regularly suffers from vertigo, uncautiousness, and depression as it helps in curbing mental and physical weakness.
- Improves mental ability, helps in gaining retaining power and improves mental concentration
- Increases muscular endurance and helps in building up of stamina.
- Revitalizes body and decreases untimely fatigue caused due weak body strength accumulation of negative energies in the body.
- Works as a rasayan i.e. a substance that helps in preventing early aging and rejuvenates whole body to provide youth.
- It works as powerful immune booster that helps in fighting any foreign invasion in the body.
- Its antioxidant properties helps in avoiding symptoms of early aging
- A powerful aphrodisiac thereby helps in enhancing the sexual powers and long lasting endurance
- It also helps in increasing sperm count and also the quality of sperms.
- It gives good results in leucorrhoea, as it possesses the properties that suppress kapha.
- It is considered as one of the most commonly used herb in relieving hypertension with excellent results.
- It has also been found excellent supplement that helps in proving strength to heart muscles and keeps heart working normal
- It also possess the properties which helps it to behave as an diuretic therefore is very helpful in treating urinary tract infections (UTI)
- Wonderful remedy in increasing physical endurance is used extensively in physically weak people or people who are recovering from long illness as in case tuberculosis or surgeries.
- Good results have also been seen in upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) and in asthmatic condition with wonderful results.