Do you ever feel as though you are running on empty?
Grasping at any source of energy you can get your hands on?
Your ‘to do’ list may be longer than you are. The time to do it all in seems to be passing by at the speed of light.
Life feels as though it is demanding every element of you.
Your shoulders are beginning to tighten; your sleep is becoming disturbed; you’re beginning to hold on by a thread.
You know that if this doesn’t slow down, something’s gotta give…either your sanity or your health.
Feel familiar at all?
Well, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Withania.
Withania for Stress
Withania is a close friend that I reach for when going through those periods of being saturated with life’s chaos. Even delightful and pleasurable chaos can be exhausting!
Withania comes from India and holds a very esteemed place in Ayurvedic medicine. Its Sanskrit name “ashwagandha” translates to “strength of a horse” and implies just that. It helps you to access your own inner reserves of strength so that you take the world on with sustained vigour.
From my experience with withania, I feel it is a plant that mobilises and distributes that very pure energy that resides within all of us. It harmonises the body and mind in unexpected ways by simply helping you operate from a calmer energy source.
For those who need sleep, it will help them sleep. For those who need energising and moving, it will lighten and inspire them. For the student who needs to do long stretches of study, withania will bring focus and endurance. For those frantic times, grace and strength are offered. The beauty of withania is its gentleness and intelligence.
Withania as a Blood Nourisher
Just as it has a nourishing effect on the nervous and musculoskeletal systems, withania also nourishes the blood. Being iron-rich (if grown in high-quality soils) promotes the formation of red blood cells (very important for women whose diet is lacking in iron, have heavy periods and experience fatigue, foggy thinking and hair loss).
Withania is a member of the Solanaceae (tomato) family and forms a characteristic red fruit that reminds me of the power ball in those washing powder ads. Casualty to subliminal advertising aside, it’s quite an apt comparison! Bringing the medicinal virtues of withania is like bringing the power pack.
Withania & Immune Support
Withania also builds immune blood cells and gives them clear direction. Unlike many other immune-stimulating herbs that are not recommended for autoimmune conditions (with the theory of why strengthen the army attacking you?), withania is very useful for balancing the immune response and redirecting the war effort away from the self and to actual immune threats. This also applies to allergies. It harmonises by imparting intelligence.
How to Prepare Withania
This plant is best taken over a long period of time to reap its benefits. Luckily it has a mild, sweet, earthy flavour with only a slight hint of bitterness. It makes a great base to layer with aromatics (such as cardamom, cinnamon and star anise), smooth and fruity plants (such as vanilla and wood betony) and lighter florals (such as rose and lavender).
However, my favourite way to prepare withania, which is such a luscious treat, is as a warm milky drink. Add 1/2 cup of your preferred milk to 1/2 cup of water with 1 tablespoon of withania, 2–3 cardamom pods crushed, and a pinch of saffron. Warm the milk until it is steaming. Pass through a strainer and add 1 teaspoon of rosewater and honey if you like. To be drunk before bed for deep, restful sleep. It’s really worth a try.
This is a plant to consider incorporating into your life during particularly stressful periods such as deadlines, exams or periods where your schedule is overflowing with work and/or family commitments. Withania will gently lend you that bit more strength. It’s safe in breastfeeding and pregnancy, and I’m a tad in love.
References & Resources
Braun, L., & Cohen, M. (2010). Herbs and Natural Supplements: An Evidence-Based Guide (3 edition). Churchill Livingstone.
Frawley, D., & Lad, V. (1986). The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine. Lotus Press.
Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Simon and Schuster.
McQuade Crawford, A. (1997). Herbal Remedies for Women: Discover Nature’s Wonderful Secrets Just for Women: Amanda McQuade Crawford. Harmony. https://www.amazon.com/Herbal-Remedies-Women-Discover-Wonderful/dp/0761509801/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1532018101&sr=1–1&keywords=herbal+remedies+for+women+discover+nature
Romm, A. (2009). Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health, 1e (1 edition). Churchill Livingstone.
Romm, A. J. (2014). The natural pregnancy book: Your complete guide to a safe, organic pregnancy and childbirth with herbs, nutrition, and other holistic choices (Third edition). Ten Speed Press.
Trickey, R. (2004). Women, Hormones & the Menstrual Cycle: Herbal & Medical Solutions from Adolescence to Menopause (Fully revised and updated edition). Allen & Unwin.