Whenever we talk about supplements like moringa, chlorophyll, or ashwagandha, we tend to talk about them as if they're singular entities. In reality, however, these supplements are plants, and plants tend to have a variety of subspecies or different processing methods that can change their properties.
For example, take moringa. Moringa is a whole plant, and a moringa supplement can refer to the leaves, the seed pods, the oil, the bark, or a mixture of them.
The same holds true for ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha has been used for centuries, if not millennia, as part of traditional ayurvedic medicine. It's a common supplement in the Indian subcontinent and across Asia. It has been used as a powdered supplement, as a tea, and in a variety of different preparations. However, there's one thing that held true until very recently: it was a relatively uncontrolled herb.
What do we mean? Well, if you wanted ashwagandha for a medicinal tea or tonic, you had to go buy some of the herb, fresh or dried, from someone who cultivated it. There wasn't much control or study done into the potency of the herb, and you never knew exactly what you were getting, how it was grown, if it was contaminated, or anything else about it.
To a certain extent, the same holds true today. However, modern scientific study has isolated, cultivated, and created more specific supplements. They still aren't at "regulated by the FDA and guaranteed all supplements are equal" levels, but they're better than they ever have been before, and getting better every year.
Ashwagandha works through a few different mechanisms.
- Cyclooxygenase inhibitors give it an anti-arthritic effect.
- Withanolides – a chemical specifically derived from Withania-Somnifera, aka ashwagandha – are responsible for anti-inflammatory effects similar in potency to hydrocortisone.
- Some withanolides may have anti-cancer properties, though these have not yet been observed in human studies.
- Alkaloids, saponins, and lactones present in the plant are also considered biologically active compounds.
Specifically, it's the withanolides that you should keep tabs on; these are the compounds specific to ashwagandha, and can't be found in other plants, supplements, or medications.
KSM-66 and Sensoril
When you're looking into ashwagandha supplements today, you're going to come across two primary varieties. These are the Sensoril and the KSM-66 varieties. What are they?
Essentially, various biopharmaceutical companies are studying ashwagandha for its therapeutic effects. They want to figure out what compounds have what benefits, if they can be isolated, if they can be turned into effective medications, how they function, and more.
KSM-66 and Sensoril are two different varieties of ashwagandha supplements made by these biotech companies. They are, essentially, brand names, with more isolated, regulated, and concentrated versions of the supplement meant to be more biologically active. In other words, they're more potent than the average plant you buy out of a market in India.
Each of these varieties uses a different profile of the plant, a different combination of ingredients, a different isolation process, and a different end result. They have different strengths and weaknesses, and as such, are effectively different medications.
The exact specifics of what goes into each variety, including the base version of the plant, the processing needed to make it into a supplement, and the concentrations of compounds within it are generally considered trade secrets. Some information is available, and we'll do our best to let you know what we know, but bear in mind that only the company producing them knows the full secrets of their preparation.
All About KSM-66
The company Ixoreal Biomed has spent fourteen years of research on ashwagandha and has used that time to produce this specific variety of supplements. The company has headquarters in both Hyderabad and Los Angeles.
KSM-66 is a variety of ashwagandha that focuses on the root of the herb. The root is traditionally the core of the supplement, giving it the name Indian Ginseng. The KSM-66 version of the supplement is meant to bolster the natural concentration of withanolides, which, as mentioned above, are the primary bioactive compound within ashwagandha.
When you obtain a traditional ashwagandha supplement, you never know what concentration of chemicals is in the preparation. Variances in weather, growing conditions, cultivation location, and even the specific cultivar of the plant can have a huge impact. One supplement might be extra-potent, and one might be weaker than average, and you have no way of knowing until you try it and see the impact on your body.
KSM-66 is designed to have around 5% withanolides by mass. This is a more regulated and more guaranteed concentration of chemicals, so the variety should be more standardized. You know what you're getting, you get what you want, and it will have its effects, positive or negative, on your body.
All About Sensoril
The company Natreon, Inc has been studying various herbal remedies, including ashwagandha, for over 20 years. They are based in New Brunswick, NJ, and have produced a variety of supplements, including Sensoril.
Sensoril is an even more regulated, even more concentrated, and more medicinal variety of ashwagandha. Instead of using just the root of the plant, like KSM-66, it uses the root and the leaves. The root and the leaves have different nutritional profiles, with different concentrations of different bioactive compounds.
Where KSM-66 presents with a 5% concentration of withanolides, Sensoril bumps that number up to a whopping 10%. Moreover, they specifically focus on concentrating three specific compounds: withanolide glycosides, withaferin A, and oligosaccharides. Of these three, withaferin A is the most commonly recognized bioactive compound and is responsible for most of the therapeutic benefits of ashwagandha that have been studied.
Comparing Sensoril and KSM-66
Putting the two compounds in competition with one another, one can clearly see that they have some tangible differences. These differences aren't clearly understood yet, as neither supplement has been robustly studied or compared to one another. However, clinical studies are currently underway, and more data will likely be available within the next few years. For now, here's what we know, or can assume, about the supplements.
- Dosage. KSM-66 is a lower concentration of withanolides, meaning you need a higher dose of the supplement to get a therapeutic effect. Sensoril is more highly concentrated, and as such, has a lower recommended dosage.
- Specification. Sensoril focuses on three specific bioactive compounds. This makes it easier to study the compound, as there are fewer confounding factors in the composition of the medication. It has tangible effects that are the same from person to person, within the considerations of individual reactions to a supplement. KSM-66 has a broader spectrum of biologically active compounds, and as such may have broader effects on the body, but less potent or focused effects.
- Product Variety. Sensoril ashwagandha seems to be mostly available as supplements in capsule form. Some of those supplements are available as concentrated ashwagandha, while others include additional ingredients like a multivitamin or other herbs like Rhodiola, theanine, or 5-HTP. KSM-66, meanwhile, seems to be in a larger variety of products, including isolated capsules, but also protein powders, nutritional supplements, post-workout powders, sexual performance enhancers, sleep aids, chocolate, and even faux burgers.
For reference, our ashwagandha supplement is a complete herbal remedy meant to reduce stress, enhance the immune system, and restore the body's functionality. It includes ashwagandha, as well as Astragalus, Jiaogulan, Rhodiola, Schisandra berry, Goji berry, Reishi mushrooms, Maca root, Cordyceps, Holy basil, Amla powder, Shitake, and Shatavari.
What Can You Use Ashwagandha For?
Ashwagandha supplements can be used for a wide variety of purposes, depending on the concentration of compounds, the preparation, and the other ingredients. Some purposes include:
- Supporting the immune system. Bolstering the effect of the immune system through a variety of beneficial effects is one of the primary mechanisms of ashwagandha.
- Relieving the effects of stress on the body. The herb is an adaptogen, which means it can help reduce your bodily levels of cortisol and help you be more resilient to the effects of stress.
- Reducing systemic inflammation. Bodily inflammation is a side effect of stress, as well as other damage and disease. Reducing inflammation allows the body to heal faster and reduces both pain and suffering.
- Enhancing muscle growth. Some studies have observed a beneficial effect on muscle growth when ashwagandha is combined with protein supplements and resistance training (weight lifting).
- Promoting a general calm and reduced anxiety. Reducing overall stress levels helps reduce bodily stress and mental anxiety.
- Assisting with sleep. Promoting a calmer state of mind and reducing the general aches and pains of the day can help you sleep longer, more deeply, and more restfully.
- Giving your body more energy. Mixing ashwagandha with a variety of other herbal remedies allows the body to burn stored fat as energy as a more robust and level source of energy throughout the day.
- Facilitating sexual wellness and performance. One of the traditional uses of ashwagandha is as a sexual performance enhancer. Some studies have found that ashwagandha can promote testosterone production, to back it up.
We do have to mention that none of the claims made about ashwagandha have been evaluated by the FDA. Various studies have been and are currently being performed, to evaluate different claims and different effects. Some of these effects are observed in rodent studies but have not yet been observed in human studies. Others are effective anecdotally but may come from other ingredients in a supplement rather than just the ashwagandha.
Which Supplement Should You Take?
If you're considering deciding between KSM-66 and Sensoril, you have a lot of potential decisions to make.
First of all, you're not actually limited to those two varieties. Those are two of the most prominent, but that's because they are heavily branded and heavily marketed. The companies that patented them have a vested interest in selling them to you, after all. They like to downplay how effective a non-patented blend could be, but there are no studies or proof of the two name brands being better than any other blend.
Our recommendation, of course, is our golden ashwagandha blend. We've made a blend of a dozen different supplements that all work in conjunction that could give you a ton of health benefits. Try it for yourself!
If you want to choose specifically between KSM-66 and Sensoril, you can think about a few questions.
Do you want a broad-spectrum supplement or a narrow-focused supplement? Sensoril is a narrowly focused supplement and has more concentrated, but narrower effects. KSM-66 is a broad-spectrum supplement with more bioactive ingredients.
Do you want to take your product as a capsule, or do you want more options? Sensoril seems to mostly be available as either a powder or a capsule. KSM-66 is more broadly available and can be found in everything from powders and capsules to juices and foods.
What benefits do you want to get out of your ashwagandha supplement? There are a ton of different products on the market, and many of them have contradictory benefits. Something that promotes energy and something that promotes sleep won't work well together, right? However, both Sensoril and KSM-66 have mixtures and blends that promote both purposes, so you can find a product using either one that does what you want.
Disclaimer and Warnings
Before we wrap up, we have to reiterate that ashwagandha supplements have not been approved by the FDA. Studies are currently being performed, and more will be known about how they work and how effectively they work in the coming years. Until then, there's only one way to tell what it will do to your body, and that's giving it a try.
Ashwagandha is generally considered safe, though since it is mostly unregulated, you should make sure you trust the supplier of the supplement to avoid contamination, produce the plant ethically, and store it properly. Additionally, you should always start with a small dose, and monitor your system to make sure you don't experience any harsh or negative side effects. As always consult your doctor if you feel anything going wrong. Finally, avoid taking ashwagandha if you're pregnant; some observances indicate that it may have a negative impact on pregnancies. Better to be safe with what you put into your body if you're expecting!