From goji berries to garlic, many foods have been elevated to superfood status in recent years. Packed with phytonutrients, antioxidants and flavonoids, these superstar foods offer a whole range of incredible health benefits – when eaten as part of a balanced diet, of course.
And thanks to some impressive research, Ashwagandha has joined the superfood ranks too. Also know as Indian Ginseng, Ashwagandha is considered one of the most important adaptogens in Ayurvedic medicine. The herb’s anti-inflammatory properties help to ease bodily pains, calm the nervous system, increase stamina and boost concentration.
While Ashwagandha may be the new kid on the superfood block here in the Western world, its health benefits have actually been recognized for thousands of years in South Asia. Considered the Ayurvedic answer to ginseng, Ashwagandha offers similar adaptogenic properties to the Chinese herb. This means it’s a fantastic remedy for the stresses and strains of modern day life, helping the body adapt to new situations while also restoring a sense of wellbeing.
In Ayurveda, Ashwagandha has been used to help everything from memory loss to anxiety. But its health benefits aren’t limited to the mind. Boasting a potent mix of alkaloids, steroidal lactones, withanolides and saponins, Ashwagandha packs an impressive nutritional punch.
Find out more about our new favorite superfood with our roundup of Ashwagandha’s impressive health benefits.
Ashwagandha is perfectly positioned to reduce stress thanks to its ability to lower levels of cortisol, otherwise known as ‘the stress hormone’. In fact, a placebo-controlled clinical trial found that over a 60-day period, a regular dose of Ashwagandha significantly improved stress levels in 130 chronically stressed subjects.
Ashwagandha is well known in Ayurveda for its wound healing abilities. Traditionally fresh leaves are ground to make a smooth paste, then applied to areas of joint pain or swelling.
Research has suggested that Ashwagandha could boost stamina during physical activity. Thanks to its calming yet invigorating effect on the mind, scientists belief it can sharpen brain function and reduce aches and pains. One study found that lab rats fed Ashwagandha could swim for twice as long compared to those fed their normal diet.
Not only can Ashwagandha boost libido, but it’s been shown to improve fertility too. A 2008 study of 150 men, 75 of whom were undergoing fertility screening, found that Ashwagandha served as an antioxidant, inhibiting lipid peroxidation and thus improving sperm count.
For menopausal women, Ashwagandha could be a ray of hope in the battle against hot flashes, mood fluctuations and anxiety. Studies have suggested the superfood works by stimulating the endocrine glands and regulating the secretion of hormones.
The calming properties of Ashwagandha make it the perfect treatment for insomnia. For a truly relaxing bedtime drink, try mixing 1 teaspoon of Ashwagandha into a warm milk and honey. Its adaptogenic properties will help calm your mind, preparing your body for a good night’s sleep.
Traditionally, both the fresh leaves and root of Ashwagandha are used for their medicinal properties. While Ayurvedic medicine practitioners use the herb to make topical treatments and tinctures, nowadays you’re more likely to come across Ashwagandha in powdered form. But with so many supplements on the market, it can be hard to choose the best.
Here are just a couple of things to look for in an Ashwagandha supplement:
The best way to assure the product you’re buying is 100% pure is to stick with certified organic supplements. It’s also a good idea to pick a product that’s third party tested, as well as being made in compliance with GMP standards.
Not all Ashwagandha supplements are created equal. Make sure yours is up to scratch by ensuring it contains a minimum percentage of active ingredients, including withanolides, alkaloids and saponins.
Stay well clear of any supplements that mention ‘other ingredients’. It’s important you know exactly what you’re taking when it comes to supplements, so don’t take any risks.
If you would like to find out more health benefits that make this such a superfood then read our article the Health Benefits of Ashwagandha, for even more insight into this amazing herb.