For centuries, Ashwagandha has been used in herbal medicines for its incredible health benefits. But lots of people don't know much about this fantastic herb or how to use it, so we've put together this beginner's guide to Ashwagandha.
Sales of Ashwagandha in Australia have risen drastically in the past few years as more have started using the herb to help them fall asleep at night, improve heart health and the immune system and reduce stress.
Women also use Ashwagandha to help balance reproductive hormones for a more manageable menstrual cycle and to minimise the symptoms of menopause.
If you've never heard of Ashwagandha or want to find out more about the health benefit of this herb, how to use and where to find Ashwagandha in Australia, read on!
What is Ashwagandha good for?
Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years in traditional Ayurvedic medicines for its health benefits. Healing Ayurvedic holistic medicines use Ashwagandha root in powder and extract form to treat various health issues.
The root of the Ashwagandha plant contains a high concentration of nutrients, compounds and minerals that can help with everything from anxiety and infertility to heart disease and your immune system.
Ashwagandha has been used in traditional herbal remedies in India for centuries because it's packed full of beneficial nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Ashwagandha contains:
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
- Dietary fibre
Ashwagandha, also known as the winter cherry, Indian ginseng, and withania somnifera, is a shrub local to India and the middle east. The berries are also used in medicines, but it's the root that has the most notable benefits because it is an adaptogen.
Adaptogens are a type of herb, plant or mushroom that helps your body adapt and change to be healthier and fight disease and stress. Ashwagandha is a popular adaptogen because it can help fight stress and anxiety and improve your overall health.
Research shows that adaptogens can help regulate your central nervous system as well as having anti-depressive, anti-fatigue and neuroprotective properties.
Where to buy the best Ashwagandha?
If you are looking to buy Ashwagandha, you have lots of options.
Some people choose to buy Ashwagandha root to make their own Ashwagandha powder. You should try to buy organic Ashwagandha root for the best taste and health benefits.
Ashwagandha also comes as an extract, a powder or a tablet supplement. If you aren't buying the pure root, you should always check what else has been added. Some companies add other vitamins or minerals to provide extra health benefits or to stabilise the Ashwagandha as an extract.
It's worth checking the other ingredients to know exactly what you are taking. And, of course, organic is always your best choice. Try to buy from a reputable online store or a health food store that can guarantee the quality of the plant.
What does Ashwagandha taste like?
Ashwagandha has a very bitter and intense taste which means it's not for everyone. If you like earthy, nutty flavours, chances are you'll like Ashwagandha. Many people say it tastes like dirt, in a good way! It is definitely not sweet, so lots of people add sweetener or honey. Ashwagandha comes from two old Sanskrit words that translate to horse and smell because people say it smells like horses.
Ashwagandha is a plant locally found in India and the Middle East. The berries and roots are both excellent for your health, but the root is considered a superfood because it is an adaptogen. It can help calm your central nervous system to tackle anxiety, stress, and depression. The root of the Ashwagandha plant contains vitamins and minerals that benefit your overall health. The root tastes bitter, nutty and earthy.
Benefits of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha has transformed from a relatively unknown to a superfood, thanks to its amazing health benefits. There are still many clinical trials and studies going on to find out more about why Ashwagandha root is so good for you.
There is still plenty of evidence that Ashwagandha is beneficial for your central nervous system and can help you relax and fight stress. It can also help improve your immune system to keep you healthier and help with heart health. Women also use Ashwagandha to balance hormones and help with symptoms of PMS and menopause.
Here's a breakdown of some of the most remarkable ways Ashwagandha can benefit your health.
Ashwagandha for balancing hormones
Ashwagandha is traditionally a woman's herb because it balances your hormone levels. When your hormones are unbalanced, you could have problems with infertility, severe PMS and even early or premature menopause.
Taking Ashwagandha daily can help regulate your hormones by controlling your thyroid to stabilise cortisol levels and ensure progesterone and oestrogen are balanced. With balanced hormones, you should find painful menstrual cycles disappear.
Ashwagandha can also help older women experiencing menopause by balancing oestrogen levels as they decrease in later life. This helps control hot flushes, mood swings and weight gain during menopause and can even prevent certain health conditions from worsening after menopause.
According to research, Ashwagandha helps with adrenal fatigue, stimulating your adrenal gland into action to help your body naturally regulate your hormones. With a functioning adrenal gland, you can control your hormones naturally and should find you are more fertile, suffer from fewer mood swings and PMS cramps and improve your overall mood.
To find out more about balancing your hormones during PMS and menopause, check out:
- How can I balance my hormones naturally during menopause?
- Ashwagandha: A Natural Remedy for Female Hormones
- How do I Know if I Suffer from Hormone Imbalance?
Does Ashwagandha increase testosterone in females?
A commonly asked question, and yes, Ashwagandha can increase testosterone in women. However, it won't have such a significant effect that you suddenly start growing a beard! Most women find increased testosterone levels improves their sex drive.
However, if you suffer from a hormone imbalance with deficient oestrogen, Ashwagandha may not help your condition because it promotes testosterone over oestrogen.
Ashwagandha for heart health
Ashwagandha is also used to help keep your heart healthy. Because it helps lower your blood pressure, regulate cortisol levels and reduce stress, Ashwagandha is essential for long-term heart health. When your cortisol is up and your blood pressure is high, your heart can become unnecessary stressed causing it to work harder, potentially leading to heart failure.
With improved heart performance, you'll find that oxygen is moved around your body more efficiently, making exercise easier, helping keep your mind focused, slowing the ageing process and helping with other conditions such as diabetes, intestinal discomfort and even fatigue. This is why so many people consider Ashwagandha a superfood; it literally helps with everything!
Research shows that taking Ashwagandha daily can prevent cardiovascular disease in later life and minimise the chances of a heart attack.
There has even been a more recent study that suggests that as well as preventing heart conditions, Ashwagandha can actively improve and strengthen the muscle in your heart. This prevents heart attacks, improves your heart rate, and can improve exercise / athletic performance.
Ashwagandha for immune support
You can also take Ashwagandha to help your overall health by boosting your immune system. The root is packed with goodness that can help support your immune system so you can fight off illness and diseases such as the flu.
Ashwagandha root is a powerful antioxidant that improves your cell's immunity and health. It can help protect your cells against free radical damage, pollution and stress that can cause illnesses such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other age-related neurodegenerative diseases.
More research needs to be done on how extensive the benefits are for your immune system.
Still, early studies show that Ashwagandha helps remove inflammation in the immune system and increases white blood cell count to keep you as healthy as possible.
With a better immune system and healthy cells, your body will be in a better position to fight the ageing process, heal wounds, prevent infection and you should feel revitalised.
Ashwagandha for stress and anxiety
Many people use Ashwagandha to help with anxiety, depression, insomnia and stress. Research shows that Ashwagandha root can help lower your cortisol levels to help you relax. Cortisol is the stress hormone that is tied to feelings of anxiety.
High cortisol levels can keep you awake at night and leave you feeling stressed, so by taking Ashwagandha, you can naturally lower your stress levels.
Alongside its stress-relieving properties to help you relax, Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, so it can help you fight feelings of anxiety and depression.
Studies show that adaptogens help rebalance your mind and help stop the chemicals in your brain responsible for anxiety and depression from passing signals around your brain.
Ashwagandha can also help lower your blood pressure. When you feel stressed, your blood pressure is high, so by dropping it, you can help reduce your heart rate and prevent further stress and anxiety. When you take Ashwagandha, you automatically lower your heart rate and blood pressure, thereby helping you feel more relaxed.
If you want to learn more about dealing with stress and anxiety naturally, read:
- What Can I Do to Stop Being Anxious About Going to Work?
- Which Herbal Teas Should I Drink for Stress and Anxiety?
- Can Lemon Balm Help with Anxiety?
Ashwagandha has a range of benefits for your health, including increasing your white blood cells for a better immune system and protecting cells against damage from pollution, stress and cancer. It can also help your heart health by lowering blood pressure and strengthening heart muscles. However, women usually use it to help balance hormones to relieve PMS and menopause symptoms and improve libido. Ashwagandha is also great at combatting anxiety, stress and depression and helping with insomnia.
How to use Ashwagandha?
With Ashwagandha becoming more and more popular, you need to know how to take Ashwagandha and how to incorporate it into your daily routine. Ashwagandha is very popular as a tea, or you can add the powder to smoothies and juices.
Ashwagandha is a very popular tea because it has a delicious earthy, slightly bitter taste. If you don't like the taste, you can add the powder to healthy smoothies to get all the benefits without tasting the Ashwagandha. You can also make Ashwagandha tea with honey, cardamom, cinnamon and other flavours to make a tasty tea blend.
Here's how to use Ashwagandha root to make Ashwagandha tea:
- Place one mug worth of water to boil in a pan
- For a richer, more decadent drink, mix 50% water with 50% milk
- Add one teaspoon of Ashwagandha powder or add 5g of cut-up Ashwagandha root
- Allow it to steep for a minimum of 5 minutes and up to 10 minutes for a more robust flavour.
- Strain out the Ashwagandha and add a dash of honey or other flavourings.
- Complementary flavourings include cinnamon, cardamom, honey, turmeric, lemon and maca powder.
Aside from Ashwagandha tea, you could add a teaspoon of the powder to smoothies, juices or shakes to get all the health benefits. You can add the powder to hot chocolate or combine it with turmeric and milk for a super healthy, warming drink. In traditional medicine, this is called golden milk.
Using Ashwagandha topically
You can also use Ashwagandha topically as a face mask or topical cream to tackle inflammation.
Ashwagandha has anti-inflammatory properties, which can be especially beneficial when used topically. Mix Ashwagandha powder with water and honey for a soothing, calming face mask. You can apply this to clean skin to reduce redness and swelling.
You can also apply a topical paste of Ashwagandha and water to sore joints, bites or minor injuries to minimise swelling and inflammation. You can also buy Ashwagandha oil and extract and massage these into painful joints to get anti-inflammatory benefits directly on painful areas.
Side effects of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is safe to take daily and can have some fantastic health benefits. However, you shouldn't take too much. If you have a heart condition, high blood pressure or diabetes, you should speak to a doctor before taking Ashwagandha.
If you take too much Ashwagandha, you might end up with an upset stomach or diarrhoea thanks to the vast amounts of dietary fibre in your root, which can upset your gastrointestinal system. However, if you build up how much you take every day, you shouldn't have any problems.
Because Ashwagandha can help you relax and calm down, some people find it makes them feel tired or sleepy. If you find it relaxing you more than you'd like, you should be careful what time of day you take Ashwagandha.
When to take Ashwagandha?
|Ashwagandha Tea||Before Bed||Help you relax|
|Ashwagandha Powder||Morning||Balance hormones|
|Ashwagandha Capsule||Anytime||Other benefits|
A great thing about Ashwagandha is that it doesn't make you drowsy, nor does it wake you up. As a result, you can take Ashwagandha at any time of day or night.
Choosing when to take Ashwagandha depends on why you want to take it. If you take Ashwagandha to help you relax because you have sleeping problems, taking it before bed would work best for you. However, if you take Ashwagandha for your hormones or other health reasons, you could take it in the morning or during the day.
For best results, take Ashwagandha before eating or wait one hour after eating. Having Ashwagandha on an empty stomach means your body can break it down and absorb it without interference.
How much Ashwagandha per day?
The amount of Ashwagandha you should take each day depends on your weight, age, and health conditions.
Most experts recommend that you have around 5g per day. If you only want to take a small amount, you should take a minimum of 1.5g per day. If you are heavier and want to take the maximum possible, you should slowly build up to approximately 10g per day.
Try to build up slowly, as taking too much Ashwagandha can cause an upset stomach which can cause problems with your digestive system.
Where to get Ashwagandha in Australia?
If you want to buy Ashwagandha in Australia, make sure you buy from a certified and reputable store.
Some health food stores will sell Ashwagandha root in its pure form, or you can buy it online. You should make sure you buy Ashwagandha imported directly from India to be sure you're getting the highest quality.
At Black Leaves, we import organic 100% pure Ashwagandha powder directly from India. Our Ashwagandha tea is also made with pure Ashwagandha powder. If you want to buy Ashwagandha tea, you should make sure it is pure Ashwagandha root and doesn't contain added sugar or preservatives.
If you're interested in more native Australian herbal remedies, check out:
You can buy Ashwagandha root, Ashwagandha powder, supplements, oils and extracts. Most people choose to consume Ashwagandha orally as a tea or use the powder in smoothies. You can also use Ashwagandha powder to make a topical paste to treat inflammation and pain. You should buy organic Ashwagandha sourced in India directly.
Can You Take Ashwagandha During Pregnancy?
Historically, pregnant women in India used Ashwagandha to help keep themselves and their babies healthy. However, more recent research says that Ashwagandha is not safe during pregnancy as it can induce miscarriage.
Ashwagandha is not advised for pregnant women because although it does have lots of health benefits for mother and baby, it contains compounds that impact your hormones and can induce a period.
You can take Ashwagandha if you are still trying to get pregnant because studies show it can help with infertility by regulating women's hormones to have a healthy reproductive cycle. Men can also take Ashwagandha as there is evidence it can improve sperm count. However, current medical advice is to stop taking Ashwagandha once you get pregnant.
If you do want to continue taking Ashwagandha to make the most of its other health benefits, you should speak to your doctor. Your doctor may say you can continue to use it during the second trimester when the chance of miscarriage is lower. During the third trimester, it could cause premature birth.
Can I give Ashwagandha to my child?
Ashwagandha has plenty of health benefits for your child. However, if you plan to regularly give Ashwagandha to your child under the age of 5, you should speak to your doctor. Your doctor will be able to tell you how much to give and advise you on any risks.
For children over the age of 5, you should start with a very small amount. Generally, under 1g is enough to start with. You'll also want to consider how you give them Ashwagandha. It has a very intense taste that most children (and adults) don't like.
Can you take Ashwagandha while breastfeeding?
Generally, Ashwagandha is considered safe for new mothers breastfeeding their children. Of course, you should speak to your doctor about taking Ashwagandha and definitely start with a low dose. If your doctor says it is safe, start with less than ½ teaspoon per day. If your baby was born early, avoid Ashwagandha until at least the due date while your baby grows.
Taking Ashwagandha can have plenty of health benefits for mother and baby. Furthermore, some early research says Ashwagandha can help mothers suffering from postpartum depression. However, it's early days, so more research is needed.
For more information on herbal teas during pregnancy, read these:
- How Can Chamomile Tea Help My Baby?
- Which Herbal Teas Are Unsafe During Pregnancy?
- Red Raspberry Leaf Tea for Pregnancy and Labour
- Pregnancy Safe Teas for Nausea and Morning Sickness
Traditionally, pregnant women used Ashwagandha to keep the baby healthy, but research now suggests it isn't safe during pregnancy. However, you can take Ashwagandha while trying to conceive as well as when breastfeeding. You can also give a small amount to young children, but it's worth checking with your doctor.
Thanks to its adaptogen properties, Ashwagandha root has been an important part of traditional Ayurvedic medicines for centuries. Consuming the root daily as a tea or using the powder as a supplement can help with a range of conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and cellular damage.
Ashwagandha is a popular plant for women because it is so effective at helping relieve symptoms of PMS and menopause as well as increasing libido. Ashwagandha can help lower cortisol levels to help you feel relaxed and less stressed while also tackling anxiety and depression by regulating the chemicals in your brain. It's incredibly effective when used by women to help balance hormones.
Ashwagandha's popularity is prevalent because it can help men, women, children, and even young babies and pregnant mothers. Although you should speak to your doctor before taking Ashwagandha if you are pregnant or have an existing health condition.