Ashwagandha (AKA “Indian Ginseng”) is an evergreen shrub found in India, Africa and parts of the Middle East. Its roots and berries are used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a variety of health problems. Ayurveda is a medical system that has been used in India for centuries.  This system takes a holistic approach to health and primarily uses plants and plant extracts to treat health issues.

       Ashwagandha is one of the most used herbs in Ayurveda and is seen as an adaptogen.  Adaptogens are herbs that help the body adapt to stress and promote normalization of bodily processes. It is in the area of stress reduction that ashwagandha appears to be most helpful.

       When experiencing a serious stressful situation such as an assault on your person, an auto accident, having to escape a fire and other such events, the adrenal glands react by producing an abundance of the hormone cortisol which causes elevated heart rate, more rapid breathing and an increase in glucose levels. This is called the fight or flight response.  This is normal and helps you to better handle the situation you are in.  When the stressful event is over, your cortisol levels return to normal as does heart rate, breathing and glucose levels.

        However, many people experience elevated cortisol on a regular basis due to persistent stress caused by work related problems, financial difficulties, troubled marriages and many other such circumstances.  Over time, such regularity of elevated cortisol levels can result in chronic inflammation in the body and conditions such as becoming overweight, developing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and even cancer. As time goes on, the adrenal glands become over worked and can begin to malfunction causing additional health problems. 

       Persistent elevation of cortisol levels can produce persistent anxiety, tightness in the muscles, sleep problems and depression. Here is where ashwagandha can be very helpful. Ashwagandha has been shown in research to be effective in reducing cortisol levels and thus reducing the symptoms associated with chronic stress.  Ashwagandha has been shown to contain a number of compounds that effectively boost resistance to both physical and psychological stressors.

       Not only does ashwagandha reduce cortisol levels but it has been shown to bring a variety of different hormones into balance. This is what adaptogenic herbs do. One study showed that men experienced a near 15 percent increase in testosterone and 18 percent increase in DHEA-S levels using ashwagandha. DHEA-S is a hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands and helps produce other hormones, including testosterone and estrogen.  

       In an 8 week study of elite cyclists where half were given ashwagandha and the other half were not, it was found that the ashwagandha group experienced increased endurance, whereas the group not taking ashwagandha did not. The ashwagandha group experienced a measurable increase in aerobic capacity while the non-ashwagandha did not.   

       Various studies using ashwagandha have shown benefits in relation to the lowering of blood sugar levels, improving muscle strength, improving libido and cognitive function, reducing inflammation and even fighting cancer.  Many years of usage in Ayurvedic medicine has shown ashwagandha to be helpful in treating a variety of health problems.

       At Milk ‘N Honey we offer ashwagandha from the companies Irwin Naturals, Nature’s Way, Garden of Life and Terry Naturally. The ashwagandha from Terry Naturally has 125 milligrams of ashwagandha leaf and root standardized to 35% withanolides which are the most studied compounds in ashwagandha and have been found to be effective in inhibiting tumor growth and fighting inflammation.