In today’s modern era, there’s no shortage of ways to help manage stress and anxiety. While everyone has their preferred method (yoga, meditation, ahem..Netflix), more and more people are discovering how various herbs and natural food sources can assist with their mental health. If you’re looking to try natural food supplements as a way to boost your overall emotional wellbeing, look no further than Ashwagandha
What is Ashwagandha?
Also known as “Indian ginseng” and “winter cherry”, Ashwagandha is a restorative plant and a member of the nightshade family. It grows as an evergreen shrub with oval leaves, yellow flowers, and small red fruits about the size of raisins. The shrub is native to northern Africa, parts of India, and the Middle East.
Used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, healers have long harvested Ashwagandha’s roots and fruit to treat a variety of health conditions, including insomnia, joint inflammation, hormone imbalance, rheumatism, and weakness due to old age. In Ayurveda, Ashwagandha is classified as a Rasayana, a substance that promotes longevity, happiness and vitality. In fact, Ashwagandha is Sanskrit for “smell of a horse”, a name is that partly refers to the herb’s potent odor, but also its reputed ability to impart the power and strength of a stallion.
The Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
Calming, grounding, and naturally anti-inflammatory, Ashwagandha is most commonly taken for anxiety and as an overall mood booster. It belongs to a category of plants known as adaptogens, plants that help balance the body’s ability to cope with stress and decrease sensitivity to external stressors in the environment.
Read on to learn other benefits of Ashwagandha.
Anxiety and Stress
Ashwagandha mitigates stress by encouraging healthy levels of cortisol in the body. Studies have also found that Ashwagandha can help reduce overall anxiety when taken regularly.
Ashwagandha makes a great sleep aid. In animal studies, Ashwagandha has been shown to have an overall sedative effect. Human studies have also shown it can reduce insomnia in those with chronic stress.
Alternatively, while Ashwagandha can help with relaxation, it’s also great for combatting fatigue and can boost overall energy levels.
Moderates Blood Sugar
Studies have shown that Ashwagandha can be a natural way to lower blood sugar and is just as effective as taking a blood sugar pill.
Ashwagandha is a natural way to boost testosterone levels in men and has shown to increase fertility with regular consumption.
There’s a reason Ashwagandha is said to grant the power of a horse: lab studies have suggested that taking Ashwagandha regularly can increase muscle size and strength.
Ashwagandha is considered safe for most individuals. However pregnant women, breastfeeding women and those with thyroid conditions are generally advised not to take Ashwagandha and to consult with a licensed physician.
How to Take Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is available at most health food stores in powder form, capsules, and liquid extract. While the powder is considered the most effective, it has a bitter taste, and most recommend mixing it with a sweetener. A cup of hot milk with honey and Ashwagandha powder before bedtime is a delicious and soothing way to take advantage of its healing properties. Most importantly, Ashwagandha is most effective when consumed regularly, so be sure to get a consistent dose.