Ashwagandha, clad by the vernacular names’ Indian ginseng, Indian winter cherry or poison gooseberry is a powerful remedy for bolstering immunity. This herb is a potent adaptogen i.e. it is a non-toxic herb that helps to normalize all bodily functions, by working on the HPA axis and the neuroendocrine system.
Ashwagandha goes by the botanical name Withania somnifera. The word ‘somnifera’ means ‘sleep-inducive’ which means that this drug is a potent sedative and helps to treats conditions like insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Being mostly native to India, and some parts of Mediterranean and Africa, the ashwagandha shrub is perennial in nature and grows to a height of 1.5 metres. The leaves are ovate, elliptic and dull greenish in colour. The plant bears small bell-shaped yellow flowers that slowly turns into an orangish-red fruit on ripening.
Ashwagandha is widely mentioned in various traditional textbooks of Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Chinese medicine owing to its wide range of health benefits. Ancient ayurvedic scriptures named this plant ashwagandha which means ‘odour of the horse’ as its roots smell like horse’s urine. It is also known as Ashvakandika, Asgandh, Gandhapatri, and Palashaparni. The synonyms are related to a horse since the herb is a potent aphrodisiac and it is said to provide the stamina of a horse.
Effect On Doshas:
Ashwagandha characterizes three different tastes namely Tikta (bitter), Katu (pungent) and Madhura (sweet). It is blessed with Laghu (light) and Snigdha (oily) gunas. It has Ushna Virya (hot potency) and Madhura Vipaka (pungent metabolic property). It aggravates the Pitta doshas (digestion) and pacifies Vata (air) and Kapha (earth and water) doshas.
Each and every part of this miraculous plant is used for treating several health conditions and promoting the vitality and longevity of an individual. The holistic science of ayurveda has been using this powerful remedy for treating umpteen health problems including infertility, reduced immunity, arthritis, depression, insomnia, mental disorders, etc.
Ashwagandha as a whole contains umpteen number of active ingredients which are used for improving various bodily functions. The roots are loaded with essential volatile oils, amino acids and alkaloids, whereas the fruits and leaves are rich in tannins and flavonoids which helps in getting rid of free radical damage and also reduces oxidative stress.
Benefits Of The Various Parts Of The Plant:
The analgesic and antioxidant properties of the leaves of ashwagandha are used for treating a viral infection, cough and cold symptoms, fever and chronic pain.
Flowers and Seeds:
Ashwagandha flowers have potent diuretic and aphrodisiac properties which is used for improving fertility and treating kidney problems such as kidney stones.
The seeds, on the other hand, have anthelminthic properties and are used for preventing and treating infectious diseases and parasitic invasions.
The roots are the most crucial part of the plant and are mostly used in various formulations. The root has potent aphrodisiac, diuretic, anti-helminthic, antioxidant, anti-depressant, anti-diabetic properties and are hence used for treating neural problems, diabetes, constipation, infertility, skin disorders, etc.
Although, in ancient times, ayurvedic healers used to self-prepare ashwagandha formulations, nowadays, the markets are flooded with these formulations and one can easily avail it and use it for its wide range of health benefits.
Health Benefits Of The Various Ashwagandha Formulations
1. Ashwagandha Churna
Ashwagandha churna is a powdered formulation of the ashwagandha plant (mainly the roots) used for increasing the libido in males and treating various infertility issues.
1 part Ashwagandha
1 part Vidhara (i.e. Argyreia speciose)
The herbs are washed and dried under direct sun.
Once there is no moisture, they are powdered separately and passed through sieve no. 100 to get a fine powder.
The powders are then mixed together to form a homogeneous mixture and again sieved to remove any impurities or hard particles.
Stored in airtight containers for future use.
Male Reproductive System:
The formulation is typically indicated for improving men’s health. The churna has powerful spermatogenic properties that are extremely beneficial for treating oligospermia (i.e. low sperm count), hypospermia (low volume of semen), asthenozoospermia (i.e. sperm motility), teratospermia (i.e. abnormal sperm shape) and enhances spermatogenesis (i.e. sperm production). The churna, being a natural antioxidant improves the production of male hormones like testosterone and luteinizing hormone. It also treats conditions like erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation.
Female Reproductive System:
Apart from improving male fertility, it also helps in treating endometriosis (i.e. inflammation of the lining of the uterus) and is a powerful uterine tonic. It maintains hormone levels within the blood, strengthens the female reproductive organs and enhances maturation of the eggs into follicles. Regular use of this formulation or consuming foods that improve fertility may be very helpful when an individual is trying to conceive.
Being a natural aphrodisiac helps in reducing mental stress and anxiety and stimulates the hormones for increasing libido. It also increases virility and stamina in men.
The dosage should be as per health condition, age and as suggested by the ayurvedic doctor or practitioner. It is usually taken as 3 grams, 2 to 3 times a day for adults. It can be consumed with warm milk and should be taken on an empty stomach in the morning or at night before going to sleep.
It does not show any side effects when taken after proper consultation.
2. Ashwagandha Arishtam
This health tonic is a liquid preparation of the ashwagandha herb for general debility and improving the immunity. Apart from being used for improving reproductive health for both men and women, it is also used for neural problems like depression, dementia, etc.
The goodness of the various herbal ingredients along with ashwagandha like mushali, manjistha, haldi, haritaki, mulethi, arjuna, rasna, daruhaldi, trivrit, chitraka, mustak, vacha, chandan, sariva and several other dravyas or ingredients which make this a potent remedy for a host of ailments.
The decoction is prepared by boiling the various kashaya dravyas or specific decoction herbs and reducing the water content up to ¼th of its original content. The decoction is strained and kept in a vessel. Jaggery and dried Prakshepaka dravyas like dhataki, ginger, black pepper, dalchini, ela, tejpata, nagkeshar and priyangu are added one by one and mixed. The vessel is covered with a lid, kept aside and allowed to ferment for about a month. After the fermentation is complete, it is filtered to remove husk of the herbs and stored in an airtight glass container for future use.
Prevents Anxiety and Depression:
Ashwagandha arishtam is extremely useful for treating different types of psychotic problems like depression, dementia, etc. It normalises the vata and pitta doshas in the body which in turn keeps the serotonin level under control and helps to reduce various symptoms of anxiety which includes restlessness, uneasiness, cold hands, and feet, etc.
The potent antidepressant properties of the decoction help in relaxing the mind, reducing irritability and improving energy and stamina.
The anti-stress and anxiolytic properties of ashwagandha help in calming the mind and body. It helps the mind to get rid of distraught thoughts, reduces mental fatigue and improves sleeping patterns.
This powerful formulation holds high value in improving the general stamina and energy level of the body. The active ingredients in ashwagandha and other herbs used in this formulation reduces weakness and fatigue and improves the vitality of the body. It also improves the function of the adrenal glands which in turn helps in reducing the stress levels.
Boosts Bone Health:
The tonic is highly beneficial for improving bone health and reducing pain and inflammation at the joints. It promotes bone health, reduces the risk of fracture, maintains overall body balance and provides the body with a strong and perfect skeletal structure. It also increases bone and muscle mass and treats conditions like osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and fibromyalgia.
Like the churnam, the decoction of ashwagandha also plays a key role in improving the reproductive health of both men and women. It treats the various disorders related to infertility and improves libido in men.
The general dosage of ashwagandha arishtam is 20 ml i.e. 4 tsp twice a day infused with equal quantities of water or as suggested by your doctor.
Overdosage of the formulation, without doctor’s consultation may cause some contraindications like acidity, heartburn, GERD, sour mouth, gastritis, ulcer, etc.
3. Ashwagandhadi Lehyam
Ashwagandhadi Lehyam is a semi-solid jam like preparation of ashwagandha which is prepared by adding jaggery or sugar and boiled with a specific liquid till the correct constituency is reached. The Lehyam is used for treating general weakness, fatigue, neuromuscular conditions, impotency, underweight, etc. This potent formulation improves immunity and is useful for treating arthritis, joint pain, back pain, and different breathing problems.
The active constituents of the Lehyam include ashwagandha, sariva, jeera, sugar, madhusnuhi, draksha, ghee, honey, ela and water for the decoction.
The dried herbal powders are added in water and boiled till it becomes 1/4th of its original volume. Now the decoction is filtered and Sarkara or sugar is added to it and the flame is simmered. It is kept in that way till it reaches a semi-solid jam-like consistency. It is removed from the heat and allowed to cool. In the end, ela powder and honey is added and mixed thoroughly. The jam or jelly-like formulation is then kept in airtight glass vessels and stored for future use.
Improves Underweight Conditions:
The Lehyam effectively pacifies the Vata doshas and aggravates the Kapha Doshas, hence it can be used to improve skeletal and muscle mass and for healthy weight gain. It provides nourishment to the body, balances subcutaneous fat, enhances the strength of bones and muscles.
Consuming this Lehyam on a regular basis along with milk is sure to give marked results in a month.
Pyospermia is a condition that is caused due to an infection or viral invasion which is characterized by an abnormal number of white blood cells in the semen which ultimately reduces the motility and functioning of the sperm. This antibacterial and anti-inflammatory nature of this potent Lehyam is excellent remedy for treating the infection and curing this ailment.
Like all other ashwagandha formulations, the Lehyam of this magical herb is also useful against general weakness and debility. It reduces anxiety and stressful conditions by improving adrenal health. It also enhances the body’s immunity and prevents infections due to the invasion of germs.
The dosage depends upon the patient’s age, sex and severity of the disease; hence it is advised to visit or consult an ayurvedic doctor or practitioner before taking this medicine.
The adequate dose for an adult is 6 to 12 grams taken twice a day with milk. It should be taken 1 hour before meals or 2 hours after a meal.
Other Uses Of Ashwagandha:
The excellent hypoglycaemic property of ashwagandha plays a significant role in alleviating the blood sugar level of the body. The production of insulin from the pancreatic β-cells becomes active in taking ashwagandha gutika or churna. It helps to reduce the breakdown of starch into glucose which in turn leads to low blood glucose levels.
Good For Heart
Ashwagandha is extremely effective in treating various heart ailments due to its strong antioxidative nature. It strengthens the heart muscles, prevents lipid build up in the blood vessels, and hence reduces the risk of heart attacks, heart blocks, blood clots, etc. It also plays a key role in lowering the levels of cholesterol in the blood.
Being a natural antioxidant, it is used for treating oxidative free radical damage due to the sun rays. It is also an effective anti-ageing remedy to obtain youthful skin and treats wrinkles, fine line, spots, dark circles, etc. Furthermore, it reduces acne and pimples and bestows smooth and glowing skin.
It is also beneficial for the hair as the anti-microbial nature of the plant treats various scalp and hair infections. It nourishes the hair follicles with essential nutrients, improves blood circulation and strengthens the hair from the roots. By normalising the secretion of the stress hormone, it also prevents hair fall and breakage due to stress and anxiety.
Remedies Pain And Inflammation
The potent of anti-inflammatory property of the bioactive ingredients in Ashwagandha makes it the ultimate choice for providing relief from pain and inflammation. It is also extremely effective against different types of arthritis or Amavata or other inflamed conditions. By decreasing the markers of inflammation, it improves the immune cells, i.e. WBC’s that combat infection. It also provides instant relief from burning sensations in various parts of the body.
Normalises Thyroid Hormone Levels
The butterfly shaped gland located near the Adam’s apple is extremely beneficial for the body. A over or under production of the hormone can lead to several issues including hair loss, obesity, brain fog etc. Taking prescribed amounts of ashwagandha formulation can effectively normalise the secretion of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) and treat hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism naturally.
Augments Cognitive Functioning
Imbued with powerful antioxidants and flavonoids, ashwagandha holds high significance in improving the memory capacity, focus, concentration, calmness, alertness of an individual. Being a potent brain tonic and stimulator, it actively promotes antioxidant activity to protect the nerve cells from harmful free radical damage, thus reducing oxidative stress and improving memory, reasoning, problem-solving, and other cognitive abilities. The neuroprotective elements in the plant also prevent loss of memory and relieves tension from the brain.
Since time immemorial, this magical remedy has been mentioned in several ayurvedic textbooks as the “Queen of Herbs” due to its immense health benefits. This incredible medicinal herb is classified as an adaptogen and helps in normalising stress and anxiety. Being a potent aphrodisiac, it improves libido, treats various infertility issues and improves the reproductive health in both men and women. It also ensures better functioning of the heart and improves overall stamina and body immunity.