Withania: the women’s herb
Naturopath Jennifer McLennan takes a closer look some of the ways withania, otherwise known as Indian ginseng, herb can help women.
Many of us have experienced the physical response to stress – tension, sleeplessness, racing heart and fatigue. Long-term stress wreaks havoc on the nervous system.
When you’re under stress, the brain signals to the adrenal glands (two small glands responsible for the release of several hormones, including adrenaline, and the corticosteroids) to release hormones which act as messengers, resulting in a stress response.
We respond to stress by increasing the heart rate, lung capacity and diverting blood from the digestive tract to the muscles.
Withania is considered an adaptogen herb, helping the body adapt to stress and improve stamina for those suffering from lack of sleep.
Interestingly, some immune cells are known to be affected by stress. These cells have receptors to take signals from adrenal hormones. The adrenal hormones decrease the ability of these immune cells to multiply, migrate, and kill foreign invaders, therefore suppressing the immune system.
Withania has been looked at in research for its ability to modulate the immune system, with increases of white blood cells, platelets and neutrophils noted.
Withania has traditionally been used to help improve brain performance and also memory enhancement. This is believed to occur by the herb improving the performance of certain neurotransmitters.
The stress response initiates a set of reactions leading to excitability in the nervous system and feelings of anxiety. Withania has a reported positive effect on anxiety, which is hypothesised to be due to its ability to lower cortisol levels and mimic the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA.
Nothing will wipe out the sex drive faster than stress, tension and anxiety. Traditionally withania has been used to help with low libido in women and men by reducing the symptoms of stress, therefore improving libido.
Sleep is another important function that can be knocked out during stressful times. Sleep is critical in maintaining mental performance, energy and stamina throughout daily activities.
Withania, as discussed above, is used for anxiety, as it helps provide a more relaxed heart rate, and improve feelings of calm – this in turn can benefit the sleep deprived among us, especially when long term stress is the cause.
References available upon request