You must have recently heard about Ashwagandha being a possible cure against Covid-19 infection in a collaborative research conducted by IIT-Delhi and Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST). Let me tell you something about this ancient herb and it’s interesting properties. Ashwagandha, the Ayurvedic herb is well-known for its magical properties. It has been used by ancient Indian rishis since God knows when, for treating various physical and mental ailments. The term ‘ashwa’ means ‘horse’ and ‘gandha’ means ‘smell’. It was so named because of its unique smell and ability to provide horse-like strength. Extractions prepared from the plant’s root and leaves are useful against many ailments. It is mainly famous for its neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti- depressant properties. In general, it also helps in the general metabolism of the body. This amazing herb can be consumed in the form of tablets or powder mixed with milk and honey.
Here are some health benefits you can get by consuming this wonderful herb…
1. Immunity Booster
Research has proven that Ashwagandha helps in boosting immunity by increasing the production of proteins called antibodies. These antibodies fight like soldiers against disease causing foreign particles. It also helps in increasing the production of a chemical called nitric oxide which in turn, stimulates the immune system by improving its ability to ingest toxins. It is also anti-inflammatory in nature as it boosts natural killer cell activity.
2. Regulates blood sugar levels
Blood sugar levels in both healthy as well as diabetic people can be reduced with the help of this herb. It stimulates the production of insulin which in turn breaks down many complex sugars in blood. Only the less harmful sugars are retained in the body. However, it can also increase your blood sugar if it is present below the minimal range.
3. Anti-cancer activity
Withaferin, a bioactive compound present in Ashwagandha exhibits anti-tumour properties. A study on mice with ovarian cancer showed a reduction in tumour growth by 70-80% when this herb was administered alone or in combination with an anti-cancer drug. It also prevented the spreading of cancer. Although this has not been proven in human beings yet, the results from the animal studies are surely promising.
4. Improves mental health
Cortisol is a stress hormone released by the adrenal gland that sits on the kidney. Ashwagandha is known to reduce cortisol levels and fights against stress, anxiety and depression in chronically stressed individuals. It gives one a sense of well- being, relaxes the mind and calms the nerves; manages stress-induced sexual problems and improves libido in men. It is known as an ‘adaptogen’ for its stress-buster properties.
Ashwagandha is also used as an aphrodisiac, i.e, it helps in improving sexual health- especially in men. It boosts testosterone levels, improves semen quality, increases sperm count and motility. In fact, one study showed that when 75 infertile men were treated with this herb, they showed all the desired characteristics mentioned above. The herb also helps in treating female infertility.
6. Improves memory
Experts say that Ashwagandha helps in improving memory and brain functioning by decreasing oxidative stress on the brain and preventing nerve cell degeneration. It is also considered as an alternative for treating neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
7. Increases muscle mass and strength
This herb has been used as a general body tonic since centuries. It is present in a delicious concoction called ‘Chyawanprash’, which helps in giving strength and stamina to the body. It increases muscle mass and reduces body fat.
8. Heart health
Ashwagandha helps in improving heart health by significantly reducing cholesterol and triglyceride (a type of fat found in blood) levels. This is especially good for people suffering from hypertension and other heart diseases.The Indian Express reported the following- “A study published in the International Journal of Ayurveda Research found that using the herb for heart health (in combination with another Ayurvedic herb) was helpful in improving muscle strength and endurance.”
9. Cures Insomnia
Although Ashwagandha is not a hardcore sedative, it’s leaves contain an active component that improves sleep quality. Researchers from the Sleep Institute in the University of Tsukuba, Japan have proved this.
10. Healthy hair
Many shampoos contain Ashwagandha because it helps in strengthening the hair, removing dandruff and preventing premature hair loss. It also stimulates the production of melanin which may stop greying of hair.
11. Skin health
Ashwagandha helps in production of chemicals like elastin that keep the skin supple and wrinkle free; and hyaluronan that helps in keeping the skin hydrated. It can be used as a toner with dried ginger and lemon for getting glowing skin.
All in all, Ashwagandha is safe and can be consumed by anyone general. However, it is not recommended for pregnant women and those people who are suffering from other ailments.