What is Ashwagandha Root?

Following a Ketogenic Lifestyle has changed the approach towards food. It’s not just bacon, cheese & a bar of butter, it’s a focus on eating more whole foods (healthy fats, lean meats & vegetables), staying away from highly processed food-like substances, sugars, and grains. Making this change in a scientific-like manner to make an evaluation on whether this lifestyle makes sense for me or not… it’s this type of experimentation that brought me to the Ashwagandha root

What is Ashwagandha

 

Ashwagandha is a shrub from the Solanaceae or nightshade family native to India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa sometimes known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry.  Extracts or powder from the plant’s root or leaves create an herb used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine, typically to improve energy levels, overall health, longevity, and a variety of other benefits. It was developed more than 4,000 years ago in India.

 

What are the benefits of Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda, a form of alternative medicine based on Indian principles of natural healing. The word “Ashwagandha” is Sanskrit for ‘the smell of a horse’ which refers to its ability to bring the essence of a horse…strength, stamina, endurance & virility… or maybe because it’s earthy scent resembles that of a sweaty horse.

Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen, an herb that supports the body’s natural ability to deal with stress. They are called adaptogens because of their unique ability to “adapt” their function according to the specific needs of the body.

Benefits of Ashwagandha

Excepts from report by Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE – A registered dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with expertise in carbohydrate-restricted diets for diabetes and weight management. Link to full report

  • Reduce blood sugar levels – Studies show that ashwagandha can reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics as well as healthy people. Link to study
  • Reduce cortisol levels – One study in chronically stressed adults, those who supplemented with ashwagandha had significantly greater reductions in cortisol, compared with the control group. Those taking the highest dose experienced a 30% reduction.  Link to study
  • May help reduce stress, anxiety & depression – This is what Ashwagandha is best known for. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine: A full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life –  Link to study  
  • May boost testosterone and fertility in men – Maybe there’s more to the ‘essence of a horse” reference beyond the odor – Link to Study
  • Increase muscle mass and strength – Strong as a horse? This study suggests that ashwagandha supplementation may be useful in conjunction with a resistance training program.  Link to Study
  • Reduce inflammation –  A potent anti-inflammatory properties it is very useful in painful conditions such as arthritis. A study shows that it ishas been effective in patients with rheumatoid arthritis – Link to study
  • May lower cholesterol and triglyceridesOne study in rats found that ashwagandha lowered total cholesterol and triglyceride levels by 53% & 45% – Unfortunately, the rats also don’t like the horse odor, lol… Link to study  NOTE: Similar studies on humans yielded less dramatic results
  • May improve memory and brain function – Several studies in both rats & humans that support this claim. Here is an excerpt from the Journal of Dietary Supplements: Ashwagandha may be effective in enhancing both immediate and general memory in people with MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment) as well as improving executive function, attention, and information processing speed. Link to study

With a list of possible benefits like this, it’s easy to see why this could intrigue anyone, but certainly someone looking to reduce blood sugar & cortisol levels (Like someone on the ketogenic diet). However, there are questions that come along with these benefits, like….

 

What are the side effects of Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is finally here – back ordered for a month!

Ashwagandha is a safe supplement for most people and is readily available over the counter from an herbalist or health food store (I get mine from Amazon, click here). However, there are

some precautions that should be taken. 

According to Web MD, these are the possible side effects Link to Web MD full overview of ashwagandha

When taken by mouth: Ashwagandha is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken for up to 3 months. The long-term safety of ashwagandha is not known. Large doses of ashwagandha might cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and vomiting.

When applied to the skin: There isn’t enough reliable information to know if ashwagandha is safe or what the side effects might be.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It is LIKELY UNSAFE to use ashwagandha when pregnant. There is some evidence that ashwagandha might cause miscarriages. There isn’t enough reliable information to know if ashwagandha is safe to use when breastfeeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Diabetes: Ashwagandha might lower blood sugar levels. This could interfere with medications used for diabetes and cause blood sugar levels to go to low. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar closely.

High or low blood pressure: Ashwagandha might decrease blood pressure. This could cause blood pressure to go to low in people with low blood pressure, or interfere with medications used to treat high blood pressure. Ashwagandha should be used cautiously if you have low blood pressure or take medications for your blood pressure.

Stomach ulcers: Ashwagandha can irritate the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Don’t use ashwagandha if you have a stomach ulcer.

Auto-immune diseases: such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other conditions: Ashwagandha might cause the immune system to become more active, and this could increase the symptoms of auto-immune diseases. If you have one of these conditions, it’s best to avoid using ashwagandha.

NOTE: One of the studies above on inflammation contradicts Web MD’s warnings here on rheumatoid arthritis (RA), in the same post Web MD also cites ashwagandha as possibly effective for RA, but lacking sufficient evidence. Consult a physician before trying ashwagandha if you have RA… safety first

Surgery: Ashwagandha may slow down the central nervous system. Healthcare providers worry that anesthesia and other medications during and after surgery might increase this effect. Stop taking ashwagandha at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Thyroid disorders: Ashwagandha might increase thyroid hormone levels. Ashwagandha should be used cautiously or avoided if you have a thyroid condition or take thyroid hormone medications.

Does Ashwagandha make you sleepy?

Ashwagandha can improve the quality of sleep and may help with the treatment of insomnia. Specifically, the leaves of the plant contain the compound triethylene glycol, which promotes sleep induction.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted at Prakruti Hospital, Kalwa, Maharashtra, India. This study concluded that Ashwagandha root extract has sleep-inducing potential, well-tolerated, and improves sleep quality and sleep onset latency in patients with insomnia at a dose of 300 mg extract twice daily. It could be of potential use to improve sleep parameters in patients with insomnia and anxiety Link to study

Does Ashwagandha cause weight gain?

It is claimed that ashwagandha, an Ayurvedic medicine, may support weight loss. A natural adaptogen in the body, fighting disease and reducing levels of stress hormones like Cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone. High cortisol levels are linked to weight gain, nervous eating, and muscle loss.

A recent study concluded that: Ashwagandha root extract reduces psychological and physiological markers of stress, improves mental well-being, and reduces serum cortisol level and food cravings, and improves eating behaviors. A statistically significant reduction in body weight and body mass index were observed in patients treated with Ashwagandha root extract compared to placebo. Therefore, we conclude that Ashwagandha root extract can be useful for body-weight management in patients experiencing chronic stress. Link to study

How to take Ashwagandha

A quick internet search of Ashwagandha will reveal hundreds of products… so many that you’ll say to yourself “how did I not know about this before” & “which of these is the best to take?” Most of the Ashwagandha products that you’ll find online or at your local health food store will be in the form of capsules.

Advantages of taking capsules:

  1. Get specific on dosage – Depending on your needs and benefits that you are seeking such as; improved blood sugar, inflammation, mood, memory, stress, and anxiety, as well as a boost in muscle strength and fertility…dosage range of 250–500 mg per day for at least one month seem effective.
  2. Avoid the smell/taste – With a name that literally translates to “odor of a horse”, it’s not hard to imagine why taking the capsules is ideal for those that can’t get past the scent or the bitter taste.
  3. Extracts are more effective – Concentrated extracts are more effective than crude ashwagandha root or leaf powder.

Why do I only take the powdered form?

Essence of a horse?

The entire journey into the ketogenic lifestyle involves a move away from highly processed foods to more whole foods and while there are certain benefits to taking capsule form, there is a synergy and satisfaction in staying close to the original plant. Using root powder also opens up countless ways to get creative with Ashwagandha. Routinely I’ll add Ashwagandha to:

  • Coffee
  • Smoothies
  • Yogurt
  • Fat bombs

I got some great recipe ideas form this site: 9 Ashwagandha Recipes for Anyone

Using the powdered form is solely personal choice and not a recommendation of powder over capsules or other forms of Ashwagandha.

Conclusion

Ayurveda, the traditional system of medicine practiced in India and the use of Ashwagandha can be traced back to 6000 BC. That’s before the Ancient Greeks, before the Egyptian civilization, before the invention of the wheel… that’s an impressive history that is matched only by the countless studies done on the benefits and effects of Ashwagandha. The history, the studies, the fact that it is sold over the counter and the minimal/mild possible side effects outside of the examples listed above… how could you not give ashwagandha a try?

In my own personal journey of moving away from highly processed food-like substances and feeding the body more natural whole foods, as I researched the ancient ayurvedic root, the allure to add ashwagandha to my diet for 30 days and evaluate its effects on my overall well-being was too much to pass up. Over the last two years, I’ve gone on 30-day intervals of adding ashwagandha to my diet. Adding the root powder to coffee in the morning and to green tea mix in the day and to the occasional sleepytime tea in the late evenings. The effects for me have been subtle… I have an energized feeling when added to coffee (I’m on my 2nd cup today right now), but it’s not like I’m going to leap a tall building in a single bound. While it’s hard to put my finger on it, I do feel better when taking ashwagandha and I notice a difference when I stop taking ashwagandha. Perhaps the best testimony comes from my wife, who is not the least bit interested in the keto diet, ashwagandha, or any of the supplements that I test… “Bob,  when are you going to get more of that stuff to make the goonie goo goo tea, it helps me sleep?”

What experiences do you have with Ashwagandha? Leave a comment and share your thoughts….

Keto Bandeeto

32 thoughts on “What is Ashwagandha Root?”

  1. I had never heard about this ashwagandha root, but based on your article, it looks like it has a lot of beneficial properties.

    I tend to get stressed easily, so I might as well give it a try. Work, family, and life, in general, put a heavy toll on us.

    I’m not sure if I could withstand the strong smell, so I think I would try a supplement or extract.

    My cousin started the Keto diet not too long and invited me to try it. I’ll ask her if she knows about ashwagandha.

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. I wouldn’t get caught up on the odor too much… it’s not really as bad as all that… it’s an earthy scent, but you don’t notice it in a smoothie or coffee

      Thanks for reading and commenting

  2. Thanks for this in-depth review about ashwagandha root. I hadn’t previously come across this in my research, so it’s also an introduction to the root for me as well. The literal translation “odor of a horse” would probably scare me away if not for all the benefits listed. I appreciate having this information for my sensitive stomach — I’ll definitely try to avoid the taste / smell!!

    1. The earthy horse like scent isn’t really that bad. I mix it in my coffee & tea…except for the urge to trot around the backyard in a counter-clockwise fashion, I don’t see any ill effects… LOL

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Bob

  3. Lorenz Valdez

    Hello and thank you for sharing your post on the Ashwagandha root!

    Ashwagandha is known for weight loss I have read about this root before & have done keto consistently in the past.

    I can personally say that I have lost a ton of weight while in ketosis, but the hard part for me is, I love to eat rice and carbs so it’s been difficult.

    I also know that in ketossis, the Ashwagandha root allows you to sleep better and get more rest to your muscles… Is that true?

    Thanks for sharing. I like your site. WIll bookmark.

    1. Lorenz,

      Who you tellin’ about rice? I was born and raised in a Latino family in Brooklyn…rice is like the “new black” in Latino families… it goes with everything! 

      I use a broccoli straw, season it, and stir fry it to replace the rice yearnings… I’ve tried Cauliflower rice too…meh… not a big fan.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Bob

  4. This was an interesting article, does the name really mean odor of a horse? I have a lot of additional questions on Ashwagandha. For now, I will share my experience. There are many benefits to Ashwagandha. I like the fact you can put it in a smoothie. I drink smoothies nearly every day. I know it reduces inflammation, but does it boost the Immune system? Where is this natural herb found? Are there any consequences to eating it raw? 

    1. Ashwagandha grows natively in India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. I only consume the extract raw (ground down to powder form). The taste is bitter so I can’t imagine what eating the roots raw like a carrot would be like.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Bob

  5. That’s very interesting, I have heard of Ayurveda but never ashwagandha. It’s crazy how many benefits it has. I’m curious if it is addictive? When you stop taking it do you get any urges to continue use?

    1. Great question… I don’t feel a “pull” to get more Ashwagandha when I finish a pound of organic powder, I DO notice a subtle difference. It’s feeling like “dang, I do feel better when I take it regularly”…. not a feeling like “If I don’t get more powder I’m going to punch someone in the face” 🙂
      Thanks for reading and commenting!
      Bob

  6. Thanks for educating me about ashwagandha – not a plant I had come across. I did learn today that human beings use more than 2000 plants in their diet across the globe. And yes it’s hard to contradict something that’s been used for thousands of years. Ayurveda is something worth investigating more.I shall keep an eye out for some next time we are allowed to visit a health food shop!

    1. Michael,

      I completely agree… I don’t want to be a “follow the herd” guy, but its hard to argue with thousands of years of testimonials and it’s definitely worth investigating 

      Bob

  7. Awinikistevie

    Wow! This is an amazing article. The ashwagandha seems to be a great supplement that performs a lot of function. I always find it difficult to sleep well and most cases it is as a result of stress. Now I know about the ashwagandha powder supplement I will give it a try, hopefully it works as stated here.

    Thanks for sharing this with me.

    1. Stevie….

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Glad you found some value in this post and that it inspires you to investigate further… good luck, stay safe!

      Bob 

  8. Wow, what a great article on the topic”what is ashwagandha root”. I actually stumbled upon your site but I must confess it’s really amazing and insightful with quality and useful content. I haven’t actually seen this ashwagandha root before, it numerous uses and benefits really amaze me. I think I would love to get it. 

    1. Sheddy….

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Hope this inspires you to investigate further and see if ashwagandha makes sense for you.

      Bob

  9. Chimmhogevagreenesnr

    Wow! this medicine is highly effective in many ways. This is my first time hearing that ashwagandha can possibly reduce weight and also fight against diseases which makes it more power. I will try it out, I just hope I don’t react to it.

    Thank you for sharing your view on this powerful medicine.

  10. Helooo dear thanks for sharing these valuable content with us, I was doing some research online when I saw your post, I believe these is exactly what my aunty needs, she has been complaining about her blood level for some time, I believe the Ashwagandha root will be of great help to her, thanks for the info, I’ll surely do some recommendations

    1. Wow, that’s awesome… the best part of writing this blog is the possibility of inspiring someone to improve their life and to know that you contributed in a small but significant way. I hope this works out for your aunt… good luck

      Bob

  11. Wow Ashwagandha!!! I don’t know if it’s just me because I can’t even pronounce that correctly LOL, this is my first time if coming across this and its so amazing bro know that Ashwagandha root is of do much benefit to the human health, but your description of it’s small is almost scaring me away but for the fact that it May lower cholesterol and triglycerides is certainly a reason for me to try it out. 

    thanks for sharing.

    1. Jomata,

      Saying it IS difficult… I can relate, I’ve just misspelled it 35 times this past week! 

      Investigate ashwagandha further… I’m currently doing another 30 day evaluation  myself. Let me know how it turns out

  12. Fabulous post, I never knew about ashwagandha root and it’s benefits. A quick question: Does ashwagandha help with hypothyroidism?

  13. I know that finding a good article does not come by so easily so i must commend your effort in creating such a beautiful website and writing an article to help others with useful information like this,Ashwagandhan root  Is an ancient medicinal herb that has lots of benefits to man,it can reduce blood sugar levels,Might have anticancer properties,Can reduce cortisol levels,May help reduce stress and anxiety,May reduce symptoms of depression,Can boost testosterone and increase fertility in men,May increase muscle mass and strength.thanks for sharing.

    1. Wilson,

      Thanks for reading and commenting… I had come across some “anti-cancer” properties of Ashwagandha, but I omit it from my post because that topic is sensitive and the research I found was not very conclusive.

      Bob

  14. Hi Bob

    What an interesting post. I had never heard of the Ashwagandha root before. I always found that sweaty horses smell like biscuits so bring it on! Anything that could improve my brain function is a winner…

    Best,
    Jean
    P.S. You have the best website name ever : )

    1. Jean,
      You’re very kind… glad you got some value out of this post…biscuits, huh? I have not heard that before, rest assured 🙂
      Thanks for reading and commenting!
      Bob

  15. I have used Ashwagandha myself. Clean Ashwagandha from a British supplier in capsule form. I used it to help with low mood, stress and insomnia. I am a big advocate of Ashwagandha as it helped me immensely, great article. Spread the word.

    1. Michelle,
      So happy to hear that you already know about the Ashwagandha. My first experience with Ashwagandha root came only recently (within the last 2 years) and I was amazed at how this 4000-year-old medicinal root was a complete mystery to me…. much like it is to almost everyone commenting on this post. Thanks for sharing!
      Bob

  16. Wow! I had no idea that the ashwagandha root carried so many health benefits with it. I have heard of it before, and two of my friends regularly consume it, but I wasn’t convinced that it was for me, or that it would really provide any sort of tangible benefit to my life. I have been proven wrong. I’m trying to eat better these days, and now that I know that the ashwagandha root can help me, I will definitely start implementing it into my diet. Thank you so much! God bless you!

    1. C.N.
      Thanks for reading and commenting.
      The best that I can hope for with this blog and this post, in particular, is that I share some knowledge that inspires greater investigation and ultimately improves the quality of the lives that it touches… something that I know you are very familiar with. God bless you too!
      Bob

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