Known as a multipurpose herb and “rejuvenator,” aka Rasayana, and used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, ashwagandha is a plant native to India with a host of bioactive functions. It’s also one supplement that I take twice daily myself. A number of studies have shown this exotic herb can treat several diseases and disorders better than medications, and without all the side effects.
Ashwagandha has been identified as having potential stress-reducing (adaptogenic)1 and anti-inflammatory functions and may serve to improve the immune response (immunomodulatory) while soothing your nervous system’s pain response. In addition, the roots are used therapeutically as a pain reliever (analgesic).2
Studies add that the herb has antitumor, antioxidant and blood production capabilities (hemopoietic), and benefits the cardiopulmonary, endocrine and central nervous systems, all “with little or no associated toxicity.”3
Having names like winter cherry, Indian ginseng and poison gooseberry, ashwagandha is a member of the Solanaceae family along with eggplants and tomatoes, and can grow to 3 feet in height in arid regions of India and North America. It bears light green flowers that evolve to bright red fruit and is able to survive extreme temperatures and widely varying altitudes.4 The plants only need extra watering in extreme drought conditions. According to Wisepooch:
“The plants will start flowering from mid December onwards and it is determined if they are ready to harvest by observing the development of the red berry-like fruits. The whole plant along with the roots is removed from the soil. The roots and berries are the main parts used.”5
In Sanskrit, the word ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) means “odor of a horse.” The likeness refers not only to the odor of the plant’s root but the essence of strength it’s said to deliver. You may see both red berry-like fruits as well as papery “orange lanterns” as a description of the herb, but the latter is actually a close relative known as Physalis alkekengi.6
Multiple-Use Painkiller With Wide Range of Benefits
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study using ashwagandha was pitted against some of the most popular, typically used drugs targeted for hypothyroid patients. In fact, multiple studies show ashwagandha works better to normalize hormone levels, and without the harmful side effects,7 which may even include Alzheimer’s disease.8 The study involved 50 participants with elevated serum thyroid hormone (TSH), all between the ages of 18 and 50.