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Ashwagandha: The Great Ayurvedic Adaptogen

6 min read time Sep 17, 2020


Adaptogens are simply awesome. And one of my favorite action-oriented adaptogens is Ashwagandha.  

Let me explain ...

Dr. Isreal Berkhman, known as the “Father of Adaptogens” is a highly decorated and internationally known scientist from the former Soviet Union who spent 45 years of his research career becoming the leading authority on the effects of adaptogens. According to Dr. Berkhman, the 3 most important criteria of adaptogens are that they must:

  1. Be nontoxic
  2. Increase the resistance of the hormonal and immune systems to ALL kinds of stressors through a nonspecific physiological response.
  3. Normalize body function NO MATTER how they have been altered by external stressors.

If they fill the above criteria, they are “true” adaptogens.

History of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha means “smell of horse”. It got this unique name not only because the fresh root has a horse-like odor but ashwagandha is known as “Indian Ginseng" (although not stimulating like red ginseng specifically).

Ashwagandha is also said to make you “strong as a horse”.

This prized ayurvedic herb belongs to the most historically well-known and researched category of botanicals around the world: Adaptogens. The primary purpose of adaptogens is to support a healthy stress response, thereby improving the overall quality of one’s life.

Ashwagandha is traditionally known as a “calming” adaptogen.

Ashwagandha’s Power Source

If you are a phytochemistry fan, there are three main active constituent groups present in ashwagandha:

  • alkaloids
  • lactones  
  • saponins

Withanolides (lactones) are a group of compounds found in Ashwagandha that support healthy stress hormone levels.The two main lactones which contribute to its effects are Withaferin A and Withanolide D. Other active constituents in Ashwagandha that have been classified as “anti-stress” agents are sitoindosides and acylsterygulcosides

The root is the portion of this botanical that is primarily used and known for its adaptogenic properties.

Z Natural Foods’ ashwagandha root powder delivers all the natural constituents as nature intended.  

Ashwagandha has shown its effects clinically on a variety of scenarios in which an unhealthy stress response has affected one’s overall well-being.

Human Studies on Ashwagandha:

Researchers at the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine show Ashwagandha may reduce stress and anxiety

  • Effects of Ashwagandha on stress manifested anxiety: The treatment group showed “significant reduction” in “scores on all stress assessment scales”. An even more impressive result was the reduction in serum cortisol levels. Both results were compared to a placebo group (1).

Can Ashwagandha support a healthy weight by reducing stress?

  • Effects of Ashwagandha on the relationship between stress and weight management: Ashwagandha produced a “32.74% reduction in PSS scores (”perceived stress scale), “A 22.2% reduction in serum cortisol” and “ A significant reduction in TFEQ (Three factor eating questionnaire) scores for uncontrolled and emotional eating behavior” all compared to a baseline placebo group. The results suggest that for those who have trouble maintaining a healthy body weight due to the effects of “chronic stress”, Ashwagandha has very supportive qualities. (2)  

More info on perceived stress scale: http://www.macses.ucsf.edu/research/psychosocial/pss10.php
More info on the three-factor eating questionnaire: https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/134/9/2372/4688768

Research from The Journal of Dietary Supplements shows Ashwagandha may improve memory  

  • Effects of Ashwagandha on supporting healthy cognition levels: Ashwagandha showed after 8 weeks of use “significant improvement in both immediate and general memory” compared to the placebo group (3).

Researchers for The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition show Ashwagandha may improve strength and recovery

  • Effects of Ashwagandha on muscle strength & recovery: Ashwagandha participants when compared with a placebo group showed “significantly greater improvement” in both the bench press and leg press and also, had a “greater reduction in exercise-induced muscle damage” This was indicated by the stabilization of serum creatine kinase levels. (4)

Researchers with the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry show Ashwagandha may support memory

  • Effects of Ashwagandha for cognitive dysfunction in bipolar patients: The following was stated in conclusion of the study “Although results are preliminary, WSE appears to improve auditory-verbal working memory (digit span backward), a measure of reaction time, and a measure of social cognition in bipolar disorder”. (5)

Get the most from your Ashwagandha

When we look at the actions of adaptogenic herbs, they are broken down into two general categories, stimulating and calming

When the right adaptogens are combined together, they bring a beautiful level of balance and synergy.

Calming adaptogens like Ashwagandha combined with a dual action adaptogen like Schisandra is the perfect combination for anyone looking for a smooth sustained vitality that is not over stimulating.

For those of you who are ”strong out of the gate” but need to be nourished and supported over the long haul, this combination provides the perfect synergistic effect with a calming, balancing and rejuvenating outcome.

A little something about Schisandra

Schisandra has a rich and colorful 2,000-year history known for its traditional use as a nourishing and tonifying botanical in Chinese Medicine.

Schisandra is called the five flavor berry because it is sweet, sour, pungent, salty and bitter all at the same time.

This powerful botanical actually first gained its recognition as a “true” adaptogen in the 1960’s as an official medicine in the USSR. Schisandra may stand alone as an adaptogen for its unique qualities to produce a dual-action response. It responds to what you need, whether your system is hyperactive or deficient, it will support the physical and mental state of balance.

Its antioxidant potential allows it to have a greater “protective” effect in helping to maintain healthy cells throughout the body. Schandra has not only stood the test of time but the harsh critique of modern research around the world.

Human studies on Schisandra:

  • A review article in Current Clinical Pharmacology from 2009, on the evidence-based efficiency of adaptogens in fatigue, and the molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity it was stated, there is good scientific evidence of Schisandra’s ability to “Increase endurance and mental performance in patients with fatigue and weakness.”(6)
  • Another study in Phytotherapy Research 2005 about Schisandra and 2 other adaptogens administered individually in single doses stated the following “ single administration of these adaptogens effectively increases mental performance and physical working capacity in humans”. (7)   
  • In the Journal of Ethnopharmacology an overview of Russian research and uses in medicine of Schisandra stated that “Schisandra affords a stress-protective effect against a broad spectrum of harmful factors”. It also stated “Studies on isolated organs, tissues, cells, and enzymes have revealed that schisandra exhibits strong antioxidant activity”.(8)   

Synergy is the understanding of how the “whole” works together and is vastly superior to the individual parts when restoring one’s vitality. When combined together ashwagandha and schisandra are a true definition of what the beauty of synergy really means. Through both tradition and research, these herbs are shown to be a true compliment to each other to provide you with the perfect balance for not just surviving but, thriving.


1) 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. Chandrasekhar, K., Kapoor, J., & Anishetty, S. (2012). Indian journal of psychological medicine, 34(3), 255.

2) Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment With Ashwagandha Root Extract: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Choudhary, D., Bhattacharyya, S., & Joshi, K. (2017). Journal of evidence based complementary & alternative based medicine, 22(1), 96-106.

3) Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Functions Choudhary, D., Bhattacharyya, S., & Bose, S. (2017). Journal of Dietary Supplements, 1-14. Chicago.

4) Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial Wankhede, S., Langade, D., Joshi, K., Sinha, S. R., & Bhattacharyya, S. (2015). Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 43.

5) Randomized placebo-controlled adjunctive study of an extract of withania somnifera for cognitive dysfunction in bipolar disorder. Chengappa KN1, Bowie CR, Schlicht PJ, Fleet D, Brar JS, Jindal R. (2013). Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 74(11). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24330893

6) A, Wikman GPanossian. “Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity.” Curr Clin Pharmacol. 2009 Sep;4(3):198-219. Epub 2009 Sep 1.

7) Panossian A1, Wagner H. “Stimulating effect of adaptogens: an overview with particular reference to their efficacy following single dose administration.” Phytotherapy research. 2005. Pubmed.gov. Sourced 3/10/18.

8) Panossian A1, Wikman G. “Pharmacology of Schisandra chinensis Bail.: an overview of Russian research and uses in medicine”. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2008. Pubmed.gov Sourced 3/10/18.

About Michael Stuchiner

Michael Stuchiner is an experienced Master Herbalist, the Head of Education for Z Natural Foods, a teacher and an accomplished author.  With a 16-year specialization in medicinal herbs, Mike also has a vast knowledge in tonic and adaptogenic herbalism. Mike has enjoyed a 25-year career as an elite-level competitive powerlifter where he learned to heal his ‘mind and body’ as an avid user of herbal remedies.

        As an “in-the-trenches” herbalist, Mike has done more than 85 speaking engagements, consulted with clients ranging from young to elderly, worked with athletes in virtually all sports and with clients who have “dis-ease” states of a wide variety. Mike also mentors student Master Herbalists and will continue to teach the next generation to grow a deeper wisdom of the human body through appropriate herbal remedies.

For Bulk inquiries and custom formulations click here: https://www.znaturalfoods.com/pages/bulk


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