What Is Ashwagandha & How Do You Use It?

Tess Patrick TESS PATRICK

Superfoods come and go with the seasons, but there are a rare few that stick around all year long. One that I’ve been loving in recent years, and one that the whole nutrition community seems to adore, is the incredibly powerful root, ashwagandha.

It’s a mouthful to say, but a mouthful a day can keep the doctor away. And I’ve personally found (and know of countless others) ashwagandha to be one of the most transformative superfoods I have ever tried.

It seems almost impossible to escape ashwagandha in present day. All of the holistic cafes in LA are serving it as a staple on the menu, and you can add it to your weekly grocery shop at your nearest wholefoods. But what is ashwagandha and how do you actually use it?

Ashwagandha is a root (and it tastes a little like it too).

If you’ve tried ashwagandha, you’ll be familiar with the flavor. There’s an almost overwhelming earthy taste that fortunately does get more endearing with time. But this is a food that’s used for more than just the flavor. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, first and foremost, meaning it adapts to your body and promotes the stability needed for physiology and homeostasis. You can best think of it as a kind of chameleon, a root that serves you and your needs.

Generally speaking, ashwagandha (and most adaptogens) serve to prevent the body against toxic stress. That’s the kind of stress that leads to chronic illness, and unfortunately, the kind of stress that is ever present in our lives. And while there are only a handful of definitive studies on the efficacy of ashwagandha (there’s not the same big money in natural health research - which we think is a good thing), there have been smaller scale studies that quite literally prove ashwagandha reduces cortisol levels and can have a balancing effect on glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain.

Collectively, we all know that reducing our cortisol levels (and ultimately our stress levels) is a good thing for the body, but are you curious about what else this adaptogen is capable of?

Aside from managing stress, ashawagandha is a heavy hitter. It’s been shown to support the body through chronic fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, mild obsessive compulsive disorder, restless leg syndrome, and fibromyalgia. There’s also further evidence to suggest it may be effective in fighting some kinds of cancers, arthritis, and neurodegenerative disease.

It sounds almost too good to be true, but this is the magic of natural healthcare. Where modern medicines are created in a lab setting to shut certain parts of the body off, herbal medicines like adaptogens encourage the body to perform at it’s peak - effectively enabling it to hold it’s own against conditions that weigh heavily on the body.

What does ashwagandha look like, and how should you eat it?

This is my favorite part. Because despite ashwagandha being an earthy root, it’s typically used in daily life ground down into a fine, nutrient-packed powder - and from here, you can put it into anything. Here are some of the ways I love to use it:

  • Mixed into a paste with warm water and brewed into a superfood latte.

  • Dusted through bliss balls for a stress-reducing hit.

  • Blended into a superfood smoothie (somedays I mix all of my supplements into one big health hit).

  • Or sometimes, I even buy my ashwagandha in veggie capsules just for stress free stress remedies.

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