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Ashwagandha: An Important Herb in Ayurvedic Medicine

Updated on December 3, 2012



Ashwagandha: An Important Herb

Ashwagandha, or withania somnifera, is a herbal remedy that has been in use for thousands of years in ayurvedic medicine. The herb is a plant native to Southeast Asia and is prevalent in India.

The plant is described as looking somewhat like a tomato plant, although the fruit borne by the ashwagandha is small and referred to as a winter cherry. The fruit is used in cooking, but there's a far more popular use for the plant. Its roots are dried and used for the treatment of various conditions, ranging from insomnia to the coughing of tuberculosis to fertility.

Explanation of Ayurvedic Medicine

Scientific Research into Ashwagandha Health Effects

Everyone is looking for the silver bullet that will put an end to this condition or that condition, and rightfully so. To that end there has been a significant increase in scientific research into what have been traditionally alternative medicine products. Ashwagandha has received its share of attention in this area.

The research and clinical studies for this herb also referred to as Indian ginseng are still in the early stages. It is a painstakingly slow process to plan, develop, carry out and evaluate medical research data.

Initial research has indicated that ashwaganda's antioxidant properties may be the key to the herb's reputation for having anti-aging effects. Preliminary research into the use of ashwagandha for the treatment of Huntington's disease indicate that the plant may be part of a useful treatment in the future, pending further studies.

In the field of oncology, ashwagandha is being studied as a potential anti-cancer agent. It appears the herb may prevent the formation of new small blood vessels. If research bears this out, the herb has the potential to starve out tumors by blocking the action of blood vessel formation.

There may be exciting discoveries down the road related to the use of this plant, but traditional medicine will not be embracing those uses until valid research has been done and outcomes replicated. That is the basis of the scientific method.


Ashwagandha Uses in Alternative Medicine

Alternative medicine does not dispute scientific research, but it doesn't require the same burden of clinical proof as does traditional medicine. Thousands of years of use in ayurveda practice suffices as evidence.

Ashwagandha is considered to be an adaptogen, meaning it aids the body in its response to stress. The herb is said to increase feelings of well-being and decrease anxiety. Another use for the herb is in the treatment of insomnia.

Components in the herb also have anti-inflammatory actions in addition to antioxidant properties. These two actions work hand-in-hand in your body to reduce pain, swelling and stiffness.

A vicious cycle is set up in the body when free radicals are present. As the free radicals cause your body's immune system to respond by creating inflammation, more free radicals are formed. Antioxidants neutralize the free radicals, allowing the body to heal itself, thereby reducing inflammation.

Considerations in the Use of Ashwagandha

A potential side effect of ashwagandha use is hyperthyroidism. You should check with your health care practitioner before beginning use of this, or any other herbal supplement.

Pregnant and lactating women should not use the herb, nor anyone under 18-years of age.


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    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 5 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Thelma Alberts, the many alternative and complementary medicines are interesting and thought-provoking -- and traditional medicine has finally begun to embrace at least a few of the practices as an adjunct to traditional treatment. It's a win-win for patients.

      I appreciate the read and thank you for SHARING.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 5 years ago from Germany

      Thanks for this information. I am interested in Ayurvedic herbal medicine and its benefits. Thanks for SHARING.

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 6 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Glad you enjoyed this article, Memories1932. Like you, I think alternative medicine has a place in health care. I'm not necessarily against pharmaceutical drugs, but prefer a natural treatment rather than a chemically-produced one whenever possible.

    • profile image

      Memories1932 6 years ago

      Thank you for the great article! I am a big believer in alternative medicine and much against pharmaceutical drugs

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 6 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Fay, I'm glad you found the information useful. I was impressed with the results of early research on this herb; it's also difficult to argue with thousands of years of use in ayurveda.

    • profile image

      Fay Paxton 6 years ago

      I welcome all information about alternative medicine. Thanks for this well-written hub.