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What is Ashwagandha Root - Health Benefits, Dosage, and Side-Effects of the Herb and Its Tea

Updated on April 19, 2014

The Indian Ginseng

A commonly used herb in ayurveda and unani medicine, ashwagandha, is popularly referred to as the Indian Ginseng. However, the herb is not botanically related to ginseng in any way. Of course, it does share the rejuvenating benefits of the ginseng commonly known to the Western world.

Ashwagandha is a wonderful health tonic for the mind and body
Ashwagandha is a wonderful health tonic for the mind and body | Source

What is Ashwagandha?

What is commonly referred to as Ashwagandha is actually Withania somnifera. The herb is native to the various dry regions of India, Nepal, North Africa and the Middle East. With growing interest in the health benefits of ashwagandha, it can now be found in certain areas of United States as well.

The plant belongs to the Solanaceae or nightshade family and its root as well as the berry is used to make potent ayurvedic medicine. It has oval leaves and yellow flowers and bears a small red-colored fruit.

The Latin word somnifera means sleep-inducing, and the Sanskrit words ashwa means horse and gandha means smell. These words speak a lot about the properties of ashwagandha. The herb has a calming and sedative effect on the brain. It has a horse-like smell and it is also believed to give the strength of a horse to anyone who takes it regularly.

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Ashwagandha boosts the immune system and enhances your energy levels
Ashwagandha boosts the immune system and enhances your energy levels | Source

Quick Facts about Ashwagandha

  • The botanical name for ashwagandha is Withania somnifera.
  • The word ashwagandha means horse-like smell.
  • This ayurvedic herb is an adaptogen and a fantastic immune booster.
  • The herb can be taken in the form of tea, capsules or powder.
  • Pregnant women should avoid taking this herb.
  • The herb should not be combined with sedative drugs.

Health Benefits of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha has been of interest for many researchers in recent times. Studies have found that the herb contains chemicals such as alkaloids and steroidal lactones. It has also been found to contain choline, fatty acids, amino acids, and a variety of sugars.

Recent researches on the composition and health benefits of the herb have shown that ashwagandha may be useful in a variety of diseases.

The herb is an adaptogen, which means that it is an effective general tonic that can help improve the body's ability to cope with daily stress. Regular intake of ashwagandha will strengthen your resistance to stress and at the same time increase your energy levels.

It is also an effective immune-booster, which may help in reducing the occurrence of various illnesses and diseases.

The herb is used for enhancing thinking and decision-making abilities. It also improves concentration and memory and is, therefore, quite useful for students.

Ashwagandha acts like certain anti-anxiety medications and may help relieve anxiety and depression. It has a calming effect on the brain and its sedative effects may help people who have trouble sleeping.

The herb reduces the degeneration of brain cells, which may prevent, or at least delay, the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

The herb has been found to alleviate fertility problems in both men and women and may also have aphrodisiac properties, that is, it may help enhance your libido.

Its ability to decrease pain and inflammation has made it quite useful for relieving the symptoms of osteoarthritis as well as rheumatoid arthritis.

Preliminary research has shown that ashwagandha may be useful for people with Type 2 diabetes. The herb may normalize high blood sugar.

Its ability to lower bad cholesterol may also make it quite useful in the management of cardiovascular diseases.

The herb has been found to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the lungs, breast and colon. Its ability to inhibit the growth of cancer cells without causing any damage to normal cells indicates its potential as an effective anti-cancer herb.

As an effective adaptogen, the herb is often used by people for gastrointestinal disorders. It can also be used for treating wounds and reducing back pain.

Ayurveda also uses this potent herb for the treatment of menstrual problems, chronic liver disease, bronchitis, fibromyalgia, asthma, and tuberculosis.

The herb is also good for your skin. Its anti-aging properties may help prevent the early onset of wrinkles and bless you with a youthful appearance for many years. It also used to treat skin infections and conditions such as leucoderma (a disease marked with white patchiness on the skin).

How to Use Ashwagandha

Traditionally, one to two grams of ashwagandha root are boiled in milk or water for about 15 to 20 minutes. You can make ashwagandha tea by boiling around one teaspoon of the root or the powder in water. Drink this concoction three times a day for about two to three weeks to notice the beneficial effects of this herb on your health.

You can add your favorite ingredients to this tea as well. This includes honey, ginger, pepper, cardamom and clove.

You can also enjoy the health benefits of ashwagandha by using capsules, powders and tinctures, which are freely available at any herbal or health food store. You can also order the ashwagandha root powder or capsules online.

The usual recommended dosage of the herb is 600 to 1000 mg. However, make sure to take a look at the recommended dosage mentioned on the pack of capsules you buy.

Safety Precautions and Side-Effects of Ashwagandha

The herb is generally considered to be quite safe for use. However, if you do plan on using it on a daily basis, make sure to consult a physician. It is especially advisable if you are suffering from a chronic disease or are taking any regular medication.

Pregnant women should avoid using this herb since it has been found to induce abortion when taken in large doses. The herb should not be used by those who have hyperthyroidism since it may raise the level of thyroxine, the thyroid hormone.

It should also not be used with barbiturates or sedative drugs since it may increase the effects of these medications and cause potentially serious side-effects.

Make the Best Use of Ashwagandha Root

Now that you know about how beneficial ashwagandha root is for your health, make sure to pick a pack of the powder or capsules. The root is also found in herbal tonics that include ginseng and rhodiola. So, you can also pick an herbal mix that contains various other herbs including ashwagandha for potential benefits to your body and mind.

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    • profile image

      Bata Krishna Mohanty 2 years ago

      It is a best medicine plant

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      BetterAlive 3 years ago

      Thank you, Carla!

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      Carla 3 years ago

      Love my ayurveda and this site rocks. :*)

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      BetterAlive 3 years ago

      Purnasrinivas,

      Thank you so much for your appreciative comments!

    • purnasrinivas profile image

      purnasrinivas 3 years ago from Bangalore

      A very interesting hub. Many facts about Ashwagandha Root have been discussed. Good keep it up!

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      BetterAlive 3 years ago

      Thank you, Venki Indian! I am glad you liked the information about ashwagandha.

    • venki_indiain profile image

      Venkat 3 years ago from Chennai

      Well written and nice informative. Keep it up.