Herbal supplement ashwagandha has many uses

Ashwagandha is an ancient herb used in alternative medicine for many years. The berries and the root are used for medicinal purposes in India and Africa. It’s been the subject of recent studies and gaining in popularity due to several medical benefits people are reporting.

It is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, which is a holistic medicine system practiced for over 3,000 years in India. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that all of the body’s systems are interwoven, and a person needs to be treated as a whole instead of just focusing on a few symptoms.

The word itself, ashwagandha, is derived from two words of the ancient Indian language, Sanskrit. The word “ashva” means horse, and “ganda” means smell. The two words together mean smells like a horse. According to the information out there, it does indeed smell like a horse.

Ashwagandha has pros and cons

Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen, which is a type of plant best known for helping with stress. When our bodies are under stress, the chemical cortisol is released into the bloodstream. Adaptogens are said to regulate cortisol in the body and therefore reduce stress levels. Stress relief is a common use for ashwagandha.

The website Healthline reports there are evidence-based studies that show ashwagandha has benefits. It’s been used successfully for reducing blood sugar in people with diabetes and relieving anxiety symptoms. Other conditions this herb helps with include depression and infertility. It’s even known to have anti-cancer properties.

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The adaptogenic properties of ashwagandha may also have an effect on women’s hormone levels. It was given in ancient times for menstrual symptoms and low libido. Ashwagandha and birth control have not been studied for interactions, so a backup method should be used if taking ashwagandha.

The safety of this product cannot be guaranteed due to a lack of testing. Consumers are warned not to use it during pregnancy or breastfeeding. People with diabetes are also cautioned about its use due to blood sugar interactions.

According to WebMD, ashwagandha has been used for many other conditions. Besides stress, it’s also been used for bipolar disorder, chemotherapy symptoms, and high cholesterol. However, no hard evidence exists to support those claims.

Other supplements and oral contraceptives

There are some herbs and supplements that can impact the effectiveness of oral contraceptives. St. John’s Wort is known as the worst offender. It’s a potent supplement used for depression and menopausal symptoms. Because it can affect hormone levels, it may reduce the efficacy of birth control pills.

Garlic, also known as allium, is known to have some effects on the body. It’s used for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. When used in food, the small amount is not thought to have any consequences. However, if taken as garlic pills, it may affect hormone levels and oral contraceptives.

Saw palmetto is one of the lesser-known supplements on the list. It’s a small palm tree native to southern regions in the U.S. It reduces the level of estrogen in the body, which is the main ingredient in oral contraceptives. It is not recommended to take this supplement if using birth control pills.

“The adaptogens in ashwagandha may also have an effect on women’s hormone levels. It was given in ancient times for menstrual symptoms and low libido.”

Alfalfa is an herb that is sometimes used as a medication. The leaves, sprouts, and seeds of the plant can be used as-is or ground up and used as a powder. It contains substances known as saponins and should be avoided by people with cancers involving the hormone estrogen. Because it is known to interfere with estrogen levels, it should not be taken with oral contraceptives as it may lower its effectiveness.

Because the FDA does not regulate herbs and supplements, their ability to interact with other medications is not always known. Oral contraceptives fall under that category, and caution should be used while taking them with supplements. Remember to always check with your doctor before taking supplements.

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