Monday, February 20, 2012

Ashwaganda -Tasty Every Day Restorative Formulas

Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) is by far one of the top herbs I have come to rely on in my work as a community clinical herbalist.  I generally look very closely at an individuals health history, constitution and long term health goals before suggesting any herb or practice, but time and time again, I have found so many  people, men and women of all ages, who immensely benefit from the rejuvenative and restorative properties of this root medicine.  Ashwaganda comes to us from the Ayurvedic tradition in India where it is known as a "rasayana" or that which restores, transforms, conserves and revitalizes energy of the body.  

In today's busy world how many of go walking around exhausted, half asleep, mentally foggy, in a constant state of adrenal stress, with sleep debt and often times not even on enough food/fuel.  I've seen numerous clients and friends in this state, and even myself more often than not- so busy they can't find time to eat, stay up late to finish work, drive long distances under stress, have too many responsibilities and tasks to accomplish and too little help, feel exhausted, drained, experience a loss of libido, sleep poorly, and have stressful and extreme mood swings.  Something is wrong with this picture.  This isn't living.  

First off, lifestyle changes and practices for managing stress, getting more sleep, eating properly all must be implemented to see positive and healthy changes in life.  For me lately, that is looking like taking a real hard, long look at exactly what I am capable of myself as one person, setting myself very specific time limits on work hours, making regular dates with friends to get outside, hike, or camp, taking regular walks and yoga breaks,  and asking for more help.  Each of us as individuals have to go through the processes of shifting our life-long habits that do not serve us or promote health and vitality, sometimes its often just a matter of learning a different way of doing things.

But on top of these sorts of changes, which are absolutely essential, during the process of making changes, and moving through transitions and challenging times- I have found this Ashwaganda to be an indespensible ally to many many people, myself included.  It supports people in evening out mood swings, restoring libido and sexual vitality, improves sleep quality, provides balanced energy throughout the day, without being overstimulating, provides nourishment to the blood (ashwaganda is extremely rich in iron) and the HPA axis  (hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis- i.e. the endocrine system).  People begin to notice effects when they start taking ashwaganda almost immediately, within a week or two.  But the best results continue to show up as they continue taking ashwaganda for 3 - 6 months, or even longer.  Consistenly people come back to me to tell me how much ashwaganda helps them.

Most commonly people are using the tincture of the root, or occasionally buying standarized capsules in a health food store, but I'd like to share the ways I like to use Ashwaganda myself and with my clients that don't involve taking a tincture!     These are very nourishing and delicious ways to take ashwaganda, which isn't really the yummiest of herbs on its own.

Ashwaganda & Cinnamon Infused Milk
This is the most common way I reccommend Ashwaganda to people, and is truly a delight to enjoy!  Ashwaganda was traditionally given in milk and so I like to use this method- using what has worked for hundreds if not thousands of years.

1 tsp ashwaganda powder
dash of cinnamon to taste
1 cardamom pod, cracked
8-10 oz milk (dairy, goat, almond, coconut)
1 tbsp honey
1 pinch of sea salt
1 tsp ghee or coconut oil
1 tbsp rose gulkand, or dried roses ( alternatively 1 tsp rose water)  (OPTIONAL)

Warm the milk to just bubbling at the edges and add powders, herbs, oil and salt and mix thouroughly.  Reduce heat and warm 3-5 min longer.  Remove from heat, add honey, and whisk the whole pot vigourously until oil and honey are incorporated.

Serve hot and drink the roses, ashwaganda and cinnamon powder down with the milk.  This is an excellent preparation for your morning wake up drink, after making love/sex, for an afternoon pick me up, or any time you need extra nourishment and sweetness. I suggest once or twice a day.  If only, once you might wish to up the ashwaganda to 2 tsp.

Ashwaganda Electuary
1 pt Ashwaganda powder
1/8 pt cardamom seed powder
1/3 pt citrus peel powder (orange is my favorite)
2 pt Honey
(1/2 - 1 pt cacao powder) - optional

Mix powders together in a bowl and mix with enough honey to make a thick jam like paste.  It will thicken with time, so err on the side of runny.  Place this into a jar with a lid and store.  You can take this electuary by the spoonful, mix into tea, mix into smoothies, spread on toast, breakfast cereal, rice or in stewed fruit. Take 1 - 3 tsp daily.

Ashwaganda Syrup
1 cup ashwaganda root, dried pieces
1.5 qts water
1 pinch sea salt
2 cups honey or sugar
2- 4 oz brandy or ashwaganda tincture (optional)

Simmer and cook ashwaganda root in water for about an hour.  You want to simmer, not boil to death, but also evaporate some of the liquid as you are simmering, until you have about 16 oz of ashwaganda decoction.  Simmering to reduce helps to concentrate the decoction.  Strain the ashwaganda roots out of the decoction and reduce further if needed to 16 oz.  to the strained decoction add the same volume of honey or sugar and mix thouroughly by stirring, or shaking a covered jar.  Add 2-4 oz of brandy or ashwaganda tincture to preserve your syrup longer.  If you do not add alcohol, store your syrup in the fridge and use within 2 months.

Take up to 2 tbsp 2-3 times a day.
This recipe is not appropriate for those with blood sugar issues, diabetes or insulin resistance!  You may also find you want to add a pinch of cardamom, clove, or a vanilla bean to your syrup as it is cooling as well.

Restorative Nutritive Tea Blend
1 pt Ashwaganda root
2 pt nettles
1 pt cinnamon
1 pt tulsi basil
1/2 pt ginger
1/2 pt licorice root

Blend herbs well in a jar and store away from the light.  Use 1 tbsp per pint, or 2-3 tbsp per quart of hot water.  Steep tea for 1 hr or more, or alternatively, simmer gently, gently for 15 min, covered.  This blend taken daily will replenish the body with nutrients and minerals, reduce stress, improve digestion and taste good too.  This is lovely with a bit of honey taken in your thermos to work, school or on your daily errands. Up to 1 qt daily.  It's been described to me as gingerbread love in a cup.  Hey, that sounds pretty great huh?

If you don't have time to make your own ashwaganda preparation, I have a few special syrups left at PoppySwap which have Ashwaganda as a part of the formula.  Parvati's Devotion- Herbal Syrup for the heart, romance and self-love.    They have been a huge hit and I only have a couple left!


Natalie said...

Do so love your creative and yummy twist on things!!! Thanks for the great post.

Renee A.D. said...

Darcy, I really loved this post! These recipes look wonderful, and I'm going to try your infused milk recipe right now!

Lucy said...


I've noticed your blog in the sidebar of 'Tree Year'.

I was 'following' trees before that started - and am continuing - so I've offered to help link others who are doing the same.

The details are on my blog, Loose and Leafy.

I'm making a list of people who are noting the progress of a particular tree (or group of trees, the plants and fungi associated with an individual tree . . . or . . . the definition of 'tree following' is fluid!)

If you would like to join in with this, let me know and I'll add your blog to the list - with a link. Then, whenever you post about 'your' tree, let me know - either by leaving a note in the comments or by email, and I'll put an updated link to that too.

It's all very informal and I'm still working out the best way to do it but do let me know if you would like to take part.

Lucy Corrander

"The mother of us all, the oldest of us all, Hard, splendid as rock, Let the beauty you love, be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth"~ Rumi ~