Ashwagandha: The Benefits of a Bold Herb

Ashwagandha: The Benefits of a Bold Herb

By James "Slim" Miles

Ashwagandha is rapidly becoming one of the most popular and sought after herbs in the US market, hitting nearly $200 million in sales in 2020. That’s an increase of 50.4% according to Nutrition Business Journal located in Boulder Colorado. Ashwagandha is considered to be one of the most effective and balanced adaptogens available today and has a history of documented use going back over 2,000 years in Ayurveda, the traditional medicine system of India. Ashwagandha was written about in the Charaka Samhita, one of Ayurveda’s most important and seminal texts, and used long before. The name Ashwagandha literally translates as ‘horse smell giving’ or ‘that which give the smell of a horse’ but its name was coined in reference to the herb's overall effects in increasing stamina and performance – as in giving the strength and vigor of a stallion.


The herb is also used in the Middle East by practitioners of the Unani-Tibb system, the Sotho people in Africa and other indigenous tribes on that continent where it is believed to have botanically originated. A perennial shrub in the Solanaceae family, it is typically cultivated as an annual crop because its bio-actives tend to peak after about 7 months of growth. In the system of classical Ayurveda, Ashwagandha is held as a premier ‘Rasayana’ (which translates literally as ‘path of rasa, juice or essence’), or another way of looking at it: a substance that bestows or creates youthful rejuvenation in the body.  Rasayana substances are a category of herbs that endow the user with the benefits of enhancing and prolonging life, helping the body to adapt to and recuperate from stress, as well as creating balance and a personal state of systemic equilibrium, according to phyto-therapeutic theory.


In addition to being categorized as a ‘tonic’ herb and adaptogen, Ashwagandha is also confirmed to possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and nervine properties. Somewhat paradoxically, while it is reported to help increase energy levels, it simultaneously helps in decreasing stress levels and enhancing sleep quality; a grounding and calming energy enhancer if you will. This is a significant differentiator from many other tonic herbs, which while energy enhancing are also very stimulating, whereas Ashwagandha increases overall energy levels while simultaneously  instilling a calmer, more relaxed state of being. Many practitioners employ it as a sleep aid, and this is clued by its latin name Withania somnifera: somnus = sleep and “fer” = “carrying” = ‘sleep carrier’.


Although the Ashwagandha root has primarily been used in Ayurveda, the leaf or aerial portion has also been used medicinally in Ayurveda and other traditions1,2.  Modern chemical analysis has identified approximately 80 constituents in the Ashwagandha plant, including 35 withanolides, and 29 of those active constituents are common to both the root and leaf. Some beneficial compounds, such as withafarin A (the most widely studied withanolide with over 700 citations on PubMed), withanoside IV, and withanone, are found in higher concentrations in the leaf. A growing body of modern research suggests that extracts of Ashwagandha leaf exhibit neuroprotective3, nootropic4, anti-aging5, and memory-enhancing4,6 properties. Although some Ashwagandha root products may be adulterated with undeclared leaf, Bold Ashwagandha Plus has been purposefully and transparently formulated with both root and leaf extracts to provide a wider spectrum of active constituents.


Bold Botanica combines two potent extracts of Ashwagandha with supporting amounts of two other well- established adaptogens. The first is Amla (Emblica officinalis), also known as Indian Gooseberry, and Amalaki in India. Energetically, Amla berries are exceptionally sour, sweet and cooling, which helps to balance the warming qualities of concentrated Ashwagandha extracts, making the product more broadly suited for many constitutional types. The berries grow on trees native to India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and other areas in Southeast Asia. They are known to have quite strong antioxidant properties due to the presence of naturally occurring ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and polyphenols including ellagic acid, quercetin and emblicol. Amla is incredibly important in the arcana of classical Ayurveda, being one of the most commonly used herbs in Ayurveda’s Materia Medica. Translated from Sanskrit to English its name literally means “the sustainer”, as it is believed to enhance longevity and good memory. This incredibly tart fruit is the major ingredient in the legendary nectarous herbal paste called Chyawanprash, as well as being a third of the heavily used trinity of fruits called ‘Triphala’. 


The other functionally supportive adaptogen featured in the product is Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum syn. tenuiflorum), or Tulsi as it is more commonly known in India. Holy Basil is traditionally revered as one of the most sacred plants in all of India, planted abundantly near every shrine and sacred site. Like Amla, it is considered a Rasayana and is referred to in many sacred Sanskrit and Ayurvedic texts, while in the west it is recognized as a very supportive adaptogen. Tulsi possesses antioxidant properties, supports nervous system, memory and mood health, and some contemporary sources consider it to possess immune modulating qualities. A member of the mint family, the plant is rich in essential oils – such as eugenol which gives it is “clove-y” scent, along with some triterpenes, like ursolic acid and flavonoids. 


Together, all of these ingredients present themselves in a botanically potent formula with a guaranteed 10 mg of withanolides (steroidal lactones which are active compounds in the plant) per capsule. This is confirmed by a qualified 3rd party lab using official USP (United States Pharmacopeia) 43 testing methods which is the supplement industry testing standard.


James “Slim” Miles – is a 30 year veteran of the natural products industry, Phytotherapist, Ayurvedic Practitioner, a co-founder of Bold Botanica, and VP of Innovation & Science at Employee Owned Apotheca, Inc.


This blog is intended for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


1Williamson EM, Hooper M. Major Herbs of Ayurveda. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone; 2002.
2Kapoor LD. CRC Handbook of Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1990.
3Manchanda S, Mishra R, Singh R, Kaur T, Kaur G. Aqueous Leaf Extract of Withania somnifera as a Potential Neuroprotective Agent in Sleep-deprived Rats: a Mechanistic Study. Mol Neurobiol. 2017 May;54(4):3050-3061. doi: 10.1007/s12035-016-9883-5. Epub 2016 Apr 1. PMID: 27037574.
4Wadhwa R, Konar A, Kaul SC. Nootropic potential of Ashwagandha leaves: Beyond traditional root extracts. Neurochem Int. 2016 May;95:109-18. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2015.09.001. Epub 2015 Sep 8. PMID: 26361721.
5Kukkemane K, Jagota A. Therapeutic effects of hydro-alcoholic leaf extract of Withania somnifera on age-induced changes in daily rhythms of Sirt1, Nrf2 and Rev-erbα in the SCN of male Wistar rats. Biogerontology. 2020 Oct;21(5):593-607. doi: 10.1007/s10522-020-09875-x. Epub 2020 Apr 5. PMID: 32249404.
6Gautam A, Wadhwa R, Thakur MK. Involvement of hippocampal Arc in amnesia and its recovery by alcoholic extract of Ashwagandha leaves. Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2013 Nov;106:177-84. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2013.08.009. Epub 2013 Sep 3. PMID: 24012642.