Conscious Living

Ayurveda for Health: Ashwagandha

A Royal Plant

Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng, is a herb used in the system of Indian traditional medicine, Ayurveda. For Ayurvedic doctors, Ashwaghanda is a go-to remedy, known for its use in total rejuvenation of the body and for its capacity to relieve stress. It is with good reason that this little plant is known as “the Queen Herb of Ayurveda.” The powder that we take as a supplement is made out of the root of the short tender shrub, growing between 35-75 cm tall in drier regions of India, Nepal, China and Yemen. In Europe one probably has seen the fruits sold as a type of gooseberry in the supermarket.

So what does Ashwagandha do? Medical researchers have been studying Ashwagandha for years with great interest and have completed more than 200 studies on the healing benefits of this botanical. While large-scale studies have not been done, there is definitely some interesting work that points to Ashwaghanda’s positive effects on the body. In one study among athletes, regular supplementation with Ashwaghanda improved the heart-lung functioning, increasing aerobic capacity significantly when compared to a test group. Several studies done on rats support the idea that Ashwaghanda reduces stress, and in some studies, it has even been shown to help in the fight against cancer. While we always have to remember that supplements cannot replace other treatments, this natural powerhouse can definitely support the body when it is going through a stressful time – be it physical, emotional, or mental stress. For the healthy among us, taking Ashwaghanda can be a good preventative measure to keep the body fit and well-functioning.

Other health benefits of Ashwaghanda that are supported by small-scale studies are:

  • Functions as a brain booster for improved mental clarity
  • Increases energy levels
  • Reduces blood sugar levels
  • May reduce symptoms of depression
  • Improves male fertility

Tastes Like… Horse?

As it is one of the best-researched Ayurvedic herbs, we are happy to know that organic Ashwaghanda powder is readily available in India! Are you inspired to start taking it? Know that the name Ashwaghanda means ‘odour of the horse’ – and yes, in our experience, the taste and smell can be quite unpleasant. Let’s have a look at ways to integrate the Ashwaghanda supplement in the most… palatable way possible. 

First of all, let’s be clear that there is a simple way around this: If you buy Ashwaghanda in capsule-form, you will not have much more effect than a slight aftertaste in the back of your throat. For those of you who prefer powder – as it is cheaper and gives you the opportunity to vary the dose – we have some ideas on how to take it:

  1. With hot milk or water. The simplest way to get it down, but be ready to get the full experience! Simply add your dose to a glass of warm liquid. You can add some honey to improve the taste. 
  2. Make a milkshake. Roast 4 tablespoons of Ashwaghanda powder in 1 cup of pure ghee, and add some honey. Take 1 teaspoon of this mixture and dissolve in a glass of cold milk. Store the ghee mix in the refrigerator and take a spoon whenever needed. 
  3. Add it to curd or yoghurt. Take 250 grams of curd or yoghurt and hang it in a cheese cloth to drain all the water. Once you get a nice, thick curd, add some warm spices – cinnamon, cardamom – and some honey and dried fruit. For you daily dose, take 1-4th of the curd and add your dose of Ashwaghanda. Enjoy! 

Once you’ve got your method of ingestion down, you might still be wondering how much to take. From the studies that have been done, we can distil the following guidelines:

  • To reduce stress, 500-600mg per day, taken for at least one month, seems to work best. 
  • To lower blood sugar, benefits start to appear already at 250mg per day. 
  • To boost male fertility, you need about 500mg daily for at least 3 months.
  • To improve memory, about 500mg a day will do. 

Please note that supplementing with Ashwaghanda is not recommended for pregnant women or those who have an autoimmune disease. Ashwaghanda can also interact with other medications – consider talking to your doctor before supplementing if you are already taking medication for your thyroid, blood sugar, or blood pressure. Ayurveda also recommends that you monitor yourself for gastrointestinal disturbances once you start taking Ashwaghanda supplements. 

Have you been taking Ashwaghanda regularly? What is your experience? Please let us know in the comments! 

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