Another ancient herb from the East is being “discovered” by Western societies for its healing benefits. And thanks to Gwyneth Paltrow, the newest entry is ashwagandha.
The latest you’ve probably heard about ashwagandha is from Paltrow’s “Saturday Night Live” recent cameo where she spoofed her own lifestyle brand Goop. Goop happens to sell a ginger and ashwagandha body wash, which a Goop “sales representative” (aka Heidi Gardner) attempted to explain on the show’s “Weekend Update” segment.
“For the viewers who don’t know what ashwagandha is…?” Michael Che prompted the fake Goop rep.
“Ashwagandha is a number one thing, rated number one. You know what, I would love to tell you what ginger is instead,” said Gardner. “Ashwagandha is from Wakanda.”
First things first: Ashwagandha is definitely not from “Black Panther’s” Wakanda, but it is an herb worth knowing about as you’ll most likely see it popping up more in health and wellness conversations.
What is ashwagandha, exactly?
Ashwagandha is an ancient Indian herb traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient, holistic Indian medical system used to treat physical and mental ailments.
The plant is native to the Middle East and certain areas in Africa and India, and it’s still used in India to treat patients today.
The herb is “also known as Indian ginseng and winter cherry, it’s classified as an adaptogen for its potential to manage stress in the body,” says Kelli McGrane, a registered dietitian for Lose It, a fitness and calorie tracking app.
What are the benefits of ashwagandha?
McGrane says that ashwagandha has traditionally been used to relieve stress, lower cortisol levels and reduce anxiety.
“It’s also been observed to significantly lower blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes and help with infertility in men,” says the dietitian.
According to a study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a branch of the National Institute of Health, ashwagandha was found to improve energy levels and helped with cognition in patients experiencing memory loss.
How can you use ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha can be taken as a daily supplement in pill form, added into a smoothie or mixed into a beauty product per Paltrow’s line.
“While ashwagandha supplements can be found in powder form, capsules containing ashwagandha extract have been shown to be more effective,” said McGrane, noting a typical dosage is 300 to 500 mg per day, though one should always consult with a doctor first.
It’s also kitchen-friendly. Ashwagandha extract can be used in practically any recipe from making sleep tonic, a butter or even chocolate. Since it comes in powder form, you can basically add it to anything you want.
What are the risks associated with ashwagandha?
McGrane advises that anyone interested in taking ashwagandha supplements to talk to their primary care physician first.
“Pregnant women should avoid ashwagandha as it can result in miscarriage. It also has not been proven to be safe in breastfeeding women,” says the dietitian.
She adds that other groups who should avoid taking the herbal supplement, barring doctors’ orders, include “those with autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or Type 1 diabetes, and individuals on medication for thyroid disorders.”
Rasha Ali, USA TODAY
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