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The Amazing Benefits of the Adaptogen, Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, otherwise known as Indian ginseng (or Withania somnifera), is one of our favourite calming adaptogens. As you know we are keen Taoist tonic herbalists and have focused on the tonic herbs and adaptogens from the China region until now. At heart though we are planetary herbalists and love all of the global tonics.

 

You might be wondering why it has taken us so long to bring this powerful Jing herb to the SuperFeast apothecary; well the ashwagandha plant (in particular, ashwagandha root) has been on our radar from the inception of SuperFeast. However with our very strict sourcing standards, we have been doing an incredible amount of due diligence to procure the most effective, potent, robust Withania somnifera. Read on to see what a gorgeous herb ashwagandha is and how we source it.

 

What is Ashwagandha?

This potent herb has been used for millennia as a staple within the Ayurvedic system and by the general population as a tonic of India. Withania somnifera provides a bit of a clue to it's powers, it means 'sleep-inducing'. Another clue; the Hindi name for ashwagandha is asgandh, referring to the horse sweat-like smell of the root! This translates to granting the strength of a horse to those that use ashwagandha.

 

aswhagandha_extract_powder_superfeast

SuperFeast Ashwagandha Extract


While the SuperFeast philosophy has been born out of the Daoist traditions, we certainly resonate with several Ayurvedic elements to healing. The Ayurvedic tradition refers to tonic herbs as rasayanas and we're proud as punch to be including this one in our range. Basically this adaptogen dials the stress response right down.

Ashwagandha is: 
 

  • Otherwise known as Indian ginseng, Withania somnifera, winter cherry
  • A potent Jing herb; provides stamina
  • A reproductive tonic
  • Able to stabilise the HPA axis (we've got a great article on this)
  • Used to support yoga and meditation
  • Unlike other aphrodisiacs, is not irritating and can be used without overstimulating the system 
  • Known to reduce anxiety and depression
  • Able to counter the effects of sleep deprivation
  • Able to reduce inflammation
  • A powerful antioxidant
  • Able to stimulate a healthy production of thyroid hormone


Top 4 Benefits of Ashwagandha

  

1. Stress / Nervous System + Ashwagandha

Various and ongoing research has been conducted on the anti-stress activities of ashwagandha, as traditionally this has been the key reason for using the herb. One way ashwagandha is thought to have a down regulating effect on the stress response, is its ability to stabilise the HPA (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal) axis. By lending support to the HPA axis, ashwagandha protects the adrenals and promotes healthy communication between the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands. Via the stabilisation of the HPA axis, ashwagandha has been shown to lower cortisol levels; elevated cortisol levels are a sure sign of a stressed, imbalanced individual. Another mechanism to explain the calming effects of ashwagandha could be due to its GABA-mimetic activity, supporting the herb’s anti anxiety and nervous system inhibitory effects

 

Traditionally used as a calming nervine, to assist in lowering the stress response, ashwagandha is now used for individuals suffering from poor sleep, nervous exhaustion, chronic illness and being overworked. With its deep nurturing action on the mind, ashwagandha helps encourage a deep and often dreamless sleep. 

 

Further, research has demonstrated that stress-induced gastric ulcers have been successfully treated with an ashwagandha protocol. While other clinical research has shown that ashwagandha provided a decrease in blood glucose (comparable to drugs!) in diabetic individuals. Imbalanced blood sugars are just another way to experience stress. 

 

2. Thyroid / Hormones + Ashwagandha

The traditions have used ashwagandha extensively as a reproductive tonic for its ability to enhance the reproductive potency of both sexes; essentially ashwagandha regenerates and balances the hormonal system.

As we've discussed, ashwaganda is a herbal powerhouse in down-regulating the stress response. While this beautiful botanical is potent for both the sexes, we wanted to make a special mention of the epic benefits this plant can have for women, specifically related to hormone health.

 

If you are experiencing any endocrine system disturbances (think slow thyroid, adrenal imbalances, sluggish hypothalamic responses (like hypothalamic amenorrhea), anxiousness related to hormonal imbalances, perimenopause), stress-induced insomnia, iron deficiency or maybe you are a little swayed towards being 'Type A', then this herb is for you. Furthermore, there has been research to show that ashwagandha may improve sexual function in otherwise healthy women.

 

Now on to our men folk friends. Ashwagandha appears to promote testicular health and overall fertility for men. Sperm quality (including seminal motility) has been positively influenced by ashwagandha, while there have been some positive research to suggest infertile men may benefit using this adaptogen to increase testosterone. 

 

3. Energy + Ashwagandha

While traditionally a part of the Ayurvedic philosophy, we classify ashwagandha within the Traditional Chinese Medicine tradition as a Jing herb and, as discussed, being known primarily as a rejuvenating herb, this makes sense!  

 

Clinical research has noted improvements in power output in both sprint relays and strength training exercises, in those taking ashwagandha supplements. This may be due to research demonstrating an increase in VO2 max during movement practices. Athletes participating in treadmill tests, following an ashwagandha protocol experienced an increased time to exhaustion. Interestingly, ashwagandha has been shown to also impact perceptions of fatigue in studies, where a reduction in fatigue levels in individuals has been shown.

 

It is thought one mechanism by which ashwagandha can positively improve energy levels, is to do with its ability to effect the health of the mitochondria, which are the energy powerhouses of all cells.

 

4. Immune System + Ashwagandha

The amazing benefits of ashwagandha just keep coming. This botanical also has potent immunomodulating properties; it can reduce inflammation and is a powerful antioxidant (both important markers of a robust immune system).

 

In animals with weakened immune systems, ashwagandha has had beneficial effects on white blood cell and platelet count. Research has further shown that in inflammatory joint issues (like rheumatoid and osteoarthritis) ashwagandha may be beneficial, due to its powerful anti-inflammatory and therefore anti-arthritic characteristics. In fact, there has been a positive reduction in C-reactive protein (an inflammatory blood marker) over a period of two months using an ashwagandha protocol. Other clinical research has suggested an activation of T-cells, along with an increase in natural killer cell when using ashwagandha. 

 

There has been research to suggest that ashwagandha can be a useful support during times when very intensive chemical treatments are being administered (read between the lines here about what treatment we mean).

 

If you are keen to take your health journey even deeper, we have a brilliant course - Embodied Health - the 14 foundations of health, presented by Mason. It's online and go at your own pace. You will be educated, challenged and inspired!  We would love for you to join us xx

SuperFeast Ashwagandha

SuperFeast Ashwagandha root is:

  • Sourced from small, independent farmers in Northern India
  • A full-spectrum water extract
  • Non-standardised
  • Non-irradiated, no fillers or colours (like all of the SuperFeast range)

ashwagandha_capsules_superfeast

Note: we do not standardise as we always find for long-term usage the full energetic and biochemical spectrum (just the way nature creates it) is the most ideal for our body's health. The active constituent (alkaloid somniferin) percentage fluctuates around 1.5%. Read more about our stance on standardisation here. So which ashwagandha is best? In our opinion, non-standardised is absolutely the way to go.

 

If you like the sound of this, then head over to our online store and check out our SuperFeast Ashwagandha

 

Energetics / Clinical Usage

Other names: Withania somnifera (botanical), Winter Cherry, Indian Ginseng
Channels: Lungs and Kidney
Treasures Nourished: Yang Jing, Qi, Blood, Shen
Taste: Bitter, astringent
Energy: Warm
Clinical Actions:    

  •    Adaptogen
  •    Anti-inflammatory
  •    Antioxidant
  •    Immunomodulating
  •    Nervine
  •    Antispasmodic
  •    Aphrodisiac 

Ashwagandha and the Traditions

Ashwagandha has been used in the Ayurvedic medical system for over 3000 years. This ancient herb was first mentioned in the sacred Ayurvedic texts: the Charaka and the Sushruta Samhitas, where it was favoured as a restorative tonic against emaciation in people of all ages. In Ayurvedic medicine ashwagandha is the chief rejuvenative herb, with a special affinity for the muscles, marrow and semen. Ashwagandha holds a similar place in the Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia as ginseng does in the Traditional Chinese healing system, however it has a softer energetic. 

 

In the Ayurvedic healing system medicinal plants are classified into multiple groups according to their actions. Ashwagandha falls into the group of plants called the rasayana’s.

 

The word rasayana is derived from the words  rasa meaning primordial tissue or plasma, and  ayana, meaning path; the word rasayana translates to “the path that rasa takes”. According to Ayurveda the qualities of the rasa (primordial tissue/plasma) influence the health of all the other tissues in the body, or the dhatus. As such, any medicines or herbs that improve the quality of the rasa, such as those belonging to the rasayana group, should also strengthen and promote the health of all of the body’s tissues.

 

Herbs belonging to the rasayana group are prized for their ability to restore and revitalise the body, slow the ageing process and prevent disease. Rasayana’s increase the body’s resistance to stress and can be taken over long periods of time without causing side effects or harm to the body. A herb that belongs to the rasayana group can be classified in contemporary language and understanding as an ‘adaptogen’. With similar actions to the herbs we classify as ‘tonic’ in the Taoist herbal system. 

A Final Note

Ashwagandha:

  • Is both restorative and rejuvenating (adaptogenic)
  • Can to help the body adapt to stressful situations
  • Is an immune modulator
  • Reduces stress and anxiety 
  • Supports healthy hormone production
  • Is a very gentle herb to take

 

Contraindications

This herb is super safe. But, if you have a tendency towards hyperthyroidism, or have a nightshade sensitivity, then we would suggest proceeding with caution.

 We can't wait to hear your feedback guys, email us at team@superfeast.com.au

 

References
The Yoga of Herbs, An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine by David Crawley
https://examine.com/supplements/ashwagandha/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=an+overview+of+ashwagandha+singh
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11116534
https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2015/284154/abs/
http://www.healingpoints.com/Adrenal.PDF
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874199000653
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