Ashwagandha is a staple in Ayurveda (alternative Indian medicinal system) where its roots, stem, and leaves have been used for more than 3000 years for their numerous medicinal properties. Known scientifically as Withania somnifera, the ashwagandha
plant is mainly cultivated in Yemen, India, China and India. The root of the plant has a strong natural odor that is commonly described as “horse-like” and the botanical name of the plant, somnifera, translates to “sleep-inducing”. The ashwagandha plant is also commonly known as poison berry, winter cherry and Indian ginseng.
The plant is shrub-like and it features bell-shaped flowers and dull green leaves. It also produces orange-red fruits similar to rosehips. Ashwagandha is usually planted in spring time and it thrives in dry areas with partial shade.
What is ashwagandha tea?
Ashwagandha tea is extracted from the leaves and roots of the ashwagandha plant. Until recently, this type of tea was lesser known in America. However, the beverage has been wildly popular in Asia, especially in India where it is commonly used in Ayurveda. While research on ashwagandha is scarce and new, there’s evidence pointing to its potential health benefits.
Ashwagandha tea boasts a rich earthly flavor and you can always spice it up with cardamom and cinnamon or add sweeteners such as agave or honey for better flavor.
The main active ingredients in the ashwagandha root are a variety of saponins, alkaloids and steroidal lactones (also known as “withanolides”).
Ashwagandha tea has an earthly and slightly bitter flavor and some people may find the flavor of the tea a bit overwhelming. Therefore, the tea is usually consumed with honey, cardamom, and butter milk. Ashwagandha tea can also be combined with cherry juice, turmeric or hazel nut to make it more palatable.
Health benefits of ashwagandha tea
Although ashwagandha is commonly used in Ayurvedic medication, the health benefits of the herb or tea are not backed by any scientific consensus. Alternative medicine focuses on the use of ashwagandha roots and berries in making supplements and tea. While the ashwagandha root can be easily found online and in health food stores in the U.S as a supplement, scientific evidence on its actual health benefits is scarce. Here are some of the potential health benefits of ashwagandha tea:
1. Helps to overcome both mental and physical fatigue
People who suffer from adrenal fatigue often struggle throughout the day with food cravings, brain fog, fatigue and moodiness. This is often the result of mental, physical and emotional stress which taxes the adrenals and impairs the body’s ability to release cortisol and adrenal hormones. When the adrenals are exhausted from stress, hormone production and balance is disrupted.
Ashwagandha tea treats both physical and mental by increasing energy levels gently without giving you the crash-and-burn effect caffeine usually does. As a result, ashwagandha tea may help to improve concentration and focus by lowering stress hormones and sharpening brain function. A study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological medicine found that
ashwagandha tea helps improve resistance towards extreme stress (1) and has also shown to improve the quality of life.
2. Improves mood
The adaptogenic properties of ashwagandha have antidepressant effects and the tea itself works as a natural mood stabilizer. Ashwagandha helps to counteract the biological changes that usually accompany chronic stress and anxiety, including increased adrenal weight and cortisol levels (2).
3. May reduces inflammation and boosts immunity
Ashwagandha tea may help to enhance immune function and reduce inflammation by increasing the production of immunoglobulin (3). It suppresses pro-inflammatory cytokines to create an anti-inflammatory environment and this may help alleviate pain that is brought on by chronic stress and inflammation. Ashwagandha also strengthens your immune system by improving your body’s ability to deal with extreme stress, which can have a negative impact on immunity.
4. Helps reduce blood sugar levels
A recent human study published in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology (4) shows that ashwagandha tea helps lower blood sugar levels as effectively as oral hypoglycemic drugs. Another study published in Phytochemistry found that ashwagandha tea helps to increase insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake, which may be highly beneficial to people with diabetes. However, it is important to note that these research studies were relatively small and larger studies need to be conducted to confirm these effects and learn the mechanisms behind them.
5. It has anti-cancer properties
Some studies have found that ashwagandha may help in cancer treatment. A recent research (5) showed that ashwagandha leaves contain a crystalline steroidal compound which has cancer fighting properties. The compound known as withaferin A was shown to protect experimental rodents against chemically induced cancers.
Another study published in PloS One shows that withaferin A was effective against cancer stem cells that are resistant to chemo (6). The study found that a combination of cisplatin and withaferin A resulted in natural elimination of ovarian cancer cells. However, it’s important to understand that that these studies did not examine ashwaghandha’s effectiveness as a stand-alone treatment and the studies may not translate to the treatment of cancer in humans. Therefore, there’s need for more research in order to establish a consensus.
Ashwagandha may be beneficial for both men who want to boost their fertility and infertile men. In fact, ashwagandha has long been uses by ayurvedic practitioners to boost male fertility. A study published in the Fertility and Sterility journal explored the impact of ashwagandha root powder on fertility and found that ashwagandha extract helped increase both sperm count and sperm quality (7). The study also showed that the use of ashwagandha helped to improve testosterone levels while reducing oxidative stress. Researchers also believe that ashwagandha extract may help to increase the levels of thyroid hormone resulting in better fertility.
7. For heart health and eye problems
Ashwagandha contains antioxidant properties that may help decrease LDL oxidation. Therefore, if taken regularly ashwagandha tea may help lower the risk of developing heart disease. Ashwagandha extract can also prevent cataracts for people suffering from diabetes. Cataracts are a major source of disability, and are also the leading cause of blindness for diabetics. Studies show that herbs like ashwagandha and ginseng may prevent the oxidative process that causes cataracts to develop. However, it’s very important to consult your doctor before taking any supplements.
A study published in Indian Journal of Medical Research (8) found that ashwagandha could help treat arthritis. The anti-inflammatory properties in ashwagandha help relieve pain by preventing the nervous system from sending pain signals to the brain.
Despite having a wide range of potential health benefits, ashwagandha tea should be used properly in order to avoid adverse side effects. It’s also important to consult your doctor before consuming ashwagandha tea.
How to make ashwagandha tea
You can easily make ashwagandha tea from ashwagandha root powder, which you can buy from local health food stores or online. Here’s a simple recipe for making ashwagandha tea that you can follow:
- Boil one cup of water.
- Add one teaspoon of dried ashwagandha root powder.
- Cover the boiling water with a lid and turn the heat down.
- Let the water simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove the water from heat and allow it to cool.
- Using a strainer, gently pour the water into a glass jar or mug.
- Add turmeric, agave, cinnamon, honey or other sweeteners.
- Enjoy your cup of ashwagandha tea
Use one teaspoon of dried ashwagandha root powder for every cup of water.
Side effects of ashwagandha tea
- People with autoimmune diseases: If you are suffering from an autoimmune disease such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis you should consult a doctor before using ashwagandha tea. In fact, if you suffer from any medical condition you should always consult your doctor before taking any herbal supplements (9).
- Breastfeeding or pregnant women: Women who are breastfeeding or pregnant should avoid consuming ashwagandha tea particularly because there isn’t enough evidence showing the plant as safe. There is also some evidence showing that ashwagandha extract may increase the risk of complications during pregnancy or even miscarriage (9).
- Surgery and medication interactions: Ashwagandha may interact with some medications and it’s critical to consult your doctor before drinking this tea if you’re taking any medications. Studies show that ashwagandha may interact with diabetes medications and blood pressure medications. If you’re on medication for thyroid disease, you should be very careful when taking ashwagandha tea as it may increase the levels of thyroid hormone in some people. Ashwagandha may also decrease blood pressure levels and decrease blood sugar levels, so medication dosages for people who are taking it may need to be adjusted. Therefore, if you’re taking these medicines you should consult your doctor who will advise whether to avoid or limit use (9).
Ingesting ashwagandha tea may cause side effects such as nausea, stomach upset, vomiting or diarrhea for some people. If this happens to you, it’s recommended that you stop consuming ashwagandha right away.
Ashwagandha can generate extra heat in the body. Therefore, Ayurvedic practitioners recommend that it is best to combine ashwagandha tea with something cooling such as milk, raw sugar or licorice. Moreover, the claims about the effectiveness of this herb have not been approved by the FDA and it’s important to consult your doctor before incorporating ashwagandha into