Ashwagandha has long been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for its potential mind and body support. In the past decade, it’s experienced an uptick in popularity and has crossed over into the mainstream, adding another herbal supplement option to the list for those interested in the possible wellness effects of ashwagandha.
But — if you’re ever taken ashwagandha supplements — you may know that it’s not exactly the most delicious supplement. Between its powdery texture, pungent aroma, and bitter taste, getting your daily dose of ashwagandha might be hard.
Not to worry: Sunwink is here with eight perfect ways to take ashwagandha, or winter cherry, as it’s sometimes called. You can read on to learn more about the potential health benefits some people believe can be found in this ayurvedic herb and the best ways to try it.
What Is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha, nicknamed Indian ginseng, is a small shrub native to India and other nearby regions. It technically belongs to the nightshade family, including well-known plants like tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes.
Ashwagandha has long been used in Ayurveda, a form of traditional medicine, for its many purported benefits. It was considered a Rasayana or a longevity plant. Today, it’s a favorite in complementary and alternative medicine. Some people believe this root powder’s best attribute is in helping to support feelings of calm, which puts it in the category of adaptogens.
Many other well-known adaptogens, such as reishi, are included in our Cacao Clarity Powder.
In order to be considered an adaptogen, an ingredient has to meet the following criteria:
- In a non-specific way, help support the body and promote feelings of relaxation or calm
- Maintain balance in the mind and body
- Not cause any adverse side effects to the body.
Some people believe that ashwagandha meets all of the above criteria and may support overall wellness.
What Is the Stress Response?
There are three stages of the stress response.
Here’s a breakdown of each stage:
1. Alarm — A.K.A. “Fight-or-Flight”
When something triggers your alarm bells — like a near-crash on the highway — your body sets off its fight-or-flight response. It releases stress hormones like adrenaline, epinephrine, and cortisol. These hormones raise your heart rate, spike your blood sugar, and shut down non-essential functions and processes, sometimes even your immune system.
If the stressor is short-lived, your stress hormones will typically return to normal soon after the stressor is gone. But when you’re in a state of chronic stress, these hormones are “on” constantly, making it difficult to come down.
In this stage, the stressor is gone. Your body recognizes this and tries to regain balance by metabolizing excess stress hormones. However, because you’re still releasing small amounts of them, it’s normal to feel slightly on-edge.
After a significant spike and drop in stress hormones, exhaustion can often set in. If you experience chronic stress, you may feel constantly tired. In addition, some parts of your body may not work as well.
For instance, because digestion sometimes gets shut down during the stress hormone, it’s not uncommon for chronically stressed people to experience gut problems.
How Can Ashwagandha Help?
Some people believe that adaptogens like ashwagandha can help support your mind and body during all three phases of the stress response.
In the first phase, ashwagandha root extract might help ease feelings of tension or overwhelm and so reduce the threshold for what triggers your stress response. In the second phase, ashwagandha may help support your emotional wellness and cognitive function, allowing you to potentially better move through this cycle. And in the third phase, ashwagandha may help support feelings of clarity, which could be helpful during a stressful event.
Read on to discover how these possible functions translate to potential benefits for your health and wellness.
What Are the Health Benefits of Ashwagandha?
1. Supports Calmness and Relaxation
Whether it’s physical, emotional, or biological, stress usually involves cortisol — A.K.A. “the stress hormone.” If it’s secreted constantly, it can lead to a host of problems.
There have been studies trying to determine if supplementing with ashwagandha root can support healthy blood cortisol levels, but larger clinical trials are needed to confirm this possible effect on well-being.
Still, some people believe ashwagandha is an excellent way to help support feelings of calm, especially where high levels of stress are involved. Whether it’s to reduce tension during a hectic workday or to fall into sleep at nighttime, proponents of ashwagandha believe it helps maintain healthy bodily systems.
2. Supports Healthy Blood Sugar
A spike in blood sugar goes hand-in-hand with an increase in stress hormones. While this is an excellent way to boost energy and fight (or flee) a perceived threat, there’s nothing good about chronically elevated blood sugar levels.
Over time, high blood sugar can lead to a host of problems, such as increased weight gain.
Some people believe ashwagandha can help support a healthy metabolism by working to maintain blood sugar levels, especially in those who are chronically stressed. These people believe it is because this superfood can support healthy levels of stress hormones, which can be linked to a spike in serum glucose.
More clinical research is needed to understand this effect, and to better know if ashwagandha does play a role in this aspect of health.
3. May Help With Muscle Size & Strength
Going hard in the gym is super important for getting those muscle gains. But did you know that it’s only part of the equation?
To build muscle, you not only have to challenge them but also allow them to rest and repair. Your days off, sleep quality, and active rest activities can all play a major role in helping you build muscle.
Well, if you’re in a state of chronic stress and tension, your muscles can suffer, too. You may not get enough sleep, not absorb nutrients (like protein) effectively, or make your body think that there are more important things to do than to rest and digest.
By supporting mental wellness, some people believe ashwagandha may play a role in what your body needs to repair post-workout muscle tissue and to help support the muscles.
4. May Support Mental Focus and Clarity
When your body senses a perceived threat, its main goal is to get you to survive. For this reason, you tap into the “primitive” part of your brain, one that’s highly emotional.
Your higher-order functions, like concentration, logical reasoning, and empathy, go out the window. It’s no wonder that stressed-out people sometimes notice that they can’t focus on a specific task and feel as though they are in a constant state of “brain fog.”
Some people believe ashwagandha could help promote and support feelings of focus and clarity by potentially promoting greater calm.
5. May Support a Healthy Heart
By this point, it should be clear that stress affects your entire body. Your heart is no exception. When you’re in a state of hyperarousal, your blood pressure can go up significantly, which can sometimes become chronic.
Once again, some people believe ashwagandha can help maintain your cardiovascular system. While clinical research is still needed, if that were the case, ashwagandha could be another way to support a healthy heart.
What Are the Best Ways To Take Ashwagandha?
You may be interested in checking out the potential benefits of ashwagandha for yourself but not so much interested in its taste. We’re here to help with that! Here are eight ways to take ashwagandha for the greatest taste and effectiveness.
1. Before Bed
Unlike with medications, people believe that ashwagandha doesn’t begin working immediately. Instead, it might have a more cumulative effect, and people report it may take a few days or weeks for the potential health effects to come through. However, taking it at night can become a part of your calming bedtime routine.
For best results, mix one tablespoon of ashwagandha powder into a glass of warm milk. Drink it with some honey, which — thanks to its natural glucose content — may help make you sleepy.
2. In the Morning
You can put ashwagandha into your morning beverage of choice and get your day started right. Mix it into a chocolate smoothie, blend it into your latte, or simply mix it into a glass of lemon water. Ashwagandha is a super versatile superfood.
3. In a Capsule for a Busy Day
While ashwagandha is most widely-available in powder form, its taste and texture may not be for everyone. Make it easier on yourself by taking ashwagandha capsules. Because it’s not known to interfere with other supplements, you can take it with your daily dose of antioxidants. If you take prescribed medications, you will want to speak with your healthcare provider to ensure you don’t have potential interactions.
4. Evening Moon Milk
A classic Ayurvedic recipe, moon milk takes its name due to its warm yellow color. To make it, combine a cup of milk (your choice) with ½ teaspoon turmeric, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ashwagandha, and your favorite sweetener.
Drink it warm or cold, and wind down.
5. Work-Day Ashwagandha Tea
You can buy ashwagandha in tea sachets, which is a super-easy way to get your daily fix during a chaotic work day. However, unlike your green and black teas, you need to give ashwagandha tea some serious time to brew. We’re talking at least 15 minutes before you can enjoy it.
6. Rainy Day Ashwagandha Hot Chocolate
Ashwagandha’s sweet-pungent-bitter flavor makes the perfect complement to cocoa powder for a soothing hot chocolate on a cozy, rainy day.
To make hot chocolate using the superfood, simply mix a cup of hot milk, a tablespoon of raw cacao, and ½ teaspoon of ashwagandha — blended with your favorite sweetener, of course.
Or just use our Cacao Clarity Powder for a delicious taste and a dose of many other adaptogens.
7. Sweet-Tooth Ashwagandha Candy
Sure, you can probably buy some candy with ashwagandha, but that would take all the fun out. Instead, we prefer to make our own. As a bonus, you’ll be 100% responsible for which ingredients go into your candy, meaning you can satisfy your sweet tooth without the artificial ingredients.
To make ashwagandha candy, find your favorite candy recipe: chocolate truffles, sour lollipops, or chewy gummies. Add a few servings of ashwagandha powder to your recipe, and… enjoy!
8. Snacktime Ashwagandha Churna Balls
A traditional way to take ashwagandha, these churna balls are made using a blend of ghee, palm sugar, and various warm spices, such as nutmeg and cardamom. For those days when you’re in need of a pick-me-up snack, this recipe is it.
Ashwagandha has been an herbal darling for thousands of years. If you’re thinking of getting on board, there are many ways to take it that actually taste good.
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 | NCBI