East Meets West: The Role of Functional Botanicals – Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is a word you may have seen or heard in abundance recently. Falling under our recently discussed term of adaptogen, it is gaining mainstream traction because it can be found in different formulations on almost any grocery store supplement aisle. Withania somnifera is the small shrub’s Latin name. In Sanskrit, ashwagandha means ‘odor of the horse’ and is believed to give you the power of a horse. The sweaty smell becomes distinctly identifiable in the harvesting and processing of the root, but its benefits have outweighed the stench as it has been grown and used for centuries throughout India, Asia, and Africa.
In Ayurveda, its use dates back as far as 6000 BC and has been commonly taken as a tincture called Rasayana. With its current popularity soaring and this ingredient becoming common in the nutraceuticals industry, science is starting to play catch up. More studies are being done on the effects of swimming performance, anti-ulcerogenic, central nervous system cognition, and anti-tumor effects in hamsters.
As this east meets west rejuvenation of the plant comes together, some of the science-based approaches takes the stage. Focus has narrowed to quantifying some of the plant’s major compounds in an attempt to bring a clearer understanding in how to best manage the processing. ‘The pharmacological effects of the roots are attributed to the presence of withanolides,’ more specifically with anolide A and B. However, it is important that we continue on this path of quality by not only developing methods to asses’ major compounds, but also making sure we are paying attention to some of the minors. Much like hemp’s capabilities can be attributed to the entourage effects with full spectrum, it’s important that we look at each plant’s holistic capabilities. These botanical ingredients have been around for centuries, but it is with fresh eyes that we are able to build on the past and bring quality to the future.