Ashwagandha has been used as an organic, natural herbal supplement for centuries. It tends to have few adverse side effects, and is in general, well tolerated with a number of health benefits. It falls under the category of "adaptogenic herb" which means it has the natural superpower of helping manage stress and anxiety. The ashwagandha plant is a small shrub with yellow flowers. It's most commonly native to both India, the Middle East, and North Africa. Extracts from the plant, or powder from the plant's root or leaves are used to treat, prevent, and assist in managing a variety of conditions. It is offered as a capsule and powder, though some find the unique smell of the plant and powder off-putting. A fun side-note on this, the name ashwagandha describes the smell of its root (like a horse), as by definition, "ashwa" means horse, which my fellow equestrians may appreciate.
Ashwagandha offers many other benefits for your mind and body. Not only can it reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, it also aids in concentration, and increasing energy levels. It has the ability to reduce cortisol levels, in case you aren't familiar, cortisol is like natures build in alarm system, your bodies main stress hormone. Cortisol also alerts us when our blood sugar levels become too low. It may be best known for its ability to decrease stress and anxiety. While not yet studied enough, it is also said it can decrease symptoms of depression. It may also boost brain function, memory, even brain function problems caused by either injury or disease.
It's been tested and proven to also be able to lower blood sugar levels, along with having the ability to assist in cancer prevention, and impeding the growth of new cancer cells. While more testing and research is needed, recent studies suggest that there is a chance that ashwagandha may help treat several types of cancer, including lung, colon, brain, breast, and ovarian cancers. It also aids in decreasing inflammation, making it a valuable source for those living with chronic illnesses, chronic pain, and other inflammation issues. It has been shown to decrease markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein (CRP) This may also be an additional benefit for athletes of any type, decreasing inflammation from workouts, along with the fact that it may improve body composition, assist in increasing strength, energy, and potentially greater gains in muscle.
Pregnant women should avoid using ashwagandha because it has the potential to cause early delivery or miscarriage. As always, it is recommended that you speak with your doctor or health care provider before introducing any supplements or medications into your diet.