How and When to Take Ashwagandha
Over the last decade, ashwagandha has become well-known in the mainstream for its adaptogenic properties. An adaptogenic herb is a classification within Western herbalism for a botanical that is believed to help the body modulate or metabolize stress.
Ayurvedic herbalism captures this sentiment by classifying ashwagandha root into several key categories. It is considered a rasayana (rejuvenative), balya (energizing), bramhana (building), medhya (nervine and nourishing to the mind), vedana sthapana (pain relieving), hridaya (heart strengthening), vajikarana (aphrodisiac) and vatahara (vata reducing).
Even its name speaks to the power of this herb—the root word “ashva” means horse, which speaks to the vigor and strength this animal represents and the similar qualities the herb calls forth in us.
Ashwagandha and the Doshas
As with all herbs and practices in Ayurveda, it’s important to take into consideration the specific qualities and energetics in relation to your own dosha, or individual constitution.
Ashwagandha, also known as winter cherry, has a sweet, bitter, and astringent taste (rasa). It is primarily heating in its action (virya), with a sweet post-digestive effect (vipaka). It embodies heavy, unctuous, stable, and slow qualities, which are especially balancing to vata dosha.
Because ashwagandha is especially heating, it can also be provoking for those with a lot of fire and high pitta dosha. In these cases, it may be best to opt for a more mild adaptogen (like tulsi, for example) or a soothing rasayana (like guduchi). Or, it may be enough to simply pair ashwagandha with a more cooling counterpart, like shatavari.
It is a way of making herbal medicine more tridoshic, while also increasing the potency and absorbability of the herbs, thanks to the synergistic effect that is created when herbs are taken together.
A Personalized Approach to Ayurvedic Herbalism
Considering the energetics and dosha-specific insights outlined above, Ayurveda naturally leads us to the following questions:
- Is ashwagandha for everyone?
- Can it be taken at any time?
Like with many specialized or highly potent Ayurvedic herbs, the short answer is no.
Within this holistic healing science, much of the conversation of Ayurvedic recommendations, dosages, and customized healing treatments goes beyond the individual healing properties of a particular substance.
Ayurveda is unique in that it offers a highly customizable approach catered to an individual based on the following factors:
- Prakriti: one’s Ayurvedic constitution or dominant dosha
- Vikriti: one’s present state of imbalanced doshas
- Agni: one’s current state of digestion
- Ama: the presence of toxins in the body’s channels
- Strength/fragility: one’s physical and emotional capacity to receive and integrate treatments
- Time: the time of day and year, as well as age or stage of life
- Location: the climate and temperature in one’s local environment
This approach also accounts for one’s quality of sleep, energy, and general mood, which shows up in the vikriti (mentioned above).
When to Take Ashwagandha
When answering the question whether ashwagandha is right for you, you'll want to identify one or more of the following:
- Vata in your prakriti
- Vata in your vikriti (anxiousness, restless sleep, dry skin, joint discomfort)
- Vishama agni (variable digestion, gas, bloating)
- Minimal to no toxic build up (ashwagandha is excellent after a cleanse!)
- A desire to cultivate strength and resilience or overcome stress
- Vata time of year (fall and early winter)
- Vata time of life (60+ years old)
- Living in dry or cool climates
How to Take Ashwagandha
Should you decide that ashwagandha is the right herb for you, there are plenty of ways to incorporate it into your routine. Ashwagandha can be taken alone as a tablet, powder, or liquid extract, or blended with other herbs for a more balancing and tridoshic effect.
Banyan offers several formulas that feature ashwagandha as a main ingredient. Depending on the other herbs working alongside ashwagandha, these blends can address a wide range of health challenges.
Stress Ease: The perfect companion for the trying times in life, this well-rounded blend supports the body’s natural stress response.
Healthy Vata: Created to support overall balance in the system, this blend is an excellent daily supplement for those with excess vata.
Adrenal Nourish: When the accumulation of physical and environmental stress takes a toll on the adrenal glands, this formula offers support for all doshas.
Elevated Adaptogens: Ashwagandha and other adaptogenic herbs work together in this formula to support balanced and sustainable energy.
Tasty Ashwagandha Drinks
One of the best ways to weave this vitality-boosting root into your life is to add it to a delicious milky beverage. Not only does the milk act as an anupan (vehicle) to drive the herbs deeper into the tissue, but it also offers a cooling quality to balance out some of ashwagandha’s heat.
Golden Milk: To make a nourishing mug of golden milk, mix ashwagandha powder with herbs like turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg or fennel to evoke a synergy of benefits. Mix with warm milk and a touch of honey if desired and prepare for a cozy, restful night of sleep. Or use Banyan’s instant Turmeric Milk for an easy, pre-blended version of this treat.
Ashwagandha Latte: Banyan’s Ashwagandha Latte is another creamy, dreamy way to take your daily ashwagandha. It can be enjoyed in the morning for an extra boost of energy, sipped throughout the day for sustained balance, or savored in the evening to relax and unwind.
It is best not to take ashwagandha in correlation with androgenic conditions such as PCOS. Additionally, because it is a thyroid stimulant, avoid using it in cases of hyperthyroidism.
Ashwagandha is typically not suited for long-term use (more than three months) in children or teens, and should be avoided for internal use during pregnancy. If you suffer from severe congestion or high pitta conditions, consider revisiting ashwagandha at another time.
Avoid taking ashwagandha if you have a thick coating on your tongue. This is a sign of ama (toxins) that may become further exacerbated by taking a building herb. Consider taking ashwagandha after a digestive reset to ensure that you’re building strength and resilience on a clean foundation.
When in doubt, connect with your Ayurvedic practitioner to decide if ashwagandha is right for you right now. There are many wonderful lesser-known herbs and adaptogens worth exploring as you hone in on exactly what feels best for your body, based on the various factors of stress, climate, season, etc. that are showing up in your life.
The true beauty of Ayurveda is that it is deeply customizable, which means it will always meet you and support you exactly where you are.