Ashwagandha, scientifically known as Withania somnifera, is popular as Indian Ginseng or Indian Winter Cherry. This wonderful medicinal herb has a profound nurturing effect on nervous system and it is potentially beneficial in counteracting with anxiety and stress. Since long ages, it is adored by Ayurvedic practitioners and herbalists. Historically in India, it is always well-accepted by traditional health care system in a holistic fashion. The benefits of this wonderful herb were also illustrated in old wise books like Charak Samhita, Susruta Samhita and Ashtaang Samagraha.
Ashwagandha, an all-purpose Ayurvedic herb, is like a divine gift from God, which not only makes out lives lengthy but promises a healthy living as well. Literally meaning ‘sweat of a horse,’ it symbolizes the dynamic youthfulness and liveliness of a horse and also resembles the root’s odor as that of a horse.
The wide area of Indian subcontinent is blessed with the natural production of this amazing herb. It is usually grown in the areas having moderate to warm atmospheric condition. This medium height bushy herb is most prevalently found at 1000-5000ft altitude.
The major constituent of Ashwagandha is Withanolid A. It is also combined with withanone and some amount of withaferin A, withanolide I, II, III, A, B, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, P, S, and WS-I. The root is high with Alkaloid property. There are other significant ingredients that play an effective role in enhancing our body system. These are saponins, pyrazol alkaloids and steroidal lactones.
In Ayurvedic perspective, it consists of laghu (light) as well as snigdh (mild) properties. It comprises of three types of tastes, that is, tikta (pungent), katu (strong) and madhur (sweet). It is identified as having ushan (hot) and virya (energy) properties.
Especially in the study of Ayurveda, Ashwagandha is widely known for its ability to enhance health and vitality of a being. It is also recognized as adaptogen for its non-toxic content having the ability to normalize physiological functions. It profoundly affects Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-axis (HPA axis) and more specifically on neuroendocrine system. Essentially being paradoxical in nature from herbalist’s perspective, it is anti-inflammatory on one hand, but still has nutritional property at the other, which is widely contradictory with the rest of the herbs belonging to the same family of plants such as belladonna and henbane.
Ashwagandha is found to have anti-arthritic, anti-anxiety, calmative and aphrodisiac properties. Several useful constituents make the herb so much valuable for different therapeutic approaches.
Some researchers also hypothesize that it may have antioxidant properties that help reduce the symptoms of ageing. It is believed that it has the ability to control the damages occurred with free radicals. Free radicals particularly produce an adverse effect on normal ageing process and also free radicals have a profound effect in other several neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.
It also helps in strengthening immune system of a being, by increasing white blood cell count, in particular. It is truly beneficial for fighting against chronic diseases like asthma, bronchitis, as well as cough. It is also proven helpful against chronic gynecological problems, male impotency and infertility, arthritic inflammation, nervousness, anxiety, depression, insomnia and also it is proven beneficial against immuno-compromised diseases like AIDS and TB and degenerative diseases like ageing, infantile maldevelopment and low libido.
However, the extensive qualities and mechanisms of Ashwagandha are not yet fully understood, but it has shown a true holistic approach in various illnesses. Since ages, it is found to be effective in alleviating the inflammation related with rheumatologic conditions like arthritis. It helps reduce stress by increasing endurance and research shows that the possible reason for endurance may include its ability to produce carbohydrate supplementation. Apart from that, it has enduring effect for boosting sexual performance and rejuvenating life cycle to its optimum.
As a whole, Ashwagandha overwhelmingly influences our digestive system, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, nervous system, endocrinal system, reproductive system, excretory system, and skin.
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