We’re all trying to be healthy. Between exercising, drinking enough water, getting the right amount of sleep, limiting screen time, and eating all our superfoods (you gotta hit those five a day!), being a person in 2021 is exhausting.
But one of the most important things that people seem to overlook is the importance of vitamins in our daily routine. Maybe your parents had you take a multivitamin (the cool kids on the vitamin block), or some vitamins like C, D, and their cousin Omega. We all knew they were good for us, even if we didn’t know exactly why.
Well, now that we’re adults, we’re finding time to hang with the entire vitamin gang, and guess what? There’s a new (old) kid on the block.
You might mispronounce this ancient herb’s name, which has recently come into vogue in Western culture and is available in all sorts of forms, such as pill
. But the scientific research going into this evergreen, woody shrub that grows in India, the Middle East, and Africa won’t make you stutter.
So how does it help our minds and bodies? Oh, we’re about to tell you!
Ashwagandha is also known by the names “Indian Winter cherry” and “Indian Ginseng,” and scientifically as “Withania somnifera.” The herb is part of traditional medicine used in Indian Ayurveda, and was used for years before we were able to find it in health food stores. (You know, the ones you’re too scared to go into because everything comes in giant container tubs and everyone inside is overly smiley?)
Historically, ashwagandha has been used as an antioxidant (think: purifying), adaptogen (helping the body fight stress), aphrodisiac (for those sexy mood feelings), and anti-inflammatory agent. Known for its wide-ranging health benefits, the science behind ashwagandha is that the plant’s natural alkaloids
and other chemicals — like amino acids and high amounts of iron — help the body fight free radicals. Free radicals are unstable cells that can cause damage in our bodies, and are linked to things like aging and cell degeneration. Ashwagandha contains elements such as iron and glycowithanolides that have been tested and shown to reduce the effects of enzymes associated with free radicals.
1. Reduced Stress and Anxiety
Anxiety and stress are widespread in modern life, and never more so since 2020 took a major left turn and changed many of our trajectories in unexpected ways (aka, the year from hell). So it’s no wonder that the properties of ashwagandha are being investigated as an alternative way to tackle anxiety. Long term stress can have a very adverse affect on our body, and has been linked to the decline of overall health and the complication of existing diseases (heart disease, degenerative mental states, weight gain…)
Scientific studies conducted show that ashwagandha decreased stress in rats.
Which kind of makes us pause, because… what were those rats up to? Moving on…
There are plenty of articles online which tout the benefits of ashwagandha on stress, but the science behind it is that it reduces the effects of cortisol. In fact, a sixty day trial on humans
showed the reduction of cortisol in the participants of the study, and increased mood and positivity overall. Look, any herb that has been shown to reduce depression and boost moods is worth investigating.
2. Sexual Health and Wellbeing
Sex can be a sensitive topic, even in today’s more open and accepting world. It is hard to put your hand up and say, “I don’t feel very sexy or sexual.” And where do you go when you’ve lost the mojo? If you’re sick with the sniffles, we know you can take cold and flu medication; if you have stomach issues, there’s a pill for that, too. But sexual dysfunction? Ummm… Viagra?
Enter ashwagandha, which has been shown to assist in the treatment of female sexual dysfunction (FSD) and
increase testosterone in both men and women, which can cause a reduced sexual desire in both sexes.
Move over, Barry White.
As we know that being stressed can negatively affect ones sex drive, there’s also an argument in scientific circles that the reduction of stress and cortisol (as mentioned above) could be one of the reasons that ashwagandha is effective in boosting sexual health and wellbeing.
Well, well, well, how simple it seems all laid out like that…
3. Memory and Cognitive Functions
As if making us feel less stressed and more sexual wasn’t enough of an achievement for this short shrub, the scientific community is also investigating the effects of ashwagandha on memory, which so far seems to be showing positive results. An eight week study
conducted on adults with mild cognitive impairment showed significant improvements on general memory in the test group, as well as improvements in executive function, attention, and information processing speed.
Obviously, our minds and bodies are deeply connected, and by taking care of our stress levels, our sexual health, and our cognitive functions, our bodies are going to reap the benefits and show improvements overall.
Like any vitamin or supplement, ashwagandha should be taken in moderation and only as directed. Those with underlying health conditions should seek advice from medical professionals before diving headfirst into the herb.
As the scientific community continues to explore this ancient herb, more and more benefits are being uncovered daily. We can’t help but think that Ayurvedic medicine, which has been around for thousands of years, might be worth a second look.
Besides, anything that can help with stress and improve your memory (of how sexy you are!) is definitely at the top of our list!