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My Healing and Ashwagandha
Of all the herbal medicines in my medicinal toolkit, I have yet to encounter an herb more useful than ashwagandha (withania somnifera).
From my bouts with PCOS, mental health issues, and a miraculous recovery from epilepsy, ashwagandha has been invaluable to my personal journey in healing.
The word Ashwa means “smelling of a horse” because the raw root, well… smells like a horse. But also because the root is believed to endow one with the strength of a horse.
While many herbs have been used for specific ailments or categories of ailments, ashwagandha has proven to be a strong horse (pun intended) in the treatment and prevention of such a wide range of conditions.
Ashwagandha is a tonic herb, meaning it strengthens and nourishes the body while also encouraging elimination and detox. It contributes to healing, disease prevention, and overall health.
The National Wellness Institute defines health and wellness as (NWI, 2018a) as, “A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely an absence of disease or infirmity” ( ACE p. 5).
Yet, in recent years this definition has been challenged to a more fluid sense of health in which health is defined as our ability to adapt to and self-manage amidst social, physical, and emotional challenges (Huber & Et al, 2011).
These challenges contribute to the stress response, which ashwagandha can mitigate, especially when it is consumed on a regular basis.
Ashwagandha the Adaptogen
Because of ashwagandha’s ability to achieve and maintain a state of homeostasis in the body, those who consume ashwagandha are more able to adapt to stress.
Ashwagandha works by prolonging the resistance stage of the stress, which is the stage that follows the initial alarm stage and precedes the exhaustion stage. The three stages of the cycle of stress are referred to as General Adaptation Syndrome or GAS (Not that kind of gas).
Once the body reaches the exhaustion stage, the bodily functions begin to decrease and continue to decline making one susceptible to chronic fatigue, mental illness, burnout, inability to resist future stressors, and impaired immune function.
Want to learn more about Adaptogens and how they can improve your quality of life? Here’s a couple of my favorite books about Adaptogens.
Why Prolong the Resistance Stage of the Stress Response?
It is beneficial to prolong the resistance stage of GAS because this allows the body to continue to adapt to stress and can even raise the overall amount of stress we are able to process.
Think about the stress of lifting weights on the body. After some time of lifting weights, we become physically stronger and can continue to add weight to our workouts as our strength grows. Therefore, weight training is often referred to as resistance training.
Ashwagandha is like a personal trainer for the mind, body, and spirit and makes the individual more resistant to stress as well as more fluid in her reaction to stressors.
Ashwagandha’s Role in Helping Women Who Have Suffered Abuse
Unfortunately, for women who have suffered trauma and abuse, the stress response may become dysfunctional, likely due to years of poorly managed chronic stress.
This has profound mental and physiological implications which include those listed in the exhaustion stage above.
In addition, chronic stress can contribute to abnormalities in neurological system function which may have subtle signs which compound into more prevalent and often debilitating disorders. Examples of some poorly understood disorders of chronic stress include:
Out of all the uses of ashwagandha (which I couldn’t possibly list here), the most powerful effect of ashwagandha is its ability to raise our resistance to stress.
Chronic stress has deleterious effects on the mind and body leading to conditions such as compromised immunity, weight gain, and frequent headaches.
Therefore, it is important that everyone manages stress in our daily lives via relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, tai chi, prayer, and mindfulness.
However, for those who have suffered trauma, managing stress can often seem impossible due to impaired cognitive function, poor mental health, and difficulty concentrating and processing information.
Herbs like ashwagandha make it possible for trauma survivors to adopt a healthier lifestyle through mindfulness practices and relaxation techniques by giving the neurological system a push in the right direction and increasing one’s level of overall awareness.
Ashwagandha mitigates one’s perceived level of stress and increases resistance to that stress.
Where to Purchase Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha can be taken as a capsule, herbal powder, or tea. Since the taste of the root is bitter, I recommend mixing half a teaspoon of ashwagandha into coffee or taking an ashwagandha supplement.
Always purchase organic whenever possible and buy from reputable sources when purchasing herbs and supplements.
I use the organic ashwagandha powder below.
Until next time, thank you for taking the time to learn about herbal medicine. But, most of all, thank you for taking the time to heal together.
Much Love, Many Blessings, Jesus is Lord.
American Council On Exercise (January 1, 2019). The Professional’s Guide to Health and Wellness Coaching. Ace.
Anishetty, S., Chandrasekhar, K., & Kapoor, J. (2012). A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in
Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 34(3), 255–262.
Ayales, A. (2019). Adaptogens: Herbs for Longevity and Everyday Wellness.
Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
Bhalla, N. S., Gilca, M. G., Jager, P. J., & Singh, N. S. (2011). An Overview on Ashwaganda: a Rasayana (Rejuvenator)of Ayurveda. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med, 8, 208–213. https://doi.org/10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5s.9
Huber, M., Knottnerus, J. A., Green, L., Horst, H. V. D., Jadad, A. R., Kromhout, D., Leonard, B., Lorig, K., Loureiro, M. I., Meer, J. W. M. V. D., Schnabel, P.,
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343(jul26 2), d4163. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d4163