Ashwagandha: Benefits, Uses & Side Effects - Ayurvedic Herb Guides | Banyan Botanicals

Ashwagandha

Your Complete Guide to Ayurveda’s Most Popular Adaptogen

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has become one of the most popular Ayurvedic herbs in the Western world. And it is no wonder, with all the benefits this beloved root has to offer! Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurveda for thousands of years as a rasayana (rejuvenative) and it is renowned as an adaptogenic herb, which means it is used to help the body resist physiological and psychological stress by adapting to the needs of the body. Take our free Ayurvedic Profile™ quiz to see if ashwagandha is one of the herbs recommended for you. 

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Health Benefits of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is used to tone, support, and revitalize bodily functions. It has been revered over time for its 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, yet energizing effect, ashwagandha can support a healthy nervous system. With the use of ashwagandha, stress doesn’t impact the nervous system with such intensity, and the “hyper” signs of stress and agitation will naturally resolve over time.1 In this way, ashwagandha has a rejuvenating and calming influence on the nervous system and, consequentially, on the entire being. This quality of ashwagandha makes it a prime supplement to use in the toning and rejuvenation process.2 In addition to its dual energizing/calming effect, ashwagandha offers a number of benefits:

  • Supports a healthy immune system*1, 2
  • Calms mental processes*2
  • Fosters healthy sleep patterns*1
  • Benefits a healthy reproductive system in both males and females*3, 4
  • Supports sustained energy levels, strength, and vitality, including with physical activity*
  • Supports a healthy back and joints*3
  • Promotes thyroid health*
  • Promotes healthy functioning of the adrenals*

 

Ashwagandha plants

The Science of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha has become of interest to a number of researchers, particularly as it grows in popularity.

  • It has been the subject of studies looking at the benefit on the immune system, including possible support of the immune system during radiation and chemotherapy.2
  • Used in combination with licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), safed musli (Chlorophytum borivillanum), and sesame seeds (Sesamum indicum), ashwagandha has been shown to support healthy cholesterol levels and antioxidant properties.6
  • Additional studies on ashwagandha can be reviewed on PubMed.

Ashwagandha and Ayurveda

Ashwagandha is used in Ayurveda to balance vata and kapha1 in excess, and because of its heating, unctuous, building nature, it can imbalance pitta, and also worsen ama (toxic build-up).5 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.

 

Learn why ashwagandha is one of the most highly regarded and commonly used adaptogens in the Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia.

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How to Use Ashwagandha

Traditionally used as a powder, ashwagandha can be mixed with water or warm milk and honey. Taken before bed,2 this mixture is calms vata and fosters healthy sleep patterns, supports the reproductive system, and bolsters strength. A general serving is ¼–½ teaspoon once or twice daily.1  Ashwagandha is traditionally taken with ghee and honey (equal parts), as an anupan (a medium for carrying herbs deeper into the tissues) for overall nourishment and rejuvenation. Taking ashwagandha with sugar (cane or sugar candy) adds a cooling effect and can even be substituted for the honey, particularly in the summer months. It can also be used with ghee and sugar as a supplement to support the female reproductive system and joints.3  The Ayurveda's Carrier Substances guide is a great resource for determining which anupan is most appropriate to use.

 

Ashwagandha Tea Recipe
Ingredients:
  • ½ teaspoon ashwagandha powder
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon honey
Directions: Combine hot water with Ashwagandha powder and mix well. Add honey to taste. Sip and enjoy!

 

Ashwagandha Tonic Recipe
Ingredients:
  • 1–2 teaspoons ashwagandha powder
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon cardamom
Directions: Simmer 1 to 2 teaspoons powdered ashwagandha in 2 cups milk over low heat for 15 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon raw sugar and ⅛ teaspoon cardamom and stir until well mixed. Turn off heat. Drink a cup once or twice a day for a pick-me-up.

 

If you prefer a more convenient way of taking your supplements, ashwagandha is also available 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, initiating your body’s own inner pharmacy. Take 1–2 tablets once or twice daily, in the morning, at night, or whenever is most convenient for you. They do not need to be taken with food.

Ashwagandha liquid extract is also available and provides an alternative method of taking this herb. It’s convenient, easy to assimilate, and has a long shelf life. Add 30 ml (approximately one dropperful) to water or juice 1–3 times daily.

 

Ashwagandha roots

 

In addition to ashwagandha powder, liquid extract, and tablets, Banyan Botanicals also uses organic ashwagandha in several product formulas:

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Contraindications1, 2

  • Large doses of ashwagandha can cause abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. Ashwagandha has otherwise been tolerated well in the few reported studies that exist.
  • 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.
  • From an Ayurvedic perspective, use ashwagandha with caution in cases of excess pitta and ama.

Buying Ashwagandha—Know Your Source

When choosing a supplier of ashwagandha there are a variety of questions to consider relating to the 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.

 

Ashwagandha plant

Are the plants sustainably harvested?

All herbal companies have a choice in how ashwagandha is gathered, and 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. Sometimes the herbs, particularly the endangered ones, 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.