Dec 042008

Referring to my previously posted monograph on Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), I’d like to add a few notes. One is that most of the side effects I referred to in that piece, specifically hot flashes and sweating, seem to vary a great deal based on where the herb comes from. The herb I have used from Pacific Botanicals, Zack Woods Herb Farm and my own garden has yet to cause any of these problems in anyone, including myself, even in larger doses. The taste of this high quality, American grown root is also very different than anything I’ve gotten from India, even through normally good suppliers. And since the taste from the root harvested from my garden is nearly identical to that of the two farms referred to above, I tend to think this indicates how very good the quality is.

One significant characteristic of long term use of Ashwagandha I previously glossed over, is it’s amazing ability to stabilize blood sugar. This has been confirmed in studies and passes over well into actual practice. I’ve personally found it so effective that I no longer get low blood sugar and pressure EVER, even when I make the less than perfect food choices that usually throw me off (you know how brownies can just beg to be eaten.….).

This from Todd Caldecott:

“Diabetes: The hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic effects of roots of Ashvagandha were assessed in six patients with mild NIDDM and six patients with mild hypercholesterolemia.  The treatment consisted of the powder of roots over a 30 day period.  At the end of the study, researchers noted a decrease in blood glucose comparable to that of an oral hypoglycemic drug, and a significant increase in urine sodium and urine volume, coupled with a decrease in serum cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL (low density lipoproteins) and VLDL (very low density lipoproteins) cholesterol, with no adverse effects noted (Andallu and Radhika 2000)”

Now, notice that it says it caused a significant increase in urine volume, which would make you think that it would make low blood pressure worse, right? Well, I haven’t experienced any increase in urine volume and as I said above, it has definitely helped my low blood pressure and my blood sugar levels. I notice that some plants may work simply by lowering blood sugar while other plants, such as Ashwagandha, seem to rebalance the HPA axis and thus effect the insulin process however needed. I have certainly used Ashwagandha with clients with varying states of blood pressure and hypo or hyperglycemia, all with good results as long as the general indications for the herb are present.

Another interesting note is that due to it’s nourishing effect on the endocrine system it can help to balance overly long menstrual cycles. For example, I have consistently had rather long cycles (averaging about 30 to 31 days) ever since my 1 year experience on birth control pills many years ago, but after using a low dose of Ashwagandha (3 drops of dry plant tincture, 2x per day) for a couple of months my cycle steadily shortened and is holding strong now at 28 days for the last several months. It has also reduced my previous one to two week long bouts of PMS (thanks also to the pill, along with some really great ovarian cysts) to less than 24 hours, and only noticeable in an annoying way for about 8 hours. It seems to get better every month too. I’ve also observed this pattern in a few of my clients as well. I’ve wondered if it could possibly shorten the cycle too much, but so far this hasn’t been a problem, so perhaps modulates the cycle rather than simply shortening it, which would be consistent with Ashwagandha’s nourishing, balancing tendencies.

And did I mention that it’s been proven to (both in studies and clinical practice) be immunomodulatory? A very useful herb, even (or especially) in many cases of autoimmune disorders like lupus, where it is especially helpful with its anti-inflammatory properties. I do tend to recommend that clients back off of their dosage or stop it completely during a flareup though.

Refer to Caldecott’s online article or the books, Adaptogens or Herbal Therapy & Supplements, both by David Winston for more info on the studies that have been done on Ashwagandha.

  7 Responses to “Ashwagandha Addendum”

  1. Nice! I’m definatley gonna grow this this summer!

  2. How timely this is for me. My pancreas points are definitely under pressure and coming from a family with a very strong history of diabetes and having had gestational diabetes many years ago I need to be doing something to strengthen my pancreas and moderate my blood sugar I’ll have to find a supplier of US grown products-any ideas ?.

  3. As I mentioned in the post, I prefer Zack Woods Herb Farm and Pacific Botanicals of those I have tried so far. Both have websites and contact info online.

    For diabetes though, address diet first, epsecially a diet high in greens and very very low in carbs. Nutrition can do far more than herbs in the case of such “civilized” diseases that are a direct result of our culture’s ways of eating (although of course genetic pre-disposition only makes it harder). I can’t emphasize enough how important it is cut the carbs down when addressing these kind of insulin troubles.

  4. I had no idea herbs could actually re-regulate the immune system! (If that is what is implied in the last paragraph, anyway.) I have rhuematoid arthritis and am planning on getting on an herbal/diet/excercise regimen when I get out of college, and this definitely gives me hope for the future, moreso than the idea of just exchanging western treatments (antiflammatories, chemotherapy, tnf inhibitors, etc) for its herbal equivalant. I know that the drugs (I refuse to call the medicines) are “disease modifying” but it doesn’t seem like they get to the root of the problems… glad to hear that there’s something out there that might!

    thanks for the great post, as usual!


  5. I treesa…. it’s true, many herbs help to modulate the immune system, either by rebalancing (as is the case with Ashwagandha and Elderberry) or by swinging it in one direction or the other (Peach and Rose can assist a hyperimmune state or Ginger or Echinacea can help a hypoimmune state, though that is certainly an over-simplification the process for sure). In general, I find the whole ~idea~ of the immune system to be faulty and not in line with how nature and the body really works, but rather a box like construct that the medical community has come up with, but until I or someone else can come with a better, workable metaphor for the human ecology I have to use it to make myself understood.

    Certainly many autoimmune type conditions can respond very favorably to treatment, especially that of a dietary nature. Finding nourishing herbs that balance your constitution will certainly help as well. And btw, Ashwagandha is an herb of choice for many herbalists in the treatment of rhuematoid arthritis and can be very healing if it suits your body as a whole.

  6. How funny, I’ve had a natural attraction to peach & rose the past few years for no apparent reason…. Our bodies want what they need. Thanks for the feedback! I’ll keep it in mind 🙂

  7. I had no idea Ashwagandha was going to do this. I started, upon reading Kiva Rose’s advice, on Milky Oat Tops tincture for chronic fatigue 6 months ago (after over 20 years of living a very low-functioning life). After a month, I could tell it was working, so I eagerly added, per Kiva, some tincture of Ashwagandha and some of dried Nettle Seeds.

    3 years ago, when I started on insulin, my blood sugar average was 400–without eating carbs. Now, after several months on Ashwagandha, my blood sugar is so steady and stable, I am hardly using any insulin at all. Used to inject 6 times a day to keep it under control; now, just once. This is on top of a very-low carb diet and lots of nutrient-dense foods and oils.

    My doctor told me that for a diabetic, if your blood sugar is under 180 two hours after eating, that is really good. Lately, two hours after eating, my blood sugar has been, maximum, in the 130’s. It’s like a miracle, and I had no idea the Ashwagandha was going to contribute like that. I’ve almost got my whole life back. Thank you, Kiva Rose.

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