Botanical name:- Withania somnifera
English – Indian Ginseng, winter cherry
Hindi – Asgandh
Sanskrit – Ashwagandha
The name Ashwagandha is a combination of the Sanskrit words “Ashva” meaning –“Horse”, and “Gandha” meaning –“Smell”, reflecting that the root has a strong horse-like odour.
Parts used – Roots
It is cultivated in many of the drier regions of India. It is also found in Nepal, Sri Lanka, China, and Yemen. Spread from the Mediterranean region to throughout tropical region of Africa to South Africa and also from the Cape Verde Islands and Canary region to the Arabia and Middle East region like India, southern China and Sri Lanka.
Ashwagandha is propagated and cultivated in gardens in the warmer and drier regions of Europe and became a natural herb in New South Wales and South Australia.
Ashwagandha is globally known but is not so common in all regions of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland. It is total absent in the western half of the Western and Northern Cape regions.
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The main phytochemical constituents are Withanolides – which are Triterpene lactones, Withaferin A, Alkaloids, Tropine
The biologically active chemical constituents of Withania somnifera include Alkaloids (Isopelletierine, Anaferine, Cuseohygrine, Anahygrine), Steroidal Lactones (Withanolides, Withaferins), Saponins, Sitoindosides & Acylsterylglucosides.
Reduces Stress and Anxiety:-
Ashwagandha is one of the Indian herbs with adaptogenic benefits meaning, it helps the body to adapt to various emotional and physical stress. As Ashwagandha helps to reduce cortisol, the “Stress hormone” in the body, it is considered considered an effective treatment to reduce stress. Ashwagandha may have a calming effect on anxiety symptoms when compared with the drug lorazepam, a sedative and anxiety medication.
Antipsychotics are used to treat schizophrenia but they can cause levels of fat and sugar in the blood to increase, Ashwagandha helps in reducing level of fat and sugar in the blood in people using these medications.
Ashwagandha produce GABA-like activity, which may account for the herb’s anti-anxiety effects GABA (Gamma Amino-butyric acid) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Its function is to decrease neuron activity and inhibit nerve cells from over firing. This action produces a calming effect. Excessive neuronal activity can lead to restlessness and insomnia, but GABA inhibits the number of nerve cells that fire in the brain, and helps to induce sleep, uplift mood, and reduce anxiety.
Ashwagandha has traditionally been used to stabilize mood in patients with behavioral disturbances. Ashwagandha is one of the most widespread tranquillizers used in India, where it holds a position of importance similar to ginseng in China. It acts mainly on the reproductive and nervous systems, having a rejuvenative effect on the body, and is used to improve vitality and aid recovery after chronic illness.
People with underactive thyroid have high blood levels of a hormone called Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). People with underactive thyroid can also have low levels of thyroid hormones. Taking Ashwagandha seems to lower TSH and increase thyroid hormone levels in people with mild form of underactive thyroid.
Ashwagandha lowers high blood pressure, high cholesterol, ease chest pain, prevents heart disease. It improves the heart health by reducing the levels of bad LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
The alkaloids had a prolonged Hypotensive, Bradycardiac, and Respiratory stimulant action. The hypotensive effect of Ashwagandha mainly due to autonomic ganglion blocking action and that a depressant action on the higher cerebral centers also contributed to the hypotension. The alkaloids stimulated the vasomotor and respiratory centers in the brain stem. The cardio-inhibitory action appeared to be due to ganglion blocking and direct cardio-depressant actions. Left ventricular dysfunction was seen as a decrease in heart rate, left ventricular rate of peak positive and negative pressure change and elevated left ventricular end-diastolic pressure in the control group. It showed a strong cardioprotective effect in the experimental model of Isoprenaline-Induced Myonecrosis. Augmentation of endogenous antioxidants, maintenance of the myocardial antioxidant status and significant restoration of most of the altered hemodynamic parameters may contribute to its cardioprotective effect.
According to research in 2011, Ashwagandha slows down or prevents the loss of brain function in people with neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
As these conditions progress, parts of the brain and its connective paths become damaged, which leads to loss of memory and function.
Ashwagandha is believed to have anti-cancerous properties as the herb helps induce apoptosis- programmed death of cancer cells, it also delays the growth of new cancer cells.
Ashwagandha has properties that aid in reducing the symptoms and progression of some health problems that are associated with ageing, due to its antioxidant properties. It helps to reduce hair greying as it increases the production of melanin in the hair cells.
Withaferin A exhibits fairly potent Anti-arthritic and Anti-inflammatory activities. Anti-inflammatory activity has been attributed to biologically active steroids- Withaferin A a major component, was found to suppress arthritic syndrome without any toxic effect. Withaferin A seems to be more potent than Hydrocortisone in adjuvant-induced arthritis.