Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng, is a widely used herb in traditional Indian medicine, found in the sub-Himalayan tracts and some dry subtropical regions in India. Ashwagandha is one of the most common ingredients used in the Ayurvedic treatment system, which has also become one of the popular herbs in the Western world thanks to its numerous benefits. The botanical name of the herb is Withania Somnifera, while the name etymology of ashwagandha is derived from Sanskrit 'ashwa', which means horse and 'gandha' meaning smell. Ashwagandha or 'smell of a horse', refers to the strong aroma of the root that is said to be similar to that of horse's sweat.
What's on my plate
Ashwagandha which is also known as winter cherry is a perennial shrub, it has small oval, succulent leaves, green or yellow five-petaled flowers, and a small berry-like fruit. The root of the ashwagandha plant is used generally in the form of powder. The taste of ashwagandha is tikta (bitter), katu (pungent) and kashaya (astringent). It can help in lowering blood pressure, reducing stress and anxiety. It can also help increase muscle mass, strength and for regulating the immune system.
Chennai-based Dr. Madhumitha Krishnan, Pediatric Ayurvedic Consultant says, "The active ingredients of ashwagandha are withanolides, saponins and alkaloids and the Latin name of this herb gives one important superpower; Somnifera means sleep, hence this herb has the special property to induce sleep. At the same time, this herb is specifically known for its ability to improve strength and weight in a person. Ashwagandha benefits are more visible when administered to young children for this purpose. It is used to help gain weight in highly debilitated people."
Ashwagandha is also used to improve testosterone levels in men and in turn positively impact one’s fertility. It acts as an anti-stress agent by reducing the cortisol levels, it is a rasayana (rejuvenator) which helps in improving general health and lifespan of a person. Ashwagandha also has the capability of improving conditions of neuromuscular disorders and paralysis.
At the same time Chennai-based Dr. Dharini Krishnan, consultant dietitian warns, "Even though ashwagandha has a lot of benefits, there are negative side effects if consumed in large amounts. Consuming more than the prescribed dosage can lead to diarrhea, upset stomach and nausea."
Where to buy
Ashwagandha herb is available in the dried powdered form and you can also avail them as capsules and tablet forms packaged and sold in most of the wellness and health stores.
How to eat it
Dr. Madhumita Krishnan suggests 5-10 grams of Ashwagandha can be taken in powdered form in a day with some warm milk. And if you prefer having it as capsules or tablet, you can have 1-2 in a day with milk.
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