Of my 17 years working at The Big Carrot, I have spent the last 13 as a co-operative owner and in-store nutritionist. It has been a passionate journey full of food experiments and great friendships. I am on leave right now so I can pursue writing and television, but I only live two blocks away so it is still my 'home away from home'.
My brilliant friend Frances (nicknamed as Ashwagandha in the store) is an herbalist and co-operative owner of The Big Carrot. He knows everything about the 'energetics' of herbs and his generosity overflows. Every time I see him he gives me one more herb to use in the kitchen.
Ashwagandha, pronounced Ah-sh-wa-gan-dah (aka Indian Gingseng) is such an appropriate name for Frances because the herb is regarded as an adaptogen (an herb that helps you adapt to stress while enhancing your energy). That would be Frances in a nutshell. He seems to get younger every time I see him.
The root of ashwagandha contains flavonoids that are anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-stress, antioxidant, mind-boosting, and immune-enhancing. My interest in Ashwagandha was first piqued when researching my book Meals That Heal Inflammation. A 2008 study showed that when combined with GLS (glucosamine sulfate) ashwagandha could protect against inflammation and cartilage damage associated with osteoarthritis. (1)
Recently I started to take Ashwagandha because it boosts thyroid function. There is a history of low thyroid in my family (my mom, aunt and grandma are all on Synthroid). I want to get pregnant this year and I know it is very important to have my TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) under 2. TSH is made in the pituitary gland and tells the thyroid to work harder. If the TSH is high it means the thyroid function is low. In my case the TSH level was creeping up over 3.5. I knew it had to turn it around quickly to assure a healthy pregnancy and avoid my genetic fate! Mr Ashwagandha gave me a fun way to reduce my TSH.
Here is his recipe. Mix 2 TB of Ashwagandha powder with 1/3 cup of raw coconut butter and 1.5 to 2 Tbsp honey. It makes a paste that is so tasty and easy to enjoy. I find it as addictive as chocolate! I know that may sound strange, as it is a bitter root but let’s remember that cocoa is very bitter before a sweetener is added.
If you struggle with low thyroid function and are looking for some natural supplemental support, I suggest Thyrosense by Preferred Nutrition. It contains Tyrosine, the amino acid that makes up the backbone of the thyroid hormones; it also contains iodine, the essential mineral that the thyroid uses to make T3 and T4. Besides the wonderful ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), it also has Guggul (Commiphora mukul) extract that helps with the conversion of T4 to the active T3. I take 2 capsules with breakfast and one after lunch but I suggest you speak with your health care practitioner to find the correct dose for you.
The great news is my TSH is now down to 2.5 and continues to move into balance. I reduced it from 3.5 to 2.5 in 30 days.
1 in 10 women have thyroid dysfunction. I did not have any symptoms except cold hands and feet but many women with low thyroid suffer from weight gain, fatigue, poor concentration, anxiety, dry hair and brittle nails and even insomnia. I suggest everyone have their TSH checked to ensure they can balance thyroid function naturally if needed. It is a shame that most women do not know they have a problem until their TSH is well over 5. By that time your doctor will most likely suggest a thyroid drug like Synthroid. Your doctor may not tell you your TSH number unless you ask directly. They will often say it is normal but it could still be low functioning. When the TSH is low but still in normal range, natural remedies like ashwagandha and Thyrosense can really work their magic.
(1) Sumantran VN, Chandwaskar R, Joshi AK, Boddul S, Patwardhan B, Chopra A, Wagh UV. "The relationship between chondroprotective and antiinflammatory effects of Withania somnifera root and glucosamine sulphate on human osteoarthritic cartilage in vitro." Phytotherapy Research 2008 22(10):1342-8.