Ashwo-what we hear you say? Yes, we’ll admit, Ashwagandha does sound like the name of some magical destination, right out of a fantasy movie script. But this super herb is nature’s way of giving us mere humans and our bodies, a touch of super-herb support.
You may have heard of adaptogens, of which Ashwagandha is one, and their ability to protect our bodies from the harmful effects of stress, whilst also supporting overall health, energy and mood. You might even be keen to add Ashwagandha to your morning latte, elixir, smoothie or nightcap, but as a newbie, where do you begin?
What is Ashawgandha?
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen. And what does that even mean? Well, the clue is in the name. Adaptogens are a unique class of herbs that quite literally help the body to ‘adapt’ itself depending on our emotional and physical needs. They are non-toxic, help your body to achieve balance and reduce your body’s stress response. For example, adaptogens can help bring clarity in times of confusion, bring peace to a racing mind and bring calm in times of stress.
And although this might be the first time you have heard about them, they are not the new “superfood” kids on the block. Adaptogens have been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.
How do they work?
Adaptogens work by controlling the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, from the adrenal glands and bring balance to our HPA axis – the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, that is our innate central stress response system.
They tend to work like a thermostat. When the thermostat feels that the room is too cold, it will smoothly bring the room temperature up, and vice versa, when the room is hot, the thermostat cools it down. In other words, adaptogens will work to boost your energy when it is falling low and calm you down if you are stressed.
So what are the health benefits of Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is the most researched of the adaptogens herbs, and famous for its plethora of benefits. Its literal meaning is “smell of the horse” as it is suggested to give you the strength of a stallion!
MAY REDUCE ANXIETY
It has a reputation as a calming nervine that can help with anxiety. In one randomized controlled study, Ashwagandha was compared to Lorazepam ( a common anti-anxiety drug) and it was proven to reduce anxiety symptoms by 20% more than those on the drug, and with no side effects.
Studies have shown that Ashwagandha can help to reduce cortisol levels, the hormone that is released in times of stress. When we produce too much Cortisol in response to stress, we put a burden on our adrenal glands, which can lead to adrenal fatigue. A couple of MEDA calm’s (they contain Ashwagandha), a yoga session or two and an occasional let your hair down – the perfect anti-stress remedy!
Ashwagandha has been shown to encourage anti-inflammatory and disease-fighting immune cells that help to ward off illness. Take it as an immune booster alongside some other immune-beneficial adaptogens such as medicinal mushrooms, and you can fire up your immune system in no time!
There have even been studies to suggest that Ashwagadha can be used by those who suffer from low thyroid function, by increasing T4 and T3, both hormones that contribute to balanced thyroid health. A note – It is best to consult with a health care professional when trying to balance your thyroid hormones before taking supplements.
STABILISES BLOOD SUGAR
Ashwagandha has been reported to help stabilise blood sugar levels, decreasing blood sugar when it is too high or increasing it if too low. This is an example of the herb’s adaptogenic effect. Chuck Ashwagandha powder or extract into your overnight oats to help balance the sweetness from that tablespoon of honey (or glug) that you add!