Herb for all reasons  


Express News Service

Delhi lawyer Prachi Aggarwal remembers the gruelling times she spent slogging for her Bachelor of Law entrance exam. She experienced dizziness and hot flashes for the first time. Perhaps all the hard work made her feel over-stressed and under-prepared. Seeing her struggling, her grandmother gave her a traditonal pick-me-up—a spoon of ashwagandha powder mixed with milk. In two weeks, the would-be lawyer’s sleep improved. By week three, her sense of calm was back. Her concentration improved. 
She nailed the exam. 

Many miles away in Brooklyn, NYC, health and science reporter Claire Bugos took ashwagandha supplements for three weeks. She went ga-ga on social media, sharing her joy. Within a week, she was sleeping better and feeling less tired. Also known as Indian ginseng, ashwagandha—meaning ‘the scent of the horse’—has a special place in an Ayurveda branch, named rasayana chikitsa, which focuses on rejuvenation treatments. “The herb is an adaptogen—plants that lower stress while regulating the immune and nervous system. A small molecule called triethylene glycol in ashwagandha promotes sleep. It is also known to release gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors, which act as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, prompting the nervous system to slow down neuronal excitability—its response to stimuli,” says Gurugram-based psychotherapist Divya Raheja. 

Mumbai-based competitive runner Neelakshi Sharma, who underwent a supracervical hysterectomy two years ago, had a long recovery period. But when the 37-year-old took up where she left off her daily activities, she was aghast to find that she couldn’t even walk without panting. Ashwagandha supplements came as a recommendation from a friend whose son, a football player, had benefited from it when recovering from injuries. Sharma gave it a try, in addition to taking a high-protein diet. In two weeks, her lower limb strength improved and she had better motor control. According to a 2021 study published in the Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology, the herb improves neuromuscular coordination, while increasing cardio endurance. 

The flip side 
Ashwagandha is relatively safe to use, but doctors say some people may experience side-effects such as gastrointestinal unease, dizziness or drowsiness. Disturned sleep is not uncommon, as was the case with Bugos, who experienced uncomfortable dreams. “The vivid nature of dreams is caused by the herb’s brain-boosting capabilities and the after-effect of your body adjusting to the herb and creating new ways to release stress,” says Noida-based acharya Ravi Kumar. 

Quick takes
● The easiest way to include it in your diet is by adding it to milk, smoothies, soup, tea or salad
● Make sure you buy a root-only extract as that’s where the potency lies
● Store the herb in a cool, dry place

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