Ancient Wisdom is a series of guides that shines a light on age-old wisdom that has helped people for generations with time-honoured wellness solutions to everyday fitness problems, persistent health issues and stress management, among others. Through this series, we try to provide contemporary solutions to your health worries with traditional insights.

Ashwagandha: The Wonder Herb for Mental Health

Ashwagandha or Withania somnifera is considered a wonder herb for mental health by Ayurveda from many centuries. Stress is unavoidable in modern times. As we increasingly spend more time on daily chores and duties, the time to relax and rejuvenate has come down significantly, affecting our mental health. People are also facing sleep issues and getting a quality sleep is a distant dream for many. Lack of sleep and stress are risk factors for many chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular ailments among others.

The Amazing Benefits of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha or Withania somnifera is considered a wonder herb for mental health by Ayurveda from many centuries. The word ashwagandha (ashwa + gandha) means smell of horse due to the distinct smell of the plant’s roots. Withania somnifera, is derived from the Latin words ‘somnifera,’ meaning sleep-inducing. The ancient herb finds mention in texts that date as far as 6000 years back. Regarded as a potent Rasayana, ashwagandha has been used as a tonic, aphrodisiac, narcotic, diuretic, anthelmintic, astringent, thermogenic and stimulant. Ashwagandha is known to boost physical and mental strength and one’s ability to cope with stress. This is the reason the herb was given to people with anxiety, depression and sleep disorders to relieve their symptoms.

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Benefits of Ashwagandha for Mental Health

Ashwagandha use goes beyond its use in mental health. It is added in children’s milk as it’s considered a tonic for strength and growth. The remedy is also effective in curing rheumatism or arthritis. It is also effective in leukoderma, constipation, insomnia, nervous breakdown, goitre etc. “Ashwagandha is a powerful herb that can have positive effects on mental health. It’s known to reduce stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. By balancing the body’s stress hormones, it helps in calming the mind and promoting a sense of well-being. Many studies have shown its effectiveness in improving mood and reducing the symptoms related to various mental health conditions, says Ayush Aggarwal, Founder, RASAYANAM. Ashwagandharishta prepared from it is used in hysteria, anxiety, memory loss, syncope, etc. It also acts as a stimulant and increases the sperm count.

Other Benefits of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha helps prevent stress-induced ulcers of the gastrointestinal tract. Ashwagandha has cancer protective qualities and can be used as an adjunct to cancer chemotherapy or radiotherapy. It is also known to have a positive effect for patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and Alzheimer’s diseases. Ashwagandha has an anti-depressant effect and can help people with depression to make a recovery. It also has an anti-arthritis effect and can soothe the nervous system from pain response. Furthermore, ashwagandha can cure snake bites as the root in combination with other drugs is prescribed for it as well as in scorpion-sting.

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Ancient Uses of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha has its roots in ancient Ayurveda and belongs to a sub-group of Rasayanas known as Medhyarasayanas. Medha means related to mind. Ashwagandha is given to children with memory deficit or prolonged illness in old age. “In ancient times, ashwagandha was commonly used in Ayurveda. It was considered a rejuvenating herb and was used to boost the immune system, increase energy levels, and improve overall vitality. People used different parts of the plant, such as its roots and leaves, to create tonics, powders, and teas to promote general health and well-being. One of the strongest forms of Ashwagandha is Ashawagandha KSM66 which is extracted directly from the root with the highest concentration of Ashwagandha plant. It is also known as the biggest source to boost cognitive functions in the human anatomy,” says Aggarwal.

How to Consume Ashwagandha

“Ashwagandha can be consumed in various forms. It’s available as a powder, capsule, or liquid extract. One can mix the powder with warm water, milk, or honey and consume it as a drink. Capsules are convenient for precise dosage. It can be taken as a post-workout supplement for faster muscle recovery and relaxing mind and body,” adds Aggarwal.

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Who Shouldn’t Have Ashwagandha

While ashwagandha offers numerous health benefits, it may not be suitable for everyone, says Aggarwal. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid it, as its effects on pregnancy and lactation are not well understood. People with autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, should consult a healthcare provider before using ashwagandha, as it might stimulate the immune system. Additionally, individuals scheduled for surgery should stop ashwagandha consumption at least two weeks before the surgery to avoid potential interactions with anesthesia and other medications.

Interesting Facts About Ashwagandha

  • Historical significance: Ashwagandha has a rich historical background. Its use dates back thousands of years in traditional Indian medicine, making it one of the oldest known medicinal herbs.
  • Adaptogenic properties: Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen, a substance that helps the body adapt to stress and promotes overall balance. It supports the body’s ability to handle various stressors, both physical and mental.
  • Botanical name: Its scientific name, Withania somnifera, is derived from the Latin words somnifera meaning sleep-inducing, highlighting its calming effects on the nervous system.
  • Multiple health benefits: Apart from mental health, ashwagandha is also used to enhance physical performance, increase muscle mass and strength, and improve overall vitality.