Ashwagandha is an ayurvedic herb that has been used for thousands of years for its various health benefits related to mental health, cognitive health and energy. The herb has been steadily gaining popularity today as more consumers look for a solution to their stress and anxiety issues—particularly since the pandemic began. As a result, according to www.marketresearch.com, “In 2019, the United States ashwagandha extract market size was increased to $10.48 million, and it will reach $16.48 million in 2026, growing at a [compound annual growth rate] CAGR of 6.44 [percent] between 2020 and 2026.”
Proven Benefits of Ashwagandha
Healthline.com lists health benefits of ashwagandha as helping to reduce stress and anxiety; benefitting athletic performance; reducing symptoms of some mental health conditions; helping to boost testosterone and increase fertility in men; reducing blood sugar levels; reducing inflammation; improving brain function, including memory; and improving sleep.
Furthermore, according to Beth Lambert, CEO, Herbalist & Alchemist (Washington, NJ), ashwagandha can “normalize endocrine, nervous and immune functions … [and] supports the natural inflammatory response system, helping to prevent muscle wear due to oxidative stress. It is a calming adaptogen.”
Cheryl Myers, chief of scientific affairs and education at EuroPharma, Inc. (Green Bay, WI), added, “According to a common anxiety measurement scale, [ashwagandha] decreased anxiety scores by 41 percent, reduced related depression scores by 30 percent and reduced cortisol levels in men by 22 percent and in women by 25 percent.” The researchers, according to Myers, found that ashwagandha achieved these results in four different ways: “through the HPA Axis [(ashwagandha may regulate how much cortisol and DHEA we generate in response to stressors)]; by stopping oxidative damage; by reducing inflammation; [and] by working directly with brain chemistry [by influencing GABA and serotonin activity].”
Furthermore, according to Myers, “Studies have also found that ashwagandha protects the brain cells from injury, preserves coordination and the brain’s processing ability—even when sleep deprived—and increases levels of glutathione, one of the body’s most important natural antioxidants.” Clinical research has also shown that ashwagandha may also slow the decline of memory and mental functions as people get older, as well as improve working memory and reaction time, Myers stated, “including in individuals who are struggling with bipolar disorder, which can take a toll on the ability to focus and concentrate.”
Myers also mentioned a clinical study that found ashwagandha to restore healthy thyroid activity in eight weeks. “The botanical boosted endurance, increased the lungs’ ability to bring in oxygen to fuel red blood cells, and [increased] the heart’s ability to pump those red blood cells to the muscles in the body.”
In a world permanently impacted by a stress-inducing pandemic, ashwagandha seems to be a tool for relief.
“There’s been a lot of chatter about ashwagandha given today’s high stress levels,” said Lambert. “Even Saturday Night Live included it in a bit! Because it is rejuvenative for stressed out people, it’s gotten a lot of social media discussion.” Since it has a long history of safe use and is effective for many people, consumers keep coming back to it, she continued. “It really does seem to help when people are depleted, exhausted and stressed. And it’s beneficial for both people and animals.”
Herbalist & Alchemist has seen an increased demand for ashwagandha, both in formulas and by itself. “Life has been especially difficult for people for several years now, with everyone experiencing high stress levels. We all know stress, in addition to being uncomfortable, undermines normal immune function, which is not what anyone wants during a pandemic,” explained Lambert. “Now that the role adaptogens play in helping the body manage stress has become common knowledge, it makes perfect sense that the best known adaptogen would be in very high demand.”
COVID-19 impacted Herbalist & Alchemist’s ashwagandha sales significantly, according to Lambert. “Like so many companies, we experienced a surge in demand for immune support products right at the beginning of the pandemic,” she said. “For us, that was quickly followed by a run on stress support formulas, because we are known as having some of the best adaptogenic formulas in the world.”
Likewise, Myers said that EuroPharma has “noticed an incredible demand in adaptogens across the board, ashwagandha included.” She added, “The fact that people notice a positive difference fairly quickly with ashwagandha—without negative side effects—is what, I think, appeals to consumers. For some people, it’s the perfect adjunct supplement to maximizing their workouts, and to others, it helps them adapt readily to challenging schedules or work assignments during the day so that they can get restorative sleep at night. It’s a truly remarkable herb, so I’m not surprised that it has seen a jump in popularity.”
The Mustard Seed Natural Market (Watertown, NY), according to Holly Prugar, supplement manager/buyer, sells at least 15 ashwagandha supplements. “Ashwagandha is a staple herbal supplement for our store,” she said. “Customers routinely ask about ashwagandha. [It] has definitely increased in popularity over the past three years.” This is especially due to so many feeling stressed, anxious and sleep deprived. “Adaptogens, such as ashwagandha, support the body’s response to stress (physical, emotional or other types),” she added.
Herbalist & Alchemist, said Lambert, uses ashwagandha “in various formulas, including Calm Adapt, Fit Adapt, Men’s Adapt, Immune Balance Compound and Men’s Midlife Tonic. We even include it as one of the herbs in our Iron Extract because it has a high mineral content.”
Terry Naturally/EuroPharma, according to Myers, offers Ashwagandha EP35 Extra Strength and Andrographis and Ashwagandha, both launched in 2020, as well as Adaptra, which has been on the market for 10 years. “Our Ashwagandha EP35 Extra Strength uses a unique dairy-free process that concentrates the key compounds, called withanolides, to seven times the level of ordinary extracts,” she explained. The company’s Andrographis and Ashwagandha supplement provides “a combination of two powerful adaptogens with all of the advantages that having both on board can offer.” The ashwagandha used in the supplement is the same EP35 used in the company’s standalone product, and the Andrographis delivers 80 mg of andrographolides per serving.
“Adaptra combines clinically studied ashwagandha and rhodiola,” said Myers. “As the name implicates, this formula helps a person adapt to stressful conditions rather than feel drained by them. I like Adaptra on the days that I have a full speaking, traveling or educating schedule … because it helps keep me energized and focused without feeling wiry or jumpy,” she explained.
“Achieving good health is a delicate balance,” noted Prugar. “Ashwagandha can play a key role in achieving that balance.” VR