The secret to vibrant health is actually very simple: harness your body’s own healing potency.
Between Big Pharma’s arsenal of allopathic medications and the natural health world’s overwhelming variety of holistic remedies, it can feel like the health solution you need is always outside of yourself. Because of conventional medicine’s profound influence on our society, even discussions about natural medicines are largely spoken of as “cures” or treatments for particular ailments.
It is true that wheatgrass can reverse hair graying, that coconut oil can effectively treat Alzheimer’s, and that turmeric combats too many conditions to name. But what’s important is how these natural plants and substances work their magic. All of the most powerful natural medicines work not by “targeting” a specific imbalance, but by supercharging the body’s own ability to bring its entire system into balance.
They support the body wholly, instead of taxing it in an attempt to balance one isolated part of the system.
There’s one class of plants that perfectly exemplifies this kind of holistic healing: adaptogens—literally “adaptation generators.”
One adaptogen that deserves its own discussion is ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha, is an adaptogenic herb popular in Ayurvedic medicine that has shown incredible results for lowering cortisol and balancing thyroid hormones.
In India, ashwagandha is known as the “strength of the stallion” since it has traditionally been used to strengthen the immune system after illness.
Ashwagandha has also been referred to as Indian ginseng because of its ability to enhance stamina and has extraordinary stress relieving properties.
Ancient plant, modern panacea
Ashwagandha is a shrub beloved of both ancient and modern practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine. It’s been used for thousands of years as a central herb in rasayana, the science and alchemy of promoting longevity, vitality, and optimal balance for the body and mind.
Modern scientists are finally realizing that ashwagandha, as well as other adaptogens, have some seriously healing potential that isn’t currently being tapped in conventional medicine. There have been over 200 studies on ashwaganda. Here’s a taste of the benefits that this powerful herb can provide…
The perfect fatigue solution. Coffee, energy drinks, and all the other artificial ways in which we prop ourselves up might work for a bit, but they inevitably lead to a nasty crash…and they tax the adrenals, immune system, and overall health in the process. Ashwagandha, on the other hand, offers a powerful boost of energy and endurance by supporting overall endocrine function. It even promotes healthy sleep at the same time—a seemingly paradoxical boast that conventional “energizers” certainly can’t make.
Real anxiety relief. The pick-me-ups mentioned above also have the unpleasant tendency to increase levels of cortisol, a pro-inflammatory compound that can easily bring about anxiety. Ashwagandha not only provides lasting energy and endurance without triggering anxiety, but also actively alleviates anxiety. One study even demonstrated that it significantly lowers cortisol levels. As an added benefit, it also heals the adrenal fatigue and hormonal imbalance that can come with daily consumption of coffee and other caffeinated beverages. If you’ve ever wanted a healthier alternative to coffee, ashwagandha might be just your cup of tea (no pun intended).
Thyroid support. One of the most prevalent complications that can come from hormonal imbalance (which often accompanies fatigue and anxiety) is thyroid dysfunction. As we discussed in another article, more than 12% of the American population suffers from some thyroid problem (and some experts consider this a low estimate). Conventional thyroid treatments are notoriously inconsistent, and they always target either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. With its whole-system-healing capability, ashwagandha can be used to heal both conditions (because it modulates thyroid system accordingly, rather than trying to fix a specific mechanism).
Natural treatment for heart disease, stomach issues, and even cancer. Adaptogens are usually highlighted for their ability to help with the issues mentioned above. By teaching the body how to better react to environmental stressors, adaptogens minimize the underlying conditions that lead to fatigue, anxiety, and seasonal illness.
But researchers are now finding that ashwagandha can also be used to prevent and treat a number of other serious health conditions with stunning effectiveness. Studies have shown that it works as a cardiovascular antioxidant and stabilizes arrhythmias without the side effects of heart medications, that it prevents ulcers, and even that it can kill cancerous tumors (while boosting the body’s ability to fight the cancer on its own).
How to take ashwagandha
This is definitely one healing herb that’s worth its weight in gold—be sure to give it a try, whether you’re battling one of the ailments mentioned above, searching for an alternative to coffee, or just interested in aiding your longevity.
Ashwagandha is best taken as a powdered supplement (which you should be able to find in most well-stocked health food stores). If you’re feeling adventurous, you can source some raw root online and make a traditional tea or cold water extraction.
Your best bet is a find a high-quality, 10:1 extract (this means that 1 gram of powder contains 10 grams worth of ashwagandha’s most healing compounds). With this kind of extract, you’ll feel a much more marked effect, and you won’t need to take as much. If you can’t find an extract like this (they’re much more rare), the capsules available in most stores will suit your purposes just fine.
The effects of adaptogens accumulate over time, so take it every day for at least a week before deciding what you think about it. Some people even report that they need to take it for 7-10 days before fully feeling the effects of each dose—once they do, though, most wonder why they waited so long to dive into the wonderful world of adaptogenic herbs.