What is Ashwagandha? Benefits, Effects, and How to Use It

What is Ashwagandha? Benefits, Effects, and How to Use It

A few years ago, most of us had not even heard of Ashwagandha, let alone understood what it was. Today, this evergreen herb native to Africa and Asia is a mainstream botanical. You can find it sold in powdered form, infused into gummies, and even melded in chocolate bars as more becomes known of its ability to ease the symptoms of daily stress.

However, there are still many questions from prospective consumers regarding Ashwagandha’s practical applications. In this article, we will share the history, benefits, and effects of this plant based on modern research and even give tips for how you can incorporate it into your wellness routine. 

The History of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, also known as Indian Ginseng, is a revered herb in the ancient Ayurvedic system, and a member of the nightshade family. Its name translates to “the smell of a horse” in Sanskrit, likely due to the root’s strong scent.

Research states that the earliest record of its use is in the foundational text of Ayurveda known as Charaka-Samhita, written circa 400-200 BCE

Practitioners of Ayurveda classified Ashwagandha as a:
  • Rasayana: translating to a “rejuvenating tonic,” this class of herbs was believed to have anti-aging properties
  • Bayla: thought  to enhance vitality and strength
  • Breehana: which promoted muscle growth
While especially important to Indian medicine, the cultivar was also embraced in Traditional Chinese medicine for its capacity to increase stress resistance. Ashwagandha was not adopted in contemporary Western herbalism until 1940 when research into the herb's adaptogenic properties began.

Ashwagandha as an Adaptogen & Potential Benefits

Ashwagandha, Indian Ginseng plant leaves
The scientific community was intrigued by the use of Ashwagandha as an adaptogen, a class of active ingredients in various plants and fungi that help the body deal with daily stress and fatigue by enabling homeostasis. Over the years, several findings emerged regarding Kava’s potential benefits: 

Helps Relieve Daily Stress and Worries

Ashwagandha may help the body cope with tension by preventing changes in the levels of ascorbic acid and cortisol, a vital steroid hormone, in the adrenal glands. A reduction in cortisol levels contributes to an improved mood and relaxation.

May Improve Athletic Performance

Ashwagandha could even elevate your fitness routine by improving your stamina and muscle recovery. 

According to the National Library of Medicine, consumption of the herb was correlated with increased stamina in rats during swimming endurance tests.  Likewise, a study done on 57 males showed that the intake of Ashwagandha improved body strength and recovery after resistance training, significantly. While more research is still necessary to validate these findings, the long-standing use of Ashwagandha to promote athletic performance is promising.

May Improve Cognitive Function

More recent research suggests that Ashwagandha may improve focus, memory, and even motor performance. A clinical study was carried out to compare the effects of Ashwagandha and a placebo on the reaction time in participants. There was a significant improvement in the cognitive and psychomotor performance of the subjects who took the herb.

Supports Restful Sleep 

Interestingly, the Latin name for Ashwagandha is Withania somnifera, which translates to sleep-inducing. In several clinical studies, the herb has been shown to reduce restless nights and contribute to a better quality of sleep. It relaxes the mind and calms the body, helping those who consume it to fall asleep more easily. 

Properties of Ashwagandha That Make It a Super Herb

Ashwagandha contains a plethora of alkaloids, steroidal lactones, and minerals that may offer potential benefits. For example, its high iron content may improve cardiorespiratory endurance, as this mineral is essential for the production of vital hormones, hemoglobin, and myoglobin which ensure oxygen is transported from the lungs throughout the body via blood cells. 

It also contains Withaferin-A and withanone, which carry out the various biological functions associated with the herb.

Potential Side Effects of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is generally a safe, effective, and non-toxic herb. When used in safe doses by a healthy individual, there are no harmful side effects. However, there are a few things to take into consideration before trying Ashwagandha.
  • Speak to your doctor before trying Ashwagandha products
  • People with allergies to grass and nightshade plants might not tolerate Ashwagandha
  • In general, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should avoid consuming Ashwagandha

How to Incorporate Ashwagandha into Your Wellness Routine

When trying any product with Ashwagandha in it, we recommend taking the “low and slow” approach to see how it affects you. Basically, this means that you only take a small amount of Ashwagandha, wait 45 minutes to an hour for the effects to set in, and decide if you want to take more after that. 

When Should You Take Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha can be enjoyed at any time of the day depending on your preference, but it is most commonly used in the evening to promote relaxation. This is not to say it makes you drowsy; in fact, some individuals report experiencing a boost of energy after taking the herb. Thus, it is a versatile herb that can be used as a morning pick-me-up or for unwinding after a long day of work.

Compared to other plants, Ashwagandha's calming effects are gentle and less immediate. A dose of Indian ginseng will generally enhance sleep quality by eliciting peace and reducing tension gradually. Therefore, if taking for sleep, it's best to consume at least a few hours before bedtime. 

Experience the Beauty of Ashwagandha

While research on Ashwagandha still has a long way to go, the herb holds a lot of promise. It shows the potential to be used as a wellness tool to help deal with stress, focus the mind, and relax the body.
 
If you are looking for carefully sourced, appropriately dosed, and well-packed Ashwagandha steeped in rich, decadent dark chocolate, then order one of our Kava and Ashwagandha chocolate bars and start experiencing the beauty of this revered herb.

FDA Disclaimer:The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your healthcare professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires this notice.

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