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.
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*
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.
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|
|Directions: Combine hot water with Ashwagandha powder and mix well. Add honey to taste. Sip and enjoy!|
|Ashwagandha Tonic Recipe|
|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.