Ashwagandha: Popularly known as Indian ginseng, ashwagandha contains withanolides, phytosterols and alkaloids that can energize underactive adrenals and improve endocrine, nervous and immune functions.

Many of us know that prolonged exposure to stress can lead to a variety of problems such as depression, high blood pressure, metabolic disorders and cardiac ailments. While there are many external, physical and mental problems that cause stress, there are some herbs to relieve the symptoms. One such powerful herb is ashwagandha, also known as Winter Cherry, which is an adaptogen and improves a person’s ability to cope with stress.[1,2]

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has a range of constituents such as withanolides, sitoindosides and other alkaloids that protect cells from oxidative damage and disease.[3,4,5,6] Ashwagandha improves lower limb muscular strength and neuro-muscular co-ordination, too.[7] Besides this, ashwagandha demonstrates antimicrobial properties and antibacterial activity against potentially dangerous bacteria, including Salmonella—a bacteria that causes food poisoning.[8]

The adverse effects of stress may be attributed to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Regular consumption of ashwagandha reduces cortisol levels by up to 26 percent, followed by a decline in fasting blood sugar levels and improved cholesterol levels in people. Those who took ashwagandha experienced reduced fatigue, increase in energy levels, better sleep and an enhanced state of well-being.[9]

How To Take It
Ashwagandha can be taken as a fluid extract or as a supplement. Talk to a naturopath to determine the correct dosage for you. Drinking a cup of hot milk containing a teaspoon of powdered ashwagandha before bedtime is also beneficial in relieving stress. You can buy ashwagandha powder here.

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1. Provino R. The role of adaptogens in stress management. Aust J Med Herbal. 2010;22:41–9.

2. Panossian A, Wikman G. Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity. Curr Clin Pharmacol. 2009;4:198–219.

3. Bhattacharya SK, Muruganandam AV. Adaptogenic activity of Withania somnifera: An experimental study using a rat model of chronic stress. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003;75:547–55.

4. Singh G, Sharma PK, Dudhe R, Singh S. Biological activities of Withania somnifera. Ann Biol Res. 2010;1:56–63.

5. Sharma V, Sharma S, Pracheta, Paliwal R. Withania somnifera: A rejuvenating ayurvedic medicinal herb for the treatment of various human ailments. Int J PharmTech Res. 2011;3:187–92.

6. Kulkarni SK, Dhir A. Withania somnifera: An Indian ginseng. Prog Neuro-Psychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2008;32:1093–05

7. Sandhu JS, Shah B, Shenoy S, Chauhan S, Lavekar GS, Padhi MM. Effects of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) and Terminalia arjuna (Arjuna) on physical performance and cardiorespiratory endurance in healthy young adults. Int J Ayurveda Res. 2010 Jul;1(3):144-9. doi: 10.4103/0974-7788.72485.

8. Owais M, Sharad KS, Shehbaz A, Saleemuddin M. Antibacterial efficacy of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha) an indigenous medicinal plant against experimental murine salmonellosis. Phytomedicine. 2005 Mar;12(3):229-35.

9. Unpublished study, 2005. NutrGenesis, LLC.

Armed with a PhD in Alternative Medicine, a graduate degree in Biotechnology, an MSc, and an MBA in Clinical Research and Clinical Pharmacology, Dr Jonathan is a certified practitioner of Alternative Medicine and is actively involved in patient education initiatives. He is also the author of the bestselling book, Outsmart Diabetes. Dr Jonathan loves to share his passion for herbs and other alternative medicinal practices with others through his writing.