Updated: Jun 29, 2020
What is ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an evergreen shrub that grows in India, the Middle East, and part of Africa. This Indian herb, commonly known as "Indian Winter Cherry" or "Indian Ginseng," has been used since 6000 BC in traditional Ayurveda Indian medicine (Pandit, et al 2013). Ayurveda medicine uses natural herbs, diets, and exercise to address health and mental concerns (NCCIH 2019). Within Ayurveda medicine, ashwagandha is a Rasayana, traditionally used to address a number of ailments, including arthritis, insomnia, stress, fevers, and snake bites. While it has been used for centuries, research is still being conducted to support a significant positive effect of ashwagandha across a broad spectrum. Current data suggests that ashwagandha is effective in increasing stamina, preserving memory, relieving stress, and protecting against free radicals (Singh, et al. 2011).
What does ashwagandha do?
Studies conducted on rats concluded that ashwagandha increases endurance. Rats treated with ashwagandha before taking a swimming physical endurance test were able to swim for twice the amount of time as rats in the control group. Researchers believe that the anti-stress properties of ashwagandha increases physical endurance. Ashwagandha reduces the increase of adrenal cortisol and ascorbic acid during physical activities (Singh, et al. 2011). In 2012, researchers studied the effects of ashwagandha on elite cyclists for 8 weeks. They concluded that the supplement improved the cyclists' anaerobic capacities, endurance, and strength (Shenoy, et al.).
Ashwagandha belongs to a sub-group of Ayurvedic Rasayana called Medhyarasayanas, referring to mental/intellectual capacity. Ashwagandha was traditionally used to promote the intellect and memory of children and the elderly. Researchers are currently studying ashwagandha in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's Diseases. A significant piece of these neurodegenerative diseases is the death of neurites, which are projections off neurons. Ashwagandha slows, stops, reverses, or removes neuritic atrophy and synaptic loss with significant success (Bhattacharya et al. 1995, Singh, et al. 2011).
Anxiety, Depression, and Stress
Research suggests that ashwagandha has a calming effect on anxiety, similar to lorazepam (a sedative and anxiety medication). A study published in Phytomedicine found that both ashwagandha and lorazepam reduced the levels of tribulin (a marker of clinical anxiety) in rats. Furthermore, ashwagandha exhibited antidepressant effects on rat subjects, comparable to imipramine (Bhattacharya et al. 2000). Studies conducted with humans found similar results. Chandrasekhar, et al. (2012) conducted a study of 64 human participants with similar results. They were randomized to take either a placebo or a capsule of 300 mg of high-concentration full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract. Researchers administered three stress assessments before and after the study: the PSS questionnaire, the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS) questionnaire, and the 28-item version of the General Health Questionnaire. These assessments tested stress across four categories: somatic, anxiety and insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression. The assessments found that the treatment group had significantly reduced stress across all categories compared to the placebo group.
On top of all of that, there is a wide range of ongoing research into the benefits of ashwagandha, including blood pressure reduction, inflammation decrease, and potential anti-cancer properties (Goldman 2016). Bottom line is that ashwagandha is an herb with multiple potential health benefits in mental health, physical health, and fostering a higher quality of life.
The VeganMed team recognized the importance of ashwagandha for many people and found animal-free options for you to try!
Himalaya Ashwagandha tablets are additive free, gluten free, wheat free, corn free, soy free and dairy free, and contain no artificial fillers, binders or excipients.
Ingredients: Organic Ashwagandha powder (root) 380 mg* (0.2% Withanolides, 0.76 mg) Organic Ashwagandha extract (root) 280 mg* (0.5% Withanolides, 1.4 mg) Organic Ashwagandha supercritical 10 mg* CO2 extract (root) (Withania somnifera) (8% Withanolides, 0.8 mg)
Nature's Way Ashwagandha
Nature's Way Ashwagandha tablets are made in the USA. They contain no sugar, salt, yeast, gluten, corn, soy, dairy products, artificial coloring, artificial flavoring, wheat, or preservatives.
Ingredients: Ashwagandha Root Extract Standardized to 4% with anolides (20 mg), plant-derived capsule (hypromellose), cellulose, magnesium stearate.
Best Naturals Organic Ashwagandha Powder
This powdered ashwagandha avoids additional fillers and can easily be mixed into smoothies, food, and drinks!
No Artificial Color, No Starch, No Lactose, No Gluten, No Flavor or Sweetener, No Sugar, No Soy, No Corn, No Preservatives, No Milk, No Fish, Sodium Free, No Yeast, No Egg, No Wheat. Best Naturals' Ashwagandha Powder is a 100% Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, Kosher, Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project verified.
Ingredients: Organic Ashwagandha
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Singh, N, et al. “An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda.” African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, vol. 8, no. 5S, 15 July 2011, doi:10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5s.9.
NCCIH. “Ayurvedic Medicine: In Depth.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Jan. 2019, www.nccih.nih.gov/health/ayurvedic-medicine-in-depth.
Goldman, Rena. “Ashwagandha: Health Benefits and Side Effects.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 8 Aug. 2016, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318407.
Pandit, Santosh, et al. “Effects of Withania Somnifera on the Growth and Virulence Properties of Streptococcus Mutans and Streptococcus Sobrinus at Sub-MIC Levels.” Anaerobe, vol. 19, Feb. 2013, pp. 1–8., doi:10.1016/j.anaerobe.2012.10.007.
Shenoy, Shweta, et al. “The Effect of Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) on Anaerobic Performance on Elite Indian Cyclist .” Medicina Sportiva, 25 Aug. 2012, pp. 1909–1914., doi:https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/c2d4/fc1a894dea4ef2a555b96c72c49271e14b81.pdf.
Bhattacharya, Salil K., et al. “Effects of Glycowithanolides FromWithania Somnifera on an Animal Model of Alzheimer's Disease and Perturbed Central Cholinergic Markers of Cognition in Rats.” Phytotherapy Research, vol. 9, no. 2, Mar. 1995, pp. 110–113., doi:10.1002/ptr.2650090206.
Bhattacharya, S.k., et al. “Anxiolytic-Antidepressant Activity of Withania Somnifera Glycowithanolides: an Experimental Study.” Phytomedicine, vol. 7, no. 6, Dec. 2000, pp. 463–469., doi:10.1016/s0944-7113(00)80030-6.
Chandrasekhar, K, et al. “A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults.” Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, vol. 34, no. 3, 2012, p. 255., doi:10.4103/0253-7176.106022.
Verma, Sitansu Kumar, and Ajay Kumar. “THERAPEUTIC USES OF WITHANIA SOMNIFERA (ASHWAGANDHA) WITH A NOTE ON WITHANOLIDES AND ITS PHARMACOLOGICAL ACTIONS.” Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research, vol. 4, 2011, pp. 1–4., doi:https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sitansu_Verma3/publication/260419415_Therapeutic_uses_of_Withania_somnifera_Ashwagandha_with_a_note_on_withanolides_and_its_pharmacological_actions/links/0f31753115cd32e430000000.pdf.