India’s Ashwagandha Herb: The Miracle Medicine
Ancient and Modern Art of Healing
Medicine is deeply engraved in Indian culture and tradition. The rich history of Indian medical practices has contributed to the development of major health practices of today. Breakthroughs like Ashwagandha Herb has placed India in the limelight of medicine.
But first, let us understand India’s medical system and how it is distinct among other practices.
India and Medicine
Indian Medicine gives importance to maintaining the balance between the mind, body, and spirit to attain a healthy lifestyle. The elements of nature, universal energies, and spiritual balance are central to Indian medicine. Given the enormous knowledge in medicine, traditional Indian medicine paved the way for the development and advancement of medicine in the modern period. Modern technology and innovations are vital factors in bridging the gap between the ancient and modern art of healing.
The traditional concepts of Indian medicine can be traced from the religious texts of Vedas. The Vedas are numerous collection of sacred materials, religious writings, mythologies, prayers and narratives that are considered important in the Vedic religion. There are four main Vedas that shaped the knowledge and practice of Indian civilization namely Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, and Atharvaveda.
Among these Vedas, Indian traditional medicine attributes its wisdom from Atharvaveda or the collection of books composed of beliefs and practices of everyday life. The Atharvaveda is also known as the Veda of magic formulas as it encompasses knowledge on religion nor science.
The rich history of Indian traditional medicine is believed to have originated 5000 years ago from a god. Hindu creator Brahma granted the gift of medicine to Dhanvantari who was proclaimed as the lord of Indian medicine.
Dhanvantari was blessed with the system of medicine traditionally known as Ayurveda. This system became the anchor of Indian medicine, now widely known around the world and has flourished through time.
Ayurveda or the science of life gives importance to the benefits and strengths of natural remedies, the relationship of the physical body to nature, and the energy of the universe that synchronizes with the person’s health state.
Ayurveda’s approach to health care focuses on how universal energies affect human physiology. This system also believes that a higher being is the ultimate source of health and governs the laws of nature. Natural energies must be balanced and established to attain health stability.
Ayurveda provides ways to balance the elements in the body such as through meditations, therapies, and exercises. Ayurveda also recognizes the unique characteristics of each individual, therefore, providing different approaches to address different diseases. Ultimately, Ayurveda’s holistic approach to nurturing the mind, body, and spirit strengthens its credibility in the realm of public health.
In practice, an Ayurvedic practitioner believes that the mind, body, and spirit must harmonize with the energies of the universe to attain good health and lifestyle. Illness, injuries, and diseases arise when this balance is disrupted.
In applying Ayurvedic treatment, a practitioner evaluates the patient’s physical and emotional make-up and life forces. The primary goal of the treatment is to establish balance and harmonize all the elements in the body.
The body is governed by three major doshas namely:
- Vata dosha,
- Pitta Dosha, and
- Kapha Dosha
Each dosha controls different body functions and health issues arise when these doshas are imbalanced.
Among the three doshas in Ayurvedic medicine, Vata dosha is the most powerful. Vata dosha controls the most basic body functions such as the cell cycle and cell division. It is associated with the energy of the wind and controls body movements.
The energies of Vatadosha control flexibility, creativity, and spiritual flow. It is also responsible for maintaining and controlling the mind, heart, muscles and blood flow. If there is a disruption in Vata dosha, health conditions such as:
- heart disease,
- skin conditions, and
- arthritis may arise.
To maintain the stability of Vata dosha, several practices such as grounding meditation, and modifying morning and nighttime routines are beneficial to bring back the balance in one’s body.
For people who are experiencing a Vata dosha imbalance, eating foods rich in protein, healthy fats and nutrients are beneficial for nourishment. Eating vegetables, drinking milk and staying hydrated is also important to attain balance.
The next element in the body is the Pitta Dosha. If Vata dosha is associated with wind energy, Pitta Dosha is linked with fire. Pitta Dosha’s main characteristics include the control of endocrine, metabolic, and digestive systems.
Pitta Dosha is responsible for the management of metabolism, digestion, and hormones. If there is an imbalance in Pitta Dosha, conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and infections may develop. To balance the Pitta Dosha, eating sweet fruits, drinking coconut water, and consuming plenty of grains are important.
Lastly, the Kapha Dosha or the life force associated with earth and water elements. Kapha Dosha is responsible for the overall immune system, muscle growth, weight, body strength, and stability. Several practices such as inadequate sleep, eating too much sweet or salty foods, and consuming alcoholic drinks may result in Kapha Dosha imbalance.
The conditions that may arise due to Kapha Dosha imbalance are asthma, cancer, breathing disorders, nausea, and obesity. For people with Kapha Dosha imbalance, mindful activities such as yoga, meditation, breathwork, and other mental stimulations.
Indian Medicine and Technology Today
Ayurveda has a rich history and Ayurvedic practices have become part of different medical systems until today. The golden age of Indian medicine was marked by the emergence of three books namely Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, and Astanga Hridaya. The great trilogy is considered as the main source of Ayurvedic medicine.
Ayurvedic medicine is an integral part of the development of several branches of medicine known today. In general medicine, Ayurvedic medicine influenced several fields such as surgery, homeopathy, otology, otorhinolaryngology, otorhinolaryngology, toxicology, pediatrics, psychiatry, sexology, and gynecology.
To institutionalize and promote Ayurvedic medicine, the government of India established the Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences. To further produce knowledge and research about Ayurvedic medicine in India, over 2000 colleges offer degrees in Ayurvedic medicine.
Traditional medical practices and knowledge are now incorporated in India’s modern health care system. Today, innovation and modern scientific techniques are being applied to traditional Indian medicine. One example is the development of Ethnopharmacology.
It is the systematic study of medicinal plant use in several cultural groups. Traditional Indian medicine largely uses natural remedies and herbal medicines in treating different diseases. But the lack of technology hinders medical practitioners to validate the effectiveness and safety of natural remedies. Now, with the help of modern technology, the production and use of medicinal plants can be regulated through clinical experiments and studies.
Another advancement in the field of pharmacology and chemistry is the development of high-throughput screening. In high-throughput screening, a large number of compounds are scientifically tested for the discovery and production of modern medicines. This method of scientific experimentation uses automation, miniaturized assays, and large-scale data analysis.
High-throughput screening is important in drug discovery as it provides reliable results on active compounds, antibodies or genes that may affect biochemical processes in the body. Through this modern approach, traditional medicines can be tested for safety and know how they affect the body.
Systems biology is another modern approach to traditional medicine. It is a process in biomedical research that analyzes organisms, tissues or cells. In contrast to reductionist biology that analyzes biological systems separately, systems biology applies a holistic approach. It is a biology-based scientific field of study that aims to understand the different chemicals and metabolic processes that happens within the body.
Traditional medicine often uses different mixtures of natural remedies. Through systems biology, the whole body’s response to different mixtures of compounds can be measured and analyzed. As a result, Clinical trials on herbal products greatly affect the public trust and acceptance of Ayurvedic traditional medicines.
Several medical breakthroughs in India can be accounted to modern technology today. Three of the most significant are the execution of robotic liver transplants, robotic cardiac surgeries, and cyberknife radiosurgery.
Traditionally, Hindus were prohibited to perform surgery or the cutting of the body. But in the modern period, Indians are now known to be outstanding in terms of carrying out surgical operations. In 2011, surgeons performed the first robotic liver transplant in India to save the life of a four-year-old child. The doctors performed a successful operation and it was just the third robotic liver transplant done in the world.
Apart from robotic liver transplants, Indian surgeons are also performing robotic cardiac surgeries. With the advancement of technology, doctors can perform heart surgery using robot-controlled tools. In 2017, a hospital in India conducted its first robot-assisted cardiac surgery to save the life of a 64-year-old man.
Robotic liver transplants provide an extremely fast healing and recovery period for patients. The patient was able to recover after two weeks compared to a regular by-pass surgery that would take patients to recover around six to 12 weeks.
Surgeons in India are also known for Cyberknife radiosurgery. Cyberknife is the first robotic radiosurgery system in the world that can cure tumors and lesions. In 2009, six patients were treated using the Cyberknife radiosurgery in India. John Adler, the inventor of the robotic radiosurgery system, aims to improve cancer treatment using this technology.
Before, tumors and lesions are considered incurable through manual surgery. But in the emergence of modern technology, the treatment of tumors and lesions is now possible with high precision through Cyberknife radiosurgery.
Besides this, another strong contender in breakthroughs is the discovery of India’s Ashwagandha Herb.
Modern technology allows the discovery and production of medicines that are proven beneficial for the treatment of many diseases. Several research suggests that Ashwagandha Herb is possibly beneficial for the treatment of certain cancers, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, and anxiety disorders.
Ashwagandha herb is a traditional medicine that is now used in the form of capsules, powder, or liquid extract. It is generally used in Ayurvedic medicine that can be traced from 4000 years ago. It traditionally grows in different countries such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and some parts of Africa. In the Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine, Ashwagandha Herb is used as a tonic because of its reviving properties.
The Ashwagandha herb is a known form of an adaptogen. It is a nontoxic substance that helps the body relieve stress, restores its normal functioning, stabilizes physiological processes and promotes balance.
Ashwagandha is a Sanskrit term about the smell of the horse and its ability to increase strength. In botany, Ashwagandha Herb is also known as Withania somnifera, Indian ginseng, poison gooseberry, or winter cherry. It is a plant with small shrubs, yellow bell-shaped flowers, and dull green leaves. Its root is traditionally used in Indian medicine and it has been a subject of different scientific studies for centuries now.
Benefits of Ashwagandha Herb
Ashwagandha herb is a traditional medicinal herb with several health benefits. Several studies show that Ashwagandha Herb can:
- reduce blood sugar levels,
- has anti-cancer properties,
- reduces cortisol levels,
- reduces stress and anxiety,
- reduces symptoms of depression,
- lowers cholesterol,
- increases muscle mass and strength.
In 2016, the World Health Organization recorded that around 1.6 million died due to diabetes. Ashwagandha Herb contains chemicals that can reduce blood sugar levels of people with diabetes. In a test-tube study, Ashwagandha Herb contributed to the increase of insulin secretion and improvement of insulin sensitivity in muscle cells. With a regular blood sugar monitoring, experts suggest that Ashwagandha Herb can also be taken along with other diabetes medications.
In some animal and test-tube studies, Ashwagandha Herb poses anti-cancer properties that can impede the growth of new cancer cells in a body. It has the potential to stop cell growth in breast, lung, kidney, and prostate cancers.
The element of withaferin that is present in Ashwagandha Herb is responsible for attacking tumor cells and may be used against different types of cancer. This traditional medicine allows modern researchers to assess its efficacy and validate is chemopreventive properties. The experimental evidence of the effectivity of Ashwagandha Herb may lead to the development of new ways to treat severe diseases.
Another benefit of Ashwagandha Herb is its cortisol level reduction properties. Cortisol, or also known as the stress hormone, regulate different processes in the body. This includes metabolism, immunity, and the body’s response to stress.
High cortisol levels generally cause stress but it can also cause:
- thinning skin,
- easy bruising,
- flushed face,
- allowed healing,
- muscle weakness,
- severe fatigue,
- difficulty concentrating,
- high blood pressure.
Furthermore, several studies show that Ashwagandha Herb may help lower cortisol levels in the body. This herbal medicine can help an individual to increase body energy, reduce fatigue, improve sleep, reduce irritability, enhance cognition and enhance the overall feeling of wellbeing.
Everyone experiences stress and anxiety in their lives. It affects both the physical and mental health of a person. The World Health Organization found out that 1 in 13 people suffer from anxiety. According to the American Psychiatric Association, anxiety is a common mental disorder that affects 25 million Americans.
The most common physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety include nervousness, restlessness, panic attacks, rapid heart rate, fast breathing, hyperventilation, sweating, shaking and fatigue.
In some severe cases, symptoms of anxiety also involve obsessive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, and distressing actions. Ashwagandha Herb is known to reduce stress and anxiety. It has a calming effect that addresses symptoms of anxiety.
Around 300 million people suffer from depression and it is the leading cause of disability worldwide. It is a common mental health disorder and worst cases may lead to suicide. The common symptoms of depression include feelings of helplessness, loss of interest in daily activities, weight loss or weight gain, sleep changes, irritability, loss of energy, concentration problems, and reckless behaviors.
Some studies posit that Ashwagandha Herb may help reduce depression by 79 percent. The Ashwagandha herb is associated with strength, vitality, recovery, and rejuvenation. These properties help alleviate depression, can influence the body to return to its normal state, promotes overall balance and equilibrium.
Ashwagandha Herb can also improve one’s health by reducing cholesterol levels in the body. Cholesterol is a fatty, wax-like substance that is responsible for the digestive processes of the body. Several factors can contribute to high cholesterol levels namely poor diet, obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, and diabetes.
High cholesterol can cause various complications such as chest pain, heart attack, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. To prevent high cholesterol, an individual must have a low-salt diet, eat fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy weight, quit smoking, stay active by exercising and manage stress properly.
The Ashwagandha Herb has unique medicinal properties, it has anti-inflammatory effects, can reduce triglyceride levels and cholesterol levels.
There are supplements with Ashwagandha Herb that are proven to boost testosterone and increase fertility in men. Most men around 60 years old have low testosterone levels. If there is a low testosterone production, men can experience low sex drive, erection difficulties, low semen volume, hair loss, fatigue, loss of muscle mass, and decreased bone mass.
Several health problems may arise due to low testosterone levels such as diabetes, thyroid problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, depression, stress, and anxiety. The adaptogen properties of Ashwagandha Herb can increase antioxidant levels in the blood, boosts sperm quality and fertility in men.
Lastly, a study from the International Journal of Ayurveda Research show that Ashwagandha Herb can:
- improve body composition
- increase muscle mass,
- reduce body fat,
- increase strength in men
Several conditions may cause muscle weakness namely autoimmune diseases, thyroid conditions, electrolyte imbalances, stroke, chronic fatigue syndrome, polymyositis, alcoholism, malnutrition, muscular dystrophy, and other viral infections.
The Ashwagandha herb, particularly its root powder, rejuvenates and restores the balance in the body. Its rejuvenation and longevity properties are also responsible for stimulating the immune system, normalizes hormone levels, and naturally improves overall body functioning.
India has a long and rich history of medical practice. For years, traditional medicine practices have contributed to the development of India’s health system in the modern period. It is the holistic approach of Indian medicine that strongly impacts the realm of medicine today.
The mind, the body and the spirit are all connected to the elements of nature and the energies of the universe. In bringing the body, mind, and spirit into harmony, one achieves vitality, optimal health, and maximum well-being.