How Ashwagandha Went from Ayurvedic Medicine to Trending Adaptogen

Just five years ago, “adaptogen” wasn’t as common as the word “macchiato.”

Today you can hardly walk into a coffee shop, grocery store, or juice bar without seeing the word “adaptogen” jump out at you. I’ve been a serious adaptogen lover for the last 10 years and I’m so glad they’re finally getting their time in the sun.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about exactly what an adaptogen is, and which adaptogens I reach for daily, but today I want to do a deep dive on a very potent Ayurvedic herb: ashwagandha.

Known as one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic healing, ashwagandha has been used for a wide variety of conditions for thousands of years. Most promising are its effects on stress and stress management — something we could all use a little more support for in our lives.

Ashwagandha in Ayurvedic Healing

What Ayurveda Is

“Ayur” means longevity, and “veda” means science or knowledge. Ayurveda isn’t only a healing modality, but a way of life that encompasses mind, body, and spirit. The first Ayurvedic medical school was founded in 400 B.C. so this modality has been practiced for a very, very long time.

A key part of Ayurvedic healing is the balancing of energetic “doshas. There are three doshas, or types of energies: vata, pitta, and kapha. Everyone is born with a particular balance of doshas. In Ayurveda, illness is caused by a disturbance of this balance. The first requirement to bring back good health is to re-balance the doshas.

Ayurvedic treatments involve natural medicines, dietary plans, and behavioral modifications, all looking at your mind, body, and spirit.

Benefits of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is sometimes called “Indian Ginseng” because it is used in the same way ginseng is used in traditional Chinese medicine — for strength, vitality, energy, and recovery. It is considered to reduce vata and kapha doshas.

Also known as Withania (scientific name Withania somnifera) or winter cherry, ashwagandha’s Hindi name means “horse smell.” This refers not only to the scent it may sometimes have, but to a horse’s strength, indicating its use as a tonic and aphrodisiac herb.

Although all parts of the stout shrub of an ashwagandha plant are used, most commonly you’ll see the root used for adaptogenic purposes.

While ashwagandha is often promoted as a sex herb and for sports performance, I would personally recommend this herb in the evening for occasional stress support. After all, its Latin species name (somnifera) translates into "sleep-inducing."

How Ashwagandha Moved from Ayurvedic Staple to LA Juice Bars

Between 500 B.C. to 1000 A.D., trade routes and wars led to an exchange of ideas, ingredients, and secrets between ancient Greek and Roman healthcare, and Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. There were a great many advances made for all cultures.

Fast-forward to the 19th century, when the British dismissed Ayurveda as a superstition, closed all Ayurvedic schools, and straight up banned the practice. Ayurvedic practices had to retreat into the underground until India gained independence in the middle of the 20th century. Today in India, Western medicine and Ayurvedic medicine flourish together.  

This resurgence happened to coincide with increased Western research on adaptogens in Russia, bringing the Western world’s attention to the balancing benefits of many traditional herbal medicines.

And now, as we enter 2019 in the United States, when we’re more stressed out, more connected, more “plugged in” then ever before, we see an increased interest in the mind, body, and spiritual healings of traditional medicines. The current balance of Western research and Eastern traditions for adaptogens such as ashwagandha makes them more popular than ever, much to the benefit of our overall well-being.

Adaptogens, Ashwagandha, and Stress

In case you are new to the world of adaptogens, let’s take a look at the big picture. Adaptogens are naturally occurring, non-toxic substances that can help protect your body from chronic stress by stabilizing and optimizing a host of physiological functions[*].

Rather than serving a single targeted purpose, an adaptogen will (ahem) adapt its healing properties to whatever your body specifically needs at a given time.

In order to formally qualify as an adaptogen, these natural substances must meet the following criteria:

  • They must be safe for long-term use, non-toxic, and non-habit forming
  • They must have a non-specific effect on the body
  • They must help normalize system functions and maintain a state of homeostasis or overall balance

What’s more, these benefits are achieved gradually and gently without letdowns or energy crashes.  

For the adaptogen ashwagandha, you’re seeing Western research strongly back up the claims of stress reduction with animal studies and human studies. A double-blind placebo controlled study on 64 adults gave them 600mg of ashwagandha for 60 days found the participants had increased resistance to stress[*]. A second study supported these findings[*].

Where You’ll Find Ashwagandha in Four Sigmatic Products

Ashwagandha Products

At Four Sigmatic we use an extract of ashwagandha root in our products. There are no fillers or carriers used. You’ll find it in:

It has no scent of a horse, don’t worry. I’ll sometimes make this high-fat latte if I run out of Adaptogen Coffee. If you have it on hand, just swap out the coffee and ashwagandha!

Vegan Ashwagandha Latte

  • 1/2 cup nut milk
  • 1/3 cup brewed coffee
  • 1 tsp. ashwagandha root powder (or, skip this and the coffee and add 1 packet instant Adaptogen Coffee mix)
  • 1 Tbsp. of nut butter (hazelnut or almond taste great)
  • 1–2 dates (remove pit)
  • 1 tsp. of coconut oil
  1. Add all ingredients to blender and blend until warmed. Enjoy!

I’m so glad ashwagandha made its way from India to our lattes in Los Angeles. We are all stronger and less stressed for it. Of course, if you have a specific health condition you’re interested in taking ashwagandha for, be sure to talk to your health care professional first.

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