How to Eat More Ashwagandha

In Sanskrit, ashwagandha means “smell of a horse”.

I’m not kidding.

While ashwagandha does have a sweet, somewhat hay-like scent, its name really comes from the fact that, in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is used to help people restore to themselves the vigor and vitality of a stallion.

I’m not sure it’s easy to confirm such a statement with research (what quantitative parameters would we use to measure stallion-ness, in a lab setting?). However, ashwagandha certainly does have research to support that it is psychologically and physically restorative and tonifying.

Ashwagandha, known scientifically as Withania somnifera, or colloquially as Indian ginseng, is actually part of the tomato family and bears charming little red fruit, much like its cousins. Medicinally, it is typically the root of the plant that is used internally. However, in Ayurvedic practices, sometimes the fruit and leaves of the plant are used topically as poultices for ulcers, wounds, and burns.

Ashwagandha is considered an “adaptogen”, which means it helps the body deal with stress. While many adaptogens work primarily by mobilizing and maintaining the body’s physiological response to stress, ashwagandha appears to work by calming a nervous system that has become overactive due to chronic stress.

In addition to pacifying stress-related symptoms, ashwagandha also has a host of other benefits relating to cardiovascular, immune, and reproductive health.

Let’s take a closer look:

Anxiety, Stress & Cortisol

Ashwagandha appears to be excellent at reducing anxiety in the context of chronic stress (as opposed to situation-specific, acute forms of anxiety). A variety of studies showed that daily supplementation with ashwagandha reduced both perceived stress and anxiety, as well as reduced stress hormones, such as cortisol [1,2,3].

Immunity

T cells and Natural Killer cells are two examples of white blood cells called lymphocytes. They are responsible for identifying and destroying “foreign invaders” like viruses and bacteria that get into our body, in order to prevent us from becoming ill. After a short period (about 4 days) of ashwagandha supplementation, immune enhancement was seen, as measured by an increase in T cell and Natural Killer cell activation [4].

Cancer

Ashwagandha has been shown to reduce tumor cell growth and as well as increase overall animal survival time. Additionally, in the treatment of cancer, ashwagandha has been shown to enhance the efficacy of radiation therapy while potentially reducing negative side effects. [5]

Cholesterol

Two small studies showed that after 30 days of supplementing with ashwagandha, a reduction in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), and triglycerides was seen [6,7].

Exercise Performance

A few studies show that ashwagandha has some promise in improving exercise performance. One study showed that supplementing with ashwagandha improved cardiorespiratory endurance in trained athletes [8], as measured by VO(2) max, METS, and a treadmill test. Another study, this time using “untrained” men, power output was increased, as measured by the ability to tolerate added load on a bench press [9].

Fertility

In a population of males with stress-related infertility, ashwagandha can help improve fertility parameters. Studies show that ashwagandha has the potential to improve semen quality [10,11], as well as increase levels of fertility hormones, such as testosterone and luteinizing hormone [12].

Now whaddya say, let’s sneak some ashwagandha in our food, and eat it up.

Ashwagandha Cookie Dough Balls

Balanced Energy Smoothie Bowl

Warming Ashwagandha Latte

In addition to the previous recipes, given its mild, grassy, slightly sweet flavour, ashwagandha root powder can easily be added to smoothies, baked goods, and warm beverages by the teaspoon. It can also be added neat to a mug of hot water to make a mind and body balancing tea.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about “Smell of a Horse”.

Take care, you stallion.

Alex 🙂


Alex Picot-Annand, BA (Psych), Registered Holistic Nutritionist & Certified Life Coach

www.alexpicotannand.com

References:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439798
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21407960
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19718255
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19388865
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17176166
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23125505
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11116534
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23326093
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26609282
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23796876
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19789214
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19501822