Herb of the Week # 14 :: Ashwaganda

This week’s been a busy one and I have had a bit of a hard time focusing, feeling like I was spinning my wheels and doing it all but still doing nothing. Do you ever feel like that? So I found myself drawn back to this wonderful plant, Ashwagandha. I could have written an entire research paper on it. THere’s so many studies out there on it and it’s so fascinating at the range it can do to the body. I hope you enjoy reading about as much as you do using it! It’s almost one of those herbs that’s wonderful for everyone at some point in their lives.

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Botanical Latin Name: Withania somnifera

Botanical Family: Solanaeace (nightshade) family

Parts used: Root

Method: Tea, tincture, food

Actions: sedative, hypotensive, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulation, adaptogenic, tonic, antispasmodic, nervine, aphrodisiac

Energetics: Drying, cooling and warming

Taste: complex, bitter, flowery, earthy

Dosage: Tea – Decoct 1 tbsp of the dried root per cup (8 oz) of water. Tincture use up to 2 droppers full (60 drops) 3-4 times daily; or supplement with 500 mg 1-2 times daily up to 3-6 grams of the dried herb; additionally it’s been show that eating healthy fats, protein and carbs in addition to removing grains and sugars from the diet help to improve results. And as a note, I generally tell people they should feel a difference in about 3-4 weeks, but need to take it for a minimum of 3 months and up to a year for full benefits, depending on how much help the body needs.

Contraindications: Don’t use if you’re pregnant. This is also a nightshade, so if you know you have an allergy to that family or get a headache while taking please avoid this one. (There’s lots of other great adaptogens out there for everyone.) avoid with pharmaceutical sedatives and pain medications.

Chances are if you are reading this you already know what ashwagandha and adaptogens are. But in case you are crawling out from under a rock let me fill you in on what those trendy things mean. Adaptogens refer to herbs that help our bodies cope and adapt to the stress in our bodies and bring it back to balance. See the “Dosage” up above for how to take this herb to get the full benefits. The only other caveat I have on using adaptogens in general, not just ashwagandha, is that if you are in adrenal fatigue or to the point of burnout exhaustion, you most likely need to take a nutritive nervine herb (like milky oats, lemon balm or skullcap)  for at least 2 weeks before you start using adaptogens. The reason I say this is because if there is nothing in your body, nervines will help to bring some emotional balance back, nourishing the body, reducing anxiety and anything else that might be going on. Then the adaptogens will work much better.

If ever there was a gateway adaptogenic herb, to me it would without a doubt be Ashwagandha. It’s referred to as “Indian ginseng” and has been used in many similar ways as Asian ginseng to reduce stress and enhance stamina. And in India it’s known as the “strength of a stallion” because it was traditionally used to strengthen the immune system after illnesses. It’s also known to restore energy, help you look younger and reverse disease! Herbalist and functional medicine doctor Aviva Romm calls ashwagandha the “soothing” adaptogen. It is one of those rare herbs that is both calming and energizing.

Dr. Josh Axe wrote a great article on Ashwagandha and it’s benefits. He says “there have been over 200 studies on it’s ability” to heal the body. You can read more of the studies out there and how exactly it does this in his blog post here. It is generally regarded as a male tonic herb, but is also wonderful for women, especially those that may have adrenal overdrive or that “wired and tired” feeling.

Helpful uses for ashwagandha:

  • Improve thyroid function
  • Treat adrenal fatigue
  • Reduce stress
  • Increase stamina and endurance
  • Prevent and treat cancer
  • Improved neurological health, including concentration and memory
  • Stabilize blood sugar and reduce cortisol levels
  • Lower cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Boost immunity
  • Balancing hormones
  • Hypo and Hyper thyroid
  • Improves mood, anxiety and depression (recent study its results were comparable to common pharmaceutical drugs lorazepam and imipramine without the side effects)
  • Prevents and treats cancer
  • Boost testosterone and increase fertility in men
  • Increase muscle mass and strength
  • Reduce inflammation and chronic joint pain
  • Normalize adrenal function
  • Fatigue relieving
  • Improve sleep
  • Anemia

De-Stress Balls

1 cup nut butter (sugar free, you can always make your own)

1/3 cup dried apricots

1/3 cup cacao nibs

2 tbsp chia seeds

2 tbsp raw honey or maple syrup

2 tbsp ashwagandha powder (sun potions makes a great one)

1 tsp cinnamon

coconut flakes for rolling ball in

Mix all ingredients except the coconut flakes in your food processor until mixed well. Roll the mixture into bite-sized balls. Then roll in coconut flakes. Wrap them in plastic or wax paper and store them in the refrigerator or freezer. Enjoy as a snack, pre or post workout or in addition to your breakfast.

* If you ever have any questions on if you should use this herb in your diet or not, contact a medical professional or holistic practitioner first.

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