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Select Source Spotlight – Ashwagandha, Ancient Herb – Modern Benefits

WHAT IS ASHWAGANDHA?

 Ashwa what, now? Sometimes called Indian ginseng or winter cherry, ashwagandha (pronounced, "ash-wa-gon-da") is an ancient medicinal herb that has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic, Indian, and African traditional medicine. Its name roughly means "smell of a horse", from the Sanskrit, "ashwa" meaning "horse" and "gandha" meaning “smell”. Although the smell may be a little more farmyard than farmstand, its name is also meant to convey the many strength-building properties of the herb.

HISTORICAL USE OF ASHWAGANDHA

Ashwagandha’s history can be traced back to around 6,000 BC, where it was first used in Ayurveda, the traditional system of ancient medicine practiced in India. There, it was considered to be a powerful herb that rejuvenated the system and contributed to a longer lifespan. Hindu saints recorded their knowledge of healing practices, including essential knowledge about plants and herbs, and frequently mentioned the benefits and uses of ashwagandha in their writings. In Africa, it was used among the tribes to treat fevers and inflammation. In Yemen, it is made into a paste for treating burns and wounds, and also as a sunscreen. In Siberia, the berries and seeds were used by Nanai hunters (natives of far eastern Siberia and Chinese Manchuria) as a tonic to reduce thirst, hunger, and exhaustion, and to improve night‐time vision.

Although ashwagandha has only somewhat recently been making headlines here in the western world, it has safely and effectively been used across the globe for thousands of years, in hundreds of ways.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF ASHWAGANDHA

As we’ve mentioned, ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogenic herb that can help your body in many ways. Here are the 3 biggest areas we need ashwagandha to help us out RIGHT NOW:

1.     Stress, Anxiety, and Sleep

Ashwagandha supplementation has been shown to significantly help reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone released from the adrenal glands on a daily cycle. Typically, cortisol levels rise in the morning, providing energy and awareness for the day ahead, and then lower in the evening, allowing for sleep and restoration.

Every day most people strive to balance the responsibilities of work, family, school, pets, and trying to avoid getting sick. Most of us are sleep-deprived, not eating the way we should be, and constantly anxious. This way of living causes us to produce more cortisol than necessary, keeping us in somewhat of a "fight or flight" condition and leaving us feeling burnt-out.
Because ashwagandha helps to reduce these increased, unhealthy levels of cortisol, improve sleep quality, and nourish the adrenal glands, it is effective in reducing feelings of anxiety and stress.

2.     Memory and Cognitive Function

We are an overstimulated society. Most times when we can manage to gather the family together to watch a tv show or a movie, most if not all of them are also on their phones; texting, snapchatting, or even playing a game. Many of us have become uncomfortable just being in the present, or focusing on just one task at a time. Our brains are continuously trying to execute on every open task we have, bouncing from one to the other so fast that we forget what we had meant to be doing. (That "What did I come into this room for?" moment.)

Ashwagandha has been shown to enhance memory and other cognitive functions. In one study involving 50 adults, those who took 300mg of an ashwagandha extract twice daily for eight weeks had significant improvements in immediate and general memory, and the study volunteers who took ashwagandha also had significantly greater improvement in executive function, sustained attention, and information-processing speed.

 3.     Immune Support

In addition to supporting our ability to handle stress, ashwagandha can also have a direct impact on the immune system. Studies show that the herb can stimulate white blood cells and macrophages, increase white blood cell count, and increase hemoglobin concentration, red blood cell, and platelet counts – all of which improve the body's defense against disease. Ashwagandha also offers strong antioxidant properties that help protect against cellular damage caused by free radicals, and has beneficial anti-inflammatory effects that influence immune system activity.

The many benefits of ashwagandha are too numerous to list! We haven't covered its supportive effects on the nervous system, energy and metabolism, joint health, blood sugar, heart health, or reproductive health, and it can even help with scorpion stings and hiccups!

SCIENCE PROVES IT

Although they each work a little differently, the main role of apoptogenic herbs is to act in a gentle way to help our minds and bodies respond to stress. Many researchers believe this happens at a cellular level, citing studies that show their neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, and anti-depressive activities in clinical trials.  

Research has shown that ashwagandha encourages the antioxidant activity that can protect nerve cells from free radicals. This is especially important for brain and memory function. One study looking at the effects of ashwagandha on memory showed that subjects who took 600mg/day of this root extract had significant improvements in memory recall, general memory, continuous attention span and information processing speed.

Studies have also demonstrated its effects on lowering blood sugar, as well. In one, a powder made from ashwagandha root was able to lower blood sugar a similar amount as an oral diabetes medication in patients with type 2 diabetes. Another study found that the effects were dose-dependent: with the larger dose of ashwagandha root providing a more significant reduction in blood sugar levels. Researchers think this is because of ashwagandha's impact on cortisol, which plays a role in regulating blood sugar.

Ashwagandha also contains potent phytochemicals that can help to calm the brain, reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and bolster the immune system. And we mentioned the scorpion stings. Is there anything this herb isn't good for?

How to Take Ashwagandha

Although the name ashwagandha doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, it is clear that this medicinal herb has been used for thousands of years to provide support for many health conditions. Due to its bitter taste and "horsey" smell, it is most often found in a capsule form. Sometimes it can be nicely worked into a blend, as well, as we've done in our Inspire for Women Protein shake. We've included ashwagandha and L-theanine to help balance stress and maintain focus, counting on our Flavor Pure™ blend of natural flavors and sweeteners to take the kick out of the horse.

As a small, easy step you can take to gain the MANY health benefits of ashwagandha, you can't go wrong with our Vegan Ashwagandha Extract:

  • Standardized for quality and dosing to provide the benefits supported by clinical research.
  • Gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and Kosher.
  • 100% plant-based, Certified Vegan.
  • Free from horse-like smells or flavor profile.

And don't forget – you can save 15% off every order by using Subscribe & Save!

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