Ashwagandha (WITHANIA SOMNIFERA)
Ashwagandha is known as "Indian ginseng" because its effects are similar to those of the Chinese herb (though it's not botanically related). "It strengthens the whole body," says Paul Hoffman, M.D., an ayurvedic practitioner in Boulder Creek, Calif. "It treats fatigue, weakness, debility, and problems of old age."
INDICATION Ashwagandha is used as an overall energy booster in Ayurveda in much the same way ginseng is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. A study in Phytotherapy Research suggests that it may be particularly adept at diffusing anxiety.
BENEFITS Improves stamina and immune function * combats stress * shows antioxidant and mood-elevating action * protects against cancer * lowers cholesterol and blood pressure.
SIDE EFFECTS Reactions are rare in recommended amounts; however, large doses may cause stomach distress, diarrhea, and vomiting. Pregnant and nursing women should not use it.
DOSAGE 1 to 6 grams a day (2 to 12 teaspoons) in capsules or tea; in tincture or liquid extract, 2 to 4 mL 3 times a day.
SCIENCE Animal studies indicate that ashwagandha improves stamina and reduces the damage caused by various stressors. It stimulates the immune system as well as boosts antibody and white blood cell levels. Due to its antioxidant properties, ashwagandha seems to have heart-protective and cancer-preventive effects, and it may boost the effectiveness of radiation treatments. In a study published in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, researchers ashwagandha to diabetics gave and to those with cholesterol; high a month later, their cholesterol and blood sugar levels were significantly lower.