A Stress-Free Guide to Ashwagandha: The Stress Relief Herb
All day, every day: stress finds you. It seeks you out. You can run, it seems, but you cannot hide.
Stress is increasing at a worrisome rate in the United States. A recent study found that stress in America rose from the previous record in 2015 of 4.8/10 to a new all-time high of 5.1 in early 2017.
Everyone experiences stress differently but what fuels it for us all is when there’s an imbalance between the demands being made and the resources to cope with those demands. More importantly, some recent studies have found that women differ from men not only in their emotional responses to stress, but that acute and chronic stress may take a greater toll on women’s physical and mental health than with men.
Spoiler alert! One of these studies even found that women are twice as stressed as men. And this is long overdue for a fix. And that’s what we’re trying to do here at GEM! We put a 130 mg dose of ashwagandha in each GEM because we’re committed to supporting your bodies and finding ways to help you cope, calm you down and kick stress to the curb. Don’t believe me? Take a read about this magical herb.
🌾 What is it?
Ashwagandha is a round and plump shrub with oval leaves, yellow flowers and orange-red fruit that is about the size of a raisin. It originated in India, is now found in northern Africa and Middle East too, and grows best in dry regions. It belongs to the Solanaceae family and its scientific name is Withania somnifera.
Ashwagandha has many different names, some include:
- Indian ginseng
- “Smell of the Horse”
- Winter cherry
🌿 Medicinal Plant
In India, the earliest uses of plants as medicine appear in Rigveda, a collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns written between 3500 and 1600 B.C. Later, the properties and therapeutic uses of medicinal plants were studied in detail and recorded empirically by ancient physicians in Ayurveda, an indigenous system of medicine. Here, ashwagandha was seen as one the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic healing. Practitioners considered it a rasayana herb, which focuses on the maintenance of health.
🍇 Which parts of the herb are helpful?
All the different parts of Ashwagandha are used for specific purposes. Some examples are:
- The leaves are recommended for fever, painful swellings.
- Flowers from the herb can have purifying and detoxifying effects.
- The seeds are anthelmintic and can be combined with astringent and rock salt to remove white spots from the cornea.
- The root of the herb can be used for numerous treatments, like reducing inflammation at the joints, being locally applied in carbuncles, ulcers, and painful swellings, and prescribed for snake venom or a scorpion sting. (The root is the most commonly used, and is what we picked for GEM!)
What can Ashwagandha do?
Stress Relief 😌
- Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, meaning it reduces stress or anxiety and normalizes psychological function in some sort of way.
- Helpful in prevention and treatment of many stress-induced diseases like arteriosclerosis, premature aging, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension and malignancy.
- One study found that those taking ashwagandha experienced a 44% reduction in their stress levels, whereas the placebo group only experienced a 5.5% reduction.
- In the same study, it was found that those taking ashwagandha had a 27.9% reduction in cortisol level. (When we are stressed, we pump out more of the hormone cortisol, and chronically elevated cortisol levels increase inflammation and accelerates degenerative processes in the body.)
- It’s why we love it for womankind!
BUT WAIT! ✋🏻 That is not all that ashwagandha is wonderful for. Research is finding that it can also possibly be used for: 🎉
- Improvement in athletic performance (stamina or physical endurance)
- Acting as an anti-tumor agent and as a useful adjunct to chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy in treatment of cancer and cancer side-effects
- Improving white blood cell count and function
- Aiding in learning, memory, and reaction time and in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and other neurodegenerative diseases at any stage of the disease
- Enhancing sexual potency for both men and women
- Stabilizing blood sugar
- Helping lower cholesterol
- Reduction of anxiety and depression without causing drowsiness
Ashwagandha is fun to say. More fun facts:
- Ashwagandha is commonly available as a churna, a fine sieved powder that can be mixed with water, ghee (clarified butter) or honey.
- It is a member of the nightshade family.
- It got its nickname “smell of the horse” as many say the root of the plant has a smell reminiscent of horse sweat (no worries on that score - GEM has you covered). Traditional practitioners also believed it could bestow the vigor and strength of a stallion.
- The berries also be used in cheesemaking as a substitute of rennet when coagulating milk.