Treatments used for millennia often pique my interest, because in many cases, they’re as good as their golden reputations. Even without a stack of scientific studies, anything that’s helped people for over a thousand years clearly has something to it.
But when you find a natural cancer remedy with that kind of record that also has modern, reliable scientific evidence behind it, you know you’ve got a powerful cancer-fighter on your hands.
I’m delighted to say this is the case with the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha, more commonly known as Indian Ginseng or Indian Winter Cherry.
In Ayurveda, ashwagandha is a Rasayana herb. That means it’s administered for multiple health benefits, and when it comes to ashwagandha, the benefits are believed to be youthful health in both body and mind.
Specifically, ashwagandha is known for decreasing stress, improving memory and cognitive ability, rebalancing the reproductive system, and controlling tumors.
So, it’s not surprising to learn that ashwagandha is at the top of Ayurveda’s Rasayana herb list.
In the West, we call Rasayana herbs adaptogens because the science shows they help your body’s cells adapt to stress and can prevent it from damaging your health.
Scientists have found that ashwagandha contains a unique blend of antioxidants, iron, amino acids, and various other phytochemicals that most likely explain its stress-fighting abilities.
Smells like horse
Ashwagandha comes from a perennial, low-growing shrub found mostly in North Africa and South and Central Asia, and is part of the nightshade family. The plant has yellow flowers and the roots are said to smell like a horse. That’s where the name comes from — ashwagandha is Sanskrit for the “smell of horse,” and refers in this case both to the unique odor of the plant and its ability to increase physical strength.
The majority of the plant’s medicinal benefits are derived from the roots and leaves, which are often processed into extracts, tinctures or powders.
Kills cancer cells
When it comes to cancer, several studies have shown that ashwagandha contains several cancer-fighting compounds.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Cancer Research shows that the leaf extract of ashwagandha selectively kills tumor cells by stopping their growth through apoptosis—natural cell death.
What’s more, extracts from other parts of the ashwagandha herb also appear to curb the growth of cancer cells in studies involving animals or lab-grown cell cultures of a variety of different cancers including those of the prostate, colon, breast, ovaries, cervix, thyroid, stomach, lung, skin, and brain.
Fights a main cause of cancer
On top of all its power in battling existing cancer, ashwagandha can also help you prevent it.
Most notably, ashwagandha appears to protect significantly against the effects of stress on the body. Five separate studies found the herb had a positive effect on lowering stress levels by mitigating cortisol –and high levels of this “stress hormone” are scientifically documented to cause cancer.
Another study showed that taking 300 milligrams a day of ashwagandha for eight weeks lowered levels of anxiety and fatigue. On top of that, adults on the same regimen reported feeling not only less overall stress, but also fewer stress-related food cravings.
Studies also show that ashwagandha is able to slow, stop, and possibly even reverse specific types of cell damage that leads to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s.
Fights chronic inflammation
Another study showed ashwagandha helps with arthritis pain and joint swelling, especially for those with rheumatoid arthritis. And according to some animal studies, the herb could ease chronic inflammation. This is beneficial not only to your joints but if you’re trying to prevent or recover from cancer as well.
We know ashwagandha also helps with sleep, thanks to a human study that showed taking 300 milligrams twice a day resulted in improved sleep.
And finally, a human study on male infertility showed that males who took five grams a day for three months had a higher sperm count, with healthier sperm to boot.
The herb also helps young, healthy people improve their endurance and recovery time after vigorous exercise.
One study found that young adults in good health who took 500 milligrams of ashwagandha every day for eight weeks were faster and stronger while exercising than those who took a placebo. The researchers also measured a better average oxygen intake.
Supplementing with ashwagandha
When it comes to taking the herb, you have a few choices. As a dietary supplement, there’s currently no standard dose to help recover from or prevent cancer.
The most common recommendation is to take somewhere between 500 and 3,000 mg per day.
You can also opt for a powder to regularly sprinkle on food or to take in tea or warm milk.
Ashwagandha can be safely used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation, offering the benefit of helping to ease side effects such as a weakened immune system and depleted physical strength.
Ashwagandha does contain triethylene glycol, which is known to induce sleep. So, if you try ashwagandha and feel sleepy, then switch your morning dose to the evening.
- “An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda.” By Narendra Singh et al., Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2011; 8(5 Suppl): 208–213. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3252722/
- “12 Proven Health Benefits of Ashwagandha.” From Healthline, sourced 22 November 2020.
- “Ashwagandha Benefits.” From WebMD, sourced 22 November 2020. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/ashwagandha#1
- “Selective Killing of Cancer Cells by Leaf Extract of Ashwagandha: Identification of a Tumor-Inhibitory Factor and the First Molecular Insights to Its Effect.” By Nashi Widodo, et al. Clinical Cancer Research, April 2007 Volume 13, Issue 7. https://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/13/7/2298
- “What is ashwagandha?” Dr. Christianne Schelling, sourced 24 November 2020. https://www.ashwagandha.com/#whatisit
- “The Ultimate User Guide to Ashwagandha: Benefits & Uses, Types & Reviews.” Naturewise,
February 27, 2019. https://www.naturewise.com/blogs/blog/the-ultimate-user-guide-to-ashwagandha-benefits-uses-types-reviews