Ashwagandha Root vs. Extract: What’s the Difference?

Ashwagandha Extract and Root

Using natural products to enhance our health is becoming common among health-conscious Americans. Regardless of who you are, there is never a wrong time to start taking better care of your health or updating your current practices. Unfortunately, the use of these natural products has been complicated by the variety of options for this purpose.

Certain supplements even have multiple forms that can further complicate their use since it can be difficult to figure out which version works. These supplements can be highly beneficial for those educated in their use, but figuring out the differences between their alternate forms can be challenging. Multiple supplements have this issue, but one of the most common is ashwagandha.

Ashwagandha is one of the most sought-after supplements for those who use them, but it is not locked into a specific form. It can come in multiple forms that change how it is used while providing similar benefits. Two of the most common forms ashwagandha takes are ashwagandha root and ashwagandha extract. 

While both are composed of ashwagandha, how we can introduce them to our bodies differs depending on the medium. While these ashwagandha forms have their benefits, many are unaware of how they differ and what those differences mean. Fortunately, the information on how the root and extract differ is fairly simple.

What is Ashwagandha Root?

The first and simplest form of ashwagandha is the ashwagandha root. Ashwagandha root is so named because it is literally the root taken from the Withania somnifera plant. The roots of the Withania somnifera plant are usually cultivated in India but can also be found in Nepal, Sri Lanka, China, and Yemen. Despite its oriental origins, ashwagandha root has been circulated worldwide, and dried ashwagandha root is available in stores throughout the United States. The roots contain the effects of the whole plant but carry certain limitations that you must consider.

The biggest issue with ashwagandha root is that it is not always useable in its base form. Despite being sold in its root form, you cannot simply eat it as you would a stick of celery or a piece of beef jerky. Doing so could be ineffective and extremely unpleasant to your palate, making the consumption of dried ashwagandha root inadvisable.

Ashwagandha Root

The biggest issue with raw ashwagandha root is its incredibly bitter flavor, making it difficult to stomach. To use the root properly, you will have to grind it into a powder with a coffee grinder or similar kitchen appliance. Dried ashwagandha root requires a little more effort to prepare than other preprepared versions of the plant.

We are not saying that an ashwagandha root is a bad supplement tool, but the additional preparation required to make it viable might not be the best for everyone. While plenty of people are willing and able to make the necessary preparations to use ashwagandha root, others might prefer a wieldier supplement. However, while ashwagandha root must be converted into powder to be used, it is possible to acquire ashwagandha powder directly. Several vendors sell ashwagandha powder as a separate product rather than selling the roots for people to grind.

The sale of ashwagandha powder is slightly more common than the sale of ashwagandha root since it is easier to use. Ashwagandha powder is essentially the same thing as the root but ground down to be mixed with other substances so we can consume it. Nevertheless, ashwagandha root and powder are not the only mediums to introduce the root to your body.

What is Ashwagandha Extract?

People elect to consume ashwagandha root because it provides the health benefits for which the plant is famous. While consuming ashwagandha root powder effectively introduces those benefits, the key lies in the compounds within ashwagandha rather than the form it takes. For that reason, most modern supplements forgo the use of the original item in favor of specially created byproducts that extract those key compounds to maximize the effect. This practice has been applied to countless natural substances, and ashwagandha is no exception. Ashwagandha extract is created when the compounds within the plant are refined into a concentrated substance for consumption.

Ashwagandha Extract

In fact, the powdered form of ashwagandha is technically considered a form of ashwagandha extract. The only caveat of buying the root is that you are responsible for producing the extract yourself rather than buying it in its extracted form. While ashwagandha powder is a type of extract, other forms are created through alternate production methods. These alternate production methods include water-based or fat-based extraction that alters the composition of the extract but not necessarily the effects. Regardless of the extraction method employed, the ashwagandha's effects remain intact and viable for use.

Ashwagandha extract is usually used by mixing it into a beverage or as an ingredient in a meal. The most popular form, the powdered extract, is commonly mixed into water, juice, or smoothies. This makes the use of the extract simple and virtually tasteless as it mixes with the liquid. Smoothies and juice work best to cover up the lingering bitterness of the ashwagandha, but the decision ultimately rests with you. For all the information about ashwagandha, you might be curious about its benefits and whether it is worth using.

What Are the Benefits of Ashwagandha?

Withania somnifera has been used in ayurvedic medicine since 6,000 B.C. and has persisted in modern herbalism. The long-lived popularity of ashwagandha is no coincidence since the root offers an assortment of beneficial effects that can improve quality of life. The most popular benefit of ashwagandha was so important that it became a part of the plant's name. The term "somnifera" is Latin for "sleep-inducing" and was added to ashwagandha's scientific name due to the plant's benefits for insomnia. The name was no accident, as ashwagandha's effects on sleep improvement are far from negligible.

Multiple studies have assessed the effectiveness of ashwagandha as a tool to combat insomnia and improve sleep quality. Most of these studies have yielded promising results supporting ashwagandha's ability to accomplish both goals. This has turned ashwagandha supplements into a popular choice for people who are not getting a good night's sleep and are looking for ways to correct that issue. While the improvements in sleep inspired the scientific name for ashwagandha, it is not the only major benefit.

Woman Peacefully Sleeping

Another benefit, tangentially related to the previous one, is that ashwagandha has shown promise in easing anxiety levels. Anxiety is one of the most common and debilitating mental health issues facing Americans today. Thousands of people are diagnosed with anxiety every year, and the symptoms make life difficult. Anxiety can also contribute to insomnia by preventing us from relaxing enough to fall asleep. Fortunately, recent research on ashwagandha suggests that it is capable of helping ease the effects of anxiety on a chemical level.

Some evidence further suggests that ashwagandha can help mitigate the effects of other related mental health conditions. However, ashwagandha's effects can be linked to physical issues too. While it might seem odd, ashwagandha can help treat the effects of physical injury since it is an anti-inflammatory. Virtually every physical injury we sustain causes inflammation as part of the healing process. When our inflammatory response goes out of control, it can cause more problems than it fixes. Fortunately, ashwagandha can reduce inflammation so our body's natural state can reassert itself.

Another lesser-known benefit ashwagandha provides relates to its effects on fertility in men. Infertility can be a major issue for thousands of men, with many feeling ashamed about their condition despite it being out of their control. One of the main factors contributing to male fertility is the sex hormone testosterone. When testosterone levels are low, the fertility of the man dealing with this issue can drop and render them unable to have children until it is corrected. What might surprise you is that ashwagandha has been found to improve testosterone levels in men and revitalize their fertility levels.

Ashwagandha's contribution to enhanced testosterone levels is that it increases the levels of DHEA-S in the body. DHEA-S is another sex hormone directly involved in the body's production of testosterone, making it vital to the fertility and development of the male reproductive system. Ashwagandha has even been linked to improved sperm count and motility in men, bolstering their fertility levels further.

If you are considering using ashwagandha, you likely already know about some of its more well-known benefits, even if your knowledge of ashwagandha's effects was cursory. Regardless, having an enhanced understanding of this root's physical and mental benefits is paramount to successfully using ashwagandha supplements. Unfortunately, there is one last detail you need to consider regardless of the form your supplement takes. Whether you use the root or extract, it is crucial to be aware of any potential risks associated with ashwagandha consumption.

What Are the Risks of Ashwagandha Use?

Before we delve too deeply into the risks associated with ashwagandha use, it is important to note that ashwagandha is considered safe for human consumption. While it does not have official approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), all research proves it is safe. Unfortunately, this general qualification is not immutable, as specific conditions can turn an otherwise safe product into a dangerous one. While most people can safely enjoy ashwagandha's benefits, there are a few problems with the plant that can compromise our health. 

The first concern is ensuring you do not consume too much ashwagandha at once. As with any product, using too much in a single sitting can make us sick. There have been incidents where excessive use of ashwagandha has caused nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. While not fully understood, the prevailing theory about this side effect is that the buildup of ashwagandha in the body upsets the mucus lining in the intestine. 

Woman Feeling Sick

The maximum recommended daily dose of ashwagandha is 1,000 mg, though the dose might vary depending on the condition you are treating. It is best to get professional input about your condition to determine the proper dose of ashwagandha.

A more significant risk is exclusive to pregnant women who want to use ashwagandha. While you might have successfully employed ashwagandha as a supplement before the pregnancy, using it during can compromise your child's health. The compounds in ashwagandha have been known to cause distress in fetuses that cause premature labor. 

A child born prematurely can suffer from lifelong health issues depending on how early they were born. If you are pregnant, it is critical to your child's health that you avoid using ashwagandha until at least after your child is born. You might need to suspend use longer depending on breastfeeding habits and recommendations from your physician.

Finally, regardless of the form, you must always seek a reputable vendor for your ashwagandha supplement. Because the FDA does not regulate ashwagandha, the manufacturers of ashwagandha products are not held to a federal standard. Lesser manufacturers might sell products adulterated with toxic metals like lead or mercury.

Keep it All Natural!

Ashwagandha has come a long way from its origins in ayurvedic medicine but remains as reliable as it was back then. While it is important to remember that ayurvedic medicine cannot substitute for medical treatment, supplementation can improve your overall health. As ashwagandha's forms go, using the raw root can be just as viable as an extract. However, we recommend opting for an extract, given how much easier it is to use and mask its bitter taste. The only real challenge of ashwagandha use is overcoming the lack of federal oversight and finding a vendor to sell a safe product.

Ashwagandha Root and Extract

Fortunately, we at Bella All Natural can help with that dilemma. One of our flagship products is our Golden Ashwagandha Powder. While this might not help you if you are set on using the root rather than an extract, those in the market for the latter can rest assured that our product is what you are after. Adding two scoops of our product to a 10 oz beverage will give you your daily dose of ashwagandha without the risk of adulterants. We encourage you to visit our website and check out our products yourself. Regardless of your decision, remember always to keep it All Natural!

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