What is Ashwagandha Extract?

Ashwagandha extract is derived from the root and leaves of the Ashwagandha plant (Withania Somnifera). The extract is used primarily in conjunction with other ayurvedic herbs and administered as a preventive adaptogen for overall improvement of health and body systems. The medicinal benefits of ashwagandha extract are attributed to the high levels of phenolic compounds, withanolides, flavonoids, alkaloids, lactones and saponins it contains. These biological compounds occur at a level 4-5 times higher in the root of the shrub than in the leaves and fruits. As such, all high quality ashwagandha extract will be derived almost exclusively from the root with little or no leaves and berries used. Using the root also generally ensures that the full biochemical spectrum of the herb is preserved in the extract. The Rasa (or taste) of the powder is often described as ‘bitter sweet’. Ashwagandha extract is usually made in one of three ways, either powdered extract, water based, or oil (fat) based extract. Commercially produced ashwagandha extract will usually be standardized to contain a specified amount of active compound per unit weight or volume. For example, liquid ashwagandha extract which is standardized to 2.5% flavonoids would then contain 2.5% of the active compounds with respect to volume of the extract.

Powdered Ashwagandha Extract

Powdered extract is the most commonly available extract. The root of the plant is dried and then grinded to a semi fine texture to produce the powdered extract. This powdered form of the herb is then either available in bulk or converted into a capsule form. The capsule form of ashwagandha

extract will usually contain other additives such as rice powder and silica in addition to the plant cellulose used to make the actual capsule. Generally the capsules are available in 500mg doses and the suggested therapeutic dosage for adults is 3 capsules per day. Addition of milk to the tea would also add to the flavor.

An alternate way of enjoying ashwagandha extract at home is by infusing milk with either the dried root or the powdered ashwagandha extract. There are several variations of infused milk that can be made but in general the ingredients and method involve the following ingredients:

- One cup water
- One cup Milk
- One teaspoon of powdered ashwagandha extract (or 2-3 grams of dried whole root)
- A few cardamom seeds
- 1 teaspoon clarified butter

All the above ingredients are combined and brought to a boil, then simmered for a few minutes. Ashwagandha milk has been used in India for centuries and most Indian households stock ashwagandha extract or root as a staple.

Ashwagandha Extract in the form of tea

One of the best ways to reap the benefits of ashwagandha is to make ashwagandha tea at home. This is a home made version of ashwagandha extract since the tea will contain the same biologically active compounds found in the powdered form; and will usually be cheaper. To make the tea, boil 3-5 grams of dried ashwagandha root in 4 cups of water for 15 minutes, sieve, and enjoy. Up to 3 cups of the tea can be drank per day.

Liquid Ashwagandha Extract

Ashwagandha extract is also available as a water based liquid or an oil based liquid. Just like the powdered version, the liquid extract will be standardized for a specified active compound if it is produced commercially. The recommended dosage for the liquid extract varies amongst manufacturers. A specified volume of the liquid extract is mixed with plain water of fruit juice to consume. As a rule of thumb, the liquid extract will contain more additives (for stabilizing the compounds and increasing shelf life) versus powdered ashwagandha extract. Nonetheless there are very pure liquid ashwagandha extracts available in the market, and the higher quality products would be just as pure as the powdered version.

Precautions before using Ashwagandha extract

A health care provider should always be consulted before taking ashwagandha extract irrespective of how healthy you are or how familiar you are with the herb. And specifically, pregnant women and people with thyroid conditions should avoid consuming any ashwagandha products.

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