Ashwagandha (botanical name – Withania somnifera), also referred to as winter cherry or Indian ginseng, is an evergreen shrub which grows in the Middle East, India, and parts of Africa.
In India, it is known as the “strength of the stallion” due to the fact that it has traditionally been used to strengthen the immune system. In Sanskrit, ashwagandha literally translates as “the smell of the horse,” that refers to both its ability to increase strength and unique smell.
It is classified as an adaptogenic herb, meaning that it gives your body protection against perpetually high cortisol levels and makes you even more resilient to the damaging effects of chronic stress.
It is a good source of iron, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, protein (especially tryptophan), carotenoids, calcium, magnesium and vitamin C. In addition, it contains a variety of beneficial elements, such as:
- lignans (fiber-associated compounds);
- glutathione (antioxidant and detoxifier of every cell in your body);
- superoxide dismutase;
Reduces Blood Sugar Levels
A few human studies have established its ability to reduce blood sugar (glucose) levels in both healthy people and people with type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Enhances The Immune Function
Because this herb works as an adaptogen which can reduce the body’s stress hormones, it can be used to reduce inflammation levels within the body and enhance the immune system.
Moreover, it has the potential to be a powerful anti-cancer agent as it slows the growth of some types of cancerous tumors.
Reduces Anxiety Levels
Anxiety disorders, including panic disorder without or with agoraphobia, affect over 10% of people in North America, Australia/New Zealand, and Western Europe.
This adaptogen has the capacity to reduce anxiety levels at a similar level of relief from anxiety as allopathic medicines, with fewer side effects, according to a study issued in the medical journal ”Phytomedicine.”
Research shows that this herb has a strong potential as a treatment option for rheumatoid arthritis.
Relaxation, a benefit derived from the adaptogen’s stress-fighting properties, also improves long-term visual memory because it protects the brain from the oxidative stress which leads to neurodegeneration.
Its extracts have the capacity to stimulate the production of nitric oxide (it performs important chemical signaling functions in humans) in the human body. This leads to a dilatation of the blood vessels which transport blood to the genitals, ultimately leading to increased sexual desire.
The usual recommended dose is 500 to 1,000 mg a day. For individuals who suffer from anxiety and insomnia, having a cup of tea which contains one tsp of powdered ashwagandha before bedtime is beneficial.
You can purchase this herb in powders, capsules, or as a liquid extract from the supplement or health food stores.
It is used in numerous supplements as a natural method to support thyroid health, nevertheless, it should not be used by people with a thyroid disorder as it can disrupt thyroid medications and increase the production of thyroid hormones.
Some studies also say that this adaptogen can cause bleeding, which is an important reason for anyone who is about to undergo surgery or has a bleeding disorder to avoid this herb.
Though this adaptogen herb is used in India by pregnant women, it is better to avoid it during pregnancy due to its spasmolytic activity on the uterus – the main cause of preterm labor (a labor which occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or miscarriages.
It is one of the most popular herbal medicines worldwide and is typically grown in certain cooler areas of North America and Asia.
There are two main types – Korean or Asian (Panax ginseng) or American ginseng.
It is also considered an adaptogen – an herbal remedy which makes you more resilient to physical, mental and environmental stress. Additionally, it is considered to lower LDL (bad) and total cholesterol levels, promote relaxation, boost energy, manage erectile dysfunction in men, and reduce stress.
It contains glycans, ginsenosides, flavonoids, maltol (also found in the bark of the larch tree), peptides (fundamental components of cells), vitamins A (in the form of carotenoids), volatile oils, polysaccharide fraction DPG-3-2 (stimulates insulin biosynthesis), vitamin B6, and zinc.
Cold & Flu
Both conditions are caused by viruses, but completely different ones. For instance, only 3 strains can cause flu, however, there are over 100 viruses which can cause the common cold.
People over 65 years of age who took an extract containing ginseng had approximately 55 percent reduction in duration and 60 percent reduction in relative risk of the common cold or flu.
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
An estimated 32 million people in the United States have type 2 diabetes mellitus and over 85 million people have prediabetes. By regulating the absorption of sugar, this adaptogen is able to protect the body from sudden spikes in blood sugar (glucose).
Lung Cancer Prevention
More Americans die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 155,526 people died from lung cancer in 2016. An extract containing this adaptogen substantially increases cancer cell death in lung cancer cells.
Side Effects And Precautions
A supplement containing an extract from ginseng can be taken in doses of 200 to 400mg a day. Nevertheless, some people can experience the following side effects:
- digestive problems;
- changes in blood pressure;
- sleep problems;
- blurred vision;
- severe skin reaction;
- decreased heart rate;
- seizures and convulsions;
- dry mouth.
Since it may affect blood glucose (sugar) levels, people taking prescription medicines for type 2 diabetes should not use this adaptogen without talking to their doctor first.
There are no well-done clinical studies regarding its safe use by pregnant and nursing women.
Bottom Line – Ashwagandha vs Ginseng
Both adaptogens have plenty of benefits for human health and should be included in everyone’s regular regime.