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INGREDIENT OF THE WEEK: ASHWAGANDHA

SEPTEMBER 22, 2016

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic healing, has been used since ancient times for a wide variety of conditions, and is most well-known for its restorative benefits. In Sanskrit Ashwagandha means “the smell of a horse,” indicating that the herb imparts the vigor and strength of a stallion, and has traditionally been prescribed to help people strengthen their immune system after an illness.

Belonging to the same family as the tomato, Ashwagandha is a plump shrub with oval leaves and yellow flowers. It bears red fruit about the size of a raisin. The herb is native to the dry regions of India, northern Africa, and the Middle East, and today is also grown in more mild climates, including the United States.

Why Use?

Do any of these common symptoms sound familiar?

  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating

The use of the Ayurvedic herb, Ashwagandha can help alleviate these symptoms and support an energetic and rejuvenating sense of wellbeing. Ashwagandha root is easily available in the marketplace in powdered, dried, or fresh (root) form that can be chewed or brewed as a tea.

Benefits and Healing Effects:

Ashwagandha contains many useful medicinal chemicals, including withanolides (steroidal lactones), alkaloids, choline, fatty acids, amino acids, and a variety of sugars. While the leaves and fruit have valuable therapeutic properties, the root of the Ashwagandha plant is the part most commonly used in Western herbal remedies.

Medical researchers have been studying Ashwagandha for years with great interest and have completed more than 200 studies on the healing benefits of this botanical. Some key examples of the healing effects of Ashwagandha are:

  • Protects the immune system
  • Helps combat the effects of stress
  • Improves learning, memory, and reaction time
  • Reduces anxiety and depression without causing drowsiness
  • Helps reduce brain-cell degeneration
  • Stabilizes blood sugar
  • Helps lower cholesterol
  • Offers anti-inflammatory benefits
  • Contains anti-malarial properties
  • Performance enhancer

Studies Suggest Potent Anti-Cancer Activity

In addition to ashwagandha’s documented neuroprotective effects, exciting recent evidence suggests that it also has the potential to stop cancer cells in their tracks. For example, a recent analysis showed that ashwagandha extract inhibited the growth of human breast, lung, and colon cancer cell lines in the laboratory. This inhibition was comparable to that achieved with the common cancer chemotherapy drug doxorubicin (Caelyx®, Myocet®). In fact, researchers reported that withaferin A, a specific compound extracted from ashwagandha, was more effective than doxorubicin in inhibiting breast and colon cancer cell growth.

Scientists in India recently conducted cell studies showing that ashwagandha extract disrupts cancer cells’ ability to reproduce—a key step in fighting cancer. Additionally, laboratory analysis indicates that ashwagandha extract possesses anti-angiogenic activity, also known as the ability to prevent cancer from forming new blood vessels to support its unbridled growth. These findings lend further support to ashwagandha’s potential role in fighting cancer. Based on these studies, research in this area continues.