What Is Ashwagandha, Really?

Chances are that you've heard the name casually mentioned—by your best friend, your wellness practitioner, or even your mother. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has been a hot topic in the wellness world, more so over the last few years. It's a star adaptogen that seems to be finding space in everyone's cabinet, tea, or morning supplement regimen. But why? What makes this herb such a powerhouse—and why are so many people reaching for it in many forms? 

To understand, let us first go back to its history. As modern as it seems, Ashwagandha is an ancient herb with Ayurvedic roots. It is native to India where it continues to thrive in the drier climates. Research connects Ashwagandha to the ancient science, stemming back more than 5000 years. This herb—which is also known as Indian ginseng or Indian winter cherry—is touted as one of the Ayurveda's most revered ingredients, having long been used as a rasayana (an Ayurvedic herbal remedy that promotes vitality) that works to promote "a youthful state of physical and mental health," ease stress, induce mental ease, reduce inflammation, revitalize the body, and expand happiness. The ancient science also looks to Ashwagandha to help support the nervous system and healthy cognitive function. 

Now that we're armed with some background, let's next consider the other word that always follows Ashwagandha: adaptogen. It's a word so easily tossed around today. An adaptogen is a type of edible plant that have been lauded for its ability to help the body better adapt and resist to mental, biological, or physical stress. There is a wide-range of adaptogens (holy basil, an UMA favorite, is an adaptogen), all of which support the body a little differently. Some studies have shown adaptogens to show "anti-fatigue, antidepressive, anxiolytic, nootropic, and CNS stimulating activity" qualities.

A widening body of research on Ashwagandha has come to light over the last several years. These studies show the potential impact of the herb; some illustrating its ability to provide anti-stress, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. Others tout its immunity-enhancing effects. And beyond the acute health-benefitting evidence, many wellness proponents love it for its overall accessibility.

At UMA, we're firm believers of this magical plant, which is why we're incorporating it in an upcoming launch (which we can't wait to soon tell you about). In the meantime, you can find that Ashwagandha is readily available in various health food stores. As with most supplements, its formulations vary in terms of quality, source, and potency. (We love it in capsule or super-powder form.) It's best to make sure the herb has been produced using clean, organic methods (and, ideally, cold-water extraction to preserve the integrity of the plant). 

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