Ashwagandha is an important herb of Indian medicine system that has been used in Ayurveda for more than 3,000 years. The biological name of Ashwagandha is Withania somnifera. Ashwagandha ia also known as Winter cherry, Indian Ginseng, Poison Gooseberry, etc. Ashwagandha herb is related to Solanaceae family. The common name of this family is nightshade family. This herb is cultivated in many dry areas of India but it is also cultivated on large scale in Nepal, Yemen and China. The word Ashwagandha has its own meaning, the whole world is derived from two different words that are Ashwa and Gandha. The word Ashwa means Horse and Gandha means Smell in hindi. The reason behind this name is that the roots of Ashwagandha plant also smells like horses.
The roots of Ashwagandha plant is commonly used in the form of powder in Indian Ayurvedic medicine system. This plant has many medicinal properties but it is mainly considered as an Adaptogen, because it is very useful in the management of Stress. It offers multifarious benefits for our body. However, its blood sugar as well as cortisol level lowering and boosting immune as well as brain function property make this herb one of the best natural herbs. Apart from this, Ashwagandha can also increase the level of testosterone in men. This is the reason why this herb is also called as King of Herbs.
Despite of all these properties, this plant during its cultivation is prone to many diseases that are usually caused by pests. There is a leaf spot disease which is mainly caused by Alternaria alternatel fungus. This disease decrease the concentration of Secondary metabolites in Ashwagandha. The disease is most prevalent in the areas of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. Its fighting property against different types of inflammation and tumor growth is mainly attributed to high concentration of withanolides present in it. However, It is not clear that it should be taken on a regular basis. There are very few evidences in clinical research about its interaction with other chemical constituents that are present in Active medicines.
The Use of Ashwagandha in the treatment of Stress and Anxiety:
When we read the newspaper or watch the news on television, we see many graphs showing the number of people who are suffering from the disorders of Stress and Anxiety. However, Anxiety and Stress are the most common experiences of many people. According to reports 70% of adults in the USA are suffering from the problem of Stress as well as Anxiety. Whereas, in India, people who are living in Urban areas are more prone to these disorders then the individuals who are living in rural areas.
The graphs indicate than on average 35.7% of people in big cities and 13.9% of people in villages are suffering with the problem of Stress and Anxiety. Most of the people do not know about its management. However, some prefer to take medicines for its treatment because they believe that it is only treatable with steroids. But this myth is completely wrong because Stress and Anxiety are the two disorders with almost the same pathophysiology that are easily with the Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha as a Rasayana (Tonic) used for its management. There were many studies conducted by researchers which shows its efficacy against Stress and Anxiety.
According to the reports, Researchers believed that Ashwagandha blocked the pathway of stress in the brain when the study is carried out in the control group of rats. Ashwagandha reduces stress by regulating chemical signalling in the nervous system of rats. Apart from this, when the same study was conducted in Humans, Ashwagandha showed same mechanism for the reduction of Anxiety and Stress.
Another study was conducted for 60 days to detect its affectivity against stress and anxiety. A Group of 64 people were taken who were suffering from chronic stress. There was a reduction of 69% in anxiety in individuals who are on Ashwagandha medication as compared to those people who are on placebo. In placebo only 11% reduction in stress and anxiety was observed. The researchers said that Ashwagandha reduce the levels of serum cortisol in the individuals that were under Aashwagangha group in comparison to those that comes under placebo group. Whereas, a decrease in GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) receptors was also observed in the
patients with stress and anxiety. But the Ashwagandha can boost the level of GABA in the brain and treat the problems of Stress, Depression, and Anxiety.
The Ashwagandha can also use in the treatment of depression which was also detected with the help of a study but most of the scientist does not consider that study useful because in that study there was only person who was having a history of depression. The findings of all the studies suggest that a high-concentration of pure and standardized extract of Ashwagandha root can safely as well as effectively improves an individual’s resistance against Anxiety as well as Stress and also improves the quality of a person’s life.
Despite of its effectiveness against the disorders of Anxiety, Stress, and Depression, Ashwagandha is an herb that can increase the level of testosterone as well as improves fertility in males. An increase in sperm count and quality was observed in a man who was taking Ashwagandha from three months. It also enhances the strength of muscles and also improve composition of body because ashwagandha decreases the boy fat.
Its chemical constituent withaferin is responsible to induce apoptosis. Apoptosis is the death (programmed) of the carcinogenic cells. It is very useful against different types of cancers such as Colon, Ovarian, Breast, Lung, and Brain cancer. Apart from all the above mentioned properties, Ashwagandha also possess Anti-inflammatory property. Various human studies indicated that it increases the activity of immune cells. These immune cells also known as natural killer cells which not only helps the body to fight against infection but also help to stay fit and healthy. Ashwagandha also improve the functioning of heart decreasing the level of Triglyceride and Cholesterol.
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