Nutrition Market

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is a popular Ayurvedic herb that has been used in India for over 3,000 years for its medicinal properties. Its botanical name is Withania somnifera and it belongs to the nightshade family of plants. The name Ashwagandha comes from the Sanskrit language and means “smell of horse” – likely referring to the herb’s distinct odour as well as the traditional belief that consuming it can give one the virility and strength of a horse.

In Australia and worldwide, ashwagandha supplements have surged in popularity in recent years due to the growing interest in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Ashwagandha is considered an “adaptogen”, meaning it is believed to assist the body in managing stress more effectively. Some of its other commonly attributed benefits include reducing anxiety and fatigue, improving focus and concentration, alleviating joint pain and inflammation, boosting the immune system, enhancing sports performance, and increasing testosterone and fertility in men.

How Does Ashwagandha Work?

The active compounds found in ashwagandha that are responsible for its effects are called withanolides, which are steroidal lactones concentrated in the leaves and roots.

These withanolides are believed to influence important neurotransmitters like GABA and serotonin in the brain which regulate our moods and reduce stress and anxiety. The herb may also reduce the production of cortisol – known as the main “stress hormone” in the body.

The Benefits of Taking an Ashwagandha Supplement

There are many potential health benefits associated with taking ashwagandha supplements:

Reduces Stress, Anxiety and Fatigue

Multiple studies support ashwagandha’s role as an “adaptogen” in lowering cortisol and controlling excess stress. Supplements may promote relaxation, alleviate anxiety, improve mood, boost endurance and fight both physical and mental fatigue.

Enhances Sports Performance

Research indicates supplements can improve cardiorespiratory endurance, increase muscle strength and speed recovery in athletes. The pyscho-physiological calming effects also optimise focus and motivation levels pre-competition.

Supports Immunity

Ashwgandha has shown anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antitumor abilities indicating beneficial modulation and regulation of the immune system and ability to fight a range of diseases.

What to Look for in an Ashwagandha Supplement

With the rise in popularity of ashwagandha, there are now many supplement options available in Australia that contain this ingredient. However quality can vary greatly across brands and products. Here is what to look for when choosing an ashwagandha supplement:

Organic Ashwagandha

Seeking out supplements made with organic ashwagandha root powder will limit pesticide and heavy metal content for better purity and potency. Organic certification also indicates sustainable and ethical farming practices.

Good Manufacturing Standards

Reputable supplements should clearly display they are cGMP certified meaning they are manufactured to strict quality control guidelines for purity and safety.

Ashwagandha Supplement Dosages

For most therapeutic benefits, the generally recommended ashwagandha dosage is 300 to 500 mg taken once or twice per day. The maximum suggested daily intake considered still safe is up to 1,000 mg if needed.

When is Best to Take Ashwagandha?

The optimum timing for taking ashwagandha depends partly on what you are taking it for:

Stress Relief - Taking supplements once or twice daily alongside food is ideal for maintaining lower cortisol. Best times are breakfast to reduce workday stress or dinner to alleviate evening anxiety.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Ashwagandha is generally very well tolerated without severe adverse reactions for most healthy people at the recommended dosages, especially when taken short-term. However some minor side effects can occur in a small portion of users. Reported ashwagandha side effects include:

  • Drowsiness, fatigue or sedation
  • Stomach upset like diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Skin rashes or breakouts

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is ashwagandha safe to take daily?

Yes, for most healthy adults ashwagandha is safe to consume daily in the long-term, provided the dosage fits under the recommended maximum daily intake limit of 1,000 mg. Minimum effective doses are only 300-500 mg per day.

2. How long does it take for ashwagandha to work?

In most users, reductions in symptoms like anxiety and fatigue begin within 2 to 4 weeks of daily ashwagandha supplementation. Max effects take 6 to 8 weeks. Short term occasional use sees limited benefits.

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