These days, there is a lot of buzz about Ashwagandha, an adaptogen that can reduce stress. Well, read on to find out more about this stress-buster, what are the different variations and how to find the right one for you!
Ashwagandha, a shrub that is grown in India, Africa and Middle East has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. It is also called Indian ginseng or winter cherry and is used to boost energy, reduce anxiety and stress.
As Ashwagandha minimises the negative effects of stress on the body, it offers a range of health benefits such as boosting immunity, promoting healthy aging, improving mental health and enhancing body's stamina and endurance.
Now let us take a look at how Ashwagandha is generally consumed
Although Ashwagandha is easily available in a variety of forms which include raw powder, tablets, capsules, Ashwagandha beverages and even tinctures, traditionally its tuberous roots were harvested, dried and grounded in powder for medicine.
Having said that, no matter whether you consume Ashwagandha as a supplement or as a root powder in food or a drink, it is important to remember that you will need to take it regularly for its long-term benefits.
Ashwagandha usage in early days
Traditionally in Ayurvedic practice, Ashwagandha was often taken in milk because of its bitter and earthy flavour. However, these days it is also being experimented as being used as raw powder in drinks and recipes as well.
So what is the best form of Ashwagandha- root or extract?
To analyse the differences between pure Ashwagandha root and extract, let us first understand the compositions of both.
Ashwagandha as a whole herb
To follow the ancient Ayurveda practice, many ashwagandha products available in the market use a whole herb preparation, where the root (because that is the part with maximum health components), is either dried and ground or steeped in alcohol to make a tincture.
Furthermore, these preparations contain the complexity of the plant with all its unknown bioactives, in unknown concentrations. Which is why, whole herb medicines are generally low in potency and need a high dosage to see actual results. They also have a limited shelf life, and hence have to be used as soon as the herbs are stocked.
Which is why when picking whole herb, whether it is in the form of pure ashwagandha powder or pure ashwagandha root, it is advisable to see the source of the plant, its potency, the geography and soil conditions and processing methods.
Ashwagandha is also available in herbal extracts. Standardised extract forms are generally more potent as they are created using a higher concentration of the plant's bioactive compounds that offer the health benefits.
However, not all extracts are considered equal. Some use both leaves and root and others use just the root. Both leaves and roots have different concentrations of withanolides. As roots are considered the best source of health-boosting compounds, the extract made from the root of the plant is considered better.
How to pick Ashwagandha Supplements?
The bottomline comes down to getting the maximum benefits of the herb or choosing the best Ashwagandha Supplement. When doing so, make sure to pick the supplement that is made from the extracts of roots and not leaves. This is an important consideration as supplements created using roots have a high constituent of root's active ingredients- the withanolides. Having said that, it is important to note that there is no substitute to pure powder form of Ashwagandha that comes straight from nature with minimum intervention.