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Ashwagandha: An Herb for Times of Stress

Why I Think Ashwagandha Is One Of The Most Relevant Herbs For Today’s World

🌿 You know how much I love my nettle infusion and if you missed it you can see it here The other herb that I would truly hate to live without is Ashwagandha. Honestly, if I had to pick one herbal ally for the rest of my life I would pick this one. Today we’re going to dive into why this is one of my favorites.

🌿 Ashwagandha is often referred to as Indian ginseng.

🌿 Ashwagandha is an adaptogen. An adaptogen helps the body adapt to stress by helping to normalize body functions and regulate the stress response. In other words, an adaptogen ‘adapts’ to your body's specific needs as it responds to stress. How does an herb adapt and work differently for different people? By bringing the body into balance and homeostasis. homeostasis is the body's way of maintaining a stable internal environment despite the changes present in the external environment. See the image below. This means, for example, if my stress response is to crave salty or sweet food and eat too much, it helps control that urge to stress eat. Alternatively, if my stress response is to skip important meals and forget to nourish myself, it helps control the urge to deprive myself. Wherever the stress response brings us, it helps bring us back into balance.

🌿 In today’s world, nobody is escaping the stress monster and our lives show it. The modern-day stress of a world with too much information and too little wisdom is having a psychological and physical impact. That’s why I firmly believe everyone should have a good adaptogen in their life. Modern stress is related to chronic illness record highs and poor health. The majority of the leading causes of death are directly impacted by our levels of stress. Stress directly impacts both the length of our lives and the quality of our years. Stress is causing record levels of deteriorated mental health. We are not sleeping well. We are not eating well. We often are walking around in a dazed mental state. We need an herbal hero to help us manage all of these modern-day stresses we deal with.

🌿 There is a bit of confusion about adaptogens and autoimmune diseases. As an autoimmune patient, I’m going to give a little push back here. Many ill-researched articles state that adaptogens should be avoided with autoimmune disease. Adaptogens do not simply “boost” the immune system. I believe they conclude this because it does have the ability to modulate the immune system. An immunomodulator is not the same thing as an immune booster such as elderberry. Immunomodulators have the ability to either suppress, enhance, or induce an immune response in your body. If your immune system needs shoring up immunomodulators enhance it and if it is overactive immunomodulators suppress them. It is not an oversimplified immune booster. In the case of prescribed immunosuppression, Ashwagandha should be approached individually. For more information on why I take ashwagandha for my serious and complicated autoimmune disease check out this link.

🌿 One of the side effects of stress mismanagement is commonly accompanying addictive behaviors. If you overeat, overindulge, or otherwise moderate your stress with unhealthy habits ashwagandha is an important herbal support for you. By moderating the stress response, it helps control the desire to indulge in destructive behavior. If you are fighting to control the urge to do something that is not good for you, ashwagandha really makes a difference.

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🌿 Ashwagandha is helpful for anxiety. Ashwagandha has GABA-mimetic properties. Research shows that GABA receptors work against anxiety because of their calming effect on the nerve cells. Several studies have shown that ashwagandha helps relieve anxiety; and as someone that has struggled with severe anxiety from time to time, I can tell you that I truly feel a difference with and without it. It’s one of the reasons this herb makes my ‘never want to live without’ list!

🌿 Whenever stress impacts our body there is accompanying inflammation. Higher inflammation levels lead to disease and damage to organs, joints, and connective tissue. It is imperative that we control our stress and our inflammation levels to remain healthy. Ashwagandha helps decrease inflammation in the body.

🌿 Ashwagandha also helps with mental health. Research shows that ashwagandha reduces symptoms of depression. It also is proving a useful ally in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

🌿 Another effect of stress is poor sleep. By reducing stress and anxiety levels, ashwagandha helps promote better sleep. It relieves insomnia and helps with mental alertness upon waking.

🌿 You’ve heard of stressed-out, over-tired brain fog? Well, ashwagandha helps with cognitive function. Clinical studies show it benefits memory, attention, and information processing speed.

🌿 In addition to this, it also lowers cortisol levels, blood sugar levels, and reduces impotence in men. It helps with balancing hormones and female cycles. All things with a connection to stress! These are just a few of the benefits I wanted to emphasize. The list goes on if you care to research this amazing herb!

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🌿 Ashwagandha is native to India and is perennial to zone 6 or can be grown as an annual in cooler climates and brought in over winter. Seeds germinate in temperatures of 50 – 60 F (10 – 15 C). They prefer temps of 70 - 90 F (21 - 32 C) for optimal growth.

🌿 It is a low-growing shrub that grows to a height of about 3 feet. It is drought tolerant and grows well in dry soil. It prefers a dry sunny spot in the garden.

🌿 We use the root of ashwagandha and it is harvested in the fall when the energy of the plant is sent down into its roots. Or you can purchase ashwagandha root.

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🌿 Remember, herbal medicine is what I like to call slow medicine. Ashwagandha needs to be taken consistently for 8-12 weeks for optimal results.

🌿 You could use the root in a decoction (an herbal tea in which the herbs are simmered for a longer time to extract properties from tougher plant material such as roots), but the truth is ashwagandha has a very medicinal and bitter smell and taste. I would be lying if I said you would enjoy it as tea. Traditionally it is mixed with honey and chai spices to mask that medicinal flavor.

🌿 I prefer it as a tincture. Ashwagandha tincture is a 1:4 ratio. I use 1/2 cup ashwagandha root to two cups 80 to 100 proof vodka.

🌿 Cover the jar and place it in a dark location. Shake it every day for at least two weeks. I prefer to let mine infuse for at least a month before straining and using.

🌿 I use a dropper full, or about 20-30 drops, of tincture up to 3x a day. I may use it three times a day during particularly stressful times but truthfully, I notice the difference with just one dropperful a day!

🌿 Ashwagandha is generally safe to use for a wide range of people. But it does have a few contraindications or cases in which it is not indicated for use. Ashwagandha belongs to the Solanaceae family, which also includes tomatoes, tobacco, and potatoes, and should be avoided by anyone with allergies to this family. It should be avoided if pregnant or breastfeeding. It is not recommended for children under the age of 12. It is contraindicated for people with hyperthyroidism such as Grave’s Disease, as well as those with peptic ulcers.

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🌿 If you find yourself struggling with the impacts of stress on your life I recommend considering if this herb is right for you. Consistent use really could have a major positive impact on your health. I know that it has done wonders for mine! Not only does it help manage my anxiety, but as someone that has a health issue closely linked with my stress response, it helps manage my autoimmune flare-ups. I truly feel better mentally and physically while taking this tincture.

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