Working from home has its perks, but it also comes with its own set of unique challenges: irregular routines, feeling spacey and frazzled, and the trap of procrastination which leads to late nights and further perpetuated unsustainable patterns. If you’re seeking relief from this stress, look no further than the ancient Indian wonder herb called ashwagandha!
What is ashwagandha? Unveiling what makes ashwagandha so special
Ashwagandha has been revered for thousands of years in Ayurveda, India’s traditional medicine system, as the ultimate rejuvenative tonic for both body and mind.
The Sanskrit name “ashwagandha” translates to “smell of a horse,” signifying the strength and stamina it’s renowned to impart.
This incredible herb nourishes the female and male reproductive, endocrine, and nervous systems, earning its nickname, “Indian ginseng.” Although it offers more relaxation than stimulation compared to its Chinese counterpart.
Its english name is winter cherry, and its latin name is withania somnifera, with somnifera meaning “sleep inducing.’ However, it regulates sleep over time and isn’t an immediate heavy sedative. Don’t worry, you won’t fall asleep at your desk!
The winter cherry bush is widely found in the foothills of the Himalayas, and is native to India, northern Africa, and the Middle East. Its small red cherries look like tiny cherry tomatoes, which is fitting since the plant is part of the nightshade family which includes tomatoes and potatoes.
The ashwagandha plant thrives in dry conditions with low quality alkaline soil, which reflects its adaptogenic superpower to help the body become more resilient to stress. Its roots are most commonly dried and ground, to be used as a medicinal powder.
The Benefits of ashwagandha: nature’s resilience booster
Ayurveda hails ashwagandha as the ultimate “rasayana” or rejuvenating tonic that nourishes every cell on a macro to micro level.
It nourishes all bodily tissues, but it has a special affinity for the nervous, endocrine, and reproductive systems.
Ashwagandha is a potent remedy for various stress-related conditions including:
- Nervous system exhaustion
- Memory loss
- Brain fog
By nourishing and grounding, ashwagandha supports adrenal, thyroid, and hormone health, leaving you well-rested, energized, and more resilient to stress, which is what makes it a wonderful adaptogenic herb.
But remember to also always incorporate the key components of healthy lifestyle.
A woman’s wonder herb: The benefits of ashwagandha for women
So what can ashwagandha do for women in particular? Women tend to run colder, drier, and lighter than men, and energetically ashwagandha is a warm and grounding herb.
Ashwagandha may help regulate menstrual cycles
The chronic stress epidemic is wreaking havoc on women’s hormones resulting in missing periods, irregular cycles, period pain and fertility issues.
Ashwagandha may help alleviate these by deeply nourishing, supporting restful sleep, and decreasing cortisol levels.
Ashwagandha improves thyroid function and supports adrenal health
Other mechanisms by which ashwagandha may help regulate menstrual cycles and balance hormones is by improving the function of underactive thyroid, and supporting adrenal health and progesterone production.
One study showed that 8 weeks of daily ashwagandha supplementation increased thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroxine (T4) levels, while another showed that ashwagandha may be helpful for overcoming adrenal fatigue.
Ashwagandha is anti-inflammatory and may reduce pain
Ashwagandha contains the anti-inflammatory phytochemical withanolide. Much of period pain, and pain in general, is due to chronic inflammation. Ashwagandha’s anti-inflammatory and immune modulating properties may help reduce period pain when taken consistently over a long period of time.
Can you take ashwagandha while pregnant?
Traditionally, ashwagandha has been used to boost the vitality and strength of pregnant women and their babies.
However, for the moment, western medicine has deemed ashwagandha unsafe to take during pregnancy due to herbal supplements not being officially regulated. Animal studies have also shown the possibility of high doses of ashwagandha causing miscarriage.
It’s best to err on the side of caution and always consult with your health practitioner before taking any medications, herbal or otherwise, during pregnancy.
What about taking ashwagandha while breastfeeding?
Ashwagandha is a lovely herb for reducing stress and anxiety, increasing energy, building and healing the tissues, and improving sleep during the postpartum period. It may also help improve milk production by making moms feel more centred, rested, and nourished.
A lifelong tonic for men: Benefits of ashwagandha for men
Clearly ashwagandha is an exceptional adaptogenic herb that combats stress, energises, and provides mental clarity. Plus we’ve seen that it has a treasure trove of benefits for women. But what can ashwagandha do for men?
Ashwagandha has always traditionally been a man’s lifelong tonic, with boys starting to use it daily after puberty due to its testosterone, sex drive, and muscle and strength enhancing properties.
Ashwagandha optimizes testosterone production and supports healthy sperm formation
Traditionally ashwagandha is used to boost libido in both men and women. But also, by decreasing cortisol levels, hormone production is shifted to prioritise growth hormones like testosterone and DHEA. This usually results in increased sperm production and sperm motility.
Ashwagandha improves muscle growth, strength, and recovery time
Studies have shown that ashwagandha supplementation has resulted in increased muscle and strength gains, and decreased recovery times. So you can really optimise your time in the gym!
Magnesium and ashwagandha: a synergistic duo
Magnesium and ashwagandha work together to support tissue and muscle growth, increase resilience to stress, and encourage better sleep and rest. Consider combining these two powerful natural remedies to enhance their collective benefits.
How long does it take for ashwagandha to work?
Ashwagandha doesn’t take immediate noticeable effect. It’s a slow acting herb that builds potency with continued use over time. In most cases, ashwagandha takes 4 – 12 weeks to kick in depending on dosage.
Many people come to ashwagandha for its ability to ease anxiety, and in high hopes wonder, “how long does ashwagandha take to work for anxiety?”
Once again, it’s not a quick fix and will take 1 – 3 months to really notice a difference. But the good news is that you should start feeling a little more grounded and a little more resilient day by day.
Risks and side effects of taking ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is generally well-tolerated, but those allergic to nightshades should avoid it.
If you’re on sedative, antidepressant, diabetic, or thyroid medications, consult your health practitioner before taking ashwagandha, as it may interact with these drugs.
Does ashwagandha affect emotions?
Ashwagandha does not “kill” emotions. Instead, its grounding properties may help stabilise emotions and promote a sense of balance. Many users report feeling calmer and more centred after incorporating ashwagandha into their wellness routine.
How to take ashwagandha: Incorporating ashwagandha into your routine
Take ashwagandha regularly for its cumulative effects. You can consume it in powder or capsule form. Ayurveda favours powder because taste starts the digestive process. Ashwagandha powder can be easily blended into smoothies or earthy teas like green tea and chai, which may mask its similarly earthy flavour.
Traditionally ashwagandha is taken in a decoction of water or warm milk in combination with warm spices and ghee to enhance its tonic effects.
For a restful sleep, try a warm milk decoction with ashwagandha, nutmeg, and honey before bedtime. This soothing concoction not only promotes relaxation but also nourishes your body for a rejuvenating rest.
Best time to take ashwagandha: Morning or night?
The best time to take ashwagandha is when you remember to take it! Although it has a calming and sedative action, it isn’t immediately sedating, so you can safely take it during the day.
Experiment with different times to find what works best for you. Some individuals prefer taking it in the morning to start their day with a sense of calm and focus, while others find that it helps them unwind and prepare for a restful sleep when taken in the evening.
How much ashwagandha should I take?
It’s always best to confirm optimal dosage of ashwagandha with an Ayurvedic practitioner.
However 1 – 10g of ashwagandha can be taken daily for specifically acute conditions like periods of high stress and anxiety, or you may consider taking 1g of ashwagandha per day as a lifelong tonic.
Embrace ashwagandha and experience a healthier, more balanced life where conquering stress, staying focused, and experiencing mental clarity is your daily norm. Not sure if you need it? Take the burnout quiz.
- Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Vasant Lad. “The Yoga of Herbs”. Lotus Press. 2001.
- Karta Purkh Singh Kalsa and Michael Tierra. “The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs”. Lotus Press. 2008.
- Vasant Lad. “Textbook of Ayurveda General Principles of management and treatment”. The Ayurvedic Press. 2012.
- Lian-ying Liao, Yi-fan He, Li Li, Hong Meng, Yin-mao Dong,Fan Yi and Pei-gen Xiao. “A preliminary review of studies on adaptogens: comparison of their bioactivity in TCM with that of ginseng-like herbs used worldwide”. PubMed. 2018.
- Jaysing Salve, Sucheta Pate, Khokan Debnath and Deepak Langade. “Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study”. PubMed. 2019.