Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng or sluggish vitania, is a plant that, riding the wave of popularity of Ayurvedic medicine, is gaining popularity with us. The valuable ingredients found in the fruit and root of the plant have found use in the treatment of many conditions. They are used in the treatment of fertility problems in men, they also help in the fight against a number of ailments and have a beneficial effect on the overall health of our bodies.
Ashwagandha – a plant valued in Ayurvedic medicine
Ashwagandha is a plant that grows as a green shrub mainly in the subtropics, but is also cultivated in temperate climates. The plant is also known by other names, which include vitania sluggard, comfrey or Indian ginseng. Ashwagandha has already gained popularity in traditional Indian medicine, particularly in the Ayurvedic system.
Due to the confirmation in research of a number of beneficial properties, ashwagandha has also found its place in conventional medicine. Nowadays, it can be found on the market in dietary supplements, which mainly include the root of vitania ashwagandha in powdered form, extract or extract. The leaves and fruits of this plant are also used.
Ashwagandha – effects
Ashwagandha has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. The plant has been valued primarily for its positive effects against conditions such as arthritis, tuberculosis, bronchitis, vitiligo, among others, and also as a remedy for sleep problems, menstrual cycle disorders and chronic hiccups.
As for the best scientifically documented properties of ashwagandha, these include stress and anxiety relief. The effects of the plant, which, however, need to be confirmed by further research, also include improvements in overall performance, cognitive function, regenerative processes, as well as positive effects on fertility.
The remarkable effects of ashwagandha are due to the presence of unique compounds in the plant. The green part of ashwagandha contains vitanolides (classified as steroidal lactones), which show strong antibacterial and anticancer effects. In the ashwagandha root, we find glycovitanolides, which have adaptogenic effects (i.e. enhancing the body’s immune-building process), and vitanosides, whose effects have not yet been fully investigated. In addition to these compounds, Indian ginseng also contains saponins and alkaloids.
Ashwagandha – what it helps with
Ashwagandha is primarily valued for its positive effects on vitality, i.e. the overall condition of the body and mind. The consumption of vitania somnifera (Withania somnifera) is recommended for people who want to strengthen their physical condition, as well as for those of us whose lives require strenuous mental work, high levels of concentration and high mental toughness. Ashwagandha has an anti-stress and brain receptor stimulating effect due to the presence of numerous glycovitanolides in the root of the plant.
Researchers report that ashwagandha also has an antidepressant effect, and that the effects of ashwagandha-based preparations are similar to those of imipramine-based medication. Ashwagandha is also recommended for people struggling with other mental health problems such as lowered mood, depression, but also illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar affective disorder, anxiety and neurosis.
Recent studies show that the plant can be effective for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. A study on rats showed that in animals given ashwagandha extract, the process of fibrosis formation in the brains was slowed down by up to 50 per cent.
Ashwagandha is also being researched to fight cancer. According to studies, the vitanolides present in the green part of the plant may have an inhibitory effect on the growth of certain cancers: breast, lung, pancreatic and colorectal cancers. In addition, ashwagandha is an effective aid for patients undergoing chemotherapy.
The substances contained in ashwagandha inhibit the progression of neutropenia (too few white blood cells). Patients undergoing chemotherapy and taking ashwagandha-containing preparations at the same time claim that their mood has improved and they are less tired.
Ashwagandha is recommended for those exposed to heavy metals. The action of ashwagandha protects the liver from the harmful effects of toxic compounds by providing a protective barrier. Preparations containing ashwagandha are effective in the treatment of arthritis and lower blood sugar levels.
It is recommended that ashwagandha be used prophylactically as a way to improve the body’s immune system. Drinking ashwagandha-containing teas increases the activity of so-called NK cells (natural killers), which are cells responsible for destroying harmful viruses and bacteria through our body. It is worth consuming tea containing ashwagandha especially during autumn and winter, when we are particularly vulnerable to colds and flu.
Ashwagandha for infertility
Ashwagandha can be an effective treatment for male infertility. Studies have shown that men who consume ashwagandha-based formulations have had improvements in semen quality and sperm motility levels.
Ashwagandha – contraindication
Unfortunately, there are several contraindications to consuming ashwagandha-based preparations. Ashwagandha should not be taken by:
- pregnant or lactating women;
- users of tranquillisers, sleeping pills, antiepileptic drugs and certain painkillers; the risk of interaction applies to drugs such as clonazepam or diazepam (e.g. Relanium);
Before deciding to take an ashwagandha-containing preparation, it is advisable to go for a medical consultation.
Ashwagandha – side effects
Taking ashwagandha can also have side effects. The main side effects with ashwagandha use are:
- other complaints related to the digestive system.
Hyperthyroidism and skin complaints such as itching, discolouration and burning have been observed in some people taking ashwagandha-based preparations.
Ashwagandha – how to use?
There are several ways to use ashwagandha, depending on which form of the plant one chooses. Ashwagandha is mainly available as capsules, liquid extract (administered in drops), crushed or ground root, and teas.
In the case of vitania sluggard capsules or drops, they should be taken according to the manufacturer’s instructions and not exceed the recommended daily intake. As for the ground root of the plant, it allows the preparation of an ashwagandha infusion. The ground root can be consumed after mixing an appropriate portion with water or as an addition to food (e.g. yoghurt).