Ashwagandha Supplements

Benefits of AshwagandhaAshwagandha is a herb with many different names and potent therapeutic actions. Known in Sanskrit for its horse-like smell (ashwa is “horse” in Sanskrit), this herbal root is said to give you the power of ten horses. It’s also called Indian ginseng for its ginseng-like energy enhancing powers but its latin binomial, Withania somnifera, refers to its relaxing qualities – somnifera means “sleep-inducing”.

While it may seem like a contradiction for a herb to be power-boosting and sleep-inducing, ashwagandha works to balance the body for optimal strength, mood and sleep. This stress lowering, muscle building and immune enhancing Himalayan herb is gaining a lot of attention in the West – so much so that it is endangered in some parts of the world [1]!

Research has shown that the active constituents in ashwagandha root have the following actions:

  • Adaptogenic – helping the body to cope with and recover from stress
  • Cognitive enhancing – clearer, shaper thoughts
  • Neuro-protective – ashwagandha can even help to regrow nerve cells
  • Antioxidant – particularly in the liver and brain
  • Erythropoietic – increasing the synthesis of red blood cells
  • Immune modulating – increasing white blood cells and reduces inflammation
  • Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal
  • Anabolic, Hormone balancing, and Insulin stimulating!

As you can see, we have a lot of information to cover here.

Click this link to jump straight to the best Ashwagandha Supplements


Ashwagandha for Stress Support

Ashwagandha has been used as a broad-spectrum remedy in India as a key Ayurvedic herb for hundreds of years but its recent use Western herbal medicine has been largely focused on what it can do for our stress levels. As an adaptogen and a neuro-protective herb, ashwagandha has been shown to exert an anxiety-reducing effect in humans and animals with one study showing that rats responded to ashwagandha extract as strongly as the antidepressant drug lorazepam [2]. What have lab rats got to do with your stress levels? Well, those animal studies led to human trials on ashwagandha which showed promising results, too:

  • A 2012 study on 64 people concluded that a daily dose of 300mg of high-concentration ashwagandha root powder resulted in much lower cortisol levels compared to a placebo group and improved the participants’ abilities to cope with anxiety and stress [3].
  • In 2014, a systematic review of human trials concluded that the current (although limited) evidence suggests that ashwagandha is an effective complementary therapy for anxiety and stress [4].

The way that ashwagandha seems to promote relaxation and stress tolerance is by reducing excess cortisol and balancing its production, boosting the neurotransmitter GABA and soothing the nervous system. It also has the bonus of sharpening cognitive function and stimulating the regeneration of nerve connections, helping to keep the mind clear when it’s under pressure.


Testosterone, Strength & Endurance

Most traditional aphrodisiac herbal medicines work via hormone modulation and ashwagandha is no different. This Ayurvedic herb can boost testosterone levels via two main mechanisms – first, its cortisol-lowering actions alleviate any stress that may be inhibiting Leydig cells from producing adequate levels of T. Secondly, active constituents in ashwagandha appear to exert anabolic effects, either by enhancing the action of testosterone on muscle cells or by directly stimulating testosterone receptors on muscle cells.

  • An 8-week randomized double-blind study of 57 men showed that a daily dose of 600mg of ashwagandha root extract improved testosterone levels, muscle strength, muscle size and body fat loss when compared to a placebo [5].
  • Research into sports performance and ashwagandha showed that supplementing with 500mg extract per day for eight weeks improved cyclists’ maximum velocity, average power, oxygen consumption, and neuro-muscular co-ordination [6].

Ashwagandha for Blood Sugar Regulation

Ashwagandha has been shown to improve insulin synthesis, secretion and function – helping to get blood sugar levels down quickly. Extracts can promote insulin sensitivity in muscle cells and human trials have shown that supplementing with 300 – 500mg of ashwagandha extract per day reduced blood glucose levels in healthy and diabetic participants [7] [8] [9].

Remember how ashwagandha can regulate cortisol? This helps to keep blood glucose in check too, since cortisol is a catabolic hormone that increases blood sugar levels.

These levels aren’t just important for diabetics. The amount of blood glucose can influence appetite, blood pressure, fatigue, anxiety, and the rate of metabolism. Maintaining regular blood glucose levels can improve sleep, boost energy, and support mood.


Immune Support with Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha isn’t renowned as a key immune herb, but it has some powerful actions that can help strengthen your defenses while you’re taking it for sports improvement or stress management.

As well as keeping immune-suppressing cortisol in check, ashwagandha contains menthol, hexanes and steroidals which exhibit antimicrobial actions on a range of bacteria and fungi including Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhimurium, Escherichia coli and Allescheria boydi [10]. It also has potent anti-inflammatory actions by selectively inhibiting COX-2 pathways and acting as an antioxidant to mop up immune cell debris [11].


The Whole Picture of Ashwagandha & Endurance

If you step back and look at all of these therapeutic uses, you can see how ashwagandha can help to support physical, emotional and mental endurance.

By regulating cortisol levels and blood sugar, ashwagandha can reduce the risk of burning out when pushing the body or brain too hard. By supporting testosterone levels, it can keep the body strong and erring towards anabolism rather than catabolism when under pressure. And protecting against microbial invasion when you’re under the pump can stop the body from switching from “run down” to “stuck in bed for a week with an infection”.


How to Use Ashwagandha Supplements

Ashwagandha is sold under many different names – you can find it as Withania somnifera, winter cherry, Indian ginseng, poison gooseberry, or padalsingh.

Typical dosage ranges from 300mg – 500mg of powdered root per day, but true therapeutic benefits really occur at 3g – 6g per day. Take with food to avoid gastrointestinal upsets.

Note: Most studies use extracts rather than the powder of the whole root which is why they appear to have lower dosages (e.g. 600mg of extract may equate to 6g of powdered root depending on the extraction process).

Doses lower than 3g daily may still provide some benefit and stress support. Most benefits and fewer side effects occur when doses are split across the day (e.g. 1,000mg 3 times a day). Most supplements contain the powdered whole root but liquid extracts are more concentrated, requiring lower dosages to reach therapeutic levels.

Benefits to anxiety and stress levels generally occur within 3 months of continual use.

SIDE EFFECTS & CAUTIONS

Ashwagandha should not be taken in pregnancy.

Ashwagandha may cause gastrointestinal irritation and should be used with caution in people with peptic ulcers.

There are limited studies available on the possible drug interactions between ashwagandha and medications. Use caution or avoid ashwagandha if you are taking:

  • Barbiturate
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Morphine
  • Thyroid medication

Note: People with a sensitivity to the Solanaceae plant family (nightshades) should use ashwagandha with caution.


Top 5 Ashwagandha Supplements

#5 Amazing India Ashwagandha (500mg, 120 capsules)

 Powdered organic ashwagandha root is super easy to take in these sustained-release HPMC capsules. Each capsule contains 500mg making this a great product if you’re looking to try out a low-dose formula, are sensitive to high dose herbal supplements or want to spread out your dose across the day.


#4 Just Jaivik Organic Ashwagandha Powder (227g)

Just Javik AshwagandhaFree powder forms of ground ashwagandha root are the easiest way to take your own personalised dose of dried herb. This organic ashwagandha powder is easily combined with water or you can add it to smoothies – the downside is that ashwagandha has a gnarly bitter taste that can be overpowering in high doses. One option is to encapsulate the powder yourself, the other is to stick to low doses (and hold your nose as you drink it). For the herbalists among you, this is a great way to get your hands on powder for making topical poultices and creams – ashwagandha has been traditionally used to relieve arthritis and speed up wound-healing!


#3 Herb Pharm Whole Root Ashwagandha Extract (4 oz)

Whole Root Ashwagandha ExtractIf you’re looking for readily absorbed, high dose ashwagandha, then focus on finding a good quality liquid extract. Herb Pharm’s alcohol extract is a potent concentration of 1:4 dry herb:liquid menstrum – just one full dropper taken 1 – 3 times per day will deliver a strong therapeutic dose of ashwagandha root. Like free powder forms, liquid extracts aren’t the best tasting supplements, particularly because of the 61%-71% alcohol content, but they are more bioavailable, absorbable and therapeutic.


#2 NutraHerbals Ashwagandha Powder with Black Pepper Extract (1,200mg, 120 capsules)

Ashwagandha with Black PepperNutraHerb have combined high quality organically grown ashwagandha with black pepper – the pepper boosts the bioavailability of ashwagandha’s active constituents, encourages circulation throughout the body and improves therapeutic actions. These capsules contain no GMOs, a vegan-friendly capsule, and gluten-free rice concentrate as a binder for the herbs. Each capsule contains 1,200mg of dried, powdered root so two per day will deliver a therapeutic dose.


#1 VitaDirect KSM-66 Ashwagandha Veggie Capsules

KSM-66 Ashwagandha supplementVitaDirect has created a high potency KSM-66 extract of ashwagandha as part of their herbs range. To make it even easier, the ashwagandha is encapsulated in vegan-friendly capsules each containing 600 mg of dried powdered root extract – two capsules per day is enough to reach a strong therapeutic dose.  If you’re looking for a clean, readily absorbable and highly therapeutic ashwagandha supplement – this is it!

View KSM-66 Ashwagandha On Amazon Here


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About James Lyons

James Lyons (BHSc Nutritional Medicine) is a clinical nutritionist, medical writer, and educator. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and is passionate about improving public access to reliable and accurate health information.

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