Ashwagandha has been relatively unheard of in the UK until recently. Studies have linked it to a host of benefits including brain boosting and stress reducing effects.
What other all-natural products out there can reduce your stress and support muscle growth at the same time?
While the name may be unfamiliar it is not as new as you might think. It has a long history in ancient and ayurvedic medicine and has been used for over 3000 years for its health benefits and medicinal properties.
Let’s take a close look at this new supplement yet ancient remedy. We will dig deep into the benefits and side effects and find the best ashwagandha supplements available in the UK.
This is not and should not be taken as any form of medical advice. Before taking any supplements seek the advice of your doctor. This information is collected from reading, personal experience and the experience of others and is not written by a medical professional.
What is ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a small bushy plant. Its berries, leaves and roots can be used in a variety of beneficial treatments. It is also known as; Indian ginseng, poison gooseberry or winter cherry.
It grows in the dry climates of India, northern Africa and the Middle East. Its recent popularity comes from its use a supplement used to provide a wide range of benefits. It is known to be an adaptagen, which supports the body to adapt to different stresses. Most of the supplements available are made from the root because it provides the best results.
Alongside recent studies there are also numerous accounts and reviews of positive experiences with the root extract.
What are the benefits of ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha has an almost unprecedented number of uses. It is known to be an adaptagen which is an responsive mix of amino acids, vitamins and herbs that can respond to the stresses on your body. This provides the core action for its benefits but there are many more.
Reduces blood sugar levels
There are a good number of human studies that indicate that ashwagandha can lower the blood sugar levels of both people with diabetes and those without. It influences your body’s insulin secretion which adjusts blood composition. In some cases, it was reported to be as effective as diabetes specific medicine.
While this is a great benefit it is also worth bearing in mind if you begin taking it as a supplement.
It has been observed producing anti-cancer effects
There is potential for ashwagandha to have an impact on a wide range of cancers. Currently there is no conclusive data from human studies but those conducted on animals show promising results.
So far it has been seen to promote the programmed death of cancer cells via apoptosis, prevent cancer growth in more than one way and generates Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) which also kill cancerous cells.
Reduces stress, anxiety and depression
Studies have found that it can have a significant effect on those suffering with stress and anxiety. It may be able to block the brains stress pathway by modifying the brain’s chemical signals. It can also reduce the build up of cortisol present in those with a chronic stress condition.
Increases strength and muscle mass
Research conducted with men, found that it increased testosterone levels and created a significant increase in muscle mass and gains across a thirty day period. It has already become a well-known ingredient in body building circles and is a key component in several training supplements.
Could improve heart health
Ashwagandha also causes a significant decrease in blood fats such as cholesterol and triglycerides. Human studies have found that this decrease was as much as 17%. The reduction of these fats could have a significant positive impact on your heart health.
Affects brain function and memory
Some studies indicate that it may influence reaction time and task performance, but it may also protect against oxidative damage. This in turn could protect against memory and brain function problems.
Provides a boost for your immune system
A reduction of stress caused by the action of the ashwagandha has a knock-on effect on your immune system. Stress significantly impairs your immune system so when taking ashwagandha it has a chance to recover.
The bioavailability of ashwagandha
There is a huge number of ashwagandha supplements out there already, but many are not as good as you would hope. Finding a top-quality supplement that is formulated to provide a full range of natural components and is quickly ready for use by your body, will ensure your money is well spent.
When ingesting ashwagandha there are number of things to be aware of to increase the amount that will reach your blood stream and the effect it will have:
Withanolides- These are active ingredients found within ashwagandha, but each supplement brand can contain a varying amount. Good labelling should tell you the percentage available. 5% to 8% is the optimum amount to look for.
However, it is also important to look at which withanolides are present. Withaferin A is a withanolide that can be toxic to cells in high levels and is present in the leaves of the plant. Look to ensure the product is produced with the root only to get the best and safest effect.
Full Spectrum- Products that include the full spectrum of ingredients found in the ashwagandha root often get absorbed into your body quicker and provide a wider range of benefits. This is because the component parts act in synergy, promoting and altering each other’s interaction with your body.
KSM-66- This is a trademarked product created from an extraction method that took 14 years of research and development to perfect. It is a high concentration full spectrum extract.
These extracts are particularly tricky to perfect which is why it is held in such high regard. Supplements that contain this formulation are generally considered to be superior. However, they work on the principle that a natural ratio of components is best and consequently are only 5% withanolides.
Black Pepper- Taking black pepper alongside ashwagandha gives a significant boost to the amount that reaches your blood stream. The piperine in black pepper provides this effect and has a similar relationship with turmeric.
Are there any side effects?
Ashwagandha has undergone many clinical trials and is considered to be safe. However, as with many supplements there are some moderate side effects.
To date there have been no long term tests completed so there is little understanding of ashwagandha’s effects or side effects over a period greater than 30 days.
A small number of people have reported headaches, sleepiness and stomach aches. Rarely, an allergic reaction has been reported so it is important to contact your doctor if you have any concerns. Because it is so good at lowering blood pressure this can also cause problems if it is not required.
It is important, when beginning any form of supplementation, to inform your doctor and check that there aren’t any potential interactions with any existing medication. All reputable ashwagandha products include a warning against taking it when pregnant or breast feeding.
How to take it, dosage and how long it takes to work
The lowering of blood sugar begins with a daily dose of 250mg. If you take more than this, increase the amount gradually and note the effects.
An optimal dose for anxiety reduction, muscle gain and to boost memory is between 500mg to 600mg. Many supplements provide 500mg capsules and advise you to take them twice a day. Unless the label advises you against it, start with one capsule a day until you feel comfortable to add a second.
They should be washed down with water and can be taken with or without food but are most effective on an empty stomach.
There are no noticeable immediate effects when taken, but people have reported noticing a reduction in stress after two weeks.
Best Ashwagandha supplements available in the UK
We have trialled many ashwagandha supplements available in the UK and these are the ones that impressed us the most. We looked for:
Full spectrum extracts
Organic practices and raw materials
Suitable for vegans or vegetarian
While these are not all present in all six of our selection, each one has its own strengths and impressed us in many ways. If you are looking for your first ashwagandha supplement this is the best place to start.
Organic Ashwagandha Capsules with Black Pepper by Next Gen U
With 5% withanolides and formulated with black pepper these 500mg capsules are potent and effective. This is a great value product and contains 120 doses. It is certified by the Vegan Society and the Soil association to say it is 100% natural with no GMOs.
It does contain extract from both the roots and leaves, but efforts are taken to ensure that withaferin A levels are low. Not only is it a good value but a percentage of each sale goes to Sport in Mind.
500mg per capsule
£14.49 per bottle
Organic Ashwagandha 500mg KSM66 by Zipvit
This contains 500mg of KSM-66 which is known to be the highest concentration ashwagandha extract available. Certified vegan and vegetarian by the vegetarian society this is an all-natural product and only contains KSM-66 ashwagandha in a HydroxyPropylMethyl-Cellulose capsule.
Customers say that it is one of the best available and have enjoyed a full range of benefits including cortisol reduction and stress relief.
Certified vegan and vegetarian
500mg per capsule
£15.97 per bottle
KSM-66 Ashwagandha Plus by Wild Nutrition
This is organically certified KSM-66 combined with magnesium for extra resilience. Another top-quality product making use of the super potent KSM-66. The addition of magnesium makes this a step above other supplements that only contain KSM-66. However, this is reflected in the price and ultimately you get less for your money.
500mg per capsule
£15.60 per bottle
Ashwagandha Herbal Supplement – Premium KSM 66 by Nutravita
Another 500mg KSM-66 capsule which just goes to show how truly effective the KSM-66 is. Others who tried these capsules were quick to report the effects and the impact it particularly had on stress and anxiety. To get a glimpse at how good ashwagandha is look at the customer reviews for any of these products. In many cases the effectiveness of ashwagandha has prompted people who have never reviewed before to share their experiences. This is a fully organic and vegan product.
500mg per capsule
5 out of 5 on Trustpilot
£15.60 per bottle
Ashwagandha – 10% Withanolides – MAXIMUM STRENGTH by Time Health
This is one of the most potent and best value products that we found. While it doesn’t contain KSM-66 it claims to be of the same standard and with such a high level of withanolides it is even more potent. The manufacturers are also careful to inform you of just how much withaferin each capsule contains. This great value product is organic and 100% vegan.
500mg per capule
19.99 per pack
Ashwagandha deserves a place on your supplement routine. It should not replace a balanced diet, but it brings benefits of its own. It is particularly useful for fighting stress and anxiety so why not give it a try.
Ashwagandha is also unusual in that it is still excellent value for money and easy to get hold of. There are a huge range of supplements available so make sure you get the best product at the best price.