Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Ashwagandha Rasayana -- An Introduction

That which supports natural immunity by enhancing physical and mental strength, promotes overall health and longevity, is bitter, astringent and warming, and extremely beneficial for heart-mind-body coordination is Ashwagandha." -- Bhavprakash

Ashwagandha (Winter Cherry or Withania somnifera) is considered by ayurvedic healers to be a potent rasayana for both mind and body.

Some specific benefits of Ashwagandha
  • Ashwagandha is classified as a somanasyajanana herb in ayurveda--an herb that enhances the natural ability of your mind to adapt to stressful situations. It helps elevate the strength of the mind to match heightened stress levels as needed. In modern terms, Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen--it helps boost your natural ability to withstand stress only when a heightened response is called for, such as during physical or mental competition, or in times of additional pressure at school or on the job.
  • According to PNI (psychoneuroimmunology) theory, stress can depress your immune system. Distress increases the flow of the stress hormones cortisol and beta-endorphins, whereas eustress (positive emotional condition opposite to distress) helps to boost the immune system by increasing levels of antibody immunoglobulins. Ashwagandha, by helping to boost your natural ability to handle stress, helps strengthen the immune system as well.
  • When stress-handling ability is deficient, Vata dosha typically is out of balance, and this leads to difficulty falling asleep. By improving your natural ability to handle stress and enhancing the mind-body-senses coordination, Ashwagandha promotes restful sleep as well.
  • Ashwagandha is extremely nourishing for the nervous system. It helps strengthen the nerves and maintain nerve function.
  • Ashwagandha is an anti-inflammatory, and helps pacify Vata imbalance in the joints. Because of its warming, penetrating quality, Ashwagandha also helps improve circulation.
  • Traditional texts state that Ashwagandha helps maintain physical strength, stamina and endurance. It is said to impart to its user the strength and vigor of a horse. Its action has been compared to that of ginseng--in fact, Ashwagandha is also called "Indian ginseng."
  • Ashwagandha is considered a tonic for the reproductive system, especially for men. It helps support a healthy libido.
  • Ashwagandha is a medhya rasayana, helping to enhance mental ability and performance--it helps support memory and problem-solving skills and enhances the coordinated functioning of all aspects of the brain.

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