The Essential Guide to Ashwagandha: Uses, Benefits & More
Adaptogens have been a hot topic in the world of health for a while now, and one supplement that’s drawing ever nearer to the center of the discussion is ashwagandha.
If you’ve never heard of this powerful plant, you’re not alone. But if you’ve had friends recommend it, you may be wondering whether their claims of enhanced physical and mental health are true.
Regardless of where you fall on the familiarity spectrum, most of your questions should be addressed here including what is ashwagandha, how it can benefit you, and, if you decide to shop for it, how to distinguish the better available options from the lesser.
In this article
What is Ashwagandha
Although ashwagandha is somewhat new to the main stage of supplements in the U.S., its history of use in traditional Ayurvedic medicine dates back to over a thousand years ago.
Ashwagandha, officially classified as Withania somnifera, is a small shrub that grows in India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. While the plant itself may not be much to look at, the herbal qualities are thought to provide a number of health benefits.
When mature, parts of the plant (usually the roots, although more on that later) are dried and crushed to form a powder that’s been used for centuries in traditional Indian medicine to treat everything from anxiety to infertility to decreased libido.
Although not all claims of its ancient uses have been substantiated by medical research, studies show that many of the presumed benefits of ashwagandha may have a strong scientific leg to stand on.
Promising recent research coupled with anecdotal evidence and the testimonies of thousands who feel they have benefited from its use has led to a major boost in the popularity of this ancient power plant.
If you’re struggling with stress, anxiety, or looking to improve memory, rest, and recovery, ashwagandha may be worth a try. But these are just a handful of the potential benefits of ashwagandha.
Benefits of Ashwagandha
Classified by many as an adaptogen, the generally stated, overarching benefit of ashwagandha is to help the body handle stress, or return to a state of balance. This is sort of a catchall statement that encompasses a litany of things though. The specific benefits of ashwagandha are many.
Can Help to Reduce Stress & Anxiety
Perhaps its most well-known, highly-touted quality lies in its potential to reduce stress and relieve feelings of anxiety. Depending on your situation, a typical day might include everything from work to school to side-gigs, running a household, the never-ending to-do list that is life with kids, working out, trying to maintain some semblance of social life, and all during a pandemic to top it off. There is no shortage of stressors in the world we live in. That’s where ashwagandha comes in. Studies suggest ashwagandha may safely and effectively improve an individual’s resistance towards stress.
May Reduce Cortisol
Cortisol is the primary stress hormone and can be thought of as your body’s built-in alarm system. While it plays a vital role in many important functions, too much of it circulating through your system can negatively impact your health. When this happens, you might experience everything from anxiety and depression to headaches, trouble sleeping, weight gain, and more.
That’s where ashwagandha comes into play. Studies show that using ashwagandha, in conjunction with healthy lifestyle habits, may help manage cortisol levels.
Improve Memory and Cognitive Function
As you get older, it’s natural for certain things that were once easy to become more difficult. One area that commonly deteriorates with age is overall cognitive function, including memory.
Most people think of decreased mental capacities as an unavoidable part of growing older, and to a certain degree that might be true. But you may not be completely at the mercy of the aging process. Certain supplements have displayed promising potential to delay cognitive decay, among them ashwagandha, which has been linked to improved memory and cognitive function in those with mild cognitive impairment.
Promote Optimal Testosterone Levels in Men
Something else that naturally declines during the aging process is the production of testosterone. Lower levels of testosterone can lead to a litany of unwanted symptoms such as fatigue, decreased sex drive, loss of lean muscle mass, and an increase in body fat, just to name a few.
There are steps you can take to promote optimal testosterone levels as you age though, and studies show that supplementing with ashwagandha may be one of them.
Greater Results and Enhanced Recovery After Workout
For those who want to get the most out of their weightlifting program, supplements are a known way to optimize the workout and the recovery process. Although ashwagandha is not usually included in the list of workout supplements, maybe it should be.
Research suggests that supplementing with ashwagandha shows a link to increases in both strength and muscle mass when used in conjunction with a resistance training program.
May Help Support Natural Immunity
It’s easy to associate immune-boosting supplements with providing added protection against catching the sniffles during cold and flu season. And with all the citrus-flavored products marketed with just that message, it’s not hard to see why.
But the immune system does so much more than prevent catching a cold. It’s the body’s natural defense against outside threats like bacteria, viruses, toxins, and more.
A weak immune system can mean an increased risk of infection, digestive issues, and more severe illness, among other things. That’s why it’s so important to give your body all the help it can get.
One way to help your body may be supplementing with ayurvedic herbs like ashwagandha, which has shown a possible link to a more efficient immune system.
Promotes Better Sleep Quality
Millions of Americans experience trouble sleeping, and ashwagandha may be able to help.
While ashwagandha is not necessarily considered a sleep aid – it’s not a sedative, and it will not cause drowsiness or “put you to sleep” the way a sleeping pill would – it may be effective at helping to promote better sleep.
In one study, subjects who were given ashwagandha for 6 weeks experienced significantly improved NRS (non-restorative sleep) conditions compared to those who were given a placebo.
Forms of Ashwagandha
Like many supplements, ashwagandha is available in a number of different forms. You’ll likely be able to find ashwagandha available in a number of forms, including powder, oil, elixir, capsule, or pill.
Traditionally, ashwagandha was dried, powdered, and brewed as a tea or steeped in milk. These days, the plant undergoes a similar process, although modern methods are used to extract as much quality from the plant as possible.
The powder is the easiest to get and consume and is considered the preferred form of ashwagandha, while capsule form is merely a delivery system for the powder. Pills are generally considered to provide a diminished bioavailability factor. Oils and other forms are less common.
What to Look For in an Ashwagandha Supplement
With all the different forms of ashwagandha available, you may be wondering how to choose the best one. It’s true that not all ashwagandha supplements are created equal and there are certain things you should look for that indicate a high-quality supplement.
First off, it’s important to look for a product that’s branded. Generic, white-label, or mystery products may be fine, but if the company that produced it isn’t willing to put its name on the bottle, there’s no way to verify the quality of the supplement you’re getting.
It’s also important to look for the words “full-spectrum”, meaning that the extract maintains the general proportions of the various elements found in the original herb, without disrupting the original balance.
You’ll also want to look for a product that originated as or was extracted from the roots. While ashwagandha leaves are sometimes used, they’re inconsistent in potency and are thought to be lower-quality than the roots of the plant.
Finally, since the entire process from planting to harvesting to distribution is largely unregulated, it’s important to get your ashwagandha from a company that’s transparent and that follows best practices. KSM-66 is an ashwagandha extract produced by just such a company.
How Sovereignty Supplements Use Ashwagandha
At Sovereignty, we combine the highest quality KSM-66 Ashwagandha with other ingredients to make the perfect formulas for physical and mental energy and focus as well as optimal rest and recovery.
Purpose+ blend is formulated to promote energy, focus, and productivity. Designed to fuel your drive and to help you live with purpose, our daytime formula helps to support a positive mood with less stress and delivers energy without the crash or jitters.
Dream+ is designed to help promote better, more restful sleep, and to help you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to make your mark on another day. When you’re ready to put your stamp on the day and lay down to rest and recover, our nighttime formula is a restorative blend designed to promote relaxation and enhanced recovery.
Both products harness the unique qualities of ashwagandha in concert with other specially selected ingredients to promote optimal physical and mental wellness and to help you live your best life.
If you’re looking to get more out of life both during your waking and sleeping hours, and to take your training, rest, & recovery to the next level, you need to treat your body like the delicate machine that it is. We want to be your partner in your quest for health, purpose & passion.