How To Choose The Best Ashwagandha Supplement

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    Are you looking to start taking an ashwagandha supplement but are unsure how to choose the best one? We have put together a complete guide on what to look for.

    If you’re looking to choose the best quality ashwagandha supplement that meets your needs, it’s important to consider dosage, formulation, price, bioavailability, and more. In this article, we’ll cover what you need to know to find the best ashwagandha supplement for you.

    How to Choose the Best Ashwagandha Supplement

    Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a plant that is used in many herbal supplements. Formulations can differ for many reasons, including how concentrated it is and the dosage. There are also quality factors to consider when choosing the best ashwagandha supplement for your needs.

    Ensuring the Quality of the Ashwagandha Supplement

    Herbal formulations can be tricky to understand if you aren’t an herbalist, but it’s important to distinguish between the different terminology so that you can be informed to make the best purchase for you.

    There are two main types of ashwagandha preparations in supplements:

    • Root extract: This is derived from the roots of the ashwagandha plant, and is the traditional preparation used in Ayurveda.
    • Whole plant extract: This is prepared using the roots and leaves of the ashwagandha plant.

    Within these distinctions, there are concentrations that result in different doses and potency. It’s also important to consider additives, claims, and certifications that distinguish a product’s quality. We’ll discuss each of these below.

    Dosage and Potency

    Ashwagandha extracts are typically standardized to a certain concentrated form, usually described as “withanolide content.” The typical concentrations can range from 1.5% to 35%. Some of the different preparations that are commonly used in herbal supplements are:

    • KSM-66 is root extract, standardized to withanolide ≥ 5% and also includes alkaloids, amino acids (threonine, valine, methionine, lysine, isoleucine, aspartic acid, lysine, arginine), oligosaccharides, fructooligosaccharides, vitamin A, calcium, and iron.
    • Shoden is root and leaf, standardized to 35% withanolide glycosides.
    • Swiss Herbals Ashwagandha is standardized to 1.5% withanolides.
    • Sensoril is root and leaf, and includes a minimum of 8% withanolides, minimum of 32% oligosaccharides, and maximum of 2% withaferin A.

    Clinical trials have studied a variety of dosages. KSM-66 is often used at 300 mg twice daily. Shoden has been taken at 60 mg twice daily. Sensoril has been used at 500 mg per day. Supplement manufacturers may provide suggested dosing on individual products that differs based on other ingredients in the product, so always follow the instructions on the product you take along with your healthcare provider’s suggestions.

    Potential Additives

    Dietary supplements can be formulated with both active and additional ingredients. The active ingredient(s) are those that are intended to provide the support: the herbs, vitamins, or minerals in the formulation. Products that have more ingredients will list each one separately on the supplement facts panel . Sometimes if there is a blend of ingredients that work together, it may be listed as “proprietary blend” followed by each ingredient in the mix, without listing the specific amounts of each item.

    The supplement facts panel will also include “other ingredients,” which can include the capsule or other substances needed to preserve or distribute the nutrient (such as anti-caking agents). It can also include flavors, sweeteners, colors, and more.

    If you have food allergies, sensitivities, or special dietary considerations (vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, non-GMO, etc.) you will need to read labels closely. If you are not certain that a product is free from allergens, check with the manufacturer directly.

    Avoiding Misleading Marketing Tactics

    There are many reputable supplement manufacturers, but unfortunately, there are also companies that exaggerate the benefits of their products. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission regulate what companies are allowed to say, not every company follows the rules closely.

    Supplement manufacturers should be able to back their claims by published, peer-reviewed research and clinical trials that are provided as sources or that are readily verifiable. If a product claim sounds too good to be true, it very well could be.

    The most important way to avoid falling prey to misleading marketing claims is to work with your healthcare provider. This way you can discuss your specific health needs and how the supplement may be helpful. You can also get your doctor’s assistance on fact-checking benefits or finding out about other things, like possible medication interactions.

    Understanding Certifications

    Dietary supplements have to follow certain regulations in the United States, but they are not tested for safety by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before market. Rather, the individual manufacturers must adhere to a specific set of quality rules and regulations, known as current good manufacturing practices (or cGMP). Because of this, third-party testing organizations have emerged to provide independent testing and verification of supplement quality. This helps to build customer trust and sets apart high-quality brands from potentially risky ones that don’t contain the ingredients that they claim.

    Buying a product that has been independently tested and certified can offer peace of mind and give you confidence in the quality of the product. It helps you avoid inadvertently consuming ingredients you’re unaware of, and also helps to establish that you’re ingesting exactly what you expect to be.

    There are several certification organizations. Some include:

    Care/of products are Certified C.L.E.A.N., which is an assessment that is regulated by The International Center for Integrative Systems, a nonprofit organization. In order to be C.L.E.A.N. Certified, a product must meet the following requirements:

    • Conscious—the product must be safe
    • Live—the majority of the ingredients must be organic
    • Ethical—the product must be 100% non-GMO
    • Active—the product must be bioavailable
    • Nourishing—the product must have a high nutrient score on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI)

    Historical & Cultural Background of Ashwagandha

    Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub that is naturally found in India and elsewhere in the Middle East region and parts of Africa. It is sometimes referred to as Indian ginseng, as it has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for centuries because of its adaptogenic properties.

    Adaptogens like ashwagandha have been relied on in traditional indigenous therapeutic approaches because of their versatility. They do not inherently provide “increase” or “decrease” effects, but rather, they work on mechanisms that help to support balance within the body, based on what it needs to adapt in the moment. Adaptogens like ashwagandha are primarily considered to be useful for helping support the body as it responds to physical and emotional stressors.

    Health Benefits of Ashwagandha

    There are many ways that ashwagandha can support healthy resilience and responses. Below are some of the most evidence-based ways that ashwagandha supplements may be used for wellness support.

    Sexual Wellness Support

    Ashwagandha can support sexual wellness. Since many factors are involved with libido, it’s understandable that an herb that helps with stress responses might also support healthy sexual desire. In a study of people assigned female at birth, 600 mg daily of ashwagandha (as KSM-66) was found beneficial for overall sexual function, including arousal, lubrication, satisfaction, and more. Placebo did not provide the same results.

    In people born male, 675 mg daily of ashwagandha (as KSM-66) supported sexual wellness by enhancing certain aspects of reproductive health, including sperm count, semen volume, and sperm motility. Again, placebo results were not comparable.

    Support for Stress

    As an adaptogen, ashwagandha has been relied on for healthy stress responses. It can support feelings of calm and resilience in response to stressful stimuli, and may even have an impact on cortisol levels. More research is needed to confirm this. But what is known is promising. In a small study of 64 people, those who took ashwagandha experienced a 44% reduction in how they perceived stress versus only 5% in the placebo group. That’s a sizable drop of overwhelming feelings.

    Other research has also found that ashwagandha can help with quality of life perceptions that may make it easier to maintain overall health, including support for balanced eating patterns and a reduction in stress-related food cravings.

    Immune System Support

    Ashwagandha can have a role in how the immune system responds. Withanolides, the active components of ashwagandha, have properties that can support how the immune system responds to proteins. While this is a newer area of research, the evidence that ashwagandha may support immune system homeostasis, healthy cellular responses, and balance throughout the whole body demonstrates how herbs and other nutrients can have multiple applications across the body to support healthy balance. Ashwagandha is among a list of herbs that have bioactive components that help support the immune system’s natural defense mechanisms.

    May Support Athletic Performance

    Exercise and athletic performance require a substantial amount of physical exertion, which can lead to a form of stress within the body. Ashwagandha, when taken at 600–1,000 mg daily in divided amounts, may help to support the body’s resilience under these conditions. More research is needed to understand how it may help the body adapt under physical training demands, as well as whether dosages above 600 mg consistently produce better outcomes.

    May Support Cognitive Function

    Cognition can be affected by many things, including stress, not enough sleep, and more. Ashwagandha may be supportive of cognition and brain processing by supporting resilience under stressful conditions and enhancing memory, executive function, attention, and information processing speed. It can help to reduce the load of perceived stress, and while more research is needed, ashwagandha has also been shown to support sleep quality.

    Supports Testosterone

    Ashwagandha has been shown to raise testosterone levels. Research in people born male has noted that ashwagandha can impact testosterone-related issues, like sperm count and motility, without raising testosterone in a statistically significant manner.

    In persons born female who may have low androgens, it is only theorized that ashwagandha may increase testosterone as a mechanism for supporting better sexual experiences. Testosterone can rise in people born male who take ashwagandha, but given that ashwagandha is an adaptogen, it may provide balance to other mechanisms that indirectly influence hormone levels.

    Most research that investigates the impact of ashwagandha on testosterone is not well-designed, or requires larger studies to confirm the outcomes.

    May Aid in Sleep

    Sleep can be a challenge for many reasons, and even many natural sleep aids can result in undesirable side effects—like next day tiredness. Ashwagandha isn’t a sleep-inducing herb and can be taken at any time of the day. However, it’s been noted to help improve parameters associated with sleep:

    • Taking 120 mg of Shoden ashwagandha daily for 6 weeks led to a 72% self-reported increase in sleep quality, along with improvements in total sleep time, sleep efficiency, and overall quality of life.
    • 600 mg of KSM-66 ashwagandha, usually taken as 300 mg twice daily, supported better sleep quality, mental alertness, and faster time to falling asleep.

    Potential Side Effects

    Ashwagandha is generally tolerated well. When taken at typically recommended doses, it is less likely to cause discomfort. When taken at higher amounts, it may lead to gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

    People who have conditions that involve the immune system should use caution. Those who are allergic to nightshades (foods like bell peppers and eggplants) could also experience reactions to ashwagandha, since it’s in the same family.

    Frequetly Asked Questions

    Are Ashwagandha supplements safe?

    There is limited safety data on ashwagandha and consuming it long term. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services note that ashwagandha supplements have been shown to be safe when taken for up to 3 months at a time. There is minimal safety data beyond this. Additionally, it’s important to take them at recommended doses and not to exceed this amount.

    People who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take ashwagandha, since there is not enough safety data.

    Check with your doctor to determine if ashwagandha is safe for you, and how long you should take it.

    Can you take ashwagandha with other supplements?

    Yes, ashwagandha can be taken with other supplements. However, only your doctor can determine how to take your medications and supplements. Ashwagandha, like other supplements, has the potential to cause interactions.

    When is the best time to take ashwagandha?

    Most studies do not specify a specific time of day that ashwagandha should be taken. The most important factor is consistency, since ashwagandha supplements only work when taken regularly.

    How long does it take ashwagandha to work?

    There is no specific timeframe that it takes for ashwagandha to be effective. It works in the body by being taken consistently, not on an “as needed” basis. Most clinical trials study ashwagandha for days, weeks, or up to 3 months. Everyone’s situation is different, and the reason you are taking ashwagandha may determine how long it takes for you to notice results.

    Are ashwagandha gummies effective?

    Supplements that contain ashwagandha may contain varying amounts of the bioactive herbal components. All ashwagandha gummies are not formulated the same, so it’s important to read the supplement label to understand how much ashwagandha concentrated content you’re getting. Gummy formulations can be an effective way to deliver herbs, vitamins, or nutrients, as long as they contain enough of the active supplement ingredients.

    Can ashwagandha cause acne?

    There are no studies directly related to ashwagandha and acne. Research on ashwagandha and dermatology note that it is considered to have skin health properties. While there may be concern that it could cause acne as a result of impacting testosterone levels, research does not conclusively prove that ashwagandha directly affects hormones. In persons born male, it has been shown to improve testosterone levels.

    But in persons born female, while ashwagandha was supportive for better sexual satisfaction, it was only theorized that this could be from improvements to testosterone.

    Will ashwagandha make you sleepy?

    Ashwagandha can support sleep, according to some research, but it does not have sedative effects. It works by supporting feelings of calm and can help to improve a person’s perception of stress, which may make it easier to relax when it’s time to fall asleep.

    The Bottom Line

    Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that has numerous applications for supporting healthy stress responses. If you choose to take ashwagandha to support your health, work with your medical provider to determine the right dose for you. Ashwagandha is generally well tolerated, and has been shown to be safe for up to 3 months.

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    Dr. Pragati Gusmano, ND
    Formulator and Medical Researcher
    Dr. Gusmano is a licensed naturopathic physician. She received her doctoral degree from Bastyr University and has over a decade of experience in nutrition and the natural products industry. Her clinical interests include lifestyle medicine, optimizing nutrition at all stages of life, pediatrics, and mind-body medicine. In her free time, you’ll find her outside connecting with nature, spending time with her two children, and cooking plant-based meals.
    Mia McNew, MS
    Freelance Contributor
    Mia McNew is a nutrition science researcher with bachelor's and master's degrees in nutrition science and biochemistry. She holds additional certifications in clinical nutrition and formerly managed a private nutrition practice focusing on fertility and the management of chronic health and autoimmune disorders. She is currently pursuing a PhD in human nutrition with a research focus on disability, underserved populations, and inequities in popular nutrition therapy approaches. She has extensive experience as a fact-checker, researcher, and critical research analyst and is passionate about science and health communications that provide practical support.