5 Ways Ashwagandha Improves Energy and Supports Health
By Dr. Kevin Passero
Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera), also known as Indian ginseng, offers numerous benefits to both the body and the mind. In fact, that’s what helped it earn its name – which in Sanskrit means “smell of a horse” – as it is believed to give vitality and the strength of a stallion to the user.
Ashwagandha is one of several plants that are part of the adaptogenic family of herbs. Adaptogens work with our adrenal systems to help our bodies adapt to physical, chemical and environmental stressors, which we’re exposed to every day. So it stands to reason most of us can benefit from the many advantages of this wondrous herb.
Ashwagandha has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a variety of conditions ranging from immune issues to neurological disorders to even hair loss, and here are five great reasons to add it to your daily health regimen:
Our adrenal glands are the work horses of the body; too much stress can cause adrenal fatigue leading to sluggishness, insomnia, weight gain, endocrine abnormalities, mood issues and a host of related problems.
Ashwagandha gently supports the adrenals by working to restore normal cortisol levels throughout the day. In helping to reduce the effects of stress, the herb helps prevent post-workout slumps while increasing overall energy and endurance. It has also been shown in clinical trials to reduce anxiety by lowering elevated levels of our stress hormone, cortisol.
Ashwagandha’s adaptogenic properties help it modulate the endocrine system, supporting both underactive (hypo-) and overactive (hyper-) thyroids. It’s been shown to have a regulating effect on the secretion of two main types of thyroid hormones – T4, a storage hormone, and T3, the active thyroid hormone. While it may not take the place of thyroid replacement medication, the herb may provide some relief from common symptoms of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism due to its balancing effects.
There’s also some evidence that suggests ashwagandha helps the brain and is effective at reducing feeling of anxiety, possibly by enhancing levels of the brain chemical norepinephrine.
In one study, the calming effect of ashwagandha on rats was shown to be equal to that produced by the prescription anti-anxiety medicine lorazepam – sold under the trade name Ativan.
Older adults, as well as anyone suffering from mild to moderate joint pain, may benefit from ashwagandha as well. As an anti-inflammatory, it’s been shown to be effective in easing the pain and inflammation associated with joint issues. Its anti-inflammatory effects have also been shown to be beneficial for skin issues such as psoriasis and eczema. Choose a diet abundant in anti-inflammatory foods to further relieve skin issues and stress on the joints.
Many debilitating conditions of aging can be caused or exacerbated by free radicals, highly reactive altered oxygen molecules that can weaken and destruct practically any cells of the body. One of the easiest ways to combat the destruction of free radicals is to ensure your diet/supplement program includes adequate supplies of antioxidants. While fruits and vegetables – especially those grown organically – contain high levels of antioxidants, supplements such as ashwagandha can boost antioxidant activity as well.
Ashwagandha’s benefits can come at varying doses typically ranging from 500 mg-1,500 mg of a high-quality standardized extract. For most people taking ashwagandha, I recommend 1,000 mg in the morning.