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What Is Ashwagandha, And Why Do You Need To Know About It

One of the most recent explosions in American organic medicine markets has been ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), an herb used in ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years.

Presumably caused by the stressors occurring in the world with the endemic we have battled, many have searched for remedies that relieve stress and anxiety. Ashwaganda, a natural alternative to over-the-counter or prescription medications, has become a go-to for its stress-reducing properties. 

But, what is it?

The simplest definition is: Ashwagandha is an herb harvested from the plant’s roots, leaves and fruit that has been used for numerous purposes, including helping to calm the mind and relief of stress. There are many derivatives of the product and supplements are available in tablets, liquid, capsules, gummies, and powder — all can come in various strengths.

There is also several, mostly defined, usecases for the product, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Insomnia
  • Mildly impaired memory
  • Inflammation 

Ashwagandha has been the beneficiary from recent studies that have promoted its health benefits. It has landed plenty of mainstream media attention, and advertising campaigns that features celebrities hawking the product. That is not enough to dismiss nor promote it, so the investigation continues.

Additionally, there are several precautions to follow before adding ashwagandha to your diet.

The first is to always check with a doctor or your healthcare provider before taking ashwaganda and follow the package instructions.

Side effects with the root may include digestive upset, diarrhea and skin irritations. It may interact with other medications for mood issues, high blood pressure, immune disorders and diabetes. It should also not be taken for at least two weeks before undergoing anesthesia.

Also, just like many other supplements and medications, ashwagandha should not be taken by anyone who is pregnant or nursing. 

The positive press it has received has only increased.

“Ashwagandha has for the longest time been an insider’s herb,” KSM-66’s brand ambassador Chris Kilham said in an interview, “Up until the past seven or eight years, the herbalists who were kind of diehards … all knew about it. We all utilized it to some extent. But it never had real industrial advocacy, and that is just plain what it takes to popularize a botanical.”

Kilham is also known as the Medicine Hunter, and has written 15 books and appeared on more than 500 TV programs, including The Dr. Oz Show, according to his bio.

As with most every other stress support supplements, ashwagandha’s effectiveness requires further study.

Additionally, there are several precautions and potential side effects to consider before taking the supplement. Nonetheless, there are countless people that swear by Ashwagandha’s ability to ease anxiety and provide other health benefits (when taken as directed). 

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