Ashwagandha can be used on an empty stomach
Ashwagandha - reduce stress with Indian medicinal plants
- Ashwagandha tastes a bit bitter, so taking capsules is recommended.
- @ iStock.com/eskymaks
In Ayurveda, the medicinal plant Ashwagandha is used for various diseases and ailments. Its effect is similar to that of ginseng, which is why it is also called "Indian ginseng": It has a strengthening effect when you are exhausted, relieves the symptoms of stress and promotes the quality of sleep. Due to its toning power, it can increase muscle strength and is even said to help with potency problems.
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What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is the name of the medicinal plant in Sanskrit. The sleeping berry (Latin Withania somnifera) belongs to the nightshade family. Other common names are winter cherry, jagida or Indian ginseng.
- The fruits of the sleeping berry are small, round and bright red.
- @ iStock.com / weisschr
The powdered roots and leaves are mainly used, and the dried berries can also be chewed.
The active ingredients of sleeping berries are various alkaloids and steroid lactones, above all the withanolides. They are similar in their effects to the steroid hormones cortisol, testosterone and estrogen and influence the hormonal balance. They also have an anti-inflammatory effect. Ashwagandha also contains the trace element iron, which is necessary for blood formation and helps against anemia (anemia).
How does Ashwagandha work?
The special thing about Ashwagandha is the performance-enhancing, strengthening effect in combination with the calming properties. Ashwagandha promotes healthy sleep, but does not make you tired during the day. At the same time, it strengthens the body and mind without causing restlessness.
In detail, Ashwagandha is said to have the following effects:
- strengthening (toning)
- calming, sleep-bringing
- anti-inflammatory, antioxidant
- adaptogenic, revitalizing
- hematopoietic and blood purifying
- aphrodisiac, fertility enhancing, potency enhancing
- memory enhancing
- immune-strengthening and immunomodulatory
- antihypotonic (against low blood pressure)
Adaptogenic mode of action: Ashwagandha against stress
Ashwagandha is valued by naturopaths primarily for its adaptogenic effects. Adaptogens are medicinal plants that are supposed to strengthen and purify the organism. In particular, they strengthen the body's ability to resist environmental toxins. They increase the ability to react to emotional and physical stress and have a balancing, tonic and calming effect on many modern diseases of civilization. At the same time, they provide energy and thus improve physical condition and endurance as well as mental clarity.
In Ayurveda and in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), adaptogens have been used for centuries. Other Asian medicinal plants with adaptogenic effects are
- Asian ginseng
- American ginseng
- Rhodiola (rose root)
- Eleuthero (Siberian ginseng, taiga root)
- Indian basil
Ashwagandha in Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, all people are divided into different types, so-called doshas. A distinction is made between Vata, Kapha and Pita Dosha. These are laid out in different proportions in each and should be in balance. If one of the doshas is disturbed, physical and mental health is impaired.
In particular, the Vata Dosha is disturbed for many people today due to hectic, stress and worries. Nervousness, insomnia and poor digestion are the result. In Ayurveda, Ashwagandha is said to balance the Vata and promote calm and clarity of the mind.
Uses of Ashwagandha
In European medicine - in conventional medicine as well as in naturopathy - the sleeping berry is now used more and more frequently. The possible areas of application are diverse.
Ashwagandha for stress, nervous restlessness, tension: The stress-reducing effect of Ashwagandha is presumably due to a reduction in the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Indian studies confirm the effect. The study participants had lower levels of stress, lower blood pressure and felt more comfortable overall.
Ashwagandha for fear and tension: In 2014, US scientists from SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse reviewed five clinical studies on the effectiveness of ashwagandha for anxiety and anxiety and were able to confirm its anti-anxiety and relaxing effects. It was also found to be effective in treating anxiety disorders.
Ashwagandha for insomnia: Ashwagandha is not called the sleeping berry for nothing. It has a calming and sleep-inducing effect by dampening the sympathetic nervous system. This part of the autonomic nervous system is responsible for fight or flight response. At the same time it strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that is responsible for recovery and digestion (rest and digest). So it helps both with falling asleep and sleeping through the night.
Ashwagandha for weight loss: Stress is a common cause of being overweight (obese). Ashwagandha capsules can help you lose weight by lowering cortisol levels. At the same time, the sleeping berry presumably increases the cells' insulin sensitivity, relieves the pancreas and has a regulating effect on the blood sugar level. This prevents food cravings and helps prevent type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Ashwagandha to increase libido and potency: The hormone testosterone is responsible for the libido in men and women. If the mirror is too low, there is no desire. Ashwagandha is said to increase testosterone production and thus effectively help against erectile dysfunction and loss of libido. However, this effect could not be confirmed in studies. However, the studies indicate that ashwagandha can improve sperm quality. Ashwagandha is recommended as an aphrodisiac in the Kamasutra. Rubbing in with Ashwagandha extract is said to prolong the erection.
Ashwagandha to strengthen strength and endurance: Ashwagandha products are very popular with strength athletes because they increase muscle mass and strength in equal measure. Many athletes take the capsules before training to improve muscle building and improve endurance. The effect is probably based on the stimulation of the body's own testosterone production, which is partly responsible for muscle growth and strength.
Ashwagandha in women: A 2015 study of 50 women confirmed that ashwagandha also increased women's sexual desire and arousal ability. The participants took 300 mg of the ashwagandha root extract twice a day for eight weeks. The cause is likely to be the stress-reducing, blood circulation-promoting and hormone-stimulating effect. In addition, there is evidence that Withania somnifera can also improve fertility.
Ashwagandha for inflammation: Chronic inflammation damages blood vessels and can lead to heart attacks or strokes in the long run. Ashwagandha has anti-inflammatory and immunomodulating effects by increasing the activity of natural killer cells (NK cells), a subspecies of lymphocytes. The sleeping berry can also support the treatment of skin diseases such as psoriasis or joint inflammation (arthritis). Both the external application and the internal gift can be helpful here.
Anti aging and increasing vitality: A study of 101 male participants between 50 and 59 years of age confirmed the anti-aging effect that sleep berries are said to have: After taking three grams of ashwagandha extract for a year, all showed a significant improvement in hemoglobin, a measurable increase in blood cells and one lower cholesterol levels. At the same time, they had less gray hair than the participants in the comparison group and reported an improved sex life.
Studies: Does Ashwagandha Really Work?
Most of the studies on the effectiveness of Ashwagandha so far have been carried out in India. The effectiveness against anxiety disorders, cognitive and neurological diseases, inflammation and Parkinson's has been confirmed. In the European and American regions, however, the study situation is still very poor. Animal experiments confirm the effectiveness in many areas of application, but valid scientific studies on humans are still lacking.
The study situation for the herbal food supplement Ashwagandha is still too thin to make valid medical recommendations and to determine an effective dose on a scientific basis.
Be careful with dietary supplements
Ashwagandha is currently only available as a dietary supplement in Germany and most other European countries. A drug with the active ingredient of the sleeping berry is only approved in Switzerland. It is used to treat sleep disorders, restlessness and anxiety. Experts take a critical view of this, as dietary supplements are less strictly controlled than drugs.
Consumer advocates have long complained about the relatively careless handling of dietary supplements, as there is often insufficient evidence of efficacy and dosage recommendations. They are calling for a medicinal plant classification, which would result in better quality reviews and robust scientific studies.
Possible side effects and contraindications
According to the current state of knowledge, no side effects are to be expected if the recommended dosage is adhered to. However, even with herbal products and dietary supplements, an allergic reaction to one of the ingredients can always occur. A severe overdose and ingestion of very large amounts can also lead to undesirable effects. These primarily affect the gastrointestinal tract and can manifest themselves as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
Interactions with other drugs or medicinal plants cannot be ruled out, however, due to the poor state of studies, there are few reliable findings on this. It is suspected that taking some prostate drugs (alpha reductase inhibitors), some diabetes and thyroid drugs, and various sleeping pills at the same time may lead to undesirable effects, but this has not been confirmed. To be on the safe side, a doctor should be consulted before use.
Use in children
Ashwagandha should not be used in children and adolescents who are still growing because of its effects on the endocrine system and the slight influence it has on hormonal status. Ashwagandha is contraindicated in children under one year of age.
Use during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Ashwagandha must also not be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding because of its mild hormonal effects. In principle, pregnant women should only take chemical and herbal medicines if strictly indicated and only after consulting their gynecologist.
When should you ask the doctor?
In the case of serious illnesses such as hormonal disorders, hyperthyroidism, cardiovascular diseases, anxiety disorders or depression, a doctor should be asked for advice before use.
Dosage and dosage forms
The sleeping berry is available in various dosage forms as
- Powder from the ground roots
- cut ashwagandha roots
- Tincture (extract of ashwagandha in alcoholic solution)
It is recommended to start with a dose of 300 to 500 mg per day. If there are no side effects within a few days, the dose can be increased to three times 300 mg per day. However, a daily dose of 1,500 mg should not be exceeded.
When should ashwagandha be taken?
Ashwagandha powder or capsules are best taken on an empty stomach, one hour before or two hours after a meal. In principle, it can be taken at any time of the day and independently of meals.
The time depends on the desired effect:
- For a sleep-inducing effect, ashwagandha should be consumed in the evening before going to bed.
- To improve muscle strength and endurance, Ashwagandha should be taken about half an hour before training.
- For the stress-reducing effect, Ashwagandha is taken in small single doses throughout the day.
Capsules, Powder, or Topical Use?
For many, taking unflavored capsules or tablets is the easiest. If you like the slightly bitter taste of Ashwagandha, you can also use the powder, which is more versatile.
Capsules, tablets and powders are available as dietary supplements in pharmacies, health food stores and online shops. Organic quality should be preferred, especially for long-term use. For good effectiveness, you should pay attention to a high proportion of withanolides when buying.
In addition to capsules with ashwagandha extract and powder for ingestion, there is also the option of external use. Pastes made from the roots or leaves of the plant are suitable for this purpose. In Ayurveda, oil massages with ashwagandha oil are used.
When does the desired effect set in?
Both the sleep-promoting and strength-enhancing effects take effect immediately with the first application. It takes longer for the stress-reducing, relaxation-promoting effect to take effect. Above all, it is important to take it regularly. Users also have to be patient for a balance of hormones. A few weeks or a few months can pass here before the full effect occurs.
Preparation of Ashwagandha tea
Put half a teaspoon of Ashwagandha powder (alternatively about three grams of the roots) in 250 ml of water, let it boil for ten minutes and then steep the brew for another 30 minutes. Drink three small cups throughout the day, this strengthens the nerves and calms you down. A little honey or agave syrup soften the slightly bitter taste.
Ashwagandha milk to help you fall asleep
Boil the roots or the powder in milk (cow's milk or plant-based milk). The brewing time is about five minutes. Spices such as vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom or anise round off the taste. Honey or agave syrup are suitable for sweetening. Ashwagandha milk calms you down and makes you tired, so it is the ideal nightcap in the evening.
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