Herb Spotlight: Ashwagandha
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Hey there, new vegans! Welcome back to our monthly herb spotlight series! Each month, NVH will explore, examine, and sometimes review a different medicinal herb! Why, you ask? Well, we truly believe that there are readily available, natural forms of relief for most, if not all, ailments that can be found out in this world. Hopefully, in exploring some of these herbs with us, you may be able to reduce the dependency you or someone you know has on major pharmaceuticals. In reality, most commercial drugs are derived from the very herbs we will talk about here, so we want to explore their efficacy and take a closer look at how they work in their natural state, without the added chemicals and dangerous side effects.
For the month of September, we will be discussing Ashwagandha. But, before we dive in, please read the following disclaimer.
The comments made in this post are the opinion of the author and should never substitute sound medical advice from a licensed professional. The authors at NVH are not healthcare providers and do not directly recommend trying any product on this site without consulting a physician.
Okay, here we go…
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is an Indian Ayurvedic herb that has been in use for a millennia as an herbal supplement and/or tonic. It is said to be the remedy that increases longevity and promotes happiness. Ashwagandha has apoptogenic properties which help the body normalize during bouts of stress, in turn reducing the negative effects that stress can have on bodily functions.
In early Indian medicine, it was used as a tonic for small children to reduce stress and promote healthy cognitive function. In the young, it was said to be one of the best aphrodisiacs. In the elderly, it is said to have assisted with Alzheimer's and dementia. It has also proven to be helpful in the treatment of certain lung and uterine cancers.
How does Ashwagandha work?
Ashwagandha has been proven to lower cortisol levels during physical stress, improving endurance and stamina in human and animal studies. It is a powerful antioxidant, protecting the body from cancer causing free-radicals, and acts as an immunomodulator during states of lowered immunity, thus making it effective in improving the quality of life for cancer patients. The anxiolytic effects of Ashwagandha have been compared to that of Lorazepam when used to treat anxiety and depression. But, perhaps the most impressive benefits of Ashwagandha hail from its neuroprotective properties. This herb has proven highly useful in preventing, slowing, and even reversing neurotic atrophy and synaptic loss caused by diseases such as Parkinson's, Huntington's, and Alzheimer's when used at any stage in the disease process.
Ashwagandha's numerous pharmacological actions, such as anti-tumor, anti-arthritic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotection, make it clear to see why this herb has been used with success for so long.
Is Ashwagandha right for you? If you suffer from depression, anxiety, weakened immunity, stress, or any of several neurological disorders, this may a supplement worth discussing with your physician. In many cases, it appears that Ashwagandha can be a useful complimentary treatment to a number of different conditions.
*WARNING: It is not recommended to begin any natural supplement regimen before speaking with a licensed healthcare provider.
My Personal Review
I took Ashwagandha for its alleged "calming" benefits after dealing with some highly stressful situations in the work place. After only two days, I did notice a slight calming effect, but not to the point of sleepiness or fatigue. I am not one who suffers from chronic depression or anxiety, but I imagine this supplement could be useful for those who do. I would say it has a mild mood-elevating effect, but I recognize that this may have been more of a placebo effect in my case. Ultimately, I did not continue taking Ashwaganda because it made me incredible hungry all the time. I felt like I needed to snack constantly throughout the entire time I was taking it and that insatiable hunger just about vanished immediately when I stopped.
I'll also note that I have spent the last month or so doing extensive research on this herb and I've discovered countless reviews of people who claim this herb has helped them to greatly reduce or eliminate their dependency on depression and anxiety medication. I've also read a few reviews that praised its ability to quell the symptoms of family members who were diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's and dementia. I have yet to come across any reviews that discuss Ashwagandha in relation to cancer treatment, however, judging by how it made me feel during my short time taking it, I can imagine this would help people who are struggling with depression and loss of appetite from chemotherapy and radiation.
Ashwagandha has been around for quite some time with a really impressive list of benefits. I could tell very quickly that it was a powerful herb by the way it made me feel, but it was simply not something I needed at this point in my life. I will, however, keep Ashwagandha in mind for myself and my loved ones should we ever need its immune-boosting, neuroprotective, or anti-stress properties.