Ashwagandha : A Revered Ayurvedic Herb For Health & Beauty
As some Ayurvedic remedies and ''superfoods'' are beginning to be staples in the natural and holistic health field and much more accessible to consumers, I thought it would be useful to share the profile of a herb that you may have noticed while doing your health food store run or what is referred to in India as the “strength of the stallion” : Ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha is a small shrub native to India, North Africa, and the Middle East from which extracts are typically made from the berries or roots. Other names include Withania Somnifera (Latin), Indian Ginseng or Winter Cherry. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is classified as a rasayana (for longevity and rejuvenation) and has been traditionally used to treat a variety of Vata and Kapha imbalances from exhaustion to neurodegenerative diseases, as well as acting as a potent healing agent in Ayurvedic skincare.
In the West, its adaptogenic quality (i.e. helps the body adapt to stress and has a normalizing effect), has qualified the herb as an effective tonic and antidote to regular mental strain and anxiety.
Read below to find out if this powerful plant is a good choice for you in your journey towards optimal health:
Traditional Medicinal Uses:
- Treatment of excess Vata or Kapha
- Remedy for regular stress and fatigue
- Immune system support
- Treatment for insomnia
- Healthy cholesterol levels support
- Treatment of arthritis
- Treatment of infertility
- Balancing of certain types of menstrual disorders
- Treatment of high blood pressure
- Strengthens the body's resistance to disease
- Helps against the effects of stress and anxiety
- Helps to elevate and sustain energy levels
- Regulates sleep cycle
- Strengthens muscle tissues and joints and reproductive system
- Helps to improve thyroid and adrenal function
- Helps to improve memory
- Has anti-inflammatory effect
- Offers antioxidant protection
As an Ayurvedic facialist, I love using Ashwagandha in my cleansing powders or scrubs for my Vata (dry, rough) and Kapha (oily, congested) or mature skin type clients, knowing that they are benefiting from its anti-ageing, antioxidant, cleansing and moisturizing properties.
If you have either of these skin types (refer to my post here to determine your current doshic skin type) and would like to use the herb in your beauty routine, try making a simple scrub using 1/4 tsp of Ashwagandha with a little organic whole milk**, aloe vera gel or raw honey** if your skin tends to be oily and your pores clog easily.
**If only using vegan ingredients in skincare, replace whole milk with almond mylk. Honey can be substituted by superior quality maple syrup.
It is recommended that Ashwagandha be avoided during pregnancy and consumed with caution if taking anti-anxiety, sedative or immunosuppressant drugs. Very large doses have been linked to nausea, diarrhea and vomiting and miscarriages. From the Ayurvedic perspective, it should be avoided in cases of excess pitta and accumulated ama (toxins). Also, it should not be used by children.
How to take:
Ashwagandha can be taken in powder, tablet or liquid extract form. In Ayurvedic tradition, the powder is combined with warm milk and honey at bedtime to support healthy sleep, calm the mind and nourish the body. Ghee is also sometimes added to feed the tissues, pacifying both Vata and Pitta. Dosage will depends of the form taken, your age and health history, but you can generally follow the dosage recommendations on the product or consult an Ayurvedic practitioner to guide you. If you are under treatment for any medical condition or take any prescription drugs, speak with your doctor before starting supplemental Ashwagandha.
You can also try my vegan Ashwagandha Golden Mylk Tonic recipe below!
Ashwagandha Golden Mylk Tonic
Mix all of the following ingredients and enjoy:
- 1 cup coconut milk, hot
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp ashwagandha powder
- 1 tsp ghee (or extra virgin coconut oil)
- 1/4 tsp ginger powder
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
- Pinch of black pepper
- 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp of raw honey (once it has slightly cooled) or maple syrup