Ashwagandha is an Indian herb with a wide variety of potential health benefits. It’s revered today for a multitude of reasons, from stress relief to improvement of sexual performance and cancer prevention.
It’s not hard to find yourself or people you know suffering from stress, and sometimes this can become a constant ailment.
A healthy dose of ashwagandha can be a good complement to a multivitamin with essential nutrients, if you’re trying to reduce your levels of stress and want to take advantage of its many benefits. Some of these claims are supported by science, others not so much.
But what’s undeniable is that the amazing properties of this plant have been recognized since antiquity: it has been used for more than 3000 years in Ayurveda, the Indian medicine system based on natural healing.
For many centuries it was passed on orally from generation to generation. Ayurveda, believed by many to be the oldest medical system, is the basis of most modern alternative medicine (1).
Ashwagandha plays a critical role in the preparation of many Rasayana(2), which are herbal preparations meant to increase lifespan and prevent physical decay.
The name of the plant comes from the combinations of the Sanskrit words ashwa and gandha, which mean horse and smell respectively. This is suggestive of the supposed horse-like smell of its roots.
The root and leaves of Ashwagandha have been used since its first medicinal uses to prepare tonics that are often taken by young children, frequently with milk, and is also taken by middle-aged and elderly people to extend longevity.
Ashwagandha’s most common form is churna, a fine powder that can be mixed with water, ghee or honey. You’ll find it more often under the name of root powder.
The reason is that the root is the part of the plant that has the most beneficial properties. You can add ashwagandha root powder to almost anything: oatmeal, smoothies, lattes, salad, and cocoas, turning your breakfast into a superfood.
Ashwagandha is also made into a paste that can be used topically to treat inflammations. The leaves, flowers, and seeds also have a variety of health effects like treating fever, being depurative and increasing sperm count. (3)
Best Ashwagandha Supplements
The most comfortable way to access ashwagandha is in the form of supplements. Here is a list of the best ashwagandha supplements you can get.
Organic Ashwagandha Root Powder
This option is made by Feel Good Organics and it gives you a 100% pure bag of premium ashwagandha root powder. Turning the root into powder is one of its oldest ways of consumption, and it’s also a very versatile one.
Besides, the root of the ashwagandha plant is probably its most powerful part, followed closely by the leaves. This product is brought to you directly from India, so you’re sure to get the real stuff.
It’s also completely natural: it’s certified USDA organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers, non-GMO and with absolutely no additives. It is packed in California after coming straight from India.
The bag is resealable and it can sit on your shelf for over a year. You can add it to smoothies, lattes, and oatmeals to turn them into superfoods. If you’re dissatisfied in any way with the product, Feel Good Organic promises you a 100% refund.
Gaia Herbs Ashwagandha Root
However, don’t let the pill presentation fool you. Gaia Herbs is committed to the ancient tradition of natural healing and believes in the spiritual connection between our bodies and nature.
With over 30 years of customer service, Gaia Herbs offers you a carefully curated product, giving you a complete report in all the production steps of the supplement.
Gaia Herbs boasts the fact that they manage the entire supply and production chain, giving them control over the final quality of the product.
Another great way of getting the amazing benefits of ashwagandha is via pill supplements. These have the advantages of being easy to take with you anywhere you go and needing no preparation.
After all, ashwagandha is supposed to relieve your stress, and sometimes what you need when you’re having a stressful day is to avoid complications.
Taking your herbal supplements without much thought can help with that, taking advantage of these small packages specially designed to be seamlessly absorbed by your body.
Ashwagandha KSM-66 by Fresh Healthcare
Fresh Healthcare is a brand that specializes in creating products suitable for vegans and vegetarians dietists, and this KSM-66 ashwagandha supplement is made to be potent as much as it is natural.
It is non-GMO and has been formulated and tested in the US. You should also know that Fresh Healthcare donates 5% of its profit to Medical Relief International.
This premium ashwagandha supplement is composed of at least 5% withanolides, more than double than other supplements. Withanolides are one of the most helpful components of ashwagandha, with some studies supporting its anti-cancer properties.
This supplement is blended with black pepper, which can dramatically improve the absorption of ashwagandha. Take two of these potent pills a day to enjoy the benefits of ashwagandha with full strength.
Soothe Thyroid Support and Adrenal Support
If you’re feeling like getting something more packed and with a variety of herbs and minerals, then this is the supplement for you. The Soothe supplement has ashwagandha as its main ingredient and it’s joined by Rhodiola Rosea, Eleuthero, Iodine, Schisandra, zinc, magnesium, selenium, L-Tyrosine, and copper.
These ingredients are specially picked to provide balance to your adrenal glands and thyroids, together with the full benefits that the different herbs bring.
WellPath boasts being backed by several renowned publications and being supported by a community of experts.
Same as the other alternatives, Soothe is non-GMO, gluten-free and completely suitable for vegetarians. It’s also completely made in the USA.
Organic Ashwagandha by NaturaLife Labs
NaturaLife Lab’s ashwagandha capsules provide extra potent absorption by combining the root powder with black pepper, making the capsules dissolve quickly and gently in your stomach.
Its high count of 2100mg makes this supplement especially strong. It’s non-GMO, vegan-friendly and doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients or preservatives.
The product offers you a 100% refund guarantee if you’re dissatisfied with the results. It’s also one of the most inexpensive ashwagandha supplements out there.
Just remember that if you’re allergic to pepper, you’ll have to find a different supplement.
Benefits of Ashwagandha
1.Helps Reduce Stress
Ashwagandha has adaptogenic properties, which means it has anti-stress effects. (4)
Studies have shown that Ashwagandha can reduce stress-related symptoms in animals and improve physical performance.
A study showed its capacity to regulate neural transmissions related to the feeling of stress and anxiety. (5)
Ashwagandha can engage in GBAergic signaling, which blocks and stimulates certain neural transmissions. Through this process, the plant can regulate GBAergic dysfunctions, thus helping the treatment of general anxiety disorders, sleep disturbances, muscle spasms, and seizures.
Another study tested the ability of rats to swim depending on their stress levels. Those that had taken ashwagandha performed visibly better, showing the anti-stress capabilities of the plant. (6)
Ashwagandha has been shown to have a positive effect on several stressed-induced illnesses like arteriosclerosis, premature aging, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, and malignancy. (7)
This is an ability that ashwagandha shares with many ingredients used in Ayurveda medicine, and it’s what won it the name of “Indian ginseng”.
Relieving stress is one of the benefits of ashwagandha with more evidence to support it.
2. May Reduce Cortisol Levels
Studies show that ashwagandha can reduce cortisol levels, also known as the “stress hormone”. Having high levels of cortisol is associated with having stress and anxiety.
However, regulating cortisol is a benefit that goes beyond just reducing stress.
Cortisol is a hormone produced by your adrenal glands, which are located just above the kidneys. They affect almost every tissue and organ in your body.
Cortisol plays an important role in responding to stress, fighting infections, regulating blood sugar, maintaining blood pressure and regulating metabolism. (8)
As you can see, having proper cortisol levels is very important for your health.
In a placebo-controlled study, ashwagandha was shown to effectively reduce cortisol levels by almost 30% in adults in only 60 days. (9)
3. May Help Prevent Ulcers
Ashwagandha is often used to prevent ulcers as a part of remedies with several herbs,(10) and is proposed as an alternative with fewer side effects than standard drugs.
This may work on the basis that ashwagandha reduces gastric acid secretions and regulates antioxidants.
Ulcers happen when the thick protective layer of mucus that protects your stomach is reduced and gastric acids start to eat away the stomach tissues. Thus, reducing gastric acids can help alleviate it.
On the other hand, increased levels of free radicals are also associated with ulcers, which means that regulating antioxidants can also be helpful.
Some studies show evidence of this plant helping the treatment of ulcers. (11) However, medical databases warn against using ashwagandha when having ulcers. If you have an ongoing ulcer, it’s not a good idea to use ashwagandha. (12)
4. Can Help You Lose Weight If You’re Under Stress
We’ve seen how ashwagandha can help you manage stress and anxiety. But stress, especially when you take into account the increased release of cortisol, can have many negative consequences. One of them is obesity.
It’s common for people under chronic stress to feel higher than normal food craving, increase their weight and eat less healthily in general.
A placebo-controlled study showed that the treatment of ashwagandha in people that suffer from chronic stress can help them have better weight management and facilitate weight loss. (13)
After 8 weeks of treatment, a significant body weight loss was reported among the patients. There was also a reduction of the perceived food craving of the individuals.
It’s possible that ashwagandha can also help prevent weight gain in the long term, but more studies are needed to be sure.
5. Can Increase Fertility And Testosterone In Men
Several studies have shown that Ashwagandha can boost the fertility of men(14) and even help improve their sex life by increasing their testosterone levels.
A study showed a clear relationship between chronic stress and low fertility. The ashwagandha treatment helped improve the semen quality in a significant portion of the individuals that were affected by stress, and even got some of the partners pregnant. (15)
Another study, besides also observing better quality in the semen, also found that ashwagandha increased the levels of testosterone of the participants. (16)
6. Can Reduce Inflammation
One of the oldest uses of ashwagandha is for inflammations. After boiling its leaves in water, it is applied topically over the swollen area.
A study showed that ashwagandha can effectively protect skin against inflammation by blocking certain proteins. (17)
7. Can Increase Vitality In Older People
Few goals in medicine have been so persistent as the fight against aging. Since their first attempts at medicine, humans have always tried to keep their bodies youthful and extend their lifespan.
In fact, this is one of the oldest and most prominent uses ashwagandha has been given.
Now, some studies may give scientific support to this ancient claim. A study observed the effects of ashwagandha in aging men between 40 and 70 years old and found a significant increase in testosterone and DHEA, a hormone that helps to create other hormones. DHEA is highest when you’re young and decreases as you grow old. (18)
Another study tested the effects of ashwagandha in a standard species of worm used in laboratory experiments. (19) Ashwagandha was able to increase the lifespan of the worm by 20%.
Although this doesn’t really apply to humans, it opens a way to make these tests on mammals and shows that there might be something behind the old wisdom.
8. May Have Anticancer Properties
There’s a type of compound in ashwagandha called withanolides. According to a study performed in mice, withanolides conferred some protection against cancer and retarded tumor growth. (21)
Another study found that this same component helps induce cell death in several types of tumor cells. (22)
9. May Boost Your Immune System
According to some studies, ashwagandha can also help you boost your immune system. In a study made with mice, it was proved that ashwagandha leaf extract can boost the activation of the immune system and improve the ability to secrete certain cells that are crucial for it. (23)
Another study found that a mix with ashwagandha as the main ingredient increased the rate of phagocytosis, (24) one of the main ways our immune system has of removing pathogens.
Another study found that animals treated with ashwagandha showed higher white cell counts and platelet counts. (25)
The plant was also able to counteract a certain kind of immunosuppression in animals, showing a faster response to antibodies.
This benefit can also be explained by the increase in cortisol caused by ashwagandha since cortisol plays a major role in the deployment of the immune system.
Possible Side Effects
Ashwagandha is generally considered to be safe and well-tolerated in small and medium doses over the short term, but large doses can sometimes upset your stomach and cause diarrhea and vomiting.
There haven’t been enough studies to test the possible side effects of its use in the long term.
1. Don’t Use Ashwagandha If You’re Pregnant
2. Ashwagandha Can Be Harmful If You Have An Ulcer
Although ashwagandha is suggested to work against ulcers on the basis that it reduces gastric acids and regulates antioxidants, it can also irritate the gastrointestinal tract. (28)
Don’t use ashwagandha if you have an ulcer.
3. Don’t Use Ashwagandha If You Have Diabetes
Ashwagandha could help lower blood sugar levels. Although this can be a benefit on other circumstances, it could interfere with medications for diabetes.(29)
4. Don’t Use Ashwagandha If You Have An Auto-immune Disease
Ashwagandha may strengthen the immune system. This, too, can be a benefit in other circumstances, but it could worsen the symptoms of auto-immune diseases.
Frequently Asked Questions
What dose of ashwagandha should I take?
The dosing varies greatly depending on the condition that you want to treat. Ashwagandha extract is normally taken in doses between 450 milligrams and 2 grams. (30)
How should I take ashwagandha
Probably the oldest way of taking it, and also the most common one in Ayurveda medicine, is as a tonic made with other herbs and fruits. You could make one using ashwagandha extract.
However, taking it as pill supplements works as well and is more practical for many people.
In Ayurveda, medicine ashwagandha is also used topically for treating things like inflammations.
Is ashwagandha safe to ingest?
Yes, it is generally safe to ingest. However, if you take it in large doses it can cause diarrhea, vomiting and stomach upset. It’s also not a good idea to take ashwagandha if you have an ulcer.
If you feel that the consumption of ashwagandha is causing you any harmful effect, suspend its use and contact your medical provider.
How can ashwagandha improve your health?
There are many ways in which ashwagandha may improve your health. It’s used to treat anxiety and depression, reduce stress, treat inflammation, increase testosterone level and prevent ulcers.
Ashwagandha may also have anti-cancer properties and it could improve vitality in older men.
Taking the best ashwagandha gives you a good chance to improve your overall health. With increasingly demanding work hours, most people suffer from stress at least occasionally, and many live with chronic stress and anxiety.
For this reason, ashwagandha is a plant that can help almost anyone.
Besides, to consume ashwagandha is also to take part in a very old tradition. Among its medicinal herbs, ashwagandha is probably the most revered in the ancient Ayurveda medical system, possibly the oldest medical system in the world.
Since always, it has been claimed to have a myriad of health benefits, and today science is beginning to show evidence for some of them.
The most commonly known claim about ashwagandha is its purported capacity to reduce stress and anxiety.
Some studies have shown that it can, indeed, have this effect. One of the main reasons is its ability to reduce and regulate the production of cortisol, a hormone that is closely associated with stress.
Through the regulation of cortisol and other positive effects in other aspects of stress and anxiety, ashwagandha may also help reduce the gain of body weight in stressed individuals.
Ashwagandha can also increase the production of other hormones like testosterone. This means that it may help improve sex life and vitality in older people.
Ashwagandha is generally safe to take in small and medium doses. However, you should avoid taking it if you’re pregnant or have an ongoing ulcer. Lastly, check out the best BCAA for women.