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What to Know When Shopping for Ashwagandha Supplements
The supplement industry is a doozy, as it's not closely regulated by a single body. And that's especially true when it comes to herbal supplements, which tend to be more nuanced and less researched than vitamin and mineral supplement
For instance, supplement companies say that their ashwagandha products, which are made from extracts of the leaves and/or root of the ashwagandha plant, have the power to calm stress and anxiety, improve sleep quality, and boost your immune system.
The actual research? Well, a lot of it is promising, actually. Recent studies have found that ashwagandha supplements with root extract can tamp down anxiety and stress in healthy people and those with anxiety disorders. (Same goes for improving sleep quality, with more prominent effects in insomniacs.) That said, many of these studies had small sample sizes and short durations. We need more research.
What isn't true: No supplement will “boost” your immune system, which is actually a complex network of systems whose strength depends on your diet, exercise, environment, alcohol intake, and so much more. “The effect of ashwagandha on the immune system still remains unclear,” says Toby Amidor, R.D., a dietitian based in N.Y.C.
So should you take ashwagandha?
If you hardly ever sleep or are always stressed, sure. “Ashwagandha seems to be better at reducing anxiety in people who are chronically stressed and experiencing an anxiety disorder. It seems less effective for standard forms of anxiety that aren’t related to stress,” says MH advisor Brian St. Pierre, R.D., C.S.C.S., director of nutrition at Precision
Keep these things in mind to determine if an ashwagandha supplement is right for you:
Dosage: The dosage of ashwagandha root extract in each supplement can vary widely, so it's important to choose a product that contains a clinically effective dose.Look for a dosage of 300 to 600 milligrams (mg), the amounts found effective in most clinical research.“Large doses, such as over 1,000 mg per day, could cause more severe side effects," like drowsiness or GI issues, says St. Pierre. "And due to its effects on neurotransmitters it can't be ruled out that long-term use (> 6 months) could be problematic.”
Certification: Look for ashwagandha supplements that have been third-party tested to ensure quality, purity, and potency. More specifically, look for a multivitamin with third-party certification from a trusted entity (USP, NSF, Informed Sport). These certifications verify that what’s on the label of the multivitamin is what’s actually in the multivitamin itself to ensure quality and safety.
Typically, this information can be found on the manufacturer's website or the product label.
Form: Ashwagandha supplements come in different forms, including capsules, tablets, powders, and liquid extracts. Consider which form is most convenient for you and which one is more easily absorbed by your body.
Other ingredients: Check the label for other ingredients in the supplement, including fillers, additives, and binders. Avoid products that contain unnecessary or potentially harmful ingredients. Consider opting for a supplement that contains a blend of other mood supportive compounds to maximize the benefits.
Price: Compare prices of different ashwagandha supplements to be sure you're getting a good value for your money. And be wary of products that are significantly cheaper than others, as you typically get what you pay for when it comes to cheap supplements.
Talk to your healthcare provider: Before starting a new supplement, it's always important to talk to your healthcare provider first. They can help you determine whether ashwagandha is suitable for you, and if so, help choose an ashwagandha supplement that is right for you based on your individual needs and health status. By doing so, you can avoid potential harmful drug interactions and unintended effects.
Thorne's Memoractiv™ supplement features ashwagandha extract as its main ingredient, and is designed to calm the mind in our modern, often stressful world. Given its formula, it's actually much more than just an ashwagandha supplement.
Alongside ashwagandha, it contains six well-studied active ingredients that also offer specific benefits for brain health, memory, attention, cognitive function, and stress reduction. According to the brand, this formula can even help to reduce the negative effects of blue light exposure from screens.
Plus, Thorne is the only supplement manufacturer to collaborate with Mayo Clinic on wellness research and content and is a proud partner of 11 U.S. Olympic Teams.
But take note: This supplement does contain caffeine, meaning it may not be suitable for those sensitive to caffeine or whose medications may interact with it. The brand also instructs taking it away from bedtime.
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Cortisol Manager is a fan favorite among the dietetics community for promoting healthy cortisol balance and stress response. Cortisol, a stress hormone that is released during times of stress, is one strong measure of how well the body is coping with stress. Featuring a proprietary blend of Sensoril® ashwagandha and L-theanine, Integrative Therapeutics' formula is designed to support a balanced cortisol response no matter what life throws at you.
According to the brand, this supplement also promotes relaxation to support restful sleep. Think of it as a more stripped-down version of Thorne's supplement, but more robust than Life Extension's offering. A single tablet is designed to be taken once daily at bedtime on a regular basis, but can be upped to two tablets in times of high stress.
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Extra Strength Ashwagandha Mind & Body
As with most options on this list, this formula from Irwin Naturals is designed to support both mental and physical well-being. It features ashwagandha extract in the form KSM-66®, in addition to a slew of herbal compounds, including eleuthero, bacopa, cordyceps, and ginseng.
We love that it comes in a liquid softgel, which can allows for faster release and better absorption compared to capsules or tablets. Plus, it's free of any binders or fillers that tend to cause stomach upset for many supplement-takers.
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Why You Can Trust Us
At Men's Health, we take great pride in providing our readers with reliable and trustworthy product recommendations. We believe that our readers deserve the best, which is why we always make sure to conduct thorough research and testing before making any recommendations. Our writers and editors thoughtfully select experts for collaboration on product recommendations, and are also experts in their own right, using their informed opinions to select products and ensuring that our content is of the highest quality. For this story, we consulted with Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, a registered dietitian based in New York City and Brian St. Pierre, M.S., R.D., C.S.C.S., CISSN, Pn1, Director of Performance Nutrition at Precision Nutrition.
Our product recommendations are purely editorial, and while we may receive free products to test and review, we only recommend the products we are most impressed by. We never let retailers or public relations contacts dictate our content or product coverage. Which is why you can trust us to provide you with reliable and unbiased product recommendations.
How We Selected
For this story, we spent hours interviewing registered dietitians, medical doctors, and licensed herbalists, as well as researching the top-rated and best-selling ashwagandha supplements on the market. The products that made it onto this list undergo third-party testing, hold an NSF, USP, or Informed Sport certification, and contain standardized forms of ashwagandha in clinically studied amounts. We paid close attention to evaluate the most important features, such as ingredient labels, bioavailability, price, and quality. The list above represents our carefully chosen picks of the best ashwagandha supplements to shop in 2023.
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