Withania somnifera means “sleep inducing.” However, it’s better known as ashwagandha, a recognized sleep aid for at least 2,500 years in the Ayurvedic traditions of India. A member of the nightshade family, this herb has other beneficial effects such as reducing the effects of stress.

Ashwagandha balances thyroid hormones and cortisol levels. In addition to its antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties, it is recognized as a neuroprotective that preserves neuronal structure and function. Like other neuroprotectors, it is not known to reverse damage already done, but it may protect against further nerve damage and slow down central nervous system degeneration.

This miracle herb has anti-diabetic effects by balancing blood sugar levels. While not recommended for pregnant or nursing women, or those with autoimmune disorders, multiple sclerosis, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, it has anti-inflammatory and many other beneficial properties and few side effects. There is even some promising research suggesting its effectiveness in fighting cancer. The Journal of Ethnopharmacology published a study showing that ashwagandha supplementation increased white blood cells in animals, which helps the body fight disease.

In medicine, prevention is the next best thing to an outright cure. Ashwagandha has also earned a reputation for its potential role in regeneration and rejuvenation to improve longevity and quality of human life. “Ayurvedic medicinal plants have been the single-most productive source of leads for the development of drugs,” according to Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy.

Another great attribute of ashwagandha is its ability to enhance energy and muscle strength. Its ability to boost the immune system earned it the epithets “strength of the stallion” and “Indian ginseng.” It is commercially available as an ingredient in health shakes, in capsule form or in raw powder at health food stores so that it can be combined with shakes or juices at home. As always, do your research, and see if incorporating this
natural wonder drug into your diet is right for you!

By Dr. Nirali Patel