The Long, Fascinating History of the Ashwagandha Plant

Jun 02, 2021Slade Warnken0 comments
Whether it's our skin care, House of Wise Sex gummies, or even our food, we often encounter a long list of “all natural” ingredients and have little to no idea about their true origins. Now that companies are incorporating more medicinal plants into their products, it can be easy to forget that many of these ingredients have cultural and historical roots that reach back much further than their recent use within Western holistic medicine. One ingredient in particular, ashwagandha, is a central plant in one of the world’s oldest traditional medicinal practices, Ayurveda.

The history of ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a small bush-like evergreen shrub native to the drier climates of India as well as Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Its name translates literally to “horse smell,” because of the smell of its roots. In India, it is one of the more than 2,000 medicinal plants used in the traditional medicine practice of Ayurveda.

Ayurveda, or "The Science of Life," was developed over 3,000 years ago, and to this day, 70% of India’s rural population utilizes some type of Ayurvedic medicine as their primary medical care. Ayurvedic thought focuses on each patient as an individual, not on the general experience of a disease, and equates a healthy human to one who is metabolically balanced. Ayurveda utilizes different techniques and combinations of medicinal herbs to bring balance, longevity, and vitality to the health of its patients.

The practices of Ayurveda are based on the information recorded in compilations of knowledge, or Vedas, in which information on plants and their medicinal properties was compiled in the form of Shlokas (or poems). Within Hinduism, this information is believed to have been passed down to humanity by the Hindu God Brahma, the creator of the universe.

One of the most important plants within Ayurvedic medicine is ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is commonly used in Rasayana therapy, a traditional Ayurvedic form of rejuvenation therapy meant to preserve one's youth and prevent aging. According to the Indian Ministry of Ayush, Rasayana therapy “deals with promotion of strength and vitality." Benefits include "promotion of memory, intelligence, immunity against the disease, the preservation of youth," and more.

Ashwagandha itself is said to give the “power of a horse,” and its use as an immune booster, aphrodisiac, and adaptogen makes it one of the most important medicinal herbs within Rasayana therapy and Ayurvedic medicine as a whole.

Benefits and uses of ashwagandha

From the roots to the leaves to the flowers, there is a use for almost every piece of the small evergreen shrub. The roots are one of the most dynamic pieces of the plant and can be used to treat swollen joints, snake venom and scorpion stings, insomnia, and more. The flowers are considered a depurative and an aphrodisiac, and the leaves can be used to treat fevers and swelling.

In Western holistic medicine, ashwagandha has become an integral ingredient in many different health products. In the little scientific research done on the effects and benefits of ashwagandha, it's been shown to be a powerful adaptogen with few side effects and greatly increases the body's resilience against stress and related health problems.

Serum cortisol is a strong biological marker of stress, and in clinical trials done with ashwagandha, it was shown to reduce serum cortisol levels by over 25% within a 60-day period. On top of this, in this same clinical trial, other indicators of stress (such as social dysfunction and severe depression) saw a decrease of over 60%.

Ashwagandha and sex

Of course, one of our favorite aspects of ashwagandha is its ability to act as an aphrodisiac and improve one's sexual experience overall. Ashwagandha has been proven not only to increase levels of testosterone but also to increase levels of nitric oxide. When it comes to sex, nitric oxide has this magic ability of opening of the blood vessels leading to our genitals and increasing blood flow, which just makes it a better time for everyone involved.

On top of all this, stress can be the one of the biggest mood killers out there, as one of its effects is high blood pressure, which constricts arteries and reduces blood flow. This can lead to both erectile dysfunction and female arousal dysfunction. Our lives are particularly stressful right now, and the use of a natural adaptogen like ashwagandha can make sure that stress doesn’t get in the way of enjoying moments of consensual intimacy with our chosen partner.

One study in particular focused on cisgender women diagnosed with female sexual dysfunction. The results of the study were based on a survey taken at weeks four and eight, and participants taking the ashwagandha supplement reported an improvement in lubrication, orgasm, and arousal much higher than the placebo group. While ashwagandha has been heavily marketed as a sexual supplement for cis men, its ability to increase blood flow and reduce stress is not limited to one gender or the other.

Ashwagandha is so much more than just a sexual supplement, but it’s because of its wide range of benefits that it’s such a special ingredient in House of Wise SEX gummies. Sex can be a time to claim some peace and autonomy in our bodies and expression, and things like stress only get in the way of settling into intimacy with our selves and others. Whether it’s as an adaptogen or as an aphrodisiac, ashwagandha is a great health supplement for many reasons, and its history and cultural importance within Ayurveda speaks to just how much ashwagandha can do.

Photo by Dương Nhân from Pexels

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