Ashwaganda is an adaptogenic herb that has several very beneficial uses. In this article, I will give an overview of some of those benefits and how I use it to better my own health. If you are looking for ways to cope with stress, balance hormones, or to increase your overall health and
well-being, read on!
Before we proceed, I just want to make it clear that I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. But I am a health-conscious consumer of Ashwaganda and have directly experienced some of the incredible benefits that this adaptogenic plant has to offer. I decided to write this article because I wanted to know more about Ashwaganda and I wanted to share the knowledge I gained with you so that you can make an informed decision about incorporating this amazing herb into your own supplement regimen.
Ashwaganda is a relatively harmless herb with very few side effects, but there are some side
effects that you should be aware of. As with all herbal supplements, it is wise to consult your doctor before embarking on a regular regimen, particularly if you have known health conditions, are pregnant, or nursing. I will talk more about side effects a little further on.
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There’s a very popular buzzword that has been going around in the health community for a while now. You may have heard it yourself. Adaptogens.
What are adaptogens?
Adaptogens are non-toxic herbs and plants that provide benefits such as helping the body cope with the stress, anxiety, and fatigue that is so common in our society today. Adaptogens have
been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries for healing the body and the mind.
Adaptogens relieve stress in the body by directly affecting your endocrine system, which is in charge of balancing your hormones. Additionally, adaptogens seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to knowing exactly what your body needs in order to cope with stress. Whether they are physical, environmental, or biological, adaptogens target those hormones that deal with stressors the best.
Unlike hormone replacement therapy, which typically floods the body with an overabundance of a particular hormone, adaptogens essentially give instructions to your cells to alter several different hormones a little at a time.
Adaptogens help regulate your adrenal glands, which produce hormones such as cortisol, which is responsible for the “fight or flight” response. They promote a more calming response from the body in a stressful situation, rather than a stress response.
Adaptogens are clinically proven to lower cortisol levels. The overproduction of cortisol can increase the effects of aging, such as the loss of skin elasticity, and can negatively affect the brain, sex drive, and reproductive health. Adaptogens cleverly control the overproduction of cortisol, so that the body can instead focus on producing other beneficial hormones such as progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, and human growth hormone. The balance of these hormones results in a decrease of issues around reproductive health such as PMS, decreased sex drive, and menstrual problems, as well as premature aging of the skin.
One very popular adaptogen is an herb called Ashwaganda, and it is one that I personally have incorporated into my supplemental regimen with some awesome results.
What is Ashwaganda?
Ashwaganda is a plant that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine in India for centuries. Its scientific name is Withania somnifera and is also commonly known as Indian Ginseng or Indian Winter Cherry. It is the roots and berries of this amazing plant that impart so many benefits to the human body.
Some of, but certainly not all of, the conditions that Ashwaganda has been used to treat
- Bipolar disorder
- Menstrual problems
- Low sex drive
- Weight loss
- Fat levels in the blood
- Sugar levels in the blood
- Reduction of the side effects of medications for cancer and schizophrenia
- Premature aging of the skin
- Decreases inflammation and swelling
- Improves thinking/memory
- and the list goes on….
Why I Started Using Ashwaganda
I started using and experiencing the benefits of Ashawaganda about one year ago. I had seen a lot of people on YouTube using it, claiming that it gave them a feeling of calm, that it helped them with sleep, and that it was good for balancing hormones, particularly for menopause.
Since I am currently experiencing peri-menopause (when menopause is beginning but you are still experiencing intermittent periods), I had started to experience insomnia, night sweats, and a lower sex drive. I have also been under a lot of stress for many years because I have been in college, along with working several part-time jobs in order to support my small family as a
I really needed something to help me cope with both the mental and physical stress of all this, without turning to drugs or alcohol! Ashwaganda sounded like a good alternative.
As you probably know, I promote a healthy lifestyle.
I eat a healthy plant-based diet, exercise regularly, avoid toxic substances of all kinds, and enjoy a career (archaeology) that keeps me physically active and in the fresh air the majority of the time. That said, being outdoors all the time increases the risks of premature aging of the skin and skin cancer due to exposure to the elements, but I always wear a good sunscreen,
a hat, and good sunglasses.
All of these things help me cope with stress of all kinds, but I needed a little more. I decided that it was worth it to give Ashwaganda a try. I started with what seemed to be the most popular brand, which was this one by Sun Potion.
What I like about the Ashwaganda Powder from Sun Potion …
is that it is organically grown and actually tastes good!
Ashwaganda is not the tastiest substance in the world. In fact, the name Ashwaganda comes from the Sanskrit “ashwa”, meaning “horse”, and “gandha” meaning “horse-like”. Although this name probably refers more to the strengthening qualities of the herb, perhaps it is because it tastes a bit like hay? 😝.
But I found that the Sun Potion brand reminds of cinnamon. It’s a very earthy flavor for sure, but since I generally use it in my morning matcha, to which I add cinnamon anyway, it makes for a deeply rich and “toasty” kind of flavor that is warming to the soul.
I’ve tried other brands, and there are others I would like to try such as the one from Gaiya Herbs. This brand also comes in a vegan capsule form, which is convenient if you don’t want to have to add it to anything such as your morning coffee or tea.
How to Use Ashwaganda
Most websites that I visited (listed in the references below) recommended doses of a standardized extract in anywhere from 300mg – 6g (6000 mg) per day. The doses are generally divided into 2-3 doses per day. So, starting out, you might want to take 200 mg 2 times daily and increase from there if you feel it necessary (again, consult a doctor to check for medical problems first!). Ashwaganda also works best if taken consistently over time.
I personally take 2g daily when I use the Sun Potion brand, which comes in a powder form. On their packaging the serving size amount is 1.25 g for a total of 86 servings, but they “invite” you to use a ½ teaspoon (2g) mixed with a drink. This is the amount I put in my homemade matcha latte (see recipe below).
I recently switched brands because I needed some before an out-of-town trip and didn’t have time to order the Sun Potion brand online. I instead bought it in liquid form from a local natural foods store. The liquid form contains alcohol and has a very strange taste that emphasizes the grassy taste of the matcha instead of complimenting it like the Sun Potion brand does.
Nevertheless, I have been using it. But one serving of that brand is only 665 mg. The strong flavor of it does not encourage me to use any more than that, but I am starting a regimen of using it twice a day. Although my insomnia has subsided, I have been experiencing some night sweats that wake me early in the morning, so I am hoping that taking some Ashwaganda at night will help with that.
The Benefits I Have Experienced from Ashwaganda
Like I said, my main motivations for trying Ashwaganda were two-fold. For one, I was experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety and I wanted a natural supplement that would complement my routine of yoga, meditation, exercise, and healthy eating. Second, I was experiencing peri-menopausal symptoms such as insomnia, night sweats or hot flashes, fatigue, brain fog, and PMS-like symptoms.
The benefits I have experienced definitely include a sense of calm that I have never experienced before. I feel much more able to easily handle stressful situations like I never have before.
That said, I do think that it is not the Ashwaganda alone that is helping, but the combination of it along with a healthy routine and the fact that I have switched to drinking matcha tea (with Ashwaganda in it) in the mornings instead of the copious amounts of coffee I was drinking previously.
I have also experienced a definite reduction in the frequency and intensity of the peri-menopausal and PMS-like symptoms that I had been experiencing. My insomnia has lessened, I have more energy, I am no longer experiencing monthly cramping, and my brain fog has cleared. Oh, and my sex drive has been enhanced as well! 😊
I am currently still having some night sweats, but as I said, I am beginning a night-time regimen and will be able to judge any difference soon.
All in all, I feel like using Ashwaganda has become a pleasant part of my daily routine that definitely helps to create a sense of calm in both my body and mind. I definitely recommend it if you are looking for a supplement to help calm your nerves, balance your hormones, and create a sense of inner peace.
Who doesn’t need that?
Possible Side Effects of Using Ashwaganda
Although Ashwaganda is non-toxic and any negative effects are unlikely to be very severe, there are still some known side effects, particularly for people who have certain previous or unknown health conditions. You should always consult a doctor before starting any supplemental regimen.
Ashwaganda can help to promote sleep, but in some situations, sleepiness is a possible
side effect. Headache and stomach upset are other minor side effects. It is actually best to take Ashwaganda on an empty stomach, but if it is causing stomach upset, you can try taking it with a snack.
The long-term effects of Ashwaganda are not known, but large doses may cause not only stomach upset, but possible diarrhea and vomiting.
Do not take Ashwaganda if you have a stomach ulcer or auto-immune diseases such as multiple
sclerosis (MS), lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis.
Do not use Ashwaganda if you have a thyroid disorder because it may increase thyroid
You definitely should not use Ashawaganda if you are pregnant or nursing, as there is some evidence that it may cause miscarriages.
Although Ashwaganda can help to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, it may interfere with medications used to treat those conditions. Again, consult a doctor and closely monitor your levels while using the herb.
If you are undergoing surgery, you should stop taking Ashwaganda at least two weeks beforehand because it slows down the central nervous system.
There may be other reactions to certain medications. Web MD has a more complete listing if you want to do a little more research for yourself.
So, now that you know a bit more about the benefits of Ashwaganda, you can make a more informed decision about whether it is something that you might want to add to your daily health routine.
For me, I do feel that it is helping me to handle stress better and to maintain a general sense of calm and well-being. I definitely recommend Ashwaganda as part of a healthy routine that includes a well-balanced diet, regular moderate exercise, and a regular sleep schedule. After all, no one herb can cure all of our ills, but it can certainly support an overall regimen of good, healthy habits.
Here is my Matcha Latte recipe with Sun Potion Ashwaganda if you want to try it.
Matcha Latte with Ashwaganda
This matcha latte is my favorite way to incorporate Ashwaganda into my health regimen. I hope you will enjoy it too.
- 1/2 cup almond milk or other plant milk warmed
- 1 cup hot water
- 1 tsp Matcha tea powder
- 1 1/2 tsp Ashwaganda powder
- 1/2 tsp stevia powder
- 1 sprinkle ground cinnamon
Warm the 1/2 cup milk in the microwave or on the stove and boil 1 cup of water.
While the water is boiling, add the matcha powder, ashwaganda powder, and stevia powder to the warmed milk in a small blender. Add the boiling water and blend until frothy.
Pour into your favorite mug and sprinkle with cinnamon. Enjoy.
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