In this article I will talk about one of the most powerful Ayurvedic adaptogens: Ashwagandha.
This wonderful herb is full of majestic properties that will enhance your hormonal and mental health.
CAUTION: Medical Disclaimer
Table of Contents
- 1 Herbal Name and Characteristics:
- 2 About this Herb:
- 3 What is Ashwagandha?
- 4 Benefits and properties of Ashwagandha:
- 5 When and how to take it
- 6 Safety and side effects
- 7 Cycling
Herbal Name and Characteristics:
- Name: Ashwagandha or Indian Ginseng or Winter cherry
- Pin Yin: N/A,
- Latin: Withania somnifera,
- Taste: Pungent and slightly bitter
- Color: Brown
- Constitution: Neutral to slightly warm (Yang)
About this Herb:
I was already familiar with the literature behind the Indian Ginseng, so when one of my favorite online stores had it on discount, I decided to give it a go.
At first I was very skeptical about the properties of this herb but a couple of days after I was proven wrong. Unlike other ginseng types, this herb actually gives you a calm focus. Taken at night, it will help you sleep better and get better rest.
My workouts got better, libido went up and I had a better resistance to stress despite my very busy schedule.
My first try was in powder form and later on decided to tincture it, in order to combine it with other adaptogens.
Below, you will find more details about this herb, its benefits, side effects and precautions you need to take before using it.
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is a herb used for over 2.000 years in both Ayurvedic Medicine and African Medicine. Its claim to fame is giving the user the vitality and strength of a horse. Both the root and the berry are used to make medicine in India, however, the majority of its active ingredients exist in the root. It has properties similar to Ginseng which gave it its name, the Indian Ginseng.
Its name is a combination of the Sanskrit words ashva (horse) and gandha which means smell. This is because the root has a very distinct aroma that could be described as ‘horsey’.
The herb contains a great amount of antioxidants known as glycowithanolides and withanolides (which can stimulate an increase of luteinizing hormones in the gonads and therefore help with testosterone production), tannins and especially the steroidal alkaloids somniferine, somnine and anferine.
The biggest benefits of using this herb include its ability to protect from diseases as a strong antioxidant, boost the libido and also protect from the effects of stress and anxiety. As an adaptogen, it adapts to the needs to the needs of the body and can also help the mind to relax.
It is available on the market in pure powder, extracts and 2 specialized patented extracts:
- KSM-66® (which contains 5% withanolides, is low in Wintherol A and comes from the root)
- Sensoril® (which contains 8-10% withanolides, is high in Wintherol A and includes the whole plant).
Wintherol A is one of the strongest anti-oxidants in Ashwagandha and has shown promise in the fight against cancer.
I have tried regular powders, extracts and the KSM-66® extract. I can tell you that KSM-66® was the strongest of them all. It actually made me almost lethargic when I first took it early in the day but it also gave me an amazing focus. I worked for 5 hours non-stop while being sick and I could have gone on if I wanted to.
That was until I actually tried Sensoril® which had an even stronger effect than KSM-66® at half the dose. Having said that, being more powerful is not always better and in my case, I did feel a bit of anxiety with Sensorill® which I did not get from KSM-66®. That does not mean that I value one over the other one and here’s why.
You need to keep in mind that each one of us has a different biochemistry in our bodies which means that different substances behave differently. I have heard about people who got an energy boost from KSM-66® and felt sedated from Sensoril®. Then again I have met people who had exactly the opposite experience with these herbs. My advice to you is to experiment with both and find which works better for you by noticing how you feel.
Benefits and properties of Ashwagandha:
Summarizing the many benefits of Ashwagandha herb:
- It can relax the mind and can help fight off stress and anxiety by building our resistance to them as an adaptogen. This happens through the GABA pathways and also because it is serotonergic.
- Can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. A study showed a decrease in cortisol by 30% in both men and women.
- It can help support libido, fight against infertility and increase sexual energy in both men and women and even help with erectile problems in men according to an Indian study.
- It can help support weakened immune systems by bringing them up.
- It is a strong antioxidant and can help fight off inflammation and diseases by removing free radicals in the body.
- Can improve sleep duration and quality by increasing signaling through GABA receptors in the brain. Taking Ashwagandha before bed will also allow for deeper and better sleep which will have you waking up more rested in the morning.
- Can raise HDL (good) cholesterol and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol in both men and women according to a study. This in turn can lead to a reduction in overall cholesterol levels as they get converted to testosterone in men and progesterone in women. This has the added benefit of supporting cardiovascular health.
- Can stimulate testosterone production by increasing the luteinizing hormones (LH) according to another study.
- Last but not least, it also has diuretic properties.
When and how to take it
Alcohol-based Tincture: By using it this way, you can extract many of the active nutrients found in Ashwagandha. Hold the dose in your mouth (under the tongue) for 1 to 3 minutes until it gets absorbed. Then you can swallow it.
The tincture can also be taken in a glass of water. Wait a couple of minute for the alcohol to evaporate and then drink the tincture.
The tincture is usually a black, thick syrup that has a very strong taste.
Tablets/Capsules: Ashwagandha can be taken in tablets or capsules. Make sure you only buy from reputable sellers and companies to avoid low quality herbs.
Concoction or tea: Ashwagandha can be boiled in water and be made into tea or can be combined with milk and honey for better absorption.
Powder: Once again, this is the recommended way of using as you can add it to your shakes, tincture it or just sprinkle it over your breakfast.
Another way to take it is to hold the powder in your mouth for 5 minutes.
What you can also do is alternate through 2 sources, 1st would be a tincture and the second, in powder or tablet form.
The best times to take it would be:
- After a stressful day or whenever you need to relax,
- Before bed.
Safety and side effects
Ashwagandha has been deemed as safe for short term use but its safety has not been determined for long term usage (more than 3 months).
Reported side effects of using large doses include:
- Upset stomach,
- Diarrhea and
You should not take Ashwagandha if you:
- Are pregnant as it can cause vaginal bleeding and possibly an abortion,
- Are on antidepressants or other types of medication (including but not limited to antihypertensive drugs, immunosuppressive drugs or anticoagulant medication).
- Have any psychological or mental condition such as depression, schizophrenia and other without consulting your therapist and doctor.
- Have any hormonal problem or medical condition including but not limited to cancer, diabetes or undergoing chemo treatment: Check with your doctor before using Ashwagandha if you have any of the above conditions as he is the only person who can determine if using it is a good idea or not.
- Are taking blood pressure medication as it can interfere with the dosage.
- Have low blood pressure as there is a high risk of hypoglycemia from using Ashwagandha.
- Are scheduled for an operation, organ transplants or you just underwent one. Certain ingredients may interfere with the sedation used during surgery, rejection of the organ or interfere with healing and cause internal bleeding.
- Have stomach ulcers as Ashwagandha can irritate the G.I tract.
- Have thyroid disorders as it can influence thyroid levels.
- Have autoimmune diseases as it can make the immune system become more active and thus increase symptoms of autoimmune disorders.
- Have allergies to this specific herb or any of its ingredients.
The best thing you can do before taking any herb supplement is to test it. If you want to be safe while using herbs I strongly urge you to read my other article on how to test an herb for allergies and intolerances.
Contraindications or interactions with other medication/substances:
Avoid using this herb/adaptogen if you have any medical condition or take any kind of medication without consulting with your doctor first.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Since there is not enough studies performed to determine its full safety, pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid using this herb.
Use for a maximum of up to 4 weeks and then take 4 weeks off. Repeat cycle after that.
While there are no side effects or toxicity associated with long term consumption, I would not use any herb for long periods of time without a break in order to keep them being effective and protect the body from accumulation of other toxins unrelated to the herb itself.
Over the past 20 years I have experimented with literally hundreds of herbs, supplements (and other natural products) and was finally able to discover the right doses for amazing results.
If you wish to learn more about the dosages that I use with my clients for different purposes (better health, hormonal balance, stress management, testosterone boost and more) or how I combine this herb/supp with others, leave a comment below or reach out to me for a consultation through the “Hire me” link.
Closing notes & thoughts:
Ashwagandha is an amazing Ayurvedic adaptogen for optimal hormonal health and I highly recommend it. It can protect from diseases as a strong antioxidant, relax the mind, boost libido, remove estrogen and also protect from the effects of stress and anxiety.
Have you ever used adaptogens to fight off stress? If so, which ones? Also, have you tried Ashwagandha? Let me know in the comments below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
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by Nick Sigma SHF
CWC, EH, E-YRT200
- The effect of aqueous extracts of Cynomorium coccineum and Withania somnifera on testicular development in immature Wistar rats.