What Is Ashwagandha and Should You Take it?

ashwagandha
Photo Credit: Mosuno

January 14, 2021

By Andrea Wien

Used in Aryuvedic medicine for centuries, ashwagandha is a relative new comer to the western wellness scene. But it’s making up for lost time: These days, no adaptogen is more popular.

But what is it, what is it good for, and should you take it? Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Ashwaganda?

Also known as Indian Ginseng, ashwagandha belongs to a family of Ayurvedic herbs known as adaptogens, which help the body regulate stress. We don’t understand exactly how it works, but it’s believed to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

While Ayurveda has studied and promoted its benefits for over 3,000 years, scientific studies on its effects are few. More research is needed before we can conclusively say what impact ashwagandha has on our health.

That said, initial research shows that ashwagandha may be effective for in treating anxiety and stress, reducing inflammation, and slowing memory-related decline. It may also increase energy and boost fertility. Fun fact: In Sanskrit, “ashwa” means “horse” and “gandha” means “smell” or “essential characteristic” and the supplement is believed to give your horse-like stamina.

What to Know Before You Take Ashwagandha

The most common way to take ashwagandha is in supplement form, either as a pill or a powder. A number of supplements offer it as a part of a larger blend of supportive herbs.

As with all herbs, ashwagandha may interact with other medications, so it’s important to consult a doctor before you start taking it. It is not recommended if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Because it’s in the nightshade family, people who are allergic to nightshades, including tomato, eggplant, pepper and potatoes, may have an issue. And, since it’s considered a heating herb, if you have a fiery (high Pitta) constitution, it make cause hot flashes and irritation in your stomach or liver.