Plant medicine is experiencing another Renaissance today, and ashwagandha is definitely among the most widely used herbs.
People value this plant for the pack of health-improving features that it can provide, such as reducing stress response and boosting immune mechanisms.
But how can you be sure that you’re choosing the best ashwagandha supplement on the market?
This guide will answer this question. And it will also give you a clearer idea of what ashwagandha actually is, how it is used, and what benefits it may have for your health.
- 1 7 Best Ashwagandha Supplements With the Best Value
- 2 How Is Ashwagandha Used Today?
- 3 Differences Between Ashwagandha Extracts
- 4 Ashwagandha Release Forms
- 5 Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
- 5.1 Relieves Stress and Anxiety
- 5.2 FAQ for Ashwagandha Users
- 5.2.1 Is ashwagandha compatible with other drugs?
- 5.2.2 Is ashwagandha suitable for pregnant and nursing women?
- 5.2.3 What time of day is best to take ashwagandha?
- 5.2.4 How to take ashwagandha with SSRIs (antidepressants)?
- 5.2.5 Does ashwagandha cause weight gain?
- 5.2.6 Do I need to take ashwagandha with food?
- 5.3 Wrapping Up
7 Best Ashwagandha Supplements With the Best Value
DailyNutra offers you 600 mg of organic KSM-66 ashwagandha extract per capsule to boost your stress resistance and physical endurance.
This is one of the best ashwagandha supplements for a bunch of reasons. The manufacturing process uses organic and non-GMO roots, and the water extraction process is devoid of any possible chemicals. Plus, the shells of these capsules are made from plant-derived cellulose, which makes this supplement vegan-friendly and gluten-free.
One serving also packs over 30 mg of withanolides mixed with black pepper extract so that you’d absorb it better.
Another supplement in the segment of the most potent options on the market, NutraHerbals packs 1200 mg of ashwagandha extract in one serving (600 mg per capsule), topped with black pepper extract for better absorption.
This is a root-only extract that is the closest to its natural form, meaning there are no harsh chemicals or toxic substances.
Another great feature of Nutraherbals is that it is both gluten-free and vegan. Gluten-free rice concentrate and plant cellulose are used for making capsules. Thus, if you’re looking for a product that is suitable for your dietary restrictions and offers great value for money, this supplement by Nutraherbals is for you.
Physician’s Choice ashwagandha combines high potency with affordable prices. The brand uses a systemic approach when making all of its products, and this supplement is no exception.
This ashwagandha is 100% organic and third-party tested so you can be sure that you’re taking the high-quality product. The manufacturer uses a mix of ashwagandha root powder and black pepper extract at a ratio of 4:1. One capsule contains about 650 mg of the plant extracts, with one serving being equal to 3 capsules per day.
Physician’s Choice works great for anxiety relief, thyroid support, and mood swings, and helps balance out the stress levels in those leading a hectic life.
Nature’s Answer ashwagandha supplement comes in the form of tincture, which is great for those who struggle with swallowing big capsules and just want something that absorbs quickly.
This extract is alcohol-free and gluten-free and packs 2000 mg per 2 ml serving (approximately 56 drops). You can add it to water or your favorite juice to disguise the taste. The whole bottle contains 60 ml or 2.5 fl.oz, which makes about 30 servings.
Thus, Nature’s Answer is the best ashwagandha supplement for people who prefer consuming ashwagandha in the liquid form.
Organic India can work great for people who haven’t yet determined the dosage of ashwagandha they’re ready for. That’s because one serving (2 capsules) of this supplement contains 800 mg of active ingredients and leaves room for flexibility.
The manufacturer actively cooperates with small farms around India to deliver the best product to its customers, and the USDA certification confirms that. However, it also uses the whole plant to make the extract, which might result in lower potency, compared to root-only supplements.
If you prefer powdered ashwagandha root to capsules and drops, then this supplement by Pure Organic will work for you well.
The powdered root offers a whole variety of ways to use it, whether it’s classic ashwagandha tea or an additive to your smoothies and everyday meals. There is about 2000 mg of active ingredients in one scoop, and the whole package contains about 100 servings of ashwagandha. This makes Pure Organic one of the best ashwagandha supplements for the money.
One capsule of this supplement by Havasu Nutrition offers 500 mg of ashwagandha, along with 50 mg of artichoke leaf extract for improved absorption.
This product cannot be considered vegan or vegetarian-friendly since the brand uses gelatine for making the capsule shells. This is also the reason why you should store it in a cool place, as gelatine might melt or become sticky.
However, user reviews about Havasu Nutrition are mostly positive. It is an affordable brand with a high-quality product.
What Is Ashwagandha: A Brief Overview
Ashwagandha has many names, but the most well-known ones are ‘Indian ginseng’, ‘poison gooseberry’ and ‘winter cherry’. In plant science, it is called Withania Somnifera and belongs to the Solanaceae family.
The plant is native to dry regions of India, Sri-Lanka, and Pakistan, but can also grow in moderate climates.
The use of ashwagandha in Indian Ayurvedic tradition can be traced back to thousands of years ago. Healers considered this herb as Rasayana — a plant that provides vitality, happiness, and energy. Ashwagandha tea or tonic made from the root of the plant was used by Indian healers for treating the following conditions:
- joint issues;
- skin problems;
- weight gain;
- sleep disruptions;
- cognitive problems.
“Powdered root of this plant can be mixed with water, ghee (clarified butter) or honey for ingesting, or can be applied topically to inflamed areas.”
How Is Ashwagandha Used Today?
With the use of modern technologies, today researchers managed to break the code of this plant and find the reasons behind its superpowers. In particular, they’ve found that this herb packs the following active components:
The latter deserves a special mention because it’s actually withanolides who make the ashwagandha plant unique. Most ashwagandha supplements contain the following combination of withanolides:
- Withanolide A. This is the main substance that gives ashwagandha its adaptogenic properties. Withanolide A inhibits cortisol production and thus reduces the level of stress in your body.
- Withanoside IV. This is another chemical that can decrease anxiety and promote restful sleep.
- Ashwagandhanolide. According to studies, this chemical has inhibitory effects on inflammation and certain types of cancer.
- Sominone. This one takes part in neurogenesis and promotes axon growth.
Today, most of the ashwagandha supplements on the market are standardized to the use of the first three ingredients, as they provide the most beneficial effects.
Differences Between Ashwagandha Extracts
Although all ashwagandha pills can offer you the same active ingredients, the part of the plant where they’re extracted from makes a difference.
For example, the standardized ashwagandha extract KSM-66 uses only the root of the plant. This extract has a bunch of benefits:
- it contains balanced ratios of all important ingredients with good bioavailability, mimicking the natural plant most accurately;
- it’s the most widely researched extract today, so you can be sure that it’s totally safe for you;
- the concentration of withanolides in this extract reaches 5%, which is considered the optimal dosage for the long-term use in humans;
- the extraction process of KSM-66 doesn’t use alcohol or synthetic solvents, which results in a milder smell and taste.
Another widely used extract is Sensoril. To make this compound, both ashwagandha root and leaves are used, which results in a higher concentration of withanolides (up to 10%).
But this doesn’t mean a higher quality of the product.
See, the leaves of ashwagandha — along with its other beneficial components — typically contain Withaferin A, which is considered cytotoxic.
Although some brands manage to lower the amount of this substance to the non-toxic levels, you still need to be careful and thoroughly read the ingredients on the package (or even contact the manufacturer to obtain the actual information).
“There are some other extracts of ashwagandha; however, more data is required about their use. So, if you’re only beginning to familiarize yourself with this herb, opt for the root-only extracts, such as KSM-66”.
Ashwagandha Release Forms
Okay, now you know about the difference between the extracts and have probably chosen the right one already.
But what about the release form?
Today there are three possible forms of ashwagandha extracts, and each of them has its own pros and cons:
- Ashwagandha capsules. This is the most popular form of taking ashwagandha. The capsule is great because it has a precisely measured dosage of the product inside. You can also choose between a vegan and a gluten-free shell, in case you have special dietary needs.
- Ashwagandha powder. This is another pretty common variation of the product. Basically, it’s just finely grounded root with some possible additives such as vitamins or microelements. The best thing about powder is that you can use it as an ingredient of your meal, e.g. add it to your smoothie bowl or pancakes. However, the powder has a pronounced taste that can alter the overall taste of your food. Also, it may be hard to measure the dosage properly.
- Ashwagandha fluids. Fluids often come in the form of drops or tinctures. Their most significant feature is that they are available for topical application. Just soak the cotton disk and apply it where you need it. However, some brands use alcohol for extraction, which gives the final product a more pronounced taste and hence may be unsuitable for individuals with certain health disorders.
“Some manufacturers add black pepper extract to their ashwagandha products. That’s absolutely normal, as this substance is widely used to increase absorption of the active ingredients.”
A Little Recap: Sings That You’re Choosing the Right Supplement
Now, having consumed all the information above, you might feel a bit confused.
The list of tips below can be your cheat sheet the next time you decide to purchase ashwagandha supplements on your own:
- Prefer root-only extracts. This kind of extracts is safer and has a milder taste if you choose the powder form. It also contains a more balanced proportion, optimal for humans.
- Find a full-spectrum extract. A full-spectrum extract means that there are some additional substances that work in synergy. For example, the standardized KSM-66 contains saponins, flavonoids, amino acids, and vitamin A along with the main active ingredients and thus has the most substantial benefits compared to the generic extracts.
- Look for minimal Withaferin A contents. This is kind of advice for those who want to switch to the more concentrated options of ashwagandha. The lesser amount of Withaferin A in the product you choose, the better it’s for your health.
- Opt for the HPLC withanolides measurement. More doesn’t always mean better. When it comes to the content of active ingredients, it’s not that simple to measure their exact percentage. The HPLC method is the most precise one. So, if the brand you are considering uses this technology, it’s definitely a plus.
Finding a product that will comply with all these requirements may seem like a hard task. But the good thing is, all ashwagandha supplements reviewed above were ranked using this cheat sheet. So, if you don’t want to spend hours thoroughly researching the Web, just choose the one that appeals to you the most.
Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
This review wouldn’t be called in-depth without mentioning the ashwagandha benefits, because this plant has plenty of them.
Relieves Stress and Anxiety
Stress-relieving properties of ashwagandha are its most prominent feature. Many studies agree that ashwagandha can lower the levels of cortisol in the blood serum. This is good for your health because increased cortisol is the main reason behind a host of different disorders, such as:
- anxiety and panic attacks;
- insulin resistance and obesity;
- renal dysfunction;
- skin conditions: acne, pimples, etc.
The full-spectrum extract taken in high concentrations (300 mg and more) showed great results in alleviating stress in adults, thereby improving the quality of life.
Aids in Weight Loss
Ashwagandha benefits for weight loss deserve a special mention. Along with reducing cortisol levels, which contributes to losing weight too, this herb may help you become leaner in several other ways:
- Reducing blood sugar. It’s no secret that the increased levels of blood sugar work as a signal to your pancreas to make more insulin — the hormone that can ‘unlock’ the body cells and store the sugar inside them. The thing is, the only way to store the energy is to convert it in fat. That’s how you gain weight. Now, bad things start to happen when the cells develop insulin resistance and no longer respond to usual insulin levels. Chronic insulin resistance is linked with type II diabetes and the condition called metabolic syndrome.
- Reducing leptin levels. Leptin is the ‘satiety hormone’ in your body. When you’re stressed — say hello to cortisol, again — the levels of leptin in your blood drop, making you a more impulsive and illegible eater. So, you can use ashwagandha for weight loss to alleviate stress and restore regular food behavior.
Helps Treat Sleep Issues
Some studies show that anxiolytic and sleep-promoting properties in ashwagandha are similar to some over-the-counter sleeping aids, such as melatonin and hypnotics, meaning it can help treat sleep-related insomnia.
Ashwagandha extract can affect the brain receptors that receive GABA, the main inhibitory neurotransmitter responsible for winding down and sleep onset. Some studies conducted on mammals confirmed this hypothesis and scientists believe that the results may be scaled on human models.
“The same mechanisms also work in individuals that are prone to or suffer from depression. This disorder can disrupt your sleep schedule as well, and taking the ashwagandha can balance it back to normal.”
Back to cortisol again. This hormone can trigger the inflammatory processes in your body. And chronic inflammation is what weakens your immune shields. That’s why taking ashwagandha supplements during the cold months may reduce the chances of catching a cold or flu, or speed up the recovery if you’re already struggling with the symptoms.
Improves Physical Endurance
Athletes and those who lead an active way of life can benefit from taking ashwagandha too. An eight-week study conducted on 40 Indian cyclists showed that taking ashwagandha significantly improved the parameters of cardiac endurance: maximal aerobic capacity, metabolic equivalent, and total time to reach the exhaustion stage.
Helps with Cognitive Problems
Along with fighting stress, ashwagandha supplements can improve psychomotor functions and memory formation in adults with mild cognitive impairment.
A study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements invited 50 participants with the subjective symptoms of memory impairment or anamnesis of early dementia. Each participant had been receiving either 300 mg of ashwagandha or placebo during eight weeks. After that, the researchers performed a complex of tests on an immediate and general memory, logical memory, recall and recognition, and some other functions. The tests showed that the ashwagandha group performed significantly better than the placebo group.
So, if you feel that your memory is getting weaker or if you just need something effective and safe to help yourself prepare for the finals, ashwagandha may be the right solution.
Ashwagandha Benefits for Men and Women
The most common ashwagandha benefits for men, as well as for women, are linked to balancing out their hormonal levels. For men, ashwagandha can be used as:
- A natural testosterone booster. Testosterone is crucial for the reproductive function in men, as it aids in spermatogenesis and improves sperm quality. Ashwagandha can affect the levels of this hormone, however, the studies in adult men showed that the increase in serum levels of testosterone had a sporadic effect. The scientists consider, though, that ashwagandha is a promising supplement for treating men’s infertility.
- A supplement to increase the percentage of lean muscle mass. If you’re going to the gym, you know that lean muscle mass contributes to your physique and shows the general effectiveness of your workouts. Some researchers report that ashwagandha may help in muscle building and thus can be used during the resistance training program.
Ashwagandha benefits for women impact endocrine and reproductive systems as well. These systems have more fragile settings in female bodies, and even a small disruption can wreck them. So, the use of ashwagandha in women is great for the following:
- Balancing thyroid functions. Women are five to eight times more likely to develop thyroid dysfunction than men. Ashwagandha may help balance out thyroid hormones in women with subclinical hypothyroidism. However, all studies conducted on this topic were short and had a small sample size, so more data is required.
- Improving fertility. The function of the women’s reproductive system is tied to the levels of stress. By reducing them, ashwagandha can help the reproductive organs work properly and keep them healthy.
- Helping with menopause symptoms. Taking ashwagandha along with some other supplements — Ashokarishta and Praval Pishti coral powder — can treat both physical and psychological symptoms of menopause.
With that being said, you might think that ashwagandha is an all-healing herb. While it can certainly be used in a variety of ways to improve your health, consulting with your physician is highly advised, prior to taking this supplement.
Recommended Dosage of Ashwagandha
Depending on the release form, the right ashwagandha dosage for you may vary. To find out the concentration of the active ingredients, look at withanolide content. This information typically is printed on the package.
Now, the daily intake for different ashwagandha forms, as recommended by experts, is below:
- For capsules: the most optimal dose is considered to be around 300-500 mg, with the concentration of withanolides from 5 to 10%. The highest safe dose can be increased to 6000 mg per day, however, you should consult your healthcare practitioner whether you need such amounts.
- For powder: the recommended dose for the dried root extract is 3-6 grams per day.
- For fluids: drops and tinctures usually should be taken in smaller amounts because of their higher concentration and faster absorption. Depending on your needs, dissolve the drops in the water or any other liquid you like and drink the mixture.
The best effects are observed over the course of 60 days. After this period, it’s advised to take a break for at least two weeks before taking another course.
Can You Overdose on Ashwagandha?
Since taking any quantities that exceed the recommended daily intake for you can be considered an overdose — yes, you can.
And that’s when you can encounter the most common ashwagandha side effects. However, most of them are non-specific and aren’t linked strictly to supplement use:
- vomiting and diarrhea;
- sensitivity to certain components of the plant.
Research shows that these symptoms might become more pronounced in people with ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal diseases. If you have one of these, you may want to choose other adaptogens or consult your doctor.
FAQ for Ashwagandha Users
Is ashwagandha compatible with other drugs?
Although the plant is considered safe, there are some ashwagandha interactions with other drugs that may have potential adverse effects:
- Sedatives. Taking ashwagandha with sleeping pills can cause excessive sleepiness.
- Antidiabetic drugs. Since ashwagandha can lower the levels of glucose, taking it with diabetic medications can drop sugar levels too low.
- Immunosuppressants. Taking ashwagandha with immunosuppressants might decrease the activity of these drugs.
Is ashwagandha suitable for pregnant and nursing women?
The studies still don’t have enough information about the teratogenic effects of ashwagandha. That’s why you need to consult your doctor before taking it.
What time of day is best to take ashwagandha?
It depends on your goals. If you need to stay focused and concentrated during work, it’s advised to take capsules in the morning. However, if your aim is to improve sleep, you may want to take ashwagandha before you go to bed.
How to take ashwagandha with SSRIs (antidepressants)?
Studies show that taking ashwagandha along with SSRIs in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder showed no adverse interactions in the short term and may even be beneficial. However, there are no studies about the long-term effects.
Does ashwagandha cause weight gain?
No. It’s mainly your hormones and stressful eating that cause weight gain. Ashwagandha, on the contrary, can help you lose weight and improve your muscle tone, by affecting your hormone levels.
Do I need to take ashwagandha with food?
The answers to this question are controversial. Some researchers advice taking ashwagandha on an empty stomach half an hour before any meal, while others suggest taking your daily dose right after a meal. You may follow the manufacturer’s instructions or consult your healthcare specialist to find out what works exactly for you.
Ashwagandha is truly the Queen of adaptogenic herbs. It can provide you with a ton of positive health effects to improve your well-being.
The main function of this plant is to reduce stress levels and hence help you deal with such things as inflammation, insomnia, high blood sugar, and insulin resistance.
Ashwagandha is totally safe in the long-term perspective and didn’t show any adverse effects when taken along with some over-the-counter drugs. All these factors make it a perfect plant for those who only start learning about herbal medicine. Still, taking it under your doctor’s supervision is highly adviced.