Ashwagandha (Indian ginseng): characteristics and uses of this plant

Ashwagandha (Indian ginseng): characteristics and uses of this plant

Many plants have traditionally been used for the purpose of combating some medical condition. Among this wide range of components present in nature we find the ashwagandha, also known as blackberry herb, Indian ginseng or bufera .

In this article we will review what are the properties and medicinal benefits that this plant has to treat a host of health conditions, many of them related to mental disorders.

What is ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is a plant which according to traditional medicine (and therefore not subject to the scientific method) has a large number of uses, as the case may be. It belongs to the family of Solanaceae , and is native to India. It has become very popular in several countries for treating conditions, despite not having strong support for its healing properties. However, there is some evidence that it helps fight stress .

In the tradition of Ayurveda (science of life) the medical system of India, which has been practiced for many years, this plant is used to make a revitalizing tonic ; that is why it is used for basically any ailment.

This plant has managed to transcend its borders and is now used in many countries as an alternative for treating physical or even emotional ailments that may be afflicting people.

Properties of Indian Ginseng

In the next few lines we will review the medicinal properties that are attributable to the buffalo.

1. Alkaloids

Thanks to the alkaloids this plant contains analgesic and sedative components . In total it presents 12 types of alkaloids, of which the most relevant are; sleeping pills, anapherine, and pseudotropin.

2. Steroidal lactones

This plant has anti-inflammatory functions, thanks to the more than 30 withanolides found in it; witapherin A and withanolide D are two of the most outstanding at the pharmacological level . These have an effect on the human organism as if they were steroid hormones.

3. Triethylene glycol

The efficacy of this component to improve the quality of sleep is well supported, as there is evidence where it manages to improve the symptoms of insomnia in mice. It is a component that is also used in chemistry as a solvent.

4. Flavonoids

Flavonoids have antioxidant capacities that help the body to prevent the oxidation of its molecules. Thanks to this component, the chemical reaction process in which the body transfers electrons from a substance to an oxidizing agent is slowed down.

5. Mineral salts

The mineral salts that are most present in this medicinal plant are iron and potassium , helping to maintain healthy bones, as well as giving the body an important energy charge during the day.

In what cases is this plant used?

The blackberry herb is known for its healing properties, but not for containing the elements listed above, the discovery of which is relatively recent. Thus, it is popularly assumed that ashwagandha has revitalizing properties, as well as functioning as; an analgesic, a relaxant on the Central Nervous System (CNS), and an anticonvulsant, among others.

These are the conditions for which this medicinal plant is popularly used, regardless of its actual effectiveness in treating them:

  • Arthritis
  • Anxiety
  • Balance problems
  • Sleeping difficulties (Insomnia)
  • Asthma
  • leukoderma (dermatological condition)
  • Bronchitis
  • Back pain
  • Menstrual problems
  • Parkinson’s Disease

Ashwagandha is also used to control high levels of fat and sugar in the blood.

Some people consume this plant daily, in order to calm down the stress levels generated by their daily routine . Others do it to improve their memory capacity, among other cognitive functions such as the ability to analyze. However, there is no evidence that it works for anything other than stress regulation.

Is its use effective?

The competent authority for determining the effectiveness of natural medicines; “Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database”, gives ashwagandha a high efficacy in the treatment of stress.

But as for the other conditions for which it is usually used, there is no support that can validate its implementation , in the treatments referring to the cases that we will see next:

  • Decrease side effects of antipsychotics
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Fatigue in people treated for cancer (chemotherapy)
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Male Infertility
  • Arthritis
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Impaired functioning of the immune system
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Inducing vomiting
  • Liver problems
  • Preventing the Signs of Aging
  • Swelling (inflammation)
  • Tumors
  • Tuberculosis
  • Ulcerations.

The Comprehensive Database of Natural Medicines requires more evidence to give a positive opinion on the use of ashwagandha in the treatment of the above-mentioned cases.

Bibliographic references:

  • MedlinePlus (2017). US National Library of Medicine.
  • Withania somnifera (2012). Dunal. Tropicos. Missouri Botanical Garden.

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