Ashwagandha: Ayurveda's Most Highly Acclaimed Adaptogen
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is not just another adaptogenic herb; I find the clinical applications for this herb absolutely amazing. I am pleased to report that both self-directed consumers and the scientific community have finally discovered the amazing and broad benefits of Ashwagandha. I have used it for over 20 years for my patients who are serious about helping establish a strong foundation of overall wellness. In my clinical practice, I use Ashwagandha along with a healthy diet and lifestyle to support adrenals, thyroid, brain performance, immune function, endurance and stamina and so much more.
Long ago, humanity left the peaceful existence of communing with nature and adopted technology and electronic connectivity instead. The human body has never experienced such a change in lifestyle in all of recorded history. So, what is a body to do? As we adopt new stressors we need to help our body adapt.
Ashwagandha confers the overall ability to support adrenal function as an adaptogen. In addition, it has also been shown in three studies to help lower the stress hormone called cortisol, that when elevated, can lower immune function and contribute to insomnia. Cortisol is also associated with increased midriff weight. It has been reported in the medical literature that Ashwagandha helps lower the effects of stress, including fatigue and the temporary mental strain.
Fitness is so important, as far too many of us have sedentary jobs and lifestyles. When we finish our daily obligations, we are often tired, and pursuing exercise when one’s energy is low is a real challenge. My patients have discovered what the scientific researchers have demonstrated, which is that Ashwagandha can help rally the energy needed to get up and get going. It is always important to not overdo it when it comes to working out, but my patients report that they feel like they have a little more left in their tank after their normal workouts.
Ashwagandha has also been studied for anxiety and social phobia. As I share with patients that suffer from the stress of modern living, helping conserve mental energy by being less stressed and anxious helps preserve brain chemistry. My patients also routinely use this amazing botanical as part of their approach to depression.
In a clinical trial involving 87 people over 12 weeks, they were either given placebo or 300 milligrams of Ashwagandha twice a day. Those receiving Ashwagandha reported improvements with anxiety, focus as well as decreased stress and less fatigue than the placebo group.
Clinical studies have shown that there can be positive changes in total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol), HDL (good cholesterol) and help in minimizing inflammation as measured by c-reactive protein. There has even been a study showing a small improvement in blood pressure readings. It is now believed by a growing number of experts that merely focusing on cholesterol management is missing the boat. Ensuring that inflammation is controlled is essential in protecting the 60,000 miles of blood vessels that irrigate the trillions of cells that comprise your body.
Blood Sugar Support
Elevated blood sugar is “the great accelerant” to the onset of many diseases including heart disease, immune challenges and dementia. There are over 80 million pre-diabetics in the United States. Controlling stress and supporting adrenal function are essential steps, along with diet and lifestyle, to support success in blood sugar regulation. Evidence is accumulating that as part of an overall wellness program, Ashwagandha can help support your goals.
With over two decades of experience working with patients with a sluggish thyroid, I find Ashwagandha to be a great adjunct for the patients struggling with brain fog and feeling energy deficit. In addition, most patients newly diagnosed and treated with thyroid hormone experience a spurt of increased energy, but discover that their adrenal glands often find the heightened level of newfound energy hard to deal with. In animal studies, there have also been positive changes to thyroid hormone levels with the addition of Ashwagandha.
When selecting an herbal supplement, one needs to consider its base of scientific research, the breadth of historical uses that have occurred often over millennia and the quality of the botanical being used. I recommend truly knowing the journey that your supplement has taken before it was bottled. What I refer to as “seed to patient” — how was it grown, harvested, shipped and processed. It is also vitally important to ensure you are investing in your body with organic or wildcrafted herbals, as your body is the oldest and most prized possession you own.
Peace and Abundant Blessings,
Dr. Chris Meletis, N.D.
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