What is Ashwagandha and What Does it Do
Ashwagandha is a herbal supplement which is used in traditional Indian medicine practices, otherwise known as Ayurveda medicine.
You’ll read that word, Ayurveda, a lot if you get into learning about supplements, because many of the Indian and Chinese medicine claims made for an ingredient’s potency for various benefits are now being researched in laboratories and clinical trials across the world.
The word ashwagandha is translated as ‘scent/smell of horse’ due to the fresh herb root having a ‘horsey smell’.
Of course, in traditional Indian medicine, this also fits snugly with the claim that eating ashwagandha will make you as strong and virile as a horse.
There are no labs testing for horse strength, as entertaining as that sounds, but modern science tends to leave no stone unturned, and tests for an ingredient’s ability to boost cognition, testosterone levels, physical performance, libido and more are possible.
Ashwagandha for Stress and Anxiety Reduction
Ashwagandha is one of a group of compounds collectively known as Adaptogens.
Adaptogens are particularly useful for combatting stress and anxiety and the associated effects that are symptomatic of them, including insomnia and stress induced suppression of the immune system.
There are several studies that provide evidence to support the herb’s anxiety and stress lowering effects.
The third study highlights the reduction of stress more than the others which deal primarily with anxiety.
The latin name for ashwagandha is Withania somnifera, and the herb contains a very high concentration of withanolides and withanolide glycoside (aka withanosides), the bioactive compound responsible for the majority of its benefits.
Most (quality) supplements containing Withania somnifera will be standardized for the percentage of withanolides/withanosides it contains, and will be shown next to the total inclusion weight of the parent herb extract.
The mechanisms that cause the anxiety/stress reducing effects haven’t been singled out yet, although scientists have some fairly good ideas, such as the reduction of cortisol.
The important takeaway here is that adaptogens in general, and specifically ashwagandha are highly effective anti-stress and anti-anxiety agents.
Ashwagandha for Performance Enhancement and Physical Stress Reduction
Not only can adaptogens reduce the effects of mental stress, but they are useful for mitigating physical stress as well.
Both psychological and physiological stress occurs when we workout, and often this stress results in fatigue on both fronts.
Physical stress can occur at anytime though, just like mental stress, and perhaps its most useful application would be to the daily work grind.
As a performance enhancer, it appears from early research to increase the power output of individuals who take it before working out. The effect is more noticeable in people who are novices with respect to resistance training.
One study involving cyclists showed that it can improve aerobic capacity.
Another study noted that lean mass (total mass of muscle tissue and bone) tends to increase, but hasn’t been shown to statistical significance.
More studies of Withania somnifera involving athletes and trained people are required to fully understand its impact on muscle growth and performance, but the evidence so far is nothing but positive.
There is also the possibility that this supplement can increase testosterone levels. it looks as though it is more effective in infertile men more of a therapy than a booster to men with normal testosterone function.
Ashwagandha for Other Health Benefits
It’s difficult to believe it when you look further and further into some ingredients/supplements but there is the occasional one that seems to be good for everything!
Considering the hype that some supplements get, it’s weird to find Ashwagandha just going about its day, not getting much attention, when solid scientific research and the entire Indian sub-continent tells all the benefits it can bring.
It is anti-depressive, anti-cancer, antioxidant, and it can improve cholesterol balance, blood sugar levels, vitality, immunity, hemoglobin production, and reduce cortisol levels, reduce pain and combat insomnia.
Oh, and it improves social functioning![clickToTweet tweet=”Ashwagandha aka Withania somnifera is an adaptogen with the highest concentration of health boosting withanolides. It’a a potent stress reducer that can enhance physical and mental performance. Use 600mg of KSM-66 for best results. ” quote=”Ashwagandha aka Withania somnifera is an adaptogen with the highest concentration of health boosting withanolides. It’a a potent stress reducer that can enhance physical and mental performance. Use 600mg of KSM-66 for best results. “]
How To Use Ashwagandha
We discuss dosage below, but the way to use it is entirely up to you. If you split a KSM-66 dose (see below) into two separate times of the day then you will probably get a more even release of the bioactives over the course of the day.
If you want to use it more for the performance enhancement benefits and the reduction of stress during a workout then you can use it as such.
Many pre-workout supplement include Ashwagandha now and so long as you want all the other ingredients in the blend then choose one of those.
You might want to purchase a standalone supplement – one that only contains Ashwagandha – as you will be able to control the dosage better. This might be an effective strategy for people who suffer from stress intermittently.
Dosage depends on what type of supplement you buy; whether it is standardized to withanolides or whether it contains the KSM-66 extract, which is itself standardized to 5% withanolides.
If you use the KSM-66 extract then a daily dose of 600mg is good. You can take it split into 2 x 300mg if you want and use 300mg before a workout. You can also use all 600mg before a workout if you are using it purely for that purpose.
If you use another extract then check the standardization amounts and do a calculation. Usually the supplement label will say the dose and then in brackets the withanolide content.
For example: Per Capsule = 450mg of Ashwagandha extract (Withania somnifera root) (min. 2.5% tot. withanolides – 11mg)
Here you can see that there is 11mg of the important withanolides per capsule. Therefore to get the same amount as the KSM-66 extract (which is 600mg at 5%) you would take 3 capsules of the above product.
Both therefore yield about 30mg of withanolides.
That’s the economical dosage. There is a case to be made for taking more Ashwagandha as the most optimal dose might be more like 2000mg taken two or three times per day.
This sort of dose would be inhibiting financially though and we recommend sticking to the 600mg total daily dose of KSM-66 or about 1500mg total daily dose of another extract at 2.5% withalonides.
Ashwagandha Side Effects
There appears to be no negative side effects from using this supplement and certainly not at the dosages recommended above.
Again, it’s rare to find such an all round health boosting supplement but for it not to have any negative effects is really impressive.
It seems to be a natural supplement grown specifically for human ingestion.
It’s an impressive stress reducer, a decent performance enhancer, a potential testosterone booster, an effective anti-cancer tonic, an antioxidant, an excellent cholesterol health promotor…..
You get the point.
And it doesn’t cause negative side effects.
Maybe a supplement to reduce stress doesn’t sound as sexy as one that “shreds fat” or “gets you jacked” but most of those are overhyped anyway.
This one is something that can do a lot of things, and things that you will really appreciate once you start to notice the difference.
Stress and anxiety, in particular, are almost universally accepted as part of modern life. Ashwagandha is not overly expensive when you use it at the recommended doses, and if it can take some of that burden of stress away – plus provide all of the other benefits – then it’s worth a try.