What is Ashwagandha? Health Benefits, Uses & History

By Charlotte Traas, New Chapter ® Director of Education & Board-Certified Master Herbalist

Alarm clock beeping, cars honking, emails adding up, kids touching things, grocery shopping, gas prices, back to school, back to work, phones ringing: Are you stressed yet? Right now, we’re living during one of the most stressful periods on record. (And we have indoor plumbing, people!)

Everyday events can start to feel like a LOT. That’s because stress, whether physical or mental, can trigger a natural fight or flight response. This response raises cortisol levels in the body and can cause you to feel on edge for the rest of the day. While our innate fight-or-flight response is great when encountering a vicious predator in the wild, our body reacts the same way when an email message flashes URGENT on our screen. It can get overwhelming.

Don’t worry, friend! Help is on the way. Nature’s got your back with one of the hottest herbs around. It’s gaining so much popularity, maybe you’ve heard the buzz already. Let’s dig into the roots (and leaves) of this awesome stress-busting herb: Ashwagandha!

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha (“Ash-wuh-GON-duh”) is a perky little shrub with bright berries in papery husks. Ashwagandha is generally sought after for its roots. However, there is up-and-coming research on the benefits of the leaves, which have different phytonutrients. Skip those beautiful orange berries though, as they are emetic (cause vomiting). 

As the American naturalist John Burroughs said, “Without the name, any flower is still more or less a stranger to you.” Ashwagandha’s botanical name is Withania somnifera. The Latin word somnifera roughly translates to “sleep inducing” and hints at key Ashwagandha health benefits. The name Ashwagandha itself is from Sanskrit. Ashva means “horse” and gandha means “smell.” Here is where some scholars disagree. Is Ashwagandha so named because it has an earthy smell? Or is it because Ashwagandha was traditionally believed to give the user horse-like endurance? Perhaps it was a combination of both!

Ashwagandha may also go by “Indian winter cherry” and “Indian ginseng.” However, Ashwagandha does not belong to the Ginseng family at all. It’s a member of the Solanaceae family, also known as the nightshade family (which also includes tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant).


Benefits and Uses of Ashwagandha

In the esteemed healing system of Ayurveda, Ashwagandha is known as a Rasayana. Rasayanas are herbs that are believed to support overall health and balance within the Ayurveda medical practice. Ayurveda is one of the oldest medicinal practices in the world and focuses on the balancing of doshas, the three main energies that exist within us.


Ashwagandha’s many traditional uses are now being validated by modern science. There are a variety of Withania somnifera supplements out there, including Ashwagandha gummies, capsules, liquids, and powders. Health benefits of Ashwagandha include:


Stress Support

Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that helps ease both mental and physical stress.*


Energy Balance

Ashwagandha is a balancing herb shown to help reduce fatigue and irritability.* Interestingly, it also helps the body relax and chill out, so it can be a good sleep support herb, too.


Adrenal Support

Ashwagandha has been shown to help boost adrenal function (part of the body’s stress response system).* This further helps the body to handle stress as it occurs.

History of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha has a long history of use. References to the herb and its benefits go back at least 4000 years. It appears in the Vedas, which are sacred texts in Hinduism. These ancient writings describe spiritual discipline, including the practice of yoga, meditation, mantra, and Ayurveda.

The great Hindu scholar Punarvasu Atreya taught about the use of Ashwagandha. His teachings inspired the Charaka, an important work from around 300 BCE that describes many aspects of Ayurveda. This tells us that Ashwagandha benefits for women and men have been revered throughout written history. It has a strong history of traditional use in India and surrounding regions.

How Long Does It Take Ashwagandha to Work?

How long Ashwagandha takes to work is determined by two things: dosage and frequency. Studies show Ashwagandha can work best when taken consistently and in a dose that includes a standardized amount of withanolides (key active compounds). Sensoril® Ashwagandha is such a standardized extract—in fact it delivers active compounds from both the leaf and root of Ashwagandha. (Most extracts are just the root, so Sensoril is formulated to provide additional bioactives that have studied benefits.)

The Best Ashwagandha Extract

When choosing the best Ashwagandha for you, there are many things to look for. Keep in mind that excellent quality starts at the source!


While many Ashwagandha products use just the root of the plant, New Chapter delivers a high-quality 5x concentrated extract of both leaf and root. This powerful whole-herb concentrate, called Sensoril, provides a broad spectrum of active plant compounds for your maximum benefit.

The Right Dose

As a master herbalist, I usually start with the lowest dosage known to be effective, not the highest. Why? The goal of an herb is to bring the body back into balance, not to tip the cart in the other direction. You can always work your way up to a higher dose if needed.


At New Chapter, we value our planet and choose ingredients thoughtfully. From our partnership with Rodale Institute, we know that organically grown ingredients tend to be more nutrient-dense, while also being better for the soil and ecosystem. We use organic Ashwagandha in our herbal blends.


Non-GMO means that nature designed this herb, and that’s our favorite approach at New Chapter. We believe nature gets it right, and strongly advocate the use of plants that haven’t been genetically engineered.

Sourced from where it grows best

Can you grow Ashwagandha in New Jersey? Sure. But plants really flourish when they grow in climates like their indigenous homes. Weather, sun, soil, and humidity levels all play a part in plant performance and phytonutrient levels. That’s why New Chapter sources our organic Ashwagandha from India, where it can thrive in its natural habitat.

How to Take Ashwagandha

Wondering when to take Ashwagandha or how to take it? The answer largely depends on what you want it to do for you! Ashwagandha’s versatility means it can be taken at any time of day. There are no worries about taking it too close to bedtime or that it might make you drowsy if you take it in the morning. A true adaptogen, Ashwagandha has flexible benefits, and you can take it morning, noon, or night.

New Chapter delivers pure, science backed Ashwagandha in several formulations. Each is made with 5x concentrated organic Sensoril ® extract. Each blend is unique and provides specific benefits. And each is a one-daily capsule or tablet. Choose what works best for your regimen and your goals!


For Relaxation + Muscle Recovery with Magnesium

The dynamic combination of Magnesium + Ashwagandha tablets is one of my favorite New Chapter products. Absorbable magnesium bisglycinate is paired with pure, organic Ashwagandha for muscle, bone, heart, and relaxation support.*

Research by the Micronutrient Information Center has shown that 61% of adults are not getting the recommended amount of magnesium per day. Considering that magnesium is essential for over 300 functions in the body, taking this important mineral as a supplement can be a helpful way to get enough in your day. Pairing it with Ashwagandha makes our one-daily tablets a solid combo for supporting relaxation in the body.


For Multiherbal Stress Relief

Talk about an herbalist’s dream stress formula! Our power-packed herbal Stress Relief supplement is made to bust down those stress levels, including a clinically studied dose of Ashwagandha.*

Our blend also includes complementary herbs like Nigella sativa (aka Black Seed), Holy Basil (aka Tulsi), and adaptogenic Reishi mushrooms. If you’re looking to chill out, this formula is a favorite.


For Multiherbal Sleep Support

With a Latin name that means “sleep inducing,” Ashwagandha is a natural accompaniment to the clinical-strength Tart Cherry in our Sleep Well One-Daily Multiherbal. Tart Cherry is a natural source of melatonin and a beloved sleep-supportive herb.


For JUST Clinically Studied Ashwagandha

Looking to keep it simple? New Chapter’s Ashwagandha Force™ features a clinically studied dose of Ashwagandha as its stand-alone star ingredient. Feel what Ashwagandha can do for you with potent, one-daily capsules crafted to address mental and physical stress and healthy mood.*

Enjoy the Ashwa-goodness

Stress happens. When it happens to you, you can take action to identify it and handle it. The support of loved ones, friends, and family can help us get through the hard times. Talk to your healthcare professional if you need advice on long-term issues with stress. And for support with that fight-or-flight response from everyday stressors, adults may find balance with time-tested and science-backed Ashwagandha.

New Chapter has got your back with quality ingredient choices beloved by tradition and validated by science: like our organic Ashwagandha extract. That’s part of how we do wellness well, so you can do you.