Life in the 21st century is full of stress in the form of emotional setbacks, environmental toxins, physical trauma and poor nutrition. This stress depletes the body of critical nutrients and causes oxidation of various cellular elements. Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that helps the body successfully adapt to stressful conditions.
Ashwagandha is also called Indian ginseng, winter cherry, and Withania Somnifera. Although it grows naturally in North America and Africa it is most commonly associated with the Ayurvedic traditions of the east. Ayurveda is an ancient philosophy and application of natural health common in India and the Far East. This tradition is known to use the roots of the Withania Somnifera plant to prepare Ashwagandha which has been used for a myriad of health conditions throughout the centuries by Ayurvedic practitioners.
This exotic herb has powerful antioxidant properties that protect the brain and nervous system. Premature aging associated with chronic tension on the nervous system is related to increased oxidative stress. This stress increases lipid peroxidation while decreasing critical antioxidant enzymes catalase and glutathione peroxidase.
One amazing animal study showed how powerful ashwagandha is at reducing tension and stress on the nervous system. Animals exposed to chronic stress had 85% of their cells showing signs of chronic degeneration. When ashwagandha was administered to another group of chronically stressed animals the number of damaged cells dropped by 80%.
In the largest human trial using ashwagandha the herb was shown to reduce cortisol levels up to 26%. Chronically elevated cortisol increases inflammatory and degenerative processes in the body. Additionally, the participants had a lowered fasting blood sugar level and improved lipid profile patterns.
This herb has been shown in studies to have as strong an anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effect as leading name brand medications. Ashwagandha has been shown to support the regeneration and reconstruction of nerve cells and synapses. This suggests that ashwagandha could help reverse states of brain and nervous system degeneration. This makes it a potent defense against dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
Ashwagandha has been shown to disrupt cancer cells ability to effectively reproduce. This is due to the anti-angiogenic activity that ashwagandha contains in which it prevents cancer cells from forming new blood vessels that support its growth. One study showed that ashwagandha produced a marked increase in life span and a decrease in overall tumor weight in animals with cancer of the lymphatic system.
It has also been shown to decrease the formation and potentiation of certain oncogene characteristics. These include inhibiting the formation of nuclear factor Kappa Beta, and intracellular tumor necrosis factor. Additionally, this herb has been shown to increase the sensitivity of the apoptotic signaling that allows for the natural regulation of cancer cells in the body.
Ashwagandha can be found in supplement capsules, in the dried root form, or as a natural growing plant. In fact, one could grow it in their backyard during the heat of the summer. This plant loves hot sun and sandy soil. It is very good to use dried or fresh ground root. This can be put into different types of tea, smoothies, salads or green drinks. Another easy way to ingest Ashwagandha is to buy organic teas that contain the herb. Typically, these teas are marketed for their immune, memory and relaxation benefits.
Our hormones function best when they are stress free and balancing with bioidentical hormones is the first stop to achieving that harmony. Supporting that process with the use of adaptogenic herbs such as Ashwagandha, along with an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, optimize the body’s ability to adapt to stress. This herb has been used by cultures around the world for thousands of years to improve immunity, stress, memory, and promote overall wellness.
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Dr. David Jockers owns and operates Exodus Health Center in Kennesaw, Georgia. He is a chiropractor, exercise physiologist and natural health specialist. His expertise is in weight loss, customized nutrition and exercise, and structural corrective chiropractic care. For more information on him and his practice, or question about his work, go to www.exodushc.com