What is ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is an herb that is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional system of medicine that originated in India. It is also known by its scientific name, Withania somnifera. The herb is believed to have a number of potential health benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving brain function, and increasing endurance and strength. It is often taken as a supplement in the form of capsules, powder, or extract. Some people also use ashwagandha in traditional Ayurvedic remedies, such as oil or paste, which can be applied topically to the skin or consumed orally. This post explains 10 proven health benefits of ashwagandha and its side effects.
Constituents of ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is a plant that contains a number of biologically active compounds, including alkaloids, steroidal lactones, saponins, and withanolides. These compounds are thought to be responsible for the herb’s potential health benefits.
Alkaloids are a class of compounds that contain nitrogen and are found in a variety of plants. Ashwagandha contains several alkaloids, including isopelletierine, anahygrine, and somniferine, which are believed to have sedative and antispasmodic properties.
Steroidal lactones, also known as withanolides, are a class of compounds found in ashwagandha that are believed to have anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects. The most well-known withanolide in ashwagandha is withaferin A, which has been shown to have antioxidant and anticancer properties in laboratory studies.
Saponins are a type of compound found in plants that have a foaming or lathering effect when they are mixed with water. Ashwagandha contains several saponins, including withanosides and somniferosides, which are believed to have a number of potential health benefits, including reducing inflammation and improving immune function.
It is important to note that the specific compounds and their concentrations may vary depending on the source and preparation of ashwagandha.
10 Proven Health benefits of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is an herb that is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine and is believed to have a number of potential health benefits. Here are the top ten potential health benefits of ashwagandha, based on scientific research:
- Reducing stress and anxiety: Ashwagandha has been shown to have a calming effect on the brain and may help reduce stress and anxiety.
- Improving brain function: Some research suggests that ashwagandha may help improve memory and cognitive function in people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
- Increasing endurance and strength: Ashwagandha may help improve physical performance and increase muscle strength and mass, making it a popular supplement among athletes and bodybuilders.
- Reducing inflammation: Ashwagandha may reduce inflammation in the body due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Lowering cholesterol: Ashwagandha may help lower cholesterol levels and improve heart health.
- Managing diabetes: Some research suggests that ashwagandha may help improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control in people with diabetes. (See Also; Non drug management of diabetes mellitus)
- Reducing the risk of cancer: Ashwagandha has antioxidant and anticancer properties and may help reduce the risk of cancer.
- Improving fertility and sexual function: Ashwagandha may help improve fertility and sexual function in men and women.
- Improving immune function: Ashwagandha may help improve immune function and may be useful in the treatment of autoimmune diseases.
- Reducing the effects of aging: Ashwagandha has been shown to have anti-aging effects and may help reduce the effects of aging on the body.
How to use Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is commonly taken as a supplement in the form of capsules, powder, or extract. There may be a variation in recommended dosages depending on the particular product and its intended use. It is important to follow the dosage instructions on the product label or as directed by a healthcare professional.
Ashwagandha can also be used in the form of traditional Ayurvedic remedies, such as oil or paste, which can be applied topically to the skin or consumed orally. These remedies may be prepared using fresh or dried ashwagandha roots or leaves, and may be combined with other herbs or ingredients.
Side effects of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is generally considered to be safe when taken in appropriate doses. However, like any supplement or medication, it is possible to experience side effects when taking ashwagandha.
Common side effects of ashwagandha may include:
- Upset stomach: Ashwagandha may cause digestive discomfort, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Drowsiness: Ashwagandha may cause drowsiness, particularly when taken in large doses.
- Allergic reactions: Ashwagandha may cause allergic reactions, including skin rash, itching, and difficulty breathing.
- Interactions with medications: Ashwagandha may interact with certain medications, including sedatives and blood thinners, and may increase the risk of bleeding.
Precautions while using Ashwagandha
If you are considering taking ashwagandha or any other supplement, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting use to ensure it is appropriate for you.
Here are some precautions to consider when using ashwagandha:
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding: It is not known if ashwagandha is safe to use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Until more is known, it is best to avoid using ashwagandha if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Medications: Ashwagandha may interact with certain medications, including sedatives, blood thinners, and thyroid hormones. If you are taking any medications, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking ashwagandha to ensure it is safe for you.
- Surgery: Ashwagandha may interfere with blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding. If you are planning to have surgery, it is important to stop taking ashwagandha at least two weeks beforehand.
- Allergic reactions: Some people may be allergic to ashwagandha or other ingredients in the supplement. If you have a known allergy or have experienced allergic reactions to other supplements or medications, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking ashwagandha.
- Dosing: It is important to follow the dosage instructions on the product label or as directed by a healthcare professional. Taking large doses of ashwagandha may increase the risk of side effects.
Key Points to Note
Ashwagandha is a key element of Ayurveda, which is a traditional form of alternative medicine based on Indian principles.
It is important to note that the safety and effectiveness of ashwagandha has not been extensively studied in scientific research, and the evidence for its effectiveness is not always clear.
If you are considering taking ashwagandha or any other supplement, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting use to ensure it is appropriate for you and to determine the appropriate dosage.
The side effects of ashwagandha may vary depending on the specific product and the individual taking it. If you experience any side effects or unusual symptoms while taking ashwagandha or any other supplement, it is important to stop use and consult with a healthcare professional.