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Ashwagandha: Wonder Herb of India

Ashwagandha: Wonder Herb of India

These are troubled times we live in, when many of us are living in such uncertainty, high anxiety, and stress and being on red alert for the unexpected, its time we once again turn to our green plant allies for support.

One of the worlds greatest herbal adaptogens in herbal medicine, is an herb which can compare favorably to the worlds most renowned herbal tonics such as Ginseng, Astragalus, Dong Quai, Reishi mushroom, and Suma; and like these, has been held in high regard by generations of people over the course of a millennia for its ability to increase vitality, energy, endurance and stamina, promote longevity and strengthen the immune system without stimulating the bodys reserves. In fact, it has the ability to nurture the nervous system, counteract anxiety and stress to promote a calm state of mind.

This same herb, having powerful anti-inflammatory properties, is specific for treating arthritic and rheumatic conditions. As if all of this were not enough, it is easily the most potent tonic aphrodisiac in the entire botanical kingdom.

With all of these uses, Ashwagandha is destined to rise significantly and take its place with all the other better-known tonics.

Ashwagandha has a wide variety of conditions ranging from male impotence to chronic vaginal discharge. Numerous herbs with more complex, seemingly opposite properties, such as Ashwagandha, are generally the strongest and most useful. Unlike many tonics, Ashwagandha is also anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, anti-anxiety, calmative, and an aphrodisiac. To herbalists, this seems strange since it is also a member of a plant family that includes the familiar belladonna and henbane, well respected anti-inflammatory nervines but toxic, not particularly known for their nutritional tonic properties. This certainly qualifies Ashwagandha as one of the most paradoxical herbs. Perhaps it is for this reason that it has not yet established itself with the equal esteem of the other better-known tonics as mentioned above.

The unique properties of Ashwagandha, while being an energy tonic like Ginseng or Codonopsis for instance, is uniquely more beneficial for calming the mind, relieving arthritis and building sexual energy, while Ginseng and Codonopsis is a milder substitute and an excellent and effective herb for low energy caused by digestive weakness. Ashwagandha, classified as an energy tonic in Ayurvedic medicine, is stronger as an immune tonic. Again, these properties are equally shared by Ginseng and Codonopsis, but more indirectly because of their effects on other physiological systems. Ashwagandha is also useful for strengthening the female reproductive system for which it is commonly combined with another Ayurvedic herb called Shatavari. The uniqueness of Ashwagandha is that it achieves its results through strengthening the nervous system and potentates reproductive hormones.

There is common knowledge amongst Ayurvedic herbalists that Ashwagandha is, at least, equally regarded in Ayurvedic medicine as Ginseng is in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

For most people, the first reaction to taking Ashwagandha, even after a few days, is a sense of increased warmth, more energy and eventually, this further transmutes to heightened libido. For this reason, tonics like Ashwagandha or Ginseng are seldom prescribed for otherwise normal and relatively healthy adolescents or, for that matter, otherwise normal individuals under the age of 40 years. Given specific signs and indications of chronic weakness and deficiency, Ashwagandha is, however, specifically indicated for individuals of all ages. For such conditions, it is best to take Ashwagandha in powder for, as an alcohol extract, or a warm cup of tea and honey.

Ashwagandha is used in Ayurvedic medicine as a powder, decoction, and medicated wine, mixed with honey. The most common form is as an alcohol extract.

Powder: 3-6 grams daily or up to 5 to 10 grams as an occasional tonic.
Decoction: 16 to 31 grams added to warm water or nut milk.
Alcoholic Extract: 2 tsps. 2-3 times daily.
Mixed with honey: 1 tsp. 2 times daily.

Ashwagandha is relatively safe when taken in the prescribed range of dosage. Large doses of Ashwagandha should not be taken during pregnancy unless under the direction of an experienced herbalist.

Ashwagandha can have an important role to play, in bringing strength, rejuvenation and balance to an exhausted body. And Im sure we can all use that support these days.

Shantree Kacera RH., D.N., Ph.D.

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