Herb of the Month - Withania!

Author: Corinne Bett   Date Posted:1 June 2016 

Withania is considered a cornerstone of traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine and has been used for its medicinal benefits throughout Asia since 6000 AD. It has a nourishing effect on those who have been convalescing from physical and/or mental stress, can restore vitality, promote longevity and physical endurance.

The root of the Withania bush is often used by herbalists as an adaptogen and nervous system tonic; to help people adapt to and cope with stress and to relieve mild anxiety. It can increase energy, improve cognition and is even an aphrodisiac (wink wink).

No wonder they call it the Indian Ginseng! The other name for Withania is Ashwaganda, which is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘horse like smell’, a reference to the pungent smell of the root of the herb. But don’t let this put you off, the name Ashwaganda also alludes to the herb’s physically strengthening and aphrodisiac qualities.

Withstand that Stress

Withania can improve our capacity to withstand chronic stress. It has been shown in multiple studies to improve the body’s resistance to stress and to neutralise some of the damaging effects of prolonged stress such as gastrointestinal issues, lowered immune function and fluctuations in blood sugar levels. A specific standardised Withania extract, called KSM66, has been clinically shown to reduce cortisol levels in the body; a hormone that is produced during times of stress that can be detrimental and contribute to some of the damaging effects of chronic stress on the body.

withania

Alleviate Mild Anxiety

Withania has the ability to alleviate mild anxiety. A randomized placebo controlled trial utilising the standardised Withania extract KSM66, was administered to 64 individuals with a history of chronic stress, over a period of 60 days. Researchers found a significant reduction in anxiety and perceived stress, a decrease of 75.6% and 65.2% respectively, when compared with placebo. It is thought that Withania’s action in reducing cortisol levels and ability to mimic certain neurotransmitters, contribute to its anti-anxiety effects.

Enhance Your Cognition

Withania has a traditional use in supporting memory and cognition, particularly for older people. It has long been used as part of a group of medicines in Ayurvedic medicine called Medhyarasayanas, which refer to a class of herbs which may enhance the function of the mind and mental capacity.

Sex Drive of a Stallion

Withania has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine to improve fertility and to enhance libido and sexual performance. Recent studies have shown Withania may be helpful in improving male fertility, by increasing sperm concentration, motility and by reducing the effects of oxidative stress on sperm. Studies also suggest that Withania may exert a balancing effect on testosterone levels.

Uplift and Energise

Withania has a tonifying effect on the body and can increase energy levels and physical endurance. It has been shown to be involved with energy production on a cellular level.

Smoothie it up

Traditionally, the root of the Withania bush was dried and ground, and added to hot water along with honey and ghee (clarified butter). A newfangled version of this would be to add powdered Withania to your favourite type of warm milk, or to a smoothie. Check at your local Indian Grocery store for the powdered herb and get experimenting!

Chandrasekhar, et al. 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 J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul;34(3):255-62 Vijay, R., et al. Clinical Evaluation of the Spermatogenic Activity of the Root Extract of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in Oligospermic Males. Unpublished research.

Written by Corinne Bett

Corinne spent her childhood helping her mother and grandfather in the garden grow various herbs and vegetables. This sparked a great interest in herbal medicine and nutrition in later life, and a passion for a wholefood diet. As a Naturopath today, she likes to empower others to utilise food as medicine, and live a healthy and balanced lifestyle. In her spare time she like to spend time in nature bushwalking and swimming, adventuring in far and exotic places, and dreaming about what kind of dog she might like to have one day.