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What is ashwagandha and what are its benefits?

What is ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is one of Pukka’s hero herbs. Part of the nightshade family, the root has been used as a traditional rejuvenating tonic to help people of all ages with stress-related situations. The most revealing family feature is its small red berries, like cherry tomatoes, which explain its other common name ‘winter cherry’.

Ayurveda, the ‘science of wellbeing’ that developed in India over 5000 years ago, has a long history of using ashwagandha’s roots to nourish the mind and enhance energy, making them perfect for when we are feeling weak and exhausted.

Translated as ‘the strength of a horse’, ashwagandha nourishes the nervous system, helping to support relaxation and restore harmony. For these reasons, this balancing herb can be found in our Sleep, Relax and Women’s ranges, in our Night Time, Wholistic Ashwagandha and Menopause Serenity supplements and our Peace tea.

So, why is ashwagandha so special?

Ashwagandha has wonderfully strengthening and nourishing properties. As an adaptogen it helps the body to cope with the increasing everyday demands of modern life and counters the effects of stress on the body. This is because it contains active plant compounds that help restore balance and harmony. It shares many of its strengthening properties with shatavari, another celebrated rejuvenating adaptogen from the Ayurvedic tradition. A growing body of evidence is now being collated around this powerful herb with an impressive variety of health benefits.

What is ashwagandha good for?

The health benefits of ashwagandha are vast and include (1):

  • Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, helps us to manage the negative effects of physical and emotional stress. Stress causes a surge in the key hormones - adrenaline and cortisol – both of which increase alertness as part of the ‘fight or flight’ response. Ashwagandha supports a healthy body response, helping us find calm, especially during times of change. It is included in our Menopause Serenity supplement for this reason.

  • Ashwagandha improves energy, stamina and endurance through being a rejuvenating tonic. It will strengthen and nourish the nervous system whilst calming it at the same time. It has been shown to significantly enhance athletic performance by improving heart and lung capacity and energy levels.

  • Ashwagandha supports settling into good sleeping patterns, which is why it’s the key ingredient in our Night Time supplement. When we’re troubled, our sleep is too. By nourishing and strengthening our nervous system, studies show ashwagandha helps us to relax before bed.

  • Ashwagandha is traditionally used as an aphrodisiac in both men and women. This makes sense as it helps support a healthy stress response.

More research is needed to fully understand how this amazing herb works, and Pukka’s Herbal Research team is looking into pinning down the exact mechanisms with ongoing research projects. We are currently supporting a human study looking at the effects of ashwagandha on health.

How we grow our highest quality ashwagandha

Ashwagandha’s roots are harvested and air-dried before being used. All Pukka’s organic highest quality ashwagandha is grown in a dry region of north Karnataka (South West India). Ashwagandha’s ability to help the body adapt to stress is reflected by its ability to thrive in arid conditions and poor-quality alkaline soils. Most plants would suffer from severe stress in such an environment.

Why not try using ashwagandha in our Golden Milk of Bliss recipe- a delicious and nourishing drink.

[1] Lopresti AL, Smith SJ, Malvi H, Kodgule R. 2019. An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract. Medicine (Baltimore). 98(37): e1718

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Author: Marion Mackonochie​

Senior Herbal Specialist

Marion is Senior Herbal Specialist at Pukka and a practising medical herbalist dedicated to furthering herbal knowledge and understanding. Degrees in pharmacology (UCL) and herbal medicine and a masters degree in plant chemistry and medicinal natural products (UCL) mean she is well placed to help plan Pukka’s extensive programme of herbal research, as well as advising across Pukka on herb benefits. She has worked on the Journal of Herbal Medicine since its launch in 2011 and is currently Associate Editor.

Qualifications

BSc qualified in herbal medicine (Middlesex Uni, 2009), MSc (mCPP) qualified in pharmacology & physiology (UCL, 2002), MSc medicinal natural products and phytochemistry (UCL, 2016)

Years of experience

12 years in medical herbalism

Professional registrations

Member of College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy

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