Ashwagandha – The Wonder Plant

Ashwagandha is a plant originating in India which has been widely used by Africans and Native Americans for treating a multitude of diseases. Ashwagandha and its secret benefits have been known for 5000 years in India and have been incorporated into an ancient system of medicine from India – Ayurveda – a holistic system of medicines which does not treat the symptoms (as most forms of medicine do) but, treats the underlying causes.
Ashwagandha is a short shrub growing 35 to 75 centimetres tall growing in and around the Indian subcontinent. It is also native to Northern Africa and the Middle East. As the growing benefits of the plant are becoming known, it is cultivated in temperate climates the world over including the United States of America. Although all parts of the plant are used for medicinal purposes, the roots and the stems are the main components of most medicines.

Why is it called Ashwagandha

The name Ashwagandha derives from Indian language of Sanskrit is a combination of two words, “Ashva”, meaning horse, and “gandha” meaning smell. The root, which is primarily used to prepare the medicine, has a smell akin to that of a “sweaty horse”. Ashwagandha is known to the scientific world by the name Withania somnifera. Commonly known as Indian Ginseng, Ashwagandha is a plant in the Solanaceae family ( a family which also includes the tomato)

Uses of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is one of the most widely used herbs in Ayurveda and Unani medicines and is beneficial in a wide range of ailments. Ashwagandha is considered to be a Rasayana Drug – that which rejuvenates the body. Ashwagandha is also known for enhancing the, “Dhi, Dhriti and Smriti” – the cognitive functions. It is used for treating fertility problems in both males and females and also as a mild aphrodisiac. A preparation of Ashwagandha in honey, sugar and ghee is widely used in premature ejaculation, low libido and erectile dysfunction with good results being reported.

Properties of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha has four main properties, growth promoter, adaptogenic, anti-stress and an immunostimulant. Ashwagandha when taken with milk increases the haemoglobin content and also increases the absorption of Copper, Zinc and Potassium. Ashwagandha also increases the body weight and energy especially in emaciated children

Recent clinical trials have shown that Ashwagandha prevents the degeneration of neurons and nerves and thus should be helpful in Parkinsonism and Alzheimer’s disease. Of even greater significance and interest are some other studies on experimental animals which have shown the potential of Ashwagandha to stop cancer cells in their tracks. It is being concluded on the basis of these studies that Ashwagandha is more effective than doxorubicin in inhibiting breast and colon cancer growth. Another exciting finding is the ability of Ashwagandha to enhance the survival rates and life span of cancer patients.

Ashwagandha is Anti Aging

Another aspect of Ashwagandha which deserves a special mention is its anti-aging property and its ability to fight cold and cough. Ashwagandha is used as a topical application in conditions like skin ulcers, carbuncles, tumours etc with good results.

Diseases cured by Ashwagandha

Studies are also underway to evaluate the performance of Ashwagandha in Diabetes, impotency, cancer, rheumatism and arthritis, loss of memory, neurological problems and in constipation among other diseases.

As modern lifestyle changes and dietary imbalances play havoc with both the mental and physical health of the suffering masses, Ashwagandha with its multi-faceted uses is the focus of a slew of research activities aimed at discovering the uses of this hitherto neglected plant in attaining “Ojus” – a subtle and refined level of the human body which is the end result of properly digested and assimilated healthy food which in turn is responsible for physical and mental strength, a lustrous complexion, a strong and vibrant immune system and what we all crave the most – a sense of well being.
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