What is ashwagandha and what are its benefits? Here’s what experts say

Ritual

Ashwagandha is the trendy, if hard to pronounce, supplement that’s taking social media by storm. An evergreen shrub native to India and the Middle East, ashwagandha may be having a moment, but it’s been used for thousands of years in some medical practices. While more research is still needed, studies are starting to suggest that the plant’s thousand-year reign as a medicinal herb might be grounded in some clinically-verifiable health benefits.

“Ashwagandha is classified as an ‘adaptogen,’ meaning it is believed to help the body manage and adapt to stress,” Dr. Soma Mandal, a board-certified internist at Summit Health in New Providence, NJ, told CBS Sports Essentials.

“It is also used for a variety of conditions including anxiety, arthritis, insomnia, and chronic liver disease, among others. Some people also use it to enhance their thinking ability, decrease inflammation, and improve their overall health.”

Keep reading for a deeper dive into the health benefits of ashwagandha that have the most clinical research backing them. Then, get our recommendations for some of the best ashwagandha supplements if you want to try them for yourself.

Important note: Ashwagandha, especially in the high doses found in many supplements, can interact with certain medications and isn’t recommended for people with certain health conditions. Make sure to talk to your doctor before taking ashwagandha.


What are the benefits of ashwagandha?

Some of ashwagandha’s most-studied health benefits include its ability to reduce stress, improve sleep, boost cognitive function and strengthen muscles.

Ashwagandha may decrease your stress and anxiety

One of the most well-known benefits of ashwagandha is its calming effects. “Several studies suggest that ashwagandha may help reduce stress and anxiety,” Dr. Mandal said. “It’s believed to do this by blocking the stress pathway in the brain by regulating chemical signaling in the nervous system.”

In multiple clinical trials, patients taking a supplement made from ashwagandha root or a blend of the roots and leaves had reduced cortisol (a stress hormone) levels after six to eight weeks along with decreased symptoms of stress. Doses in these trials ranged from 225 mg to 600 mg per day.

Ashwagandha may improve your sleep

In addition to its calming effects, ashwagandha is also sometimes used as a sleep aid. According to Dr. Mandal, “The leaves of the ashwagandha plant contain the compound triethylene glycol, which has been found to improve sleep.”

In a 2021 meta review of five clinical trials, researchers found that taking 600 mg or more of ashwagandha per day improved sleep quality and quantity in adult subjects. On average, subjects fell asleep faster and got more total sleep through the night than those who were given a placebo.

Ashwagandha may improve your memory and cognitive function

The herbal supplement has also shown some benefits to overall cognitive function, especially memory and focus.

At least three randomized clinical trials found that ashwagandha improved memory, executive function, attention and information processing speed. Doses ranged from 500 mg up to 1,000 mg per day for up to eight weeks.

One possible reason for that, according to Dr. Mandal, is ashwagandha’s antioxidant properties.

“Ashwagandha has been shown to promote antioxidant activity that protects nerve cells from harmful free radicals. Studies have suggested that it may help improve memory and cognitive function,” said Dr. Mandal.

Ashwagandha may increase strength and muscle mass

A handful of studies have looked at the potential for ashwagandha to improve athletic performance, with some showing an improvement in muscle strength and size as well as improved VO2 max (how much oxygen your muscles can use during vigorous exercise).


The best ashwagandha supplements in 2024

Now that you’ve learned about the potential benefits of the herb, it’s time to shop for the best ashwagandha supplements you can buy in 2024.

Best Ashwagandha Supplement Overall: Ashwagandha Tonic+

Amazon

Toniiq Ashwagandha+ is a potent supplement boasting 1,300 mg of ashwagandha leaf and root extract per serving. The third-party tested supplement is highly concentrated, with each serving containing a minimum of 25% withanolides, the compound in ashwagandha most strongly linked to its many health benefits.

While many supplements only contain root extract, this ashwagandha supplement stands out for its blend of leaf and root extracts. The science is still inconclusive on whether there’s a significant difference in health benefits between the different parts of the plant. But if there are, this blend covers all the bases.

We also like that each serving is split into two capsules. So if you want to take a smaller dose, you can simply take one capsule per day rather than two to cut your dose to 650 mg rather than 1,300 mg.

Get a bottle of 120 vegetarian capsules (60 servings) for $34 on Amazon.

Top features of Toniiq Ashwagandha+:

  • Each serving (two capsules) contains 1,300 mg of ashwagandha leaf and root extract.
  • The potent extract contains at least 25% withanolides, a key active compound found in the plant.
  • Black pepper extract is added to help boost absorption of the ashwagandha.
  • It’s easy to split the two-capsule serving in half if you want a lower dose.

$34 at Amazon


Best ashwagandha supplement for stress relief: Ritual Stress Relief

Ritual

Formulated specifically to fight stress, Ritual’s Stress Relief supplement contains 80 mg of ashwagandha root and leaf extract in each serving. That’s combined with other ingredients meant to help decrease stress and improve mood.

One of the coolest features of Ritual’s supplement is the time-release technology. Rather than getting the full dose all at once, the capsule is designed to release the herbal supplement in phases over eight hours. The goal is to provide all-day stress relief with a single daily dose.

Like Ritual’s probiotics and other supplements, Ritual Stress Relief is third-party tested and certified vegan, gluten-free and non-GMO. The brand’s emphasis on quality, purity and traceability makes them one of the most trusted names in the supplement market.

You can order it directly from Ritual while it’s on sale. Get a 30 capsule (30 serving) bottle for just $44 (reduced from $54).

Top features of Ritual Stress Relief:

  • Each serving contains 80 mg of ashwagandha root and leaf extract.
  • The time-release technology is designed to release the supplement over 8 hours for all-day stress relief.
  • This blend includes other herbs aimed at fighting stress.

$44 at Ritual


Best Ashwagandha Gummy: Goli Nutrition Ashwagandha Gummies

Amazon

A top-seller on Amazon, Goli Nutrition ashwagandha gummies are the tastiest way to get your daily dose of ashwagandha. The mixed berry flavored gummies have earned  4.5 stars on Amazon after over 46,300 ratings, with reviewers raving about how easy it is to take.

Each serving (two gummies) contains 300 mg of KSM-66 ashwagandha root extract. KSM-66 is a clinically developed version of the extract specifically designed to improve the bioavailability of ashwagandha’s active compounds. That means it’s easier for your body to absorb so you can get the most out of each dose.

In addition to the ashwagandha, each serving also contains 25 mcg of vitamin D2, or about 125% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin D for adults. A key vitamin for building strong muscle and bones, the vitamin D in this supplement makes it an especially great choice for athletes or anyone interested in adding ashwagandha to their post-workout recovery routine.

Get a 60-count (30 servings) bottle of Goli Nutrition ashwagandha gummies on Amazon for $15.

Top features of Goli Nutrition ashwagandha gummies:

  • You get 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract per serving.
  • KSM-66 ashwagandha root extract is formulated to be easier to absorb than other extracts.
  • The mixed berry gummies make this an easy and tasty way to get your daily ashwagandha dose.
  • The third-party tested gummies are certified vegan, gluten-free and non-GMO.

$15 at Amazon


Best ashwagandha supplement on a budget: Garden of Life Organics ashwagandha

Amazon

Garden of Life makes a range of collagen powdersprobiotics, turmeric and other health and wellness products that we love. So it’s no surprise that the brand also offers a great ashwagandha supplement.

Made entirely from organic ingredients, Garden of Life Organics ashwagandha is a surprisingly high-quality option at its price point. The 60-serving bottle is available on Amazon for just $22 (reduced from $25), making it one of the cheapest options per serving that’s trustworthy and made from premium ingredients.

Not only is this supplement USDA-certified organic, but it’s also NSF-certified so you can be confident you’re getting exactly what’s on the label.

That includes 600 mg of ashwagandha root extract per serving, with a concentration of at least 30 mg of withanolides. This supplement also includes fermented ginger root and a small dose of probiotics to ease digestion. That’s a great addition for anyone with a sensitive stomach since ashwagandha can sometimes come with side effects like upset stomach and diarrhea.

Top features of Garden of Life organics ashwagandha:

  • Each serving (one tablet) contains 600 mg of ashwagandha root extract.
  • Probiotics and ginger root are included in the blend to help with digestion.
  • This ashwagandha supplement is certified organic, vegan and non-GMO.
  • The supplement is NSF-certified.

$22 at Amazon


More top-rated ashwagandha supplements


Is ashwagandha safe?

While ashwagandha is generally considered safe and many people tolerate it just fine, Dr. Mandal told CBS Sports Essentials, “Some people may experience mild side effects such as upset stomach, diarrhea and vomiting.” If you experience any discomfort, stop taking the supplement and talk to your doctor.

Dr. Mandal also noted, “Ashwagandha can slow down the central nervous system, and it’s advised to stop taking ashwagandha at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.”

Who should not take ashwagandha?

Dr. Mandal advised that everyone talk to a doctor before taking ashwagandha because it has the potential to interact with certain medications and may negatively impact certain health conditions. Those who should avoid ashwagandha include:

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women
  • People with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and type 1 diabetes
  • People with thyroid conditions
  • People taking medications, including those for anxiety, depression, hypertension, diabetes and certain immune-modulating drugs

Leave a Comment