Ashwagandha: Mother Natures Workhorse

What is Ashwagandha?

Since ancient times, Ashwagandha has survived as one of the most effective and popular herbs in Ayurveda (The traditional system of health and wellness of India). Mostly recognized for its restorative health benefits, Ashwagandha is used in almost all conditions of weakness and deficiency.

Ashwagandha is one of the most potent herbs used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. It is a member of the nightshade family, a diverse and prestigious group of plants that includes chili peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, and tobacco. The name Ashwagandha is a combination of two Sanskrit words: ashva, which means horse, and gandha, which means smell. The name refers to the root, which smells distinctly horse-like when it’s fresh. It is also a reference to Ashwagandha’s reputation to enhance vitality and virility. It is sometimes known as Indian Ginseng due to the fact that it is often used for similar reasons, although the two plants share no relation to one another.

Ashwagandha is a wonderful tonic that supports strength without stimulating the nervous system or the cardiovascular system. In Ayurveda it is classified as a Rasayana (rejuvenator and extender of life). It is Sattvic (quality of goodness, positivity, and balance) in nature, can promote a deep sleep at night but also increase energy and vitality during the day. Ashwaghanda is grounding and clarifying for the mind without any dulling effects. It is particularly famous in India for supporting sexual power in both men and women.

While Ashwagandha’s health benefits and uses are well known to practitioners from southern Africa to Nepal, the way in which it works is still largely unknown.

Traditional Ashwagandha Uses in Ayurveda

The Ayurvedic tradition maintains that Ashwagandha strengthens all dhatus (tissue systems), balances Vata and Kapha doshas, and, in excess, increases Pitta dosha and Ama (toxic build up). Thus it is best taken in formulations which are balanced with other herbs and spices. As a single herb, it is prudent to use only in moderate amounts or over shorter periods of time despite the fact that Ashwagandha's effects are cumulative. Ashwagandha has a reputation for fortifying and building up the body, contributing to the healthy function of the immune, nervous, and reproductive systems. In addition, it is believed to fortify the musculoskeletal system, specifically the back and joints. It is both calming and energizing, providing stamina and vitality while maintaining clarity and focus. This helps reduce stress and maintain a healthy sleep cycle. For this reason, it is traditionally mixed with warm milk and honey and taken before bed. Women typically ingest it with ghee and jaggery (prepared sugar cane). Ashwagandha is an important ingredient in Chyawanprash and is famously combined with Shilajit to revitalize the reproductive system in men.