Ashwagandha is one of the best-known Ayurvedic herbs used in Western herbalism, and has thousands of years of traditional use in India as a rasāyana (rejuvenative) and an adaptogen. Its name means “smell of the stallion” or “strength of a stallion,” depending on the translator. Some say it is because Ashwagandha tea smells like horse sweat. I disagree. I choose to believe it is because ashwagandha is brilliant at helping us gain strength, stamina, and vigor.
As an adaptogen, ashwagandha can moderate stress and immune responses by supporting healthy function of the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis. In other words, it helps reduce our stress hormones, balance our hormones, and nourish the body in a generally safe and effective way. Because of its popularity, it has been studied extensively and is being incorporated into medical treatments for people recovering both from basic illness and from damage done to the body by chemotherapy and radiation. I myself have just come out of having a nasty flu, and am still suffering side effects from it. I am taking ashwagandha and some other adaptogens to help me recover my vitality and nourish my body after a long and debilitating illness.
Traditionally, ashwagandha is used in Ayurveda to help balance those with Kapha and Vata leanings, who both tend toward a cold constitution. Kapha people, when imbalanced, are stagnant, damp, and slow. Vata people are scattered, thin, cold, dry, and always busy, but not often in a functional way, when they’re out of balance. Ashwagandha is warming, nourishing, slightly drying, and helps to balance those doshas. It is known to exacerbate symptoms in
people who have excess Pitta (a constitution with an imbalanced state of heat, quickness to anger, and “excess fire”). So, if ashwagandha is indicated for a more Pitta person, the herb can be cooled down by adding milk and honey.
Ashwagandha is high in nutrients like vitamin C, calcium, iron, flavonoids, antioxidants, superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase. These are all health-promoting factors that contribute to its overall balancing and nourishing function.
I hope you’ll enjoy learning more about this wonderful herb. As always, join us in our Facebook group: Natural Herbal Living "Herb of the Month Club".