Ashwagandha root (Withania somnifera) is a versatile and potent herb known from traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine.
Ashwagandha is also one of the best known and most extensively studied adaptogens; in this article I will tell you more about what this herb can do for you.
Adaptogens are a category of medicinal herbs and mushrooms that help the body adapt to stressors by regulating the body's stress responses and production of stress hormones. They help restore balance in various physiological processes, promote homeostasis and increase the resistance to stress of body and mind.
Ashwagandha: what can this adaptogen do for you?
Ashwagandha contains numerous bioactive compounds, including alkaloids, steroidal lactones (withanolides) and saponins.
Withanolides in particular, have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-stress effects that are key to Ashwagandha's stress-reducing properties.
Chronic stress can lead to elevated levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, which has negative effects on our physical and mental health.
Ashwagandha helps regulate cortisol levels by modulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the body's central stress response system.
Studies have reported that Ashwagandha supplementation can lead to a significant reduction in cortisol levels, thereby promoting a more balanced stress response.
The adaptogenic properties of Ashwagandha go beyond cortisol regulation. Research shows that it also has neuroprotective effects by supporting the growth and function of neurons and promoting the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
These properties help enhance mood and alleviate anxiety and symptoms of depression.
Ashwagandha helps to balance the nervous and endocrine system and its calming properties support a healthy sleep cycle.
Research has shown that its effect on sleep was even more prominent in people with insomnia.
Immune system support
Chronic stress affects the immune system, making you more susceptible to infections and diseases.
Ashwagandha's immunomodulatory properties support a healthy immune function and increase the activity of natural killer (NK) cells, lymphocytes that are responsible for combating pathogens and malignant cells. They have a natural defense property against cancer cells, among others.
By strengthening immune responses, Ashwagandha helps protect the body against the adverse effects of chronic stress.
Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
Ashwagandha has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help relieve inflammation-related conditions such as arthritis.
In addition, she has antioxidant properties which help reduce free radicals and oxidative stress.
Sexual and reproductive health
Ashwagandha has a beneficial effect on the reproductive health and fertility of both women and men.
This study showed that women taking Ashwagandha improved their fertility and also had higher levels of antioxidants and lower levels of stress hormones compared to women taking a placebo.
In addition, it promotes female hormonal balance and helps to balance menstrual discomfort, sleep issues and menopause.
Read more about adaptogens for women in this article.
Starting with Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is available in several forms, including powders, capsules and extracts.
It is one of the adaptogens in the I am calm blend together with other adaptogenic herbs from Ayurveda: Brahmi and Tulsi and Reishi mushroom.
I recommend starting with half a teaspoon to see how you respond to the adaptogens and then build up to 1 teaspoon if desired.
Consult with your doctor before starting supplements, especially if you have health issues or if you are taking medication.