Supplement Spotlight: Ashwagandha

Disclosure: this post contains some affiliate links and I may be compensated, but all opinions are my own. This compensation helps with expenses to keep this blog up and running! Thank you for all your support! Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor and that this is not to be intended as medical advice. Always consult your doctor before implementing dietary or supplementation changes. 

Welcome back for another edition of Supplement Spotlight! In case you missed it, I’ve decided to highlight a different supplement or vitamin each week to help bring light into the world of supplements. Since there are SO MANY products out there it can seem overwhelming, especially with the amount of information available.

Ayurveda 101 – Where Ashwagandha Comes From

Ashwagandha, also known as Indian Ginseng, is an Ayurvedic herb. Ayurveda is the ancient healing system that originated ~5,000 years ago around the subcontinent of India. In Sanskrit, Ayurveda means “life-science” and is based on the philosophy that humans are a part of nature, not separate from it. Earth, Water, Fire and Wind comprise everything in nature and therefore comprise everything in human beings as well. According to Ayurveda, each human being has two dominant elements that make up their “dosha.”

Doshas include Pitta, Vata and Kapha. For more on this head here for a fun quiz to see which dosha you might belong to. Elements within each individual need to be balanced in all areas to create optimal health and imbalances cause disease. This is key in understanding that each individual is unique and speaks to how important bio-individuality is in terms of balance and supplementation.

Herbs are at the root of Ayurvedic medicine and have become increasingly more mainstream in the Western world and for good reason! Ashwagandha is an adaptogen – meaning that it helps to aid the body in finding homeostasis even in the event of additional external stress both internally and physically. Adaptogens are useful in helping the body prepare or get through a more stressful time and help to restore the body to a “balanced” state.

Ashwagandha Benefits

In India, ashwagandha is roughly translated to mean “strength of a horse” and is often touted for it’s role in rejuvenation and increased stamina. That’s still not all though, ashwagandha has also been shown to:

  • boost immune function
  • improve memory and reduce brain cell degeneration
  • balance blood sugar levels
  • improve thyroid function (especially in the case of an under-active thyroid)
  • support adrenal function
  • increase muscle strength and stamina
  • combat stress and anxiety (for more on a clinical study head here, it’s fascinating)

How Ashwagandha Works

Ashwagandha is a powerhouse of an herb and can be used in many different ways. As an adaptogen, ashwagandha helps the body to reach homeostasis – meaning that the body can become more resilient to physical and mental stress. Adaptogens are often used to bring the body back to “balance” either by creating a more calming effect (ashwagandha or holy basil) or a more energetic effect (this could be an adaptogenic herb like maca).

Ashwagandha acts as a GABA receptor activator in our brains and can help you get to sleep and stay asleep (source). Along with a sense of calm, this is also how ashwagandha is able to have anti-anxiety effects. Pretty cool stuff!

Personally, I have found ashwagandha to be extremely useful in helping to reduce my own anxiety and give me a larger stress tolerance. This is what I tend to gravitate towards most when I use ashwagandha and have also think I have noticed small benefits with muscle strengthening and stamina though it’s hard to say if I am just getting in better shape or it’s the supplement on that one.

How to Use Ashwagandha and Sourcing

Ashwagandha is a member of the nightshade family (same family as tomatoes, eggplant and peppers) and is strongly scented – remember how the name roughly translates to the strength of a horse? Yeah, it smells like that sounds. To cover up the strong smell a capsule form containing standardized ashwagandha is recommended. Standardization is important because that means that there is a certain amount in every batch to ensure consistency and a guaranteed amount.

Along with capsules, ashwagandha is also available in a powder form. I love to use the powder in my morning matcha latte and personally don’t might small doses of the strong smell. It tastes earthy and slightly nutty. This is the powder I buy in bulk online and use in a spice jar to sprinkle and blend into my matcha.

As far as dosage is concerned, it is important to look for product that is standardized and with withanolides between 5-10%. Withanolides refers to the active component in ashwagandha that helps to deliver its benefits (source). The higher the better on this one! Bottles should have a description and be clear about what they contain (or don’t contain) and if they don’t then move on!

Starting dose for ashwagandha is typically between 300mg- 500mg and can be raised from there to around 1,000mg -1,500 mg if well tolerated. As always make sure to talk with your doctor or naturopath to make sure ashwagandha is right for you! Everyone is uniquely different and supplements can have different effects – both negative and positive on each individual.

I have linked my absolute favorite ashwagandha above in both capsule and powder form. And a bonus: if you are local to Spokane come visit me at Natural Grocers and grab some goodies in person! I love talking shop. Hope you enjoyed this spotlight, I know I sure did! I learned a lot and am even more happy that I include ashwagandha in my daily routine.

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