A mainstay of traditional Indian medicine for centuries, ashwagandha powder is an herbal remedy derived from the powdered root of the ashwagandha shrub, known scientifically as Withania somnifera. The shrub, a member of the nightshade family that is also known as Indian ginseng, is native to the arid regions of India, the Middle East and North Africa, and it is also cultivated today in milder climates, including parts of the United States. Prized by the ancients for its reputed rejuvenating properties, ashwagandha is getting increased attention in light of medical research providing evidence of its medicinal properties. Consult your doctor before taking ashwagandha or any other herbal remedy.
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Naturopathic doctor Marie Winters undertook a review of the scientific literature covering ashwagandha’s potential as a complementary therapy in the treatment of cancer. In an article published in the 2006 issue of “Alternative Medicine Review,” Winters cites in vitro and animal studies showing that ashwagandha is effective in inhibiting the spread of tumor cells while also extending the lives of animals studied. Other studies included in Winters’ review indicate that ashwagandha eases the effects of radiation treatment and chemotherapy on patients without in any way lessening the effectiveness of these treatments. Winters concludes that ashwagandha “presents itself as a novel complementary therapy for oncology care.”
Combats Stress-Related Hypertension
A team of Indian researchers conducted a small-scale clinical study to determine whether daily supplementation with ashwagandha could help treat stress-related hypertension. Researchers assembled a study group of 51 stress-oriented hypertensive patients, who were then divided into two roughly equal groups. One group received 2 grams of ashwagandha root powder daily with milk, and the other got the same amount of ashwagandha with water. Blood pressure readings were taken daily over a three-month period. Both groups showed significant decreases in diastolic blood pressure, and those receiving ashwagandha with milk also showed some decline in systolic blood pressure. Publishing their results in a 2012 issue of “Studies on Ethno-Medicine,” researchers recommended treating stress-oriented hypertension with a supplement of ashwagandha with milk.
Stimulates Immune System
Elevated levels of stress can inhibit the immune system’s ability to fight infection. Two researchers at the University of Louisville conducted an animal study to see whether an extract of ashwagandha by itself and in combination with an extract of maitake could overcome stress-related defects in immune response. Maitake is a type of mushroom, known scientifically as Grifola frondosa. Writing in “North American Journal of Medical Sciences” in 2011, the researchers reported that both ashwagandha by itself and in combination with maitake enhanced immune response but that the combination treatment was significantly more effective.
The increased use of prescription antibiotics seems to be giving rise to a number of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, a phenomenon that has helped to fuel the search for natural alternatives to commercial antibiotics. A team of Indian biochemistry researchers compared the efficacy of ethanol and methanol extracts of ashwagandha with the effectiveness of commercial antibiotics gentamicin and tetracycline. All were tested for their effectiveness against the following infectious bacterial strains: Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Salmonella typhi. Reporting in 2013 on their findings in the “Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research,” researchers said both extracts of ashwagandha showed strong antibacterial properties, but the methanol extract was the most effective, matching or outperforming the two commercial antibiotics.