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Health Blog

Herbal Spotlight of the Week

     Today I want to talk about an herb that my family has been using.  I first learned of this herb through my studies with East West School of Planetary Herbology™. 

    The herb is Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera Dunal) also known as Indian Winter Cherry.  Ashwagandha is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine.  Ayurvedic medicine is the traditional medical system of India and one of the oldest holistic healing systems.  Holistic medicine is centered on the belief that health and wellness is a balance of mind, body, and spirit.  Ashwagandha is an herb that is an adaptogen; this means that it can increase the body’s ability to adapt to not only physiological stress but also psychological stress (1).

       Several scientific studies also indicate this herb possesses antioxidant (2), anti-inflammatory (3), anti tumor (4) and anti-stress properties (5, 6).   In addition to these benefits Ashwagandha also supports a healthy immune system (7), has hemopoetic properties (which deals with the blood production within the body) (8), and rejuvenation properties (9).

       This is an amazing overall healing herb!  We have noticed a decrease in fatigue, among other benefits in our family’s daily use. Some of the benefits noted with this herb are: increased energy, combating stress and fatigue, and supporting proper function of the adrenals (10, 11).

       Ashwagandha has been used to help a variety of musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism, due to the plants ability to combat inflammation in the body. It has also been used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine as a general tonic to increase energy, and improve overall health.

    With all of these amazing benefits I would recommend this herb to any one experiencing any of the above conditions that it has been know to assist in and who wants to support their body as a whole system.  The studies mentioned indicate little or no known toxicity with this herb when taken in small doses. One contraindication for this herb is large doses can cause abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. This herb is traditionally used in India during pregnancy, but it is recommended that Ashwagandha be avoided in pregnancy in the West. The reason for this caution is the herbs spasmolytic activity on the uterus, and its induction of abortions in animals when given in very large doses (12,13). 

   Ashwagandha also boosts thyroid function, so do not take the herb if you have Hyperthyroidism. There have been some studies that indicate Ashwagandha raises the production of T3 and T4 in mice (14) which may be a contraindication with Hyperthyroidism. 
   Last but not least, always contact your doctor and/or health care provider to ensure the safe use of this herb with any medications that you may already be taking, or any health issues you may be experiencing.

     You can take this herb in tablet form or in powdered form.   I recommend Banyan Botanicals as an organic supplier of this herb. http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/

   I hope you have enjoyed learning about the health benefits of this Indian herb and please return to this blog next week when I will feature another medicinal herb my family has benefited from!

      2. Bhattacharya SK, Satyan KS, Chakrabarti A.
Effect of Trasina, an Ayurvedic herbal formulation, on pancreatic islet superoxide
dismutase activity in hyperglycaemic rats.
Indian J Exp Biol 1997; 35:297-299.
     3. Anbalagan K, Sadique J. Influence of an
Indian medicine (Ashwagandha) on acute phase reactants in inflammation. Indian J Exp
Biol 1981; 19:245-249.
   4. Singh N, Singh SP, Nath R, et al. Prevention of
urethane-induced lung adenomas by Withania
somnifera (L.) Dunal in albino mice. Int J
Crude Drug Res 1986;24:90-100.
  5. Dhuley JN. Effect of ashwagandha on lipid
peroxidation in stress-induced animals. J
Ethnopharmacol 1998;60:173-178.
6. Singh N, Nath R, Lata A, et al. Withania
somnifera (ashwagandha), a rejuvenating
herbal drug which enhances survival during
stress (an adaptogen). Int J Crude Drug Res
7.  Ghosal S, Lal J, Srivastava R, et al.
Immunomodulatory and CNS effects of
sitoindosides IX and X, two new
glycowithanolides from Withania somnifera.
Phytotherapy Res 1989;3:201

8. Davis L, Kuttan G. Suppressive effect of
cyclophosphamide-induced toxicity by
Withania somnifera extract in mice. J
Ethnopharmacol 1998;62:209-214.
9.  Venkataraghavan S, Seshadri C, Sundaresan
TP, et al. The comparative effect of milk
fortified with aswagandha, aswagandha and
punarnava in children – a double-blind study. J
Res Ayur Sid 1980;1:370-385.
10.Panda S, Kar A. Evidence for free radical
scavenging activity of ashwagandha root
powder in mice. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol
11. Panda S, Kar A. Changes in thyroid hormone
concentrations after administration of
ashwagandha root extract to adult male mice. J
Pharm Pharmacol 1998;50:1065-1068.

 12. Pole, Sebastian.   Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice.  Churchill Livingston; 2006. 133-134.

  13. Simon, David and Deepak Chopra.  The Chopra Center Herbal Handbook.  Three Rivers Press, New York; 2000.  200-202.

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