Understanding Ashwagandha

I used to work in a clinic as a medical assistant, a hectic and stressful situation. There are the demands of the position itself, of each doctor and of the patients—all needing to be met to both personal and professional satisfaction. One doctor in particular really drove me crazy. He was always behind, losing things, changing the schedule and in all ways interrupting the necessary order of things for a smoothly running machine. I finally sought help in the form of a supplement to help with the effects of stress. The formula I used contained a blend of just a few substances and I found it relieved my agitation within an hour. I would rush to the file room where I kept my “stash” to take a couple tablets and get back to a state in which I could deal with everything without feeling I might explode. With regular use, I found I coped better overall with multi-level demands, and I had a consistent energy level. One of the main ingredients in the blend was Ashwagandha. Later on, I discovered using the herb on its own was also hugely successful.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as winter cherry, has long been touted as the best rejuvenative in the Ayurvedic pharmacopeia. Understanding the beneficial tonifying effects of Ashwagandha also provides an understanding of how stress, overwork and adrenal fatigue affect the reproductive organs, libido, immunity and vitality. Ojas (a vital energy) is depleted by anger, worry and sorrow, as well as overwork and overstimulation. Ashwagandha increases vital energy by strengthening the reproductive organs. The vital energy generated in the reproductive organs creates a reserve that in turn feeds other systems of the body that are responsible for combating stress, and enhancing immunity and well-being. Ashwagandha’s effect on the reproductive organs promotes a healthy libido and fertility. In Sanskrit, Ashwagandha translates as “smell of a horse,” and this type of tonic is said to impart the strength and vitality of a horse, and is especially rejuvenating for muscle, marrow, semen and bone.

On another note, Ashwagandha is great for sleep. It is sattvic in nature, meaning it promotes the clear nature of the mind. During the day, Ashwagandha nurtures and clarifies the mind and promotes strong mental activity. At night, it is calming, and is said to promote deep, dreamless sleep. In this case, dreamless means free of agitation, concerns and worries. One of the side benefits I notice when I take an evening dose to combat stress and overwork faced during the day is that my sleep is more sound and deep, and therefore more restful. Good sleep also leads to more vitality, less illness, better stress-management and a biological age younger than our years.

As with almost all medicines, both natural and man-made, there are a few precautions. If a person is quite ill, on a number of medications and their bodily organs aren’t functioning well, it is best to let an experienced herbal medicine practitioner decide what is best. A person who is quite obese and suffering overall congestion as experienced in chronic constipation, lung and sinus congestion, head congestion and constant headaches may need to pursue other therapies first with a health practitioner before he can benefit from an herb like Ashwagandha.

It is usually recommended to take between 600 and 1,000 mg/d of standardized Ashwagandha. It can be taken with warm water or herbal tea, but it has a better tonifying effect and is carried to the reproductive tissues if taken with a warm milky substance (cow’s milk, almond milk, oat milk, rice milk, etc.) and a pinch of raw sugar or honey.

Ashwagandha is beneficial to all three doshas, although it is especially indicated for the Vata dosha, which is more easily depleted and worn out and tends to need more regular tonification.

Modern society throws almost all of us out of balance. It can sap our vitality and make us susceptible to disease. Many consumers use coffee and other stimulants to get through life, but that often leads to a crash. An herb such as Ashwagandha becomes extremely important in this day and age. It is ideal for the person who feels stressed, extremely busy, overwhelmed, tired or even exhausted, but is still functioning and trying to get the job done. With the rise in interest in slowing down the aging process, and in living stronger and healthier into old age, Ashwagandha is sure to become a popular herb.

Originally published by, Natural Practitioner Magazine in 2012

HerbsRamy Mam