The name ashwagandha describes the smell of its root (like a horse). By definition, ashwa means horse.
The herb is considered one of the most important herbs in the Ayurvedic medicine system, a healthcare practice that started in India over 3,000 years ago.
Ayurvedic medicine uses herbs, special diets, and other natural practices as treatment for a variety of conditions. In Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is considered a Rasayana. That means it’s an herb that helps maintain youth, both mentally and physically.
Ashwagandha may be used in powdered form in dosages ranging from 450 milligrams to 2 grams. You can buy it in capsules, powders, or as a liquid extract from health food or supplement stores.
Modern studies have shown that ashwagandha might be beneficial for a number of uses. But a lot is still unknown about how the herb reacts within the human body. A majority of the studies so far – while very promising – have been done on animals.
It’s possible that ashwagandha has a calming effect on anxiety symptoms when compared to the drug lorazepam (a sedative and anxiety medication).
A study published in the journal Phytomedicine showed that the herb had the ability to reduce anxiety levels.
Ashwagandha is considered a pain reliever that acts on the nervous system to prevent pain signals from being sent. It’s also thought to have some anti-inflammatory properties. For this reason, some research has shown it to be effective in treating forms of arthritis.
Ashwagandha may have a variety of benefits to heart health, including treating:
high blood pressure
Several studies have examined ashwagandha’s ability to slow or prevent loss of brain function in people with diseases like Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s.
As these diseases progress, parts of the brain and its connective paths become damaged, which leads to loss of memory and function. Research suggests that ashwagandha, when given to mice and rats during the early disease stages, may be able to offer protection.
A few very promising studies found that ashwagandha might be able to stop cell growth in certain cancers. Animal research showed the ability to decrease a lung tumor. There are encouraging findings that suggest the herb has potential to slow human cancers including breast, lung, kidney, and prostate.
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