Ashwaghana, ashwaghanda, ashwarganda… hmmmmmm. Not sure which one it is? Don’t worry we’ve all been there ;-P.
Otherwise known as Indian ginseng (or Withania somnifera), this beautiful tonic herb - ashwagandha by the way - is one of our favorite CALMING adaptogens. As you know we are keen Taoist tonic herbalists and have focused on the tonic herbs and adaptogens from the China region until now. At heart, though, we are planetary herbalists and love all the global tonics.
You guys might be wondering why on earth it has taken us so long to bring this powerful Jing herb to the SuperFeast apothecary; well the ashwagandha plant (in particular, ashwagandha root) has been on our radar from the inception of SuperFeast (literally years!) However, with our very strict sourcing standards, we have been doing an incredible amount of due diligence to procure the most effective, potent, robust Withania somnifera. Read on to see what a gorgeous herb ashwagandha is and how we source it.
What is Ashwagandha?
This potent herb has been used for millennia as a staple within the Ayurvedic system and by the general population as a tonic of India. Withania somnifera provides a bit of a clue to it's powers, it means 'sleep-inducing'. Another (random) clue; the Hindi name for ashwagandha is asgandh, referring to the horse sweat-like smell of the root! Hah! This translates to granting the strength of a horse to those that use ashwagandha.
Actual SuperFeast Ashwagandha Root
While the SuperFeast philosophy has been born out of the Taoist traditions, we certainly resonate with several Ayurvedic elements to healing. The Ayurvedic tradition refers to tonic herbs as rasayanas and we're proud as punch to be including this one in our range. Basically, this adaptogen dials the stress response right down. Ashwagandha is:
- otherwise known as Indian ginseng, Withania somnifera, winter cherry
- a potent Jing herb; provides stamina
- a reproductive tonic
- able to stabilize the HPA axis
- used to support yoga and meditation
- unlike other aphrodisiacs, is not irritating and can be used without overstimulating the system
- known to reduce anxiety and depression
- able to counter the effects of sleep deprivation
- able to reduce inflammation
- a powerful antioxidant
- able to stimulate healthy production of thyroid hormone
Top 4 Benefits of Ashwagandha
If you do some of your own scouting online (see Google Scholar), you will quickly see the growing evidence of health benefits of Ashwagandha.
1. Stress / Nervous System + Ashwagandha
Various and ongoing research has been conducted on the anti-stress activities of Ashwagandha, as traditionally, this has been the key reason for using the herb. One way Ashwagandha is thought to have a downregulating effect on the stress response is its ability to stabilize the HPA (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal) axis. By lending support to the HPA axis, Ashwagandha protects the adrenals and promotes healthy communication between the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands. Via the stabilization of the HPA axis, Ashwagandha has been shown to lower cortisol levels; elevated cortisol levels are a sure sign of a stressed, imbalanced individual. Another mechanism to explain the calming effects of Ashwagandha could be due to its GABA-mimetic activity, supporting the herbs's anti-anxiety and nervous system inhibitory effects.
Traditionally used as a calming nervine to assist in lowering the stress response, Ashwagandha is now used for individuals suffering from poor sleep, nervous exhaustion, chronic illness and being overworked. With its deep nurturing action on the mind, Ashwagandha helps encourage a deep and often dreamless sleep.
Further, research has demonstrated that stress-induced gastric ulcers have been successfully treated with an ashwagandha protocol. At the same time, other clinical research has shown that Ashwagandha provided a decrease in blood glucose (comparable to drugs!) in diabetic individuals. Imbalanced blood sugars are just another way to experience stress.
2. Thyroid / Hormones + Ashwagandha
The traditions have used Ashwagandha extensively as a reproductive tonic for its ability to enhance the reproductive potency of both sexes; essentially, Ashwagandha regenerates and balances the hormonal system.
As we've discussed, ashwaganda is a herbal powerhouse in down-regulating the stress response. And who ain't stressed these days? While this beautiful botanical is potent for both the sexes, we wanted to make a special mention of the epic benefits this plant can have for women, specifically related to hormone health.
If you are experiencing any endocrine system disturbances (think slow thyroid, adrenal imbalances, sluggish hypothalamic responses (like hypothalamic amenorrhea), anxiousness related to hormonal imbalances, perimenopause), stress-induced insomnia, iron deficiency or maybe you are a little swayed towards being ''ype A'' then this herb is for you. Furthermore, there has been research to show that Ashwagandha may improve sexual function in otherwise healthy women.
Now on to our menfolk friends. Ashwagandha appears to promote testicular health and overall fertility for men. Sperm quality (including seminal motility) has been positively influenced by Ashwagandha, while there have been some positive research to suggest infertile men may benefit using this adaptogen to increase testosterone.
3. Energy + Ashwagandha
While traditionally a part of the Ayurvedic philosophy, we classify Ashwagandha within the Traditional Chinese Medicine tradition as a Jing herb and, as discussed, being known primarily as a rejuvenating herb, this makes sense!
Clinical research has noted improvements in power output in both sprint relays and strength training exercises, in those taking ashwagandha supplements. This may be due to research demonstrating an increase in VO2 max during movement practices. Athletes participating in treadmill tests, following an ashwagandha protocol experienced an increased time to exhaustion. Interestingly, Ashwagandha has been shown to also impact perceptions of fatigue in studies, where a reduction in fatigue levels in individuals has been shown.
It is thought one mechanism by which Ashwagandha can positively improve energy levels, is to do with its ability to effect the health of the mitochondria, which are the energy powerhouses of all cells.
4. Immune System + Ashwagandha
The amazing benefits of Ashwagandha just keep coming. This botanical also has potent immunomodulating properties; it can reduce inflammation and is a powerful antioxidant (both important markers of a robust immune system).
In animals with weakened immune systems, Ashwagandha has had beneficial effects on white blood cell and platelet count. Research has further shown that in inflammatory joint issues (like rheumatoid and osteoarthritis) Ashwagandha may be beneficial due to its powerful anti-inflammatory and, therefore, anti-arthritic characteristics. In fact, there has been a positive reduction in C-reactive protein (an inflammatory blood marker) over a period of two months using an ashwagandha protocol. Other clinical research has suggested activation of T-cells, along with an increase in natural killer cell when using Ashwagandha.
There has been research to suggest that Ashwagandha can be a useful support during times when very intensive chemical treatments are being administered (read between the lines here about what treatment we mean).
If you are keen to take your health journey even deeper, we have a brilliant course - Embodied Health - the 14 foundations of health, presented by Mason. It's online and go at your own pace. You will be educated, challenged and inspired! We would love for you to join us xx
SuperFeast Ashwagandha root is:
- sourced from small, independent farmers in Northern India
- a full-spectrum water extract
- non-irradiated, no fillers or colors (like all of the SuperFeast range)
Note: we do not standardize as we always find for long-term usage the full energetic and biochemical spectrum (just the way nature creates it) is the most ideal for our body's health. The active constituent (alkaloid somniferin) percentage fluctuates around 1.5%. Read more about our stance on standardization here. So which ashwagandha is best? In our opinion, non-standardized is absolutely the way to go.
If you like the sounds of this, then head over to our online store and check out our SuperFeast Ashwagandha. Might be time to purchase a batch ;P
Energetics / Clinical Usage
Other names: Withania somnifera (botanical), Winter Cherry, Indian Ginseng
Channels: Lungs and Kidney
Treasures Nourished: Yang Jing, Qi, Blood, Shen
Taste: bitter, astringent
Ashwagandha and the Traditions
Ashwagandha has been used in the Ayurvedic medical system for over 3000 years. This ancient herb was first mentioned in the sacred Ayurvedic texts: the Charaka and the Sushruta Samhitas, where it was favored as a restorative tonic against emaciation in people of all ages. In Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is the chief rejuvenating herb, with a special affinity for the muscles, marrow and semen. Ashwagandha holds a similar place in the Ayurvedic pharmacopeia as ginseng does in the Traditional Chinese healing system; however, it has a softer energetic.
In the Ayurvedic healing system, medicinal plants are classified into multiple groups according to their actions. Ashwagandha falls into the group of plants called the rasayana's.
The word rasayana is derived from the words rasa meaning primordial tissue or plasma, and ayana, meaning path; the word rasayana translates to "the path that rasa takes". According to Ayurveda the qualities of the rasa (primordial tissue/plasma) influence the health of all the other tissues in the body, or the dhatus. As such, any medicines or herbs that improve the quality of the rasa, such as those belonging to the rasayana group, should also strengthen and promote the health of all of the body's tissues.
Herbs belonging to the rasayana group are prized for their ability to restore and revitalize the body, slow the ageing process and prevent disease. Rasayana's increase the body's resistance to stress and can be taken over long periods of time without causing side effects or harm to the body. A herb that belongs to the rasayana group can be classified in contemporary language and understanding as an 'adaptogen'. With similar actions to the herbs we classify as 'tonic' in the Taoist herbal system.
Bringing Ashwagandha Into Your Diet
So the thing with ashwagandha is... it's got a pretty pungent taste! So we find it pairs really well with Indian spices, like turmeric and cinnamon.
A Final Note
- is both restorative and rejuvenating (adaptogenic)
- can to help the body adapt to stressful situations
- is an immune modulator
- reduces stress and anxiety
- supports healthy hormone production
- is a very gentle herb to take
This herb is super safe. But, if you have a tendency towards hyperthyroidism, or have a nightshade sensitivity, then we would suggest proceeding with caution.
We can't wait to hear your feedback guys, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden (this is a must read, get your hands on it)!
The Yoga of Herbs, An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine by David Crawley