Indian Wonder Herb, Ashwagandha, an Antidote for Stressful Living

Introduction Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) has become one of the most popular Ayurvedic herbs in use in the Western world.  And it is no wonder, with all the benefits that Ashwagandha has to offer!  Ashwagandha has been used by Ayurveda for thousands of years as a rasāyana (rejuvenative) and an adaptogenic herb, meaning that it is used to help the body resist physiological and psychological stress (1). The name Ashwagandha translates into “smell of a horse”; this is a reference to both the unique smell of the herb, as well as the virility of a horse, an inference to the traditional use of Ashwagandha to support a healthy male reproductive system (2).

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Benefits of Ashwagandha Ashwagandha is used to tone, support, and revitalize bodily functions (1).  It has been revered over time for its ironic dual capacity to energize and calm at the same time.   Stress can cause fatigue, often manifesting as “hyper” signs like agitation and difficulty sleeping.  By providing a nourishing, energizing effect, you can support a healthy nervous system.  When the stress doesn’t impact the nervous system as strongly, the “hyper” signs will naturally resolve over time (2), allowing for a calming effect.  This quality of Ashwagandha makes it a prime supplement to use in the toning and rejuvenation process (3). In addition to its dual energizing/calming effect, Ashwagandha offers a number of benefits:
  • Supports a healthy immune system (2,3)
  • Calms mental processes (3)
  • Fosters healthy sleep patterns (2)
  • Benefits a healthy reproductive system in both males and females (4, 5)
  • Sustains energy levels, strength, and vitality, including with physical activity
  • Supports healthy back and joints (4)
Ashwagandha and Ayurveda: Traditional Uses Ashwagandha is used in Ayurveda to balance Vata and Kapha (2); in excess, because of its heating, unctuous, building nature, it can imbalance Pitta, and also worsen ama (toxic build-up) (6). Ayurveda recognizes Ashwagandha particularly for its building, strengthening, and nourishing nature.  It is used for the same reasons as listed in the Benefits section above, particularly to support healthy muscles and reproductive systems, and to balance Vata. How to Use Ashwagandha Ashwagandha is available in both powder and tablet forms. The traditional use is as a powder, mixed with warm milk and honey, and taken before bed (3), calming vata and fostering healthy sleep patterns, reproductive system, and strength.  A general dose can be 1-6 grams daily (1, 2).  It can also be used with ghee and sugar to support the female reproductive system and joints (4). For a more convenient method of taking Ashwagandha, you can also find the herb in tablet form.  This can be an easier method, especially for those that travel a lot, have a shortage of time, or do not like the taste of Ashwagandha tea.  Banyan Botanicals prefers tablets over capsules as there is still some mild tasting of the herb that occurs.  Taste starts the digestive process, and sends signals to the body as to what to expect, already initiating your body’s own inner pharmacy. Modern Research Ashwagandha has become of interest to a number of researchers, particularly as it grows in popularity.
  • It has been the subject of studies to see benefit on the immune system, including possible support of the immune system which must undergo radiation and chemotherapy (3).
  • Used in combination with Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), Safed musli (Chlorophytum borivillanum), and Sesame seeds (seeds of Sesamum indicum), Ashwagandha has shown support of healthy cholesterol levels and antioxidant properties (7).
  • Other studies done on Ashwagandha can be reviewed on PubMed.
Side Effects Large doses of Ashwagandha can cause abdominal discomfort and diarrhea (1).  Ashwagandha has otherwise been tolerated well in the few reported studies that exist (1). Contraindications Though the herb is traditionally used in India during pregnancy, it is recommended that Ashwagandha be avoided in pregnancy in the West; this is because of its spasmolytic activity on the uterus, and its induction of abortions in animals when given in very large doses (2,3).  When used with other respiratory depressants, ashwagandha can be problematic (1). From an Ayurvedic perspective, use Ashwagandha with caution in cases of excess pitta and ama. Buying Ashwagandha Ashwagandha is most commonly purchased as a bulk powder or as a tablet. The advantage of buying it in bulk is that it is significantly cheaper on a per use basis and it allows one to take the herbs in the most traditional way.  Tablets are considered by many to be a quicker, more convenient method of taking the herbs along with providing the option of not having to taste the herbs. Many Ayurvedic practitioners feel that their clients are more likely to take the herbs if they are provided in tablet form. In addition to powder and tablets of Ashwagandha, Banyan Botanicals also uses organic Ashwagandha in several of its products: When choosing a supplier of Ashwagandha there are a variety of questions to consider relating to quality of the herbs, the values of the company, and the impact on the environment. Is the supplier able to trace the herbs back to the field they were grown in? Traceability of the herbs from field to shelf allows the supplier to know where and how the herbs were grown and when they were harvested. Banyan works with suppliers that keep a record of the journey of the herb, tracing it back right to the actual farm. Are the plants sustainably harvested? The Ashwagandha plant is a tall, straight plant with green or purple flowers and reddish fruit (winter cherry) (4); they are relatively abundant in many parts of India. All herbal companies have a choice in gathering Ashwagandha, like most other herbs: they can be harvested on private farms where sustainability can be managed, or they may be wild-harvested legally from their natural habitats, and sometimes they are taken illegally, threatening long-term sustainability. To ensure sustainability, Banyan sources Ashwagandha that has been cultivated on privately owned farms. Are the farmers looked after for their labor? Banyan strongly believes in making sure the farmers are cared for as a part of the supply chain.  The farms we source from are inspected to make sure they are following fair-trade principles. Are the herbs organic? As Banyan sources from private farms, it is able to ensure that organic farming methods are followed, and you can therefore rest assured that your herbs have not been treated with pesticides or other harmful chemicals.  Banyan’s Ashwagandha is USDA certified organic. About Banyan Botanicals Banyan Botanicals was established in 1996 as your reliable and knowledgeable source for Ayurvedic herbs and products.  To support the planet and your health, we are committed to products that are pure, USDA certified organic, vegetarian, sustainably sourced and fairly traded.  Let us know how we can support you on the path of Ayurveda.

If you would like to purchase Ashwagandha and are new to Banyan Botanicals click here to receive a 10% discount on your first purchase.

  Resources:
  1. http://naturalstandard.com/databases/herbssupplements/all/ashwagandha.asp
  2. Pole, Sebastian.   Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice.  Churchill Livingston; 2006. 133-134.
  3. Simon, David and Deepak Chopra.  The Chopra Center Herbal Handbook.  Three Rivers Press, New York; 2000.  200-202.
  4. Acharya Balkrishna.  Secrets of Indian Herbs for Good Health.  Divya Prakshan, Hardwar; 2008.  100-102.
  5. Mahdi, AA et al.  Withania somnifera improves semen quality in stress-related male fertility.  Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Med.  Sept 29, 2009.
  6. Frawley, David, and Vasant Lad.  The Yoga of Herbs.  Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin; 2001.  160-161.
  7. Visavadiya, NP.  Ameliorative effects of herbal combinations in hyperlipidemia.  Oxid Med Cell Longev.  Sept 15, 2011:160408.
  Note: If you found this page informative, you may also be interested in our pages on Triphala and Turmeric.    

46 Responses to Ashwagandha-Antidote for Stress-Energy-Indian Ayurvedic Herb

  1. julie says:

    I have suffered with social anxiety for 18 years, tried numerous different drugs prescribed by doctors over the years. I did not like the side effects nor did it give me the help I was looking for. The doctors just added other drugs on top of the ones I was taking. Recently I weaned myself off my zoloft and was only taking klonopin as needed. I spoke with someone who recommended I try Ashwagandha and after a couple months, I caved and gave it a try. This stuff is by far the best “treasure” I have ever found! I am confident, very minimal anxiety, less stressed, more focused and I have even been able to stand up for myself instead of getting walked all over like in the past. I take the liquid form of this herb that I purchase at Whole Foods. I mix it in a little bit of water, tastes pretty bad, but totally worth it. I have recommended this stuff to everyone I know. I love it!!!

  2. casey says:

    Hi there. I’m a 34 year old female who is very Vata. I’ve ordered (in dry powder form) turmeric and triphala for general support, shatavari for hormonal support, and ashwagandha for sleep and anxiety. How would you suggest I structure my dosages and dosing schedule? Can these herbs be taken all at once? Is there an easy way to convert grams to teaspoon or tablespoon? Thanks!

    • Banyan Banyan says:

      Casey: Thank you for your question. These questions are best answered by an Ayurvedic practitioner. If it were me I would take Turmeric with food (before or after). I would take the Triphala before bed or in the morning on an empty stomach. I would take the Ashwagandha and Shatavari together in between meals. Each of these herbs weighs a different amount. General guidelines are: A teaspoon of triphala is 3.4 grams. A teaspoon of turmeric is 2.5 grams. A teaspoon of Ashwagandha is 2 grams. A teaspoon of Shatavari is 1.7 grams. I hope these herbs help you balance your Vata.

  3. Jody says:

    Should I take one ashwaganda tablet before bed for sleep? then one in the morning for stress and anxiety?

    Thanks

  4. Pushpa says:

    thanks. it was very useful information

  5. Pamela says:

    Is ashwagandha good to use with hyperthyroidism in low doses?

    • noah noah says:

      Pamela, Thank you for your question. Ayurveda has a lot of herbs that can support the endocrine system and Ashwagandha is one of them. In order to choose the right herb for you I would consider working with a health care professional. Besides that, the best resource I have come across for helping to manage Thyroid imbalances is the book “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal” by Datis Kharrazian. I would consider purchasing this book and determining if Ashwagandha is the right herb for your imbalance.

  6. shareayurveda says:

    Thanks Banyan for the great information on Ashwagandha, we would love to share it on shareayurveda.com let us know if we can. Thanks!

  7. Melodie Mellor says:

    Yes very useful. I find Ashwagandha helps me sleep and function with mental clarity the next day.

  8. Delphine says:

    What part of the herb is used? Is it the leaf or root. If the leaf is used, is it harvested right before it flowers or before buds form.

    I am growing this herb for the second time in my garden this year. I didn’t harvest it last year. I understand from wild crafting that the potency may not be the same as it would be were the herb grown in a hotter climate. Hoping to gain from the freshness.

    • noah noah says:

      Delphine: It is the root of Ashwagandha that is used and it is harvested when 60% of the berries have turned yellow/red. Wonderful that you are growing it in your garden.

  9. Devang Shah says:

    This article was very helpful… Thanks for posting this and making it easy to follow.

  10. ANGELA says:

    Is Ashwagandha safe with blood pressure medication? Is it safe long term? How long is it safe for?

    • noah noah says:

      Angela: No drug-herb interactions are known with Ashwagandha. I would recommend working with a qualified health care practitioner to monitor your blood pressure while you are taking the Ashwagandha. Traditionally it has been taken long term as a tonic. You may want to take a break for one week every six months to re-evaluate if it is working for you.

  11. upasana says:

    Obsessive compulsive disorder. what is the treatment. for this disorder? please reply.”

    • noah noah says:

      For specific concerns, it is always best to consult your health care practitioner. In Ayurveda it is the Vata Dosha that governs the Nervous system. Herbs that can bring balance to the Vata Dosha are Bacopa, Brahmi, Shankhpushpi, and Ashwagandha, all of which can be found in Mental Clarity. It may also be helpful to use Nasya oil to balance the Vata Dosha. And yoga, pranayama and meditation are a very beneficial part of a daily routine to keep Vata Dosha in check.

  12. Sapphire says:

    I have insomnia and extreme anxiety, i am on Ambien (and i seem to be getting a tolerance to that) but it seems to be the only thing that helps with my anxiety. not even Xanex helps as much as the Ambien.
    i am desperate to find something that does not have the negative side affects that the Ambien or other narcotics. My doctor recommended that i try this with some melatonin. How do you think i will fare?

    If your Doctor is recommending it I think it could be a good option for you. You can see our response on Feb. 8th. Reiterating what was written there about Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen, which means that it is useful in helping the body with physiological and psychological stress. It has a unique dual action of energizing while calming. It is a nourishing herb that helps support the nervous system and promotes ojas. I hope it works for you.

  13. Jay says:

    I am taking Triphala (in warm water)before bed time. Can I take Ashwagandha along with it. Or is it recommended to take separately; may be in the morning time? Beside, Ashwagandha is taken with Milk. Will milk and Triphala go together well?

    You can take them together with confidence. Usually it is recommended to take the Ashwagandha between meals with milk. Triphala is better taken with water. Because of that I would consider taking the Ashwagandha with milk after dinner or between lunch and dinner and take the Triphala before bed as you have been doing.

  14. Steffie says:

    Is Ashwaganda helpful for hair loss and hypothyroid?

    • noah noah says:

      Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen and so it will support the body to deal with stress on all levels. As we cannot make suggestions related to specific conditions (http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/getstarted/diseaseorillness.html), it is always best to consult your health care practitioner. Ashwagandha can be used by Ayurvedic practitioners to support a healthy thyroid, while healthy hair is a function of balanced pitta.

  15. Miel says:

    can this product have an effect on your blood pressure? I started taking it and maybe because my sleep was disturbed the night before I was very tired the next day by the end of the day. I had taken the herb with lunch and then later driving I felt like I was going to pass out. Took it again today with lunch and about 1 hour later had an elevated heart beat and then felt extremely flush. Scared the heck outta me! this was not happending to me before taking this pill. Maybe it’s just not for folks with a general low BP? I’m going to stop taking it and see if this happens again over the next 2 weeks. I’ll let my doctor know too.

    • banyan says:

      While we cannot comment on specific symptoms (read more), we definitely recommend that anyone experiencing concerning effects after taking the herb should stop taking it immediately and consult their health practitioner. From a general Ayurvedic perspective, Ashwagandha, as an adaptogen, works with the body’s systems that respond to stress and fatigue, including the adrenals and nervous system. These systems do have a relation to blood pressure and heart rhythms. Ashwagandha is generally taken without difficulty, but should perhaps be taken with caution (or avoided) in people with lower blood pressure, especially if a side effect is experienced. For more information on why we can’t comment on symptoms visit http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/getstarted/diseaseorillness.html

  16. Rahael says:

    The docs have me on Zyprexa(anxiety) and Zoloft(depression). I would like to cease these nasty drugs, detox and begin a natural regimen of org herbs. Would you recommend ashwagandh alongside the aforementioned pharma?

    • banyan says:

      Rahael: Ashwagandha has been used to assist in calming the mind and promoting restful sleep. I am not aware of any drug herb interactions between it and the medication you are on, but that doesn’t mean that their aren’t any. I would recommend working with an Ayurvedic Health Professional to determine if this herb could help you achieve your goal.

  17. Henry Specht says:

    Can this help men on erectile enhancement.

    • banyan says:

      In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha is classified as a Vajikarana which means Aphrodisiac. This class of herbs is known to improve sexual vitality and function or to help to direct sexual energy towards rejuvenation. These actions may provide the effect you are looking for.

  18. sarwar salam says:

    How do i buy

  19. Jo says:

    I am a 53 yr old female who was treated 7 yrs ago for breast cancer. It was the type of BC that is fueled, growth-wise, by estrogen & progesterone. Would it be wise to stay away from Ashwgandha because of this? I could sure use some help with anxiety & chronic fatigue, but need to refrain from anything that acts hormonally on the body. Txs!

    • banyan says:

      Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen, which means that it is useful in helping the body with physiological and psychological stress. It has a unique dual action of energizing while calming. It is a nourishing herb that helps support the nervous system and promotes ojas. For specific concerns, it is always best to consult your health care practitioner. You can also read more about Banyan’s responses and other available resources here (http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/getstarted/diseaseorillness.html)

      While traditionally taken with milk, Ashawagandha can also be taken with warm water, whether it is in tablet or powder form. Another good time to take Ashwagandha is in the afternoon, as it can provide a nice support to your energy levels when they tend to go down; taken in the afternoon, Ashwagandha can also support sound sleep at night.

    • banyan says:

      Ashwagandha is not known to exert any estrogenic effects. It is traditionally used to support the reproductive system (shukra dhatu), and is thought to possibly do this through an androgenic (testosterone-like) effect. For more information on the research done on Ashwagandha, you can visit the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center website at http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/herb/ashwagandha.

  20. Kimberly says:

    Is this safe to take with other medications? I am on a low dosage of prozac for anxiety and I take meds for migraines when needed. Will this interact with any of these?

    • banyan says:

      There are no reports of serious drug-herb interactions between Ashwagandha and any prescription meds. However, it is possible for Ashawagandha to cause mild sedation, and it is always best to check any specific medications with your health practitioner or pharmacist.

  21. Gayla says:

    I suffered through fight or fright because of too much cortisol given to me for too long. Actually, I’m still extremely anxious, taking Xanax three times a day. Of course the horrific stress brought on Adrenal Exhaustion for which I’m on natural supplements. It also messed up my digestion, upped my blood pressure, barely have an appetite, no stamina, affected my neurotransmitters and have depression. I believe the stress has brought on a skin cancer on my
    forehead, too.

    I’d like to try your Ashwaganda for nervous system healing and all over support. Do you think it will address some of my issues?

    You site says to take it at night with milk. I’m off dairy. Also, I take nattokinase on an empty stomach at bed. How else would you suggest I take it?

    Thank you.

    • banyan says:

      Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen, which means that it is useful in helping the body with physiological and psychological stress. It has a unique dual action of energizing while calming. It is a nourishing herb that helps support the nervous system and promotes ojas. For specific concerns, it is always best to consult your health care practitioner. You can also read more about Banyan’s responses and other available resources here (http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/getstarted/diseaseorillness.html

  22. ishaih says:

    Can I give this to my “friend” w/ adhd?

  23. jiejie says:

    I really sleep well since i take the Ashwaghanda….. for those who cant sleep well try it theres amazing good effect in our bodies.. i love it…

  24. jiejie says:

    Your article is good.. Ashwaghanda is very effective because i tried it.. it helps my stress and i felt better now.. thanks to to oyur research…

  25. Chuck says:

    Where can I purchase your products in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area?

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