Ashwagandha and adaptogens may feel like the newest trend for regulating stress but they have a long history of use around the world.
Just five years ago, “adaptogen” wasn’t as common as the word “macchiato.”
Today you can hardly walk into a coffee shop, grocery store, or juice bar without seeing the word “adaptogen” jump out at you. I’ve been a serious adaptogen lover for the last 10 years and I’m so glad they’re finally getting their time in the sun.
I’ve spent a lot of time talking about exactly what an adaptogen is, and which adaptogens I reach for daily, but today I want to do a deep dive on a very potent Ayurvedic herb: Ashwagandha.
Known as one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic healing, Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years. Most promising are its effects on stress and stress management — something we could all use a little more support for in our lives.
Ashwagandha in Ayurvedic healing
What Ayurveda Is
“Ayur” means longevity, and “veda” means science or knowledge. Ayurveda isn’t only a healing modality, but a way of life that encompasses mind, body, and spirit. The first Ayurvedic medical school was founded in 400 B.C. so this modality has been practiced for a very, very long time.
A key part of Ayurvedic healing is the balancing of energetic “doshas.” There are three doshas, or types of energies: vata, pitta, and kapha. Everyone is born with a particular balance of doshas. In Ayurveda, illness is caused by a disturbance of this balance. The first requirement to bring back good health is to re-balance the doshas.
Ayurvedic treatments involve natural medicines, dietary plans, and behavioral modifications, all looking at your mind, body, and spirit.
Benefits of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is sometimes called “Indian Ginseng” because it is used in the same way ginseng is used in traditional Chinese medicine — for strength, vitality, energy, and recovery. It is considered to reduce vata and kapha doshas.
Also known as Withania (scientific name Withania somnifera) or winter cherry, Ashwagandha’s Hindi name means “horse smell.” This refers not only to the scent it may sometimes have, but to a horse’s strength, indicating its use as a tonic and aphrodisiac herb.
Although all parts of the stout shrub of an Ashwagandha plant are used, most commonly you’ll see the root used for adaptogenic purposes.
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Author: Tero Isokauppila
Tero Isokauppila is the founder of Four Sigmatic. Tero’s roots (or mycelium, if you will) are in Finland, where he grew up growing and foraging natural foods on his 13th generation family's farm. He later earned a degree in Chemistry, Business, and a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition at Cornell University. An expert in all things related to nutrition, health, and wellness. Tero is the author of two best-selling books: Healing Mushrooms, an educational cookbook from Avery Publishing, and Santa Sold Shrooms, a children's book for adults about the magical origins of Santa Claus.