ASHWAGANDHA: Top 9 Healing Benefits Backed By Science

ASHWAGANDHA: Top 9 Healing Benefits Backed By Science

~ An ancient Ayurvedic treasure with over 4,000 of recorded use ~

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The uses of ashwagandha in Ayurvedic medicine dates back over 4,000 years to the teachings of an esteemed rishi Punarvasu Atriya. Ashwagandha is one of the world’s leading adaptogenic herbs, with quite a legendary background, due to its profound ability to restore and rejuvenate the body and mind. The name Ashwa-gandha means “the smell of a horse”, (ashwa—horse, gandha—smell), which referes to its ability to bring you the strength and stamina of a horse, while nourishing the female and male reproductive systems. While the botanical species name somnifera, means “sleep inducing” reflecting its relaxing and restorative properties.


Traditionally, it has been used as a nutritive general tonic, especially for highly deficient body types. It has been successfully used by people of all ages including babies, also enhancing reproductive function in both men and women. It has also been used for inflammations especially for arthritic and rheumatic conditions and as a major tonic to counteract the ravages of aging and promote youthful longevity. Its pharmacology is a lot like the ginseng family, yet it is far less expensive, not endangered, and a lot easier to cultivate (Panax ginseng requires up to 7 years for a mature root!

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In Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha belongs to a sub-group of rasayanas, also known as rejuvenating tonics, known as medhya rasayanas,  which refers to the mind and mental-intellectual capacity. In Vedic Science, Rasayana’s performed “miraculous” changes. Rasayanas were considered to possess Soma, the ambrosia or nectar of immortality. Through their subtle and invigorating nature, which was the alchemized final product of elementals (water, air, earth, fire) they produced Soma, the basis for clarity of physical strength, perception, endurance, wellbeing, and longevity. This is the component to which in Ayurveda it's known as “ojas”, loosely translating to “vitality” or “life force.” Ojas is a very deep concept connoting to primordial energy, the fundamental energy that gives life, and keeps is in a vital state of resilience. You can say that many of the rasayana’s provide this base restorative and enlivening energy. Ayurvedic doctors believe that certain building foods and herbs, such as Ashwagandha, can resupply the body with “ojas” if it has been lost or depleted due to issues like stress, disease, and imbalance. Other traditional uses were for indications such as asthma, bronchitis, psoriasis, arthrititis, insomnia, as an aphrodisiac and as a general tonic.

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Ashwagandha is a small woody shrub or herb in the Solanaceae family that grows usually about 2 feet in height and is naturally found in diverse areas ranging from Africa, the Mediterranean and East into India. It easily grows in any Mediterranean-like climate, and can even be a wonderful house plant.  It is one of the few tonic herbs that grows exceptionally easy and is ready for harvest after only one year of growth.

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Energetics: bitter, astringent, warming
as a post digestive effect: sweet 

Main Organs: muscle, fat, bone, marrow and nerve, reproductive 

Main Actions: adaptogenic, rejuvenative, aphrodisiac, nervine, sedative, astringent
Indications to take Ashwagandhadebility, sexual debility, nerve exhaustion, adrenal exhaustion, problems of old age, weakness from childbearing, loss of memory/cognition/focused energy, loss of muscular energy, overwork, tissue deficiency, insomnia, paralysis, multiple sclerosis, weak eyes, rheumatism, skin afflictions, cough, difficult breathing, anemia, fatigue, infertility, glandular swelling

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Thankfully, Ashwagandha is one of those heavily researched herbs that has put herbalism into the forefront of allopathic medicine. Its broad spectrum healing abilities demonstrate a plethora of healing benefits — from repairing and building the brain and nervous system, to balancing hormone levels, to strengthening the immune system, to fighting aging, reducing stress and anxiety, and improving adrenal recovery, while uplifting mood and overall well-being. That's quite a lot isn't it! And that's not all... 

A lil' pharmacology

The major biochemical constituents of this precious root from which its primary medicinal properties come from, are based upon the actions of certain steroidal alkaloids and steroidal lactones, in a class of constituents called withanolides. These serve as important hormone precursors which the body is then able, as needed, to convert into hormones. For example, if there is an excess of a certain hormone, the plant-based hormone precursors occupies the so-called hormone receptor sites, without converting to human hormones, to block absorption. In this way, ashwagandha, like other adaptogens, are amphoteric and can serve to regulate vital physiological processes, increasing or decreasing as needed. This is the hyper intelligent aspect of adaptogenic tonic herbs that have blown many scientists out of the water — they provide the body and mind with that it particularly needs in that moment through they're normalizing action! 

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 Ashwagandha is specifically used to calm the nerves. In several human based clinical trials, 300mg 2x per day showed to improve acute and chronic stress, well-being and even boosting happiness. [R, R]. Other studies show how high potency extracts of ashwagandha reduce anxiety, depressive tendencies, mood swings and hormonal imbalance.



Many studies show how ashwagandha’s alkaloids support nerve cell regeneration, stimulate neural growth, in both humans and animals. It stimulates communication between nervous cells, naturally boosting brain function, cognition and overall cerebral circulation. The anti-oxidants found in Ashwagandha have been extensively studied for their benefit in scavenging free radicals during the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. [R,R]


Ashwagandha, in another recent experiment, demonstrated a significant anti-proliferative activity in human tumorigenic cells. It is acknowledged within the scientific community for its prevention to treatment of cancer. The Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology has extensive research on how the ashwagandha root extract has shown success when used during chemotherapy for the prevention of bone-marrow depression associated with anticancer drugs. Also as a post-chemotherapy immune restorative. The Indian Journal of Experimental Biology has also extensively studied its anti-tumor properties, witnessing encouraging results. 

*Other studies show how its immunomodulatory effects could be useful in the treatment of colon cancer. Other significant advances show its success in breast cancer inhibition. Withaferin A (a steroid derived from Ashwagandha and others from the Solanaceae family) exhibits significant activity against human breast cancer cells in culture and in vivo; assisting in both the prevention and recovery.  [R: Immunological Investigations 39( 7) (2010): 688– 98] [R


Ashwagandha supplementation with a resistance training program increased muscle strength, muscle size, and testosterone, reducing muscle damage and body fat percentage. Other studies show that with a dosage of 600mg of raw crude root during resistance weight training, decreased body fat percentage while increase muscle strength. [R]. Its calming also greatly helped those with severe anxious type food cravings, assisting in a more holistic approach to weight-loss programs [R]. ***This is also like the great adaptogenic Brazilian root, also similar chemically to the Panax ginseng family, like Suma



In two human trials, ashwagandha was able to decrease blood sugar levels similar to diabetic medication. It also helped reduce blood sugar levels in several animal studies. [R, R, R, R, R].



Human based studies show how it can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, preventing the hardening of arteries.[R]. The journal on Molecular Cell Biochemistry showed successful human clinical studies on how ashwagandhaextract significantly reduced myocardial injury (damage due to lack of oxygen), the study emphasized the beneficial actions of the wholistic extraction of the plant as a cardioprotective agent. 



Ashwagandha has shown to effectively reduce pain. 10g of ashwagandhareduced pain and join tenderness and swelling in a study conducted with 86 people with rheumatoid arthritis, also greatly reducing symptoms and potential side-effects with common medications. [R, R]



In two human trials, 120mg per day of ashwagandha extract taken with patients’ normal OCD medication was helpful in reducing symtpoms. [R]. Herbal mixes, that also have shown to assist cerebral function, like gotu kola, brahmi and lemon balm, have shown to improve consistency and speed, impulsivity and focus [R].



Due to its protective effects from oxidative stress, it has shown to boost longevity. In many animal based studies, it has greatly extended the lifespan of several kind of animals. The leaf extract, has also shown to contain anti-aging properties on cells. [R, R, R, R]. Its high anti-oxidant content is known to increase superoxide dismutase (SOD) — like He Shou Wu! —  being a key trait to the infamous anti-aging chemistry. SOD is commonly found in adaptogens that increase the “anti-aging” factor, as its a key component that protects cell damage from inflammation and stress.


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It's vital to have the proper dosage to actually see results.

Powder: 3-6 grams daily, or, up to 5 to 10 grams as an occasional tonic

Decoction: 16 to 30 grams (1/2-1oz) simmered in water for about 20min.

Alcoholic Extract: 2 Tbsp., 2-4 times daily.

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High doses of ashwagandha may possess abortifacient properties so that it should not be taken drink pregnancy unless under the direction of an experienced health professional. Although in Ayurveda, Ashwagandha is considered a good food for weak pregnant women; it helps to stabilize the fetus (Dr. Lad, V.) 

It is also contraindicated in conjunction with sedatives or anxioletics (a substance that reduces anxiety) or if one is suffering from stomach ulcers. Traditionally, like other tonics such as ginseng, ashwagandha should not be taken when there are signs of inflammation or advanced arterial congestion.  Large doses have been shown to trigger gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, and nausea or vomiting.



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