Ayurveda, a 4,000-year-old health care system that promotes balance as a way to support whole wellness, is more relevant now than ever as customers begin seeking natural alternatives to some of their most common health issues. In Sanskrit, the word “ Ayurveda ”translates to “ the sacred knowledge of life ” or “ the science of longevity.” According to Ayurveda, every person is born with a constitution (dosha), or mind-body form, that’s a mixture of natural elements.
Ashwagandha, scientifically known as Withania somnifera, is one of the most valuable herbs that belong to the Solanaceae family, and is commonly known as ‘or Indian winter cherry.’ In ancient medicinal systems such as Ayurveda, Unani, and Siddha, this plant’s root was considered an essential component in over 300 formulations for the treatment of many physiological disorders . Ashwagandha was traditionally used as a stress reliever, an enhancer for sexual function, an immune booster, and is known to promote strength and vitality. Ashwagandha is derived from Sanskrit “Ashwa,” meaning “horse,” and “Gandha,” meaning “odor,” which depicts the root ‘s strong aroma. The species name somnifera refers to the Latin Somnus meaning “sleep” possibly referring to the use of Ashwagandha as a sedative and as a nervine.
Ashwagandha grows well in arid, dry, drought-tolerant soils like those found in its native region of India. It takes about seven months for this shrub-like plant to achieve full harvest potential. The whole plant — root and all — is usually harvested. According to the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and Therapeutic Compendium on Ashwagandha Root, the crop should be covered from light, moisture, soil, heat and insect infestation; and the roots of the plant should be trimmed, inspected for quality and graded. Ashwagandha is an erect, evergreen, tomentose shrub, perennial in nature, that grows to a height of 1.5 metres with small bell-shaped flowers. The leaves of the plant are simple, ovate, and glabrous. The flowers are greenish or pale yellow, born in axillary, umbel-like cymes. Fruits are globose, berries, orange-red when ripe, enclosed in a membranous, persistent calyx. The seeds are yellow and are reniform.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), has a wide geographic distribution across the globe. It is mainly adapted to the warmer and drier parts of the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. The area of distribution of the plant extends from the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean region through India, the Middle East, Africa, and Sri Lanka to China. It occurs in Australia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Jordan, Morocco, and Spain. In Africa, it occurs wild or naturally, mostly on drier parts like South Africa and Indian Ocean islands.
Ashwagandha is found on all drier parts and sub-tropical regions of India and is widely distributed in North-western India states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jammu and Himachal Pradesh [2,3,4].
Each part of the shrub is somehow enormously beneficial. Ashwagandha’s bitter leaves reduce fever and swelling and the flowers act as a detoxifier, as well as an astringent, diuretic and aphrodisiac. The seeds are antihelmintic and used to treat and prevent infectious diseases and parasites. The fruits can be applied to cancers, tuberculosis, carbohydrates, and skin ulcers as a topical treatment.
The roots of Ashwagandha have traditionally been the most essential component of the plant and they are commonly used in various formulations. The root has strong aphrodisiac, diuretic, antihelmintic, non-oxidant, anti-depressant, anti-diabetic characteristics and is used for maintaining youthful vigor, stamina, strength, and health in individuals. According to Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia in India, the powdered dry root of ashwagandha is used to treat arthritis, phthisis, constipation, insomnia, stomach problems, nervous disorders, skin diseases, diabetes, memory loss, fatigue, infertility and numerous other diseases .
Modern research and clinical trials confirm some of the traditional therapeutic uses and health benefits of Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is one of the Rasayana herbs, that promotes longevity and alleviates suffering. Ashwagandha also belongs to a unique class of medicinal herbs known as adaptogens. Adaptogenic herbs support many aspects of physical and mental health by promoting a healthy resilience to stress. It is thought to be exceptionally rejuvenating for men; to strengthen the bone marrow, muscle, and semen; and to imbue the user with intellectual capacity, in addition to long life and youthful vitality. Moreover, it is also believed to be of great benefit to the elderly by providing energy and alleviating pain, fatigue, and nervous weakness.
Numerous human studies have been reported in recent years, which collectively show that the root of this plant, ingested either in dried form or in extract form, decreased stress and improved quality of life , improved sexual function in males and females [7,8,9] and increased immunity , improved cardiorespiratory capacity and neuromuscular coordination [11,12], and reduced fatigue and weakness in peri-and postmenopausal women .
According to the Ayurvedic principles, Ashwagandha may be used in powdered form in a dosage ranging from 450mg to 6 grams daily. There isn’t a standard dosage that has been studied, but as per the modern clinical trials, the minimum effective dose of ashwagandha tends to be approximately 600 mg daily in most cases. It’s different for each individual, however, and there are different rates of tolerance.
Let’s take a look at some of the dosages found in studies in some of the more common usage cases of ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha is categorized as an adaptogen, which means that it helps the body adapt to stress-inducing conditions, decreases inflammation and infection, and modulates adrenal hormones and neurotransmitters. Ashwagandha helps to lower the levels of cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress.
A study, conducted to evaluate the effect of Ashwagandha on stress and anxiety, demonstrated a significant reduction in stress and anxiety for people taking one 300mg capsule of ashwagandha twice per day for 60 days .
Ashwagandha, the mystical herb is revered as an aphrodisiac and is used to treat male sexual dysfunction and infertility. According to Ayurvedic tradition, one of the most important benefits of Ashwagandha is the ability to stimulate and control the production of testosterone in the body. Maintaining healthy testosterone levels is important for men’s health.
In a 3-month study of 75 men suffering infertility, five grams of ashwagandha improved sperm count and motility daily . In another study conducted involved 46 males with a condition that causes low sperm count, known as oligospermia. Administration of 225mg of KSM-66 Ashwagandha thrice daily and resulted in an increase in testosterone, semen volume, sperm concentration, luteinizing hormone, and sperm motility .
Ashwagandha is defined as a Balya that promotes strength and vitality, according to Charaka Samhita. Ashwagandha is known to increase muscle mass, muscle strength and also decrease body fat in combination with resistance training. Ashwagandha also helps to reduce and repair the body’s damage and encourage muscle recovery during exercise.
In one 8-week trial, men administered 500 mg of this medicinal herb per day increased their muscle strength by 1%, while the placebo group did not experience any improvement . In another study conducted in men, 300mg of ashwagandha root extract twice daily for eight weeks led to a significant increase in muscle strength and muscle size, compared to a placebo .
In another research, 18 healthy volunteers were provided enhanced doses of ashwagandha over 30 days from 750mg/day – 1250mg / day. This study demonstrated that Ashwagandha supplementation resulted in increased muscle strength and lean body mass .
In Ayurveda, Ashwagandha has also been categorized as a nootropic herb – medharasayana–to promote cognition in children with memory deficits, and for memory loss in aging adults . Ashwagandha is known to improve brain function, response times, memory, concentration capacity, and task performance capability. Several studies conducted, demonstrate how alkaloids from Ashwagandha help nerve regeneration, boost neural growth in both humans and animals; but the evidence in humans is very limited.
In an 8-week study, 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract twice daily improved overall memory, attention, concentration, and task performance substantially more than placebo . In another research of 53 individuals with bipolar disorder, ashwagandha extract also augmented working memory 
Ashwagandha at a dose of 120 mg per daily has also been found to aid in the control of the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder . Ashwagandha is also highly effective in reducing the reaction time and improving attention spans in those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Ashwagandha plays a significant role in reducing stress and is therefore strongly linked to improving reproductive health for women. Ashwagandha has a positive effect on libido, menstrual health, and can also aid in infertility.
In a clinical study conducted to evaluate the sexual function in women the supplementation of 300 mg of Ashwagandha root extract twice daily, demonstrated a considerable improvement in the sexual function of females and increased the number of successful sexual encounters relative to those in the placebo group .
Ashwagandha, an adaptogen can reduce the levels of cortisol, and help the body cope with stress, and also modulate the thyroid hormones.
In an 8-week clinical study 8-week completed in 50 individuals with hypothyroidism, the intake of 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract twice daily resulted in substantial changes in thyroid concentrations compared to placebo .
Ashwagandha is known to have the ability to boost energy and improve cardio-respiratory endurance in individuals. Adaptogens such as ashwagandha, on the other hand, facilitates long-lasting strength and endurance without any adverse effects by increasing exercise resistance and reducing physical stress.
A clinical trial conducted in healthy individuals demonstrated that the supplementation of 300mg ashwagandha root extract twice daily over 12 weeks, enhanced endurance, volume of oxygen (VO2 max), and self-reported physical health . The study reported no change in vital parameters, despite the increase in cardiorespiratory endurance.
A study conducted on 40 elite cyclists, evaluated the effects of 500 mg Ashwagandha extract, administered twice daily for 8 weeks . The experimental group receiving Ashwagandha showed a substantial increase in the volume of oxygen (VO2 max) and time for exhaustion on the treadmill test.
Another study examined the effects of Ashwagandha extract on VO2 max in male hockey players for 8 weeks. The experimental group receiving 500mg of Ashwagandha twice daily demonstrated a significant improvement in VO2 max and hemoglobin levels, thus demonstrating that ashwagandha improves energy supply to muscles during exercise .
Aging creates concerns about ongoing health and wellness, including a decline in physical and mental function. In ancient Ayurveda, ashwagandha is known as Rasayana — literally, a herb that “destroys old age and disease.” It is believed to maintain youthful health and vitality by improving the body’s resistance to stressors, increasing immunity, and enhancing the body’s ability to heal and regenerate itself.
A clinical trial conducted in elderly adults to examine the effects of Ashwagandha root extract administered at a dosage of 300mg twice daily demonstrated an increase in sleep quality, sleep efficiency, mental alertness and an improvement in the physical and psychological wellbeing .
Owing to its sleep-inducing potential, for many decades, Ashwagandha has been recommended and also used for sleep problems. Sleep is vital to the health of the person and quality of sleep improves our mental and physical wellbeing.
A study conducted on sleep challenged subjects, demonstrated that the supplementation of 300mg of Ashwagandha root extract twice daily for 10 weeks, resulted in increased sleep quality, sleep efficiency, and decreased anxiety . Another study conducted in the elderly subjects demonstrated that the supplementation of 300mg of Ashwagandha root extract twice daily resulted in increased quality of sleep, mental alertness and improved quality of life 
Ashwagandha, as an adaptogen, can benefit a weight management program by addressing stress and balancing cortisol levels.
In an 8 weeks study, the administration of 300 mg of Ashwagandha root extract twice daily resulted in improved scores on the perceived stress scale, positively affected serum cortisol, body mass index (BMI), and body weight. In this study, the administration of Ashwagandha caused a significant reduction in food cravings in the study subjects. Thus, it can be said that Ashwagandha can impart a positive impact on eating behavior and help in body weight management.
Ashwagandha is one herb that is effective in reducing inflammation. Inflammation is part of the body’s protective mechanism and, under normal conditions, the body should develop an anti-inflammatory response to maintain equilibrium.
In a study conducted, it has been demonstrated that 12 ml of ashwagandha root extract per day may increase the levels of immune cells that help combat infection . In another study conducted, a daily intake of 250–500 mg ashwagandha over 60 days can reduce C-reactive protein levels by up to 30%, which is a marker of inflammation .
One of the main characteristics of the Adaptogenic herbs is that they are considered safe and do not harm the body. Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years and it is one such herb that is safe for most of the people.
While ashwagandha should not have side effects, everybody is different, and it is difficult to predict with 100 % certainty how one person will respond when taking a new supplement or herb. Any herb can cause undesirable side effects, like nausea or gastrointestinal problems, if taken in excess.
Ashwagandha extracts are more potent and effective than the raw ashwagandha powder, therefore the results can be obtained at a lower dosage. A herbalist or other health practitioner may prescribe a more precise dosage for your personal use and needs of ashwagandha.
Many Ashwagandha products available on the market use a simple, whole herb formulation in which the plant, especially the roots and leaves are either dried and ground or imbued in alcohol to make a tincture. Whole herb preparations comprise the full complexity of the plant with all its identified and unidentified bioactive substances at varying concentrations. In general, whole herbal medicines are low in potency, and usually require higher doses to achieve desired outcomes. Whole herb preparations have a short shelf life and lose their potency steadily.
Standardized herbal extracts are produced for scientific research purposes. Standardized extracts are usually more potent than the whole herb — about 10 times more potent in the case of ashwagandha — and will maintain this potency for years to come. The potency, generally expressed according to the withanolide concentration, and it will be displayed on the label, allowing one to monitor the dosage precisely.
KSM-66 was developed to provide a highly concentrated, standardized ashwagandha root extract that preserves the natural balance of the chemical constituents found in the entire plant. Standardized to 5 percent withanolides, the highest potency ashwagandha extract on the market is derived only from the root.
The standardized extract is derived from a unique extraction process, based on the principles of “Green chemistry” and foes not use any alcohol or synthetic solvents. A part of the unique extraction process includes the pre-treatment of the ashwagandha roots in milk, which is in accordance with the traditional practice in Ayurveda. This unique extraction process results in optimum concentration of the bioactive constituents, the withanolides (>5% by HPLC). Therefore, the optimum dosage recommended for KSM-66 Ashwagandha is 600mg per day.
Ashwagandha is an incredible medicinal herb classified as an adaptogen and helps in normalizing stress and anxiety. Being a potent aphrodisiac, it improves libido, treats various infertility issues, and improves the reproductive health in both men and women. It also ensures better functioning of the heart and improves overall stamina and body immunity. Being a natural and potent nootropic herb, it can increase memory and cognition in individuals.
Dosage varies depending on your needs, but 300–600 mg per day for at least one month seems to be successful.