by Dawn Thorpe Jarvis, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., Garden of Life Sr. Director of Nutrition Science and Educational Content.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as winter cherry, has been used for thousands of years by practitioners of Ayurveda which is the traditional Indian medicine healthcare system. It is considered to be rasayana, which in Sanskrit language means the science of lengthening lifespan. Ashwagandha is widely used in Ayurveda and is considered to be the most powerful herb used for healing. It is typically used as a restorative tonic, for vitality and is highly revered as an adaptogen. Adaptogens help the body to cope with stress and help bring the body back into balance; it is historically used after illness or for any undue stress.
In recent years, ashwagandha has been clinically studied and has shown to be highly beneficial for both mental and physical stress. It has been shown to pay a role on reducing stress hormone levels and improving mood and mental well-being.
Ashwagandha may also sometimes be called “Indian ginseng” because of its rejuvenative tonic properties; however, it is not related to this herb botanically. It is the unique profile of naturally occurring compounds including antioxidants, flavonoids, amino acids and withanolides, along with other phytonutrients that enable ashwagandha to act on the body’s various systems, including the neurological system, immune system, energy–production system, plus the endocrine and reproductive systems. Understanding the beneficial effects of ashwagandha helps us understand how stress, overwork and adrenal fatigue affect our entire body but, particularly, reproductive organs, libido, immunity, mood and energy levels.
Many people use coffee and other stimulants to get through their day. An herb such as ashwagandha is ideal for the person who feels stressed, extremely busy, overwhelmed, tired or even exhausted. It provides energy without depleting the body, and it restores balance to the body.
In summary, in Ayurveda medicine, ashwagandha is highly valued for its ability to increase energy, vitality, endurance and stamina, and strengthen the immune system. However, some exciting new double-blind research is showing that full-spectrum extracts of ashwagandha are safely enhancing cardio-respiratory endurance, actually increasing oxygen consumption, strengthening muscle and improving muscle gains while improving the quality of life of healthy athletic adults!
So, it appears that ashwagandha is not just an amazing tonic to help the sick restore their energy and help highly stressed people cope better, it also is beneficial for active healthy athletic individuals to gain muscle, and to improve their energy and recovery.
Sounds like we should all consider taking organic ashwagandha root extract!