There are just those periods when life is merely overwhelming. Sometimes it’s because there are simply too many tasks to complete and not nearly enough time. Moreover, those times are days when you really need a good night’s sleep and it seems impossible to get more than four hours straight. Your body and mind are so fatigued, and everyday you feel worse. With no salvation in the near distance you just spiral downward, perhaps your body will give out and you will simply get very sick, ahhh now perhaps you will get those restful hours of sleep your body has needed for such a long time. Does this sound familiar? I think everyone must go through this from time to time; unfortunately, some experience this more often than not.
At those particular times, it is paramount to take care of ourselves; nonetheless, it is so difficult to do so. There are wonderful herbs known as adaptogens that can really make it easier to move through the day and not collapse. As the word implies, adaptogens increases your body’s ability to adapt and resist stress. It knows what your body needs and helps it adapt so you don’t reach the point of total burnout. When you are exhausted, they give you energy and when your nerves are frazzled, it soothes and calms them. Sounds wonderful, right? You bet it is.
There are a variety of adaptogens herbs out there. Today, I will be focusing on Ashwagandha Root (Withania somnifera). Ashwagandha (known as Indian Ginseng) has been used as an Ayurvedic herb for over 3000 years. Ayurveda classifies Ashwagandha as a rasayana, which is an herb that deeply rejuvenates and promotes longevity. And that’ something we all need.
There are two interpretations for the name Ashwagandha: the smell of a horse, perhaps because some people think the fresh root smells like horse’s urine and has a strong unpleasant taste but I prefer the other interpretation, the strength of a horse, since it is a wonderful energy builder. It increases the body’s ability to adapt and deal with tension and anxiety. It helps increase memory, facilitates learning, and promotes general well-being as it enhances stamina. Ashwagandha is excellent for both mental and physical fatigue. It can significantly reduce cortisol (which is released when stressed) concentrations and the immunosuppressive effect of stress. Because it can both strengthen and calm the nervous system, it can help increase energy levels gently, meaning it won’t give you that crash and burn effect that sugar and caffeine often does. Taken over time, Ashwagandha can build up emaciated tissues, decrease the negative affects of stress and increase energy levels.
Since Ashwagandha is not overtly stimulating, one of its benefits is that it is a gentle sedative and supports healthy sleep cycles. Its Latin species name is somnifera, refers to its ability to support sleep. Instead of thinking of it as an herb for acute insomnia, it is something that when taken over time it can restore nervous system health and healthy sleep cycles.
Not only is Ashwagandha excellent in assisting the body adapt to stress it is used for a variety of degenerative, wasting and chronic diseases, including arthritis, TB, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. Because it helps builds tissue and supports overall health it can help people regain their strength while strengthens and supporting the immune system.
Ashwagandha seems to help and strengthen the whole body. Research has found that it protects and supports the immune system, helps combat the effects of stress, improves learning, memory, and reaction time, reduces anxiety and depression without causing drowsiness, helps reduce brain-cell degeneration, stabilizes blood sugar, helps lower cholesterol, offers anti-inflammatory benefits, and actually enhances sexual potency for both men and women. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center notes the benefits of Ashwagandha on their website as it was “found to reduce growth of breast, central nervous system, colon, and lung cancer cells without affecting normal cells. It was shown to prevent chemotherapy-induced neutropenia in mice. In a small study of breast cancer patients, Ashwagandha alleviated chemo-induced fatigue and improved the quality of life.”
What’s not to love about this wonderful herb? Well, the taste tends to be a bit strong and unpleasant. That is why when I first started working with it; I made a wonderful herbal honey with it. I blend Ashwagandha powdered root with Buckwheat honey, which has an equally bold but yummy taste. It has a nice balanced flavor. The honey is perfect for sweeten tea, coffee, oatmeal but I enjoy it best on a peanut butter sandwich. I also make a tincture with the roots for when I need a stronger and more consistent dose. The traditional Ayurvedic preparation of Ashwagandha is to simmer the root in milk, with a bit of honey added at the end.
Ashwagandha root may be found at your local health food store or at Mountain Rose Herbs.
All information is shared for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition.