What’s Up with Ashwagandha?

The use of ashwagandha may date back thousands of years, but this ancient herbal remedy is definitely having a moment right now. If you follow any health and wellness accounts on TikTok, you’ve almost certainly seen an uptick in people talking about this evergreen plant.

But what exactly is ashwagandha? And what could it do for you? Read on to learn more about the ashwaganda plant, including its potential benefits, the best ways to consume it, and some places where you can find it.

How Old Is Ashwagandha?

The use of ashwagandha goes back to Ayurvedic medicine, a holistic style of treatment the people in India have been practicing for thousands of years. Ayurvedic treatment typically includes everything from herbal remedies and special diets to the practices of yoga and meditation.

Today, even practitioners of Western medicine agree that Ayurvedic treatments can be beneficial when used as complementary treatments. And we’ve got plenty of evidence that ashwagandha does indeed have material benefits for people who take it.

But before we get to the specific benefits, what is it exactly?

What Exactly Is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub that belongs to the nightshade family. It grows naturally in India, Africa, and parts of the Middle East.

The name ashwagandha comes to us from Sanskrit and means “smell of the horse.” It’s the root of the ashwagandha plant that gives it this distinctive scent and also contains the majority of its beneficial compounds. When you see ashwagandha in a store, it will most typically be in either powder form or as a liquid extract. Both the powder and extract are (or should be) derived primarily from ashwagandha root. Some stores also sell ashwagandha leaves (usually for use in tea).

What Are the Benefits of Ashwagandha?

The ashwagandha plant contains active compounds that are believed to be beneficial for decreasing stress, reducing inflammation, and improving concentration. Medical studies have confirmed a number of these benefits.

Stress Relief

Ashwagandha extract has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, which become elevated during stress. Because high-stress levels contribute to serious conditions, like hypertension and diabetes, this is a significant benefit to overall health. Relatedly, participants in several studies regarding ashwagandha’s impact on stress also reported improved sleep quality.

Improved Concentration and Memory

Studies have also shown that ashwagandha has a positive impact on memory and cognitive performance. Study participants taking ashwagandha showed better reaction times on cognitive tests, as well as an improved ability to concentrate on specific tasks.

Better Athletic Performance

Multiple research experiments have indicated that ashwagandha has positive impacts on muscle size and strength and may also help reduce body fat percentage. While these studies had relatively small numbers of participants, they represent evidence that ashwagandha may have significant benefits for athletes and others looking to boost physical performance.

Reduction in Inflammation

Inflammation is a defense mechanism of the body’s immune system, as well as a symptom of chronic diseases like arthritis, diabetes, and cancer. While researchers have not yet determined exactly how ashwagandha impacts inflammation, a review of medical literature showed that it has exhibited anti-inflammatory properties.

Benefits for Men

Multiple research studies have shown that ashwagandha may boost fertility and testosterone in men. One such study linked ashwagandha with improved sperm quality. Another showed that the herb helped increase testosterone levels in men (while not displaying a similar impact on testosterone levels in women).

Benefits for Women

Ashwagandha may have positive impacts on women experiencing sexual dysfunction. In a self-reported study of sexual function, female participants reported increased sexual arousal and satisfaction.

How Much Ashwagandha Should I Take?

Generally speaking, you should stick to the dosages that proved successful in studies of ashwagandha. In many of the studies just cited, dosing was between 250 mg and 500 mg, taken twice a day. Some experts believe that you may not be able to absorb much more than a 300 mg dose at one time.

While most of the studies noted here showed very minimal side effects of ashwagandha, some participants have experienced relatively minor gastrointestinal issues. While the side effects don’t seem to be serious, this is another reason to keep your dosage level within the tested range.

What Kind of Ashwagandha Should I Buy?

As with any hyped supplement, you need to exercise some care when purchasing ashwagandha. You can find a wide variety of ashwagandha products on Amazon, for example, but not all of these are created equal.

It’s a good idea to seek out an ashwagandha supplement that doesn’t contain too many other ingredients. Choosing a brand that has been certified organic by the USDA will ensure that the supplement you’re purchasing is made of at least 95% organic ingredients.

You should also look for an ashwagandha supplement that specifies exactly what part of the plant has been used in its production. Some products contain only root extract, while others are a mix of leaf and root extract. The majority of the studies that have highlighted the positive benefits of the plant were conducted with ashwagandha root extract.

Where Should I Buy Ashwagandha?

You can get ashwagandha at your local health food store, most major drug stores, or even on Amazon (as long as you’ve identified a reputable brand). Some of the most commonly recommended brands are Moon Juice (which offers a chemical-free root extract powder), Nootropics Depot (which produces several types of capsules, some of which are pure root extract and others that mix root and leaf extract), and Apothekary (which carries a well-reviewed, 100% pure extract powder).

What’s most important when choosing the ashwagandha you’d like to try is picking one with as few additives as possible. A brand that has a lot of verified customer reviews isn’t a bad idea, either. A couple of trusted sources that have done reviews of ashwagandha products include Byrdie and Men’s Health.

Next Steps

If you’re curious enough to see what ashwagandha might be able to do for you, just make sure you do so responsibly. Experts advise that you should avoid it if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a thyroid condition. Also, if you take other medications, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before adding a new supplement to your regimen.



  • Chris Kane

    Chris Kane is a military veteran and former business owner currently living in the Des Moines, Iowa, metro. Chris is an inveterate entrepreneur and avid web developer who is not shy about sharing his opinions.

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