Introduction to Ashwagandha
“The smell of the horse” is the English translation of the Hindu word Ashwagandha, as the root has a horse-like odor. The analogy endures as the root, used for centuries in traditional Ayurveda, is said to give one the strength and stamina of a stallion...yes, we’re talking virility, fertility, and general hanky panky. However, Ashwagandha root benefits aren't just for enlivening things beneath the sheets. This aphrodisiac herb is also an adaptogen, tonic and calming herb that is quickly becoming a household name.
History & Traditional Use
Ashwagandha is rooted in one of the oldest recorded and still practiced traditions of healing, Ayurveda, which translates to “life knowledge.” Being 5000-6000 years old, Ayurveda is said to have influenced many other healing traditions of the region including Tibetan, Chinese and Greek modalities.
Ashwagandha is what's known as a Rasayana in Ayurveda, which is described as an “herbal or metallic preparation that promotes a youthful state of physical and mental health and expands happiness.”
In traditional Ayurveda, there is a common comparison between the energetics of Ashwagandha root and Shatavari root. The two herbs are both commonly used herbs in Ayurvedic practice and are ascribed to different energetic properties:
Ashwagandha Root Benefits & Uses
With an affinity for the nervous, immune, circulatory and endocrine systems, it is no surprise that ashwagandha is one of the most sought-after herbal supplements today.
A 2011 paper reviewing ashwagandha states its benefits and uses perfectly:
“[Ashwagandha] enhances the function of the brain and nervous system and improves the memory. It improves the function of the reproductive system promoting a healthy sexual and reproductive balance. Being a powerful adaptogen, it enhances the body's resilience to stress. ”
As an adaptogen, ashwagandha works over time to support endocrine system function via the modulation of the hormone cascade triggered during the fight or flight response. During the fight or flight response, there is decreased blood flow to all major organs, and general immune system function downregulates.
Taking an adaptogen supplement like ashwagandha modulates the stress response, training the nervous system to have a milder response to occasional stresses. The result is less time spent in the fight or flight response, and less downregulation of other important body systems.
Ashwagandha for Sleep
Many adaptogen herbs have an energizing, stimulating effect on the body. Panax ginseng, maca, and rhodiola are good examples of herbs that have this quality, which is why it is best to take breaks from these herbs every 6-8 weeks. Ashwagandha isn't considered stimulating. In fact, it has a calming quality, making it a good supplement to take at bedtime to support healthy sleep.
According to David Foreman, RPh, ND in his talk for the Reimagining Botanicals conference in 2023, there are two types of adaptogens: the ones that are best for supporting physical stress (working out, fasting, etc.) and the ones that are best for supporting mental stress and fatigue. Rhodiola and licorice are well known and researched botanicals for supporting increased physical endurance and lessening post work-out discomfort making them popular in athletic supplement protocols. Holy basil and bacopa are both traditionally used to support increased mental endurance.
Foreman refers to ashwagandha as the “king of adaptogens” as it tends to “play both fields;” A non-stimulating adaptogen that boosts physical endurance while also fortifying the mind against mental fatigue. As we piece together this picture of mental and physical resilience to occasional stressors, it starts to click why the best adaptogen is ashwagandha for sleep support.
Dr Morse’s Ashwagandha Tincture
Intrigued by this amazing herb? It just so happens that amongst all the detox protocols and numerical formulas in Dr Morse’s Cellular Botanicals line, we’ve got a few single herb extracts on hand for general health and wellness. Our ashwagandha tincture is a potent “simple” or single herb extract made with 35% alcohol to best extract the therapeutic phytochemicals discussed above.
For those of you familiar with taking alcohol tinctures, you may be comfortable dropping 1-2 droppers of ashwagandha tincture directly under the tongue for fast absorption. If you are feeling less than pumped about tasting the “smell of the horse” then we recommend adding 1-2 droppers full of the extract into water or juice. How ever you choose to enjoy our ashwagandha tincture, you can take this supplement up to three times daily, and over long periods of time for the best results.
As with all adaptogen and tonic herbs, your unique constitution will determine the duration of time you need to take ashwagandha before you start to notice a shift in your energy, sleep patterns, and general reaction to occasional stress. It is best to incorporate it into your daily routine and be patient, as the shift will be subtle. True to the theme of all Dr Morse formulas, ashwagandha is for supporting the overlying systems of the body, not specific symptoms.
Wild ashwagandha grows in areas ranging from Africa and the Mediterranean into India and the Far East. It is possible to grow a successful crop of ashwagandha from seed or starts in most temperate zones. A perennial shrub in the tomato and pepper family, ashwagandha produces orange/red berries in the late fall before the above-ground portion of the plant dies away for the winter.
According to the late Leslie Gardner in her book Life in the Medicine, growing Ashwagandha requires “full sun and well-drained, average or sandy soil. [The] plant is drought tolerant (water infrequently). Cut aboveground portions to the ground after dieback; it will reemerge in spring in temperate climates but will not survive severe winters.”
Unlike many root herbs that take a few years to grow to a usable size, ashwagandha can be harvested from 1-3 years after planting. Like all root herbs, if you plan to dry and store your ashwagandha root for use throughout the year, be sure to chop up the root before drying, use a dehumidifier or warm airy spot to dry, and store in an airtight container in a cool and dark place.
There is nothing more empowering than growing your own herbs. You get to meet the physical plants, watch them as they grow, and deepen your relationship with nature. Establishing a connection with plants aligns the consciousness with prana, or lifeforce. Dr Morse’s herbal extracts can support your health and wellbeing, but the work extends beyond taking your supplements. As spring starts to show its buds and the sun returns, step outside and connect with plants by gardening, practicing responsible foraging, and walking in nature. Uplift the spirit, renew life force and revel in the abundant health you will sow.
Common Names: Ashwagandha, Asgandh, Asvagandha, winter cherry, withania
Scientific Binomial Name: Withania somnifera
Plant Family: Solanaceae (nightshade)
Habitat & Cultivation: Ashwagandha is a drought resistant [shrub], that prefers dry, sub-tropical regions. Native to diverse landscapes throughout Africa, India, Asia, and the Mediterranean, it is perhaps most widely cultivated and distributed throughout the central and northwestern Indian states.
Botanical Description: a small, woody shrub in the night shade family with thin, broad, ashen/sage green alternate leaves, yellow/green flowers with 5 united petals which encapsulate the herb’s bright red/orange berries that are harvested in late fall.
*FDA warning: This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.