Depression is If you are pregnant and looking for a natural remedy to add strength and vitality to your body and baby, chances are that elders have recommended ashwagandha to you. If not, this article is about ashwagandha and pregnancy, and you should definitely give it a read.
Ashwagandha root is a well-known remedy, part of ayurvedic medicine, used for its unique health benefits.
Researchers have been keen to investigate the potential effects of this generous herb.
Singh N. et al., 2011 have shed light on the various benefits of ashwagandha, including its potential anti-tumor effects that are beneficial for Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cell carcinoma.
In the study, ashwagandha has been referred to as 'Rasayana,' meaning something that enhances happiness and provides rejuvenation.
What Is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha, scientifically called Withania somnifera, is also known as Indian ginseng. It is famous for its therapeutic properties and is used as a medicinal herb.
Ashwagandha is an evergreen plant. This means that it can be grown throughout the year, giving it another name, 'winter cherry.' The literal meaning of the word ashwagandha is 'smell of a horse,' but it resonates more to 'vitality of the horse' because of its potential to add strength.
Physically, the ashwagandha is a minor and short-heightened plant that has bell-shaped flowers and velvety leaves. It bears orange-colored fruit, resembling a tomato in appearance.
This species of herbs is native to the Middle East, India, and North Africa but can now be grown throughout the world.
Does Ashwagandha Increase Fertility?
Infertility is a medical condition in which a woman cannot conceive a baby, despite repeated trials for up to a year.
As for men, infertility denotes impotence or a lack of sperm count. Infertility is a serious concern as it has physical implications and has a negative impact on the psychological well-being of a couple due to not being able to bear a child for long.
Research has shown that approximately 15 % of couples experience infertility throughout the world, with 60 to 80 million couples suffering from the ailment world over, according to the World Health Organization.
There may be several reasons why a person suffers from infertility. However, the treatment options include simple therapeutic drug treatments, more complex laboratory techniques, and surgical procedures.
In developing countries, there is a lack of sufficient treatment modalities and equipment that can help diagnose and manage infertility.
This prompts a large number of people to turn to alternative medicine as a more economical and natural therapy that can be used for the long term.
However, people also opt for medicinal herbal remedies in the developed world to protect themselves from the side effects of or after unsuccessful attempts of using modern procedures to conceive. One such therapeutic natural remedy is Withania Somnifera (ashwagandha).
Ashwagandha is widely known as an adaptogen, meaning that it helps the body fight stressors and combat stress. Chronic stress increases cortisol levels in the body, which leads to a decrease in progesterone hormone in the blood. This is harmful to the menstrual cycle and fertility.
When stress is regulated, there are various positive impacts on the human body that follows. Regulation of stress by ashwagandha thus enhances sexual properties in both men and women. In women, ashwagandha plays a vital role in supporting the reproductive system.
Ashwagandha plays its role by decreasing cortisol levels in the blood and improving blood flow.
As a result, the activity of the reproductive system is enhanced, libido is improved, and the menstrual cycle eased out, thereby helping improve fertility and increasing the probability of conceiving. Evidence has shown that ashwagandha benefits not only women but also men in helping to treat infertility.
Is It Safe To Take Ashwagandha During Pregnancy?
People have mixed opinions about the use of ashwagandha during pregnancy. Some people say that taking ashwagandha should be avoided during pregnancy as it may induce abortion. However, according to various studies, this occurs when ashwagandha is consumed in large doses.
The author, Aviva Romm, in Botanical Medicine for Women's Health, 2010, states that the toxic doses of abortifacient (a herb that causes abortion) are needed to cause an abortion, those that would also cause liver and kidney damage.
In general, using ashwagandha is considered safe during pregnancy. However, make sure not to exceed the daily recommended dose, which is ½ teaspoon (½ a gram or 500-milligram extract).
What's best is to consult your doctor before taking the herb and reassure yourself that you can safely use it when you are a mom-to-be.
Can You Take Ashwagandha Before Bed?
People use moon milk at night for a deep and peaceful sleep. Moon milk consists of a combination of ashwagandha and nutmeg.
Moon milk can be prepared by adding half a teaspoon each of ashwagandha powder, cinnamon powder, and ginger powder to hot milk along with a pinch of nutmeg. Top it up with one teaspoon coconut oil and add honey as a sweetener.
Moon milk can be especially soothing in pregnancy, during which the mom-to-be suffers from a serious lack of sleep and discomfort when in bed. However, always talk to your doctor before starting to use moon milk about the amount you can use without any side effects.
Using Ashwagandha In the Postpartum Period
The characteristic symptoms of the postpartum period include mood swings and depression due to disturbed hormones. Your body becomes weak, and added with the lack of sleep that continues from the period of pregnancy, your overall stress levels increase.
Ashwagandha has properties that combat all these issues and helps to:
- Decrease anxiety and stress – Ashwagandha balances cortisol levels and helps reduce postpartum anxiety and stress.
- Induce peaceful sleep – Sleeping for the whole night remains a new mom's dream, especially for the first couple of months after postpartum. Ashwagandha helps you fall asleep again easily after repeated episodes of waking up to feed the baby.
- Restore strength and energy – Ashwagandha root helps your body rebuild your strength and regain the energy you have lost during delivery. Also, it keeps your body rejuvenated while breastfeeding your baby.
- Boost your immune system – Ashwagandha has immense anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help fight free radicals and naturally boost your immune system.
Can Ashwagandha Be Used During Breastfeeding?
High-stress levels might affect the amount of milk produced for the baby. Ashwagandha thus has a beneficial effect on milk production indirectly. By reducing stress levels, the mother is in a relaxed and calm state of mind. Hence, this helps her eat and drink adequately, thereby promoting milk production.
What Are the Side Effects of Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is categorized as an adaptogenic herb. One of the major features of an adaptogenic herb is its capability of reducing stress without potentially harming the human body.
A key reason why ashwagandha, and not opium, can be classified as an adaptogenic agent is that while opium can also support in decreasing stress symptoms, its adverse effects are evident and scientifically proven.
Even though ashwagandha is a natural therapeutic herb and should not cause side effects, its impact on each individual varies depending upon how their bodies respond to the herb as well as the amount and method of its use.
In general, people tolerate ashwagandha well in moderate doses. Its effects are seen after a few week's usages. However, one might experience minor side effects. These include:
- Upset stomach
Other side effects include decreased blood pressure, reduced blood sugar, and elevated thyroid hormone levels. However, most side effects show up with the use of higher doses.
Individuals with conditions of blood pressure, diabetes, or thyroid disorder need to be very cautious when using ashwagandha. First, consult your physician about your condition and ensure the use of ashwagandha is safe for you before starting to use it.
How Much Ashwagandha Can You Consume?
Typically, the dose of ashwagandha for healthy adults is one to two spoons. As for women who want to conceive as well as for new moms, 1/4 to 1 teaspoon of ashwagandha powder should be taken per day.
Similar to the use of any herb, you should start low, i.e., with a small dose, and gradually increase the dose. However, make sure not to go beyond the maximum recommended dose.
How Should You Consume Ashwagandha?
Some individuals like to take ashwagandha on an empty stomach as they find more noticeable effects that way. However, if you are not certain about it or have a feeling of discomfort, you can combine ashwagandha with some snacks to avoid any uneasiness:
- Ashwagandha with ghee – Ashwagandha root powder can be taken with ghee mixed with the same amount of honey with a pinch of powdered cardamom as a thick mixture.
- Ashwagandha in milk – Ashwagandha powder can also be consumed as a sleep inducer by adding it to warm milk or as moon milk mentioned earlier.
- Ashwagandha powder in meals – Adding ashwagandha powder to beverages like coffee and food such as smoothies is also a good option to take ashwagandha, skipping its bitter taste.
- Ashwagandha tea – Ashwagandha root cuttings or powder form, added to hot water along with honey as a sweetener, make a great ashwagandha tea that provides a feeling of relaxation.
- Oral Supplements – Ashwagandha supplement such as Organic Ashwagandha Root Powder with Black Pepper can be taken orally to avoid any hassle and serves as an excellent mess-free option.
After How Long Ashwagandha Will Show Its Effects?
Health cannot be gained right away. How your body reacts to ashwagandha depends on some other habits and lifestyle you already have. If you want nourishment from therapeutic herbs, you also have to maintain healthy dietary habits.
A healthy diet and regular exercise are crucial for the body to gain nutrients from ashwagandha.
When used in combination with a healthy lifestyle, ashwagandha shows its positive effects on your body for as early as two to three weeks.
The quality of ashwagandha also has an effect on how quickly it shows its effects on you. While a better quality and fresh product will have improved results, a good quality supplement can also make a difference.
Don't expect ashwagandha to show its effects in a day. Your body will take some time to get acclimatized to the herb before showing its benefits. Based on your preexisting health, ashwagandha will take a few weeks to a month to reveal its merits.
Other Uses of Ashwagandha
Along with its potential benefits in pregnancy when taken in an adequate amount, ashwagandha also has other benefits, which include:
- Helping to reduce blood sugar and improve insulin secretion as well as sensitivity in diabetes.
- Ability to fight cancer with its compound withaferin that serves to form reactive oxygen species and kill cancer cells.
- Alleviates symptoms of depression. A study has shown a reduction of 79% of depression in patients with the use of ashwagandha.
- Improves muscle strength. It has also been shown that people who take ashwagandha regularly have improved muscle strength and mass.
- Combats inflammation by activating immune cells called natural killer cells, which fight against inflammation.
- May reduce cholesterol by reducing blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- May enhance brain function by promoting antioxidant activity and provides protection from the negative effects of free radicals.
Ashwagandha is one of the numerous nature's bounties that has several health benefits for mankind. However, getting the most out of it and using it for its beneficial rather than negative effects depends on the dose and the number of times it is used in a day.
The benefits of ashwagandha include improvement in fertility, enhancement of strength during pregnancy and the postpartum period, enhancement of immunity, regulation of hormones, improved sleep quality, as well as improved overall psychological well-being.
Nonetheless, you need to have a regular intake of ashwagandha in the recommended doses to reap full benefits. It is essential to consult your doctor and discuss in detail ashwagandha's usage during pregnancy and lactation.
- Nasimi Doost Azgomi R, Zomorrodi A, Nazemyieh H, et al. Effects of Withania somnifera on Reproductive System: A Systematic Review of the Available Evidence [published correction appears in Biomed Res Int. 2019 Nov 21;2019:7591541]. Biomed Res Int. 2018;2018:4076430. Published 2018 Jan 24. doi:10.1155/2018/4076430
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