Ashwaganda is one of the most popular herbs in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. It has Rasayana, or rejuvenating properties. According to Ayurveda, Rasayanas confer happiness and youthfulness both physically and mentally. It is used in children to treat abnormal thinness - in such cases it is best consumed with milk. In the elderly, it is used to treat rheumatism, and forgetfulness, and is also considered a remedy for diarrhoea, nervous breakdown, lack of pigmentation and insomnia. It is used topically to treat boils, ulcers and inflamed areas.
It gets its name from the fact that it smells like a horse ('ashwa') and is said to imbue you with the power of a horse when ingested. This theory is not far from the truth, as numerous studies have shown that ashwaganda can also boost our performance.
Ashwaganda is most commonly available in India as 'churna', a finely ground powder that can be mixed with water, ghee or honey. Nagori Ashwaganda has the strongest active ingredient. And ashwaganda is available in supplement form, containing the active ingredients extracted from ashwaganda.
Ashwaganda's main active ingredients are alkaloids, saponins, which have anti-inflammatory properties through their powerful antioxidant effects. Other active ingredients have also been shown to have anti-stress and immune-regulating effects.
The Indians certainly knew what they were using it for, and nowadays there have been numerous studies that have proven the aforementioned beneficial properties of Ashwaganda. In overweight and obese adults, it has been shown to reduce stress, thereby reducing overeating, and may also be beneficial for weight loss and appetite. Some studies have found that it stimulates brain function, memory and concentration - an effect that is strongest in children and the elderly. It may improve many neurological diseases (such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Creutzfeldt-Jakob syndrome, Huntington's disease, etc.). Studies have also reported anti-tumour effects, and it may also help recovery after chemotherapy (by stimulating blood cells).