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.
Table of Contents
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.
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 should I take it, how much and how long will it take 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:
1. VitaBright- Organic Ashwagandha
VitaBright provides a range of high-quality, affordable, organic supplements, and their organic ashwagandha is one of their best. You get 90 capsules in the bottle, which is a three month’s supply. Each serving provides 550mg KSM-66 Ashwagandha and 5mg black pepper. The ashwagandha has been standardised to 5% withanolides, and the black pepper contains piperine which enhances the absorption of the active ingredient.
At £16.99 per bottle, these capsules are great value. They are organic and have relevant certifications and awards to prove the quality of the farming and manufacturing processes.
2. Ayurvedic Ashwagandha with B6 and B12 by Healthspan
Healthspan is a well-known brand based in Guernsey, which offers a broad range of affordable and straightforward supplements. These capsules contain KSM-66 ashwagandha with 5% withanolides and a combination of vitamins B6 and B12. The vitamins are added to provide extra support for normal psychological function and reduced fatigue.
These capsules offer excellent value, and one pack gives 60 servings. They’re suitable for vegans, and each one contains 500mg ashwagandha, 1.4mg B6 and 2.5µg B12. The downsides are that they’re not certified organic and contain bulking and anti-caking agents.
3. Ashwagandha Herbal Supplement – KSM 66 by Nutravita
NutraVita’s capsules come with 500mg of full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract. They’re certified organic by the Soil Association and are created using a ‘green chemistry’ extraction process. This is an alcohol-free technique that removes the active ingredients from the raw materials without the need for chemical solvents.
The ashwagandha powder is sourced from A-grade roots produced on organic farmlands in India. All of NutraVita’s ingredients and supply chain has been rigorously inspected to ensure high standards in quality and safety. We were impressed by the effectiveness of these capsules and NutraVita’s attention to detail. One packet gives you a 2-month supply of one capsule per day.
4. Ashwagandha – 10% Withanolides – HIGH STRENGTH by Time Health
Time Health offer Tibetan ashwagandha that’s been standardised to an impressive 10% withanolides; this makes it one of the strongest we’ve found. Reassuringly, they’re careful to point out that there is less than 1% withaferin A. While you aren’t getting KSM-66 here, Time Health claim that their ashwagandha powder is of the same standard but with greater potency.
The capsules themselves are made from pullulan, which is a polymer created from tapioca. This means that they’re gelatin-free and suitable for vegans and vegetarians. In one packet, you get 120 capsules which means that although you need to pay more at first, these capsules offer the best value we’ve found.
These capsules from Zipvit contain 500mg of KSM-66, and they’re certified as vegan and vegetarian by the vegetarian society. They’re all-natural and only contains KSM-66 ashwagandha in a HydroxyPropylMethyl-Cellulose capsule.
This is a popular product for good reason; it’s potent, effective and offers excellent value. Many of Zipvit’s customers report that they’ve enjoyed a full range of benefits, including cortisol reduction and stress relief.
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.
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My Supplement Recommendations
These are products that I currently use and enthusiastically recommend:
Nootropic – Mind Lab Pro contains eleven natural nootropics that have been proven to support cognitive function and brain health. Read my review.
Collagen – Edible Health Bovine Collagen. This excellent bovine collagen powder is completely tasteless and absorbs quickly into any liquid. It’s third-party lab tested and provides 13g of collagen per serving. Read my review.
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