Traditional Indian Herb Helps Relieve Stress, and More
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an Asian herb that’s been used by practitioners of Ayurveda, the Indian system of traditional medicine, for thousands of years. It’s usually prescribed to alleviate stress and to help the body adapt to various challenges. It’s classified as a “Rasayana,” or rejuvenator, in Ayurvedic medicine. It’s also sometimes referred to as an “adaptogen,” due to its reputed ability to help the body adapt to stress. Modern research shows that active compounds in ashwagandha, known as withanolides, are potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. And emerging research suggests they may also be cancer fighters.
In a recent controlled study, people who blindly received a concentrated extract of ashwagandha root enjoyed significantly lower self-reported stress than subjects who took a sham pill. Researchers also looked at a more objective measure of stress, blood cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that goes up when we’re stressed, so it’s a good marker of chronic stress and anxiety. Chronically high cortisol is associated declining immunity, greater inflammation and a higher risk of diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Stress may even play a role in obesity.
Ashwagandha is among the most revered of the many herbs used for healing in Ayurveda. It’s reputation appears to be well deserved. Studies show that it is safe and well tolerated, and exciting new research suggests it may fight various cancers through a variety of mechanisms.
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