Everything you need to know about Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is one of the powerful herbs of Ayurveda. It is used as a remedy in Ayurveda for a wide variety of diseases like anxiety, depression, insomnia, weight gain, weight loss etc. It is helpful in enhancing immunity, muscle strength, body building, sexual stimulation and works as an anti-oxidant.
Botanical name: Withania somnifera
Ayurveda explains the pharmacology of the herbs in terms of taste and quality.
As per ancient Ayurvedic texts, Ashwagandha has the below mentioned qualities:
Taste– pungent, spicy, bitter and slightly astringent
Qualities– oiliness, unctuousness, lightness (easy to digest)
Taste conversion after digestion – Undergoes pungent taste conversion after digestion.
Potency – Hot
Effect on Tridosha – Balances Tridosha, especially Kapha and Vata.
Ashwagandha being hot, nourishing and unctuous, helps to counter the cold and dry qualities of Vata Dosha.
It has spicy, bitter and lightness qualities, which are opposite to Kapha Dosha.
Because of its hotness and spicy taste, it improves digestion strength and also promotes Pitta Dosha.
Root is the mainly used part. The leaves are often used in weight loss therapy.
It’s Kshara – An Alkali: The whole plant of Ashwagandha is burnt in open air, ash is mixed with water and mixed thoroughly and left undisturbed for a couple of hours. The supernatant water is decanted out and the precipitated power is collected, heated, dried and powdered. This Alkali is used for the purpose of weight loss.
3 grams once or twice a day, given with co-drinks such as honey, milk, water, yogurt, honey and ghee. It is processed with milk and water to prepare Ashwagandha Ksheera – milk remedy that is given to improve strength and immunity in children.
250 – 500 mg, once or twice a day, based on doctor’s advice.
Before or after food?
When Ashwagandha powder, tablet or capsule is administered, some people feel a burning sensation if taken before food or on an empty stomach. Hence, it is best to take it 30 minutes after food.
Ashwagandha milk remedy or Ashwagandha with ghee can be administered before food as well, based on your doctor’s advice.
Legal Substitute for ashtavarga:
There is a very famous group of 8 herbs, called Ashtavarga, known to carry very high rejuvenation and anti-aging qualities. But these herbs grow only in certain parts of Himalaya and are found very rarely. So, centuries ago, ancient Ayurvedic masters have explained substitutes for these 8 herbs.
- Kakoli-Roscoea purpurea
Kshirakakoli-Lilium polyphyllum–White Himalaya Lily
These are the two herbs that are legally substituted with Ashwagandha due to similarity in their qualities.
This clearly proves the anti-aging prowess of Ashwagandha.
As per Ayurvedic textbooks, Ashwagandha has the following health benefits:
Balaprada, Balya – promotes strength and improves immunity
Vaajikara – improves sexual performance, useful in premature ejaculation and in some cases of erectile dysfunction
Vrushya – acts as aphrodisiac
Rasayani – improves life expectancy, anti-aging, an elixir
Pushtiprada – improves body nourishment
Kaasam hanti – useful in cough and cold
Anilam hanti – useful in Vataja disorders – neurological and neuro-muscular disorders like paralysis
Vranaan hanti – useful to bring about quick wound healing
Shophahara – brings down inflammation
Kanduhara – relieves itching, useful in pruritus
Vishahara – anti toxic, useful in detox programs
Shvitrahara – useful in leucoderma, on internal usage and external application
Krumihara – useful in intestinal worm infestation,
Shwasahara – useful in asthma, chronic respiratory diseases
Kshatahara – useful in injury healing
Kshayahara – useful in treating muscle wasting, emaciation, post tubercular treatment to improve muscle mass and strength
Ati Shukrala – improves semen quantity and quality
It helps in reducing blood pressure on oral intake.
It is useful in relieving dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation).
It has diuretic action.
Major Chemical Constituents:
The somniferin is the chemical constituent of the drug and is well known for its sedative and anxiolytic effect. Due to its sedative benefits, the roots are used in the treatment of anxiety, nervousness, fatigue, giddiness, fainting, loss of sleep etc. It has shown very significant benefit for the treatment of premature ejaculation resulted due to anxiety.
Other important chemical constituents of Withania somnifera are:
Alkaloids (isopelletierine, anaferine, cuseohygrine, anahygrine, etc.)
Steroidal lactones (withanolides, withaferins)
- Sitoindosides and acylsterylglucosides – useful against stress
Use in auto-immune disorders:
Ashwagandha in Hashimoto thyroiditis / hypothyroidism, would effectively address the symptoms of stress, weight gain, muscle pain, joint pains, depression etc.
The regular dose (needs approval by consulting Ayurvedic doctor) for this is – half a teaspoon (3 g) at night, with a cup of milk or water, 10 minutes after food.
Ashwagandha for children:
Ashwagandha can be useful for children to improve growth etc. But, it should only be administered under medical supervision.
If it is taken for boosting health and immunity, it can be continued for a period of 4 – 8 weeks’ time.
Read More: Chemistry of Ashwagandha and usability in different diseases,
Ashwagandha with different co-drinks
Ashwagandha and hypothyroidism -
A double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial in Ashwagandha has proven that treatment with Ashwagandha may be beneficial for normalizing thyroid indices in subclinical hypothyroid patients.
Ashwagandha is useful in many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism such as -
- Fatigue - Ashwagandha boosts energy
- Mood and memory changes - Ashwagandha is useful to improve memory and to relieve depression
- Sore muscles and joints - Ashwagandha improves muscle and joint strength
- High cholesterol - Being a very good antioxidant, Ashwagandha helps to reduce cholesterol.
Considering these benefits, it is very clear that Ashwagandha is very useful for the treatment of hypothyroidism.
Increased hotness, gastritis -
If used alone, for example, consuming only Ashwagandha capsule with water, it tends to worsen gastritis in people with sensitive stomach. It also causes constipation in a few.
Because of its innate hot nature, people with Pitta dominance, feel increased hotness with Ashwagandha capsule.
But if it is taken along with milk or ghee, usually this side effect is very much nullified.
Sedative effect: In a very high dose, it may have mild sedative effect. Its sleep promotion effect can be more attributed to its anti-anxiety and anti-depression properties than to its sedative effect.
Some people also observe constipation, loose stools, abdominal cramps, and drowsiness.
It can be used safely for children and lactating mother, under medical supervision.
It is best to avoid this during pregnancy.
Who should not take Ashwagandha?
It, being a Rasayana herb (anti-aging), as such there are no definitive contra-indications. Below mentioned symptoms should be noticed when you consume Ashwagandha.
Excess body heat - Give it 2–3 days to settle, if not, then stop it.
If you take it and then develop severe anxiety or unrest - stop it and consult a doctor.
If it makes you drowsy, avoid it in the morning.
If it upsets your stomach, you can give it a try for a couple of days to see if it settles down.
If it causes diarrhea or constipation, you can continue for a couple of days to see if the side effects subside.
If it causes irregular heartbeat, stop it and consult your doctor. This is a very rare side effect.
If it lowers blood pressure / sugar, probably the dose is higher. Stop it and consult your doctor.