This ancient herb is known in Sanskrit as “the smell of a horse.” That doesn’t sound very attractive (to me, anyway). But it’s one of the most life-giving herbs in Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India.
In some cases, the strength of a horse, if not the smell, is just what you need. Ashwagandha is legendary for its ability to give stallion-like vigor and strength, as well as tame stress, protect your brain, fight cancer, and more.
And it has the medical community abuzz, with studies cropping up everywhere. One of them showed a 92 percent reduction in the number of cancer tumors, so you want to keep reading…
This promising alternative treatment for degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and more, is on a search and destroy mission against the free radicals implicated in aging and many diseases.
Stress really does kill people
Most people live with multiple sources of chronic stress. Emotional stressors at work and home can be more than just emotionally draining. They can ruin your physical health, too. Even if the stress happened a long time ago you may still carry emotional scars.
If you compound unremitting, long-term stress with environmental toxins and poor nutrition, you have a disease just waiting to happen. Stress can cause the oxidative breakdown of lipids (fats), through a process in which free radicals “steal” electrons from the lipids in cell membranes, causing cell damage. Stress also depletes the body of critical nutrients you need for healthy organs.
Ashwagandha can help undo the damage.
Science is now showing us what Ayurveda has believed for centuries – that ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogenic herb that earns its keep. Adaptogens are active agents that help your body deal with stress, anxiety, and fatigue. They work on your whole body, not just a single organ.
During the past 50 years or so, a stunning 1200 research scientists have conducted over 3,000 studies involving over 5,000 people. Their efforts led to the discovery of adaptogens, a name coined by Dr. Nikolai Lazarev.
The healing power of adaptogens
An adaptogenic herb gives you more of what you need and less of what you don’t need. Thus, an adaptogenic herb for blood pressure might either increase or decrease your blood pressure, depending on whether yours is too high or too low.
How does the adaptogen called ashwagandha deal with stress? Pretty well, thank you.
Ashwagandha can end premature aging linked to chronic nervous tension, to the point that many researchers support it for clinical use as an anti-stress agent.
Studies show it’s as effective as certain tranquilizers and antidepressant drugs (Ativan® and Tofranil®), provided you give it five days. Scientists also administered ashwagandha one hour before a daily stressful procedure. All the measures of free radical damage became normal, in a dose-dependent manner.
But perhaps most exciting, the research shows that ashwagandha…
Fights cancer as effectively as chemotherapy
Perhaps because so many ills are associated with chronic stress, ashwagandha’s benefits extend to a key role in cancer too.
Here’s just a sampling of what recent cancer studies have found…
- Ashwagandha inhibits the growth of human breast, lung, and colon cancer cells comparably to the chemo drug doxorubicin (in lab studies). Withaferin A, a compound in ashwagandha, was more effective than doxorubicin in stopping breast and colon cancer cell growth.
- Ashwagandha disrupts the ability of cancer cells to reproduce, which is a key to fighting cancer.
- Lab analysis shows that ashwagandha can prevent cancer from forming the new blood vessels it needs to support its uncontrolled growth. Stopping this process (called angiogenesis) is likewise a key to fighting cancer.
- In animal trials, ashwagandha also inhibited induced stomach cancer. Overall tumor incidence dropped by 60% and the number of tumors (multiplicity) plummeted by 92 percent. The results were similar when tested with rodents and skin cancer, reducing tumor incidence by 45 percent and multiplicity by 71 percent.
- Other studies have also confirmed ashwagandha’s protective benefit against skin cancer.
- Another experiment showed it increased life span and decreased tumor weight in experimental animals with induced lymphatic cancer.
Ashwagandha helps chemotherapy work better
Should you choose to undergo conventional chemotherapy, ashwagandha can be of help to you, too.
Studies show ashwagandha stops neutropenia caused by chemotherapy. Neutropenia is a sharp decrease in infection-fighting neutrophils (white blood cells). The condition can make a chemo patient into a sitting duck for infections, and, in fact, many cancer patients die of such infections.
Chemotherapy typically destroys the valuable immune system factors interferon-gamma and interleukin-2. An animal study showed that those receiving ashwagandha were able to keep these immune system parameters at normal levels while undergoing chemotherapy.
How about protection from Alzheimer’s?
Ashwagandha does that, too!
Not only is ashwagandha a proven stress reducer and cancer fighter, it also protects your brain.
One impressive animal study in India showed that stressed rats had an 85 percent rate of cell degeneration in their brains – similar to what leads to long-term cognitive problems in humans.
When treated with ashwagandha and exposed to stress, their brain degeneration was stopped almost entirely. Then there’s this human trial…
Could this herb help address
the stress factors in your life?
The most damning effects of stress are linked to the stress hormone cortisol. With ashwagandha, study participants experienced these eye-popping results:
- Reduction in cortisol levels as much as 26 percent
- Decline in blood sugar levels
- Improved lipid profile
- Increased energy
- Reduced fatigue
- Better sleep
- An enhanced sense of well-being
Could this herb help address many of the health and psychological issues of today’s frenzied society?
A Japanese model of damaged nerve cells and impaired nerve-signaling pathways showed that ashwagandha helped reconstruct synapses, the junctions where nerve cells talk to each other. Synapses affect the speed of aging, brain ability and your ability to regenerate nerve tissue.
Ashwagandha also helps reconstruct and stimulate the growth of the “limbs” or “branches” of nerve cells called dendrites that play a role in cell-to-cell communication. Dendrites transmit the signals received from other nerve cells via synapses. By repairing and reconstructing both synapses and dendrites, ashwagandha helps heal compromised brain tissue associated with dementia.
Lastly, it may help boost healthy brain cell function in addition to benefiting diseased nerve cells.
Parkinson’s is another neurodegenerative disease for which conventional medicine has no cure. But early studies show that ashwagandha extract reverses all the markers of Parkinson’s in a dose-dependent manner. In fact, ashwagandha inhibits the enzyme responsible for breaking down one of the brain’s key chemical messengers, a problem shared in both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases
We’ve just scratched the surface of
As with many natural nutrients and herbs, ashwagandha supports a broad base of functions and therefore offers benefits well beyond the ones that get the most attention.
These are some of the side benefits you may experience:
- Immune system benefits
- Increased memory, learning ability, and attentiveness
- Balanced blood sugar levels
- Reduced inflammation
- Reduced cholesterol
It’s even a helpful treatment for malaria, if you happen to visit the tropics and come home with this deadly infection.
How to take ashwagandha
So, interested in adding ashwagandha to your diet? Here’s what to know…
Ashwagandha also goes by the name Indian ginseng or winter cherry. Its botanical name is Withania somnifera. It can be found as a supplement, in dried root form, as a tea, or as a plant.
Interestingly, one study showed that ashwagandha produced higher counts of critical white blood cells like T cells and Natural Killer white blood cells when it was consumed with cow’s milk.
Wonderfully, it has few side effects compared to Big Pharma’s drugs, but pregnant and nursing women should not take it.
Some people report that it makes them sleepless, and others say it makes them sleep better. I’m in the first category: It disturbs my sleep. That’s an effect that many powerful antioxidants have on me. Few people have this problem though. You may have to experiment to find out how your body responds.
Recommended dosage is generally 300 to 500 mg once or twice per day.