I am excited to share a recipe from my forthcoming book, Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients into Foods and Remedies That Heal.
This recipe features ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), an herb from India that is renowned for its building and nourishing qualities. In addition to being important in Ayurveda, this herb has quickly become popular for western herbalists as well.
Herbalists frequently use ashwagandha root for people who are chronically stressed, run down, prone to frequent colds and flus, and those who have degenerative diseases such as arthritis.
Ashwagandha for anxiety and insomnia
It is also especially revered for people with anxiety and insomnia. In a study on anxiety, one group of people received a small dose of ashwagandha, a multivitamin, deep breathing exercises, and dietary counseling. Another group received psychotherapy, the same breathing exercises, and a placebo to replace the ashwagandha. After eight weeks, those taking ashwagandha showed more improvement in their anxiety levels than the placebo group.1 (I love how this study incorporated holistic health, not only a dose of an herb, to address a complex health challenge!)
Ashwagandha for sexual health
This herb has long been used to support sexual desire and fertility. Science is further confirming that use. In one study, 75 men taking ashwagandha were shown to have improved semen quality, which researchers credited to decreased levels of oxidative stress and regulated hormone levels.2
Another study looked at 180 men taking 5 grams of ashwagandha for three months. The researchers reported that: “Withania somnifera not only reboots enzymatic activity of metabolic pathways and energy metabolism but also invigorates the harmonic balance of seminal plasma metabolites and reproductive hormones in infertile men.”3
The herb has also been shown to improve the sexual function of healthy women. In one pilot study, 25 women were given a concentrated root extract of ashwagandha and 25 were given a starch-based placebo. After eight weeks, those taking the ashwagandha root showed numerous significant improvements in sexual function including lubrication and orgasm.4
Essentially this herb helps you to sleep better, increases your energy, soothes your nervous system to address anxiety and chronic stress, and supports your reproductive system which results in better sex. That’s a powerful herb!
How to take ashwagandha
You’ll often see this herb being sold as capsules or tinctures in health food stores, but this is not how I recommend taking it.
Traditionally one takes it as a powder in fairly large dosages (6-30 grams a day). If you took that much in capsules, you’d be swallowing a lot of pills!
I created this recipe as a way to enjoy the powder in your food.
Ashwagandha is generally regarded as a safe herb that will benefit most people. However, there are some considerations to keep in mind. Use it during pregnancy only under the advice of a qualified herbalist or health professional. Do not take with barbiturates, as it may potentiate their sedative effects. Some people with nightshade sensitivities may not tolerate it, although this seems to be a small percentage. (Ashwagandha is a member of the nightshade family.) In Ayurvedic theory, this herb shouldn’t be used if there is a current upper respiratory infection or lots of mucus congestion.
Ashwagandha Banana Smoothie
This yummy treat is a great way to share the nourishing and supportive qualities of ashwagandha. If you have a sensitivity to dairy, use any nondairy yogurt of your choice. For the nut or seed butter, peanut, almond, cashew, and sunflower seed butters are all good options.
What you’ll need…
- 2 bananas
- 2 cups almond milk
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1/2 cup nut or seed butter
- 1/4 cup coconut oil (50 grams)
- 2 tablespoons ashwagandha powder (12 grams)
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
- maple syrup or honey, to taste
Place all the ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth.
Pour the smoothie into glasses. Use a spatula to get all the liquid from the sides of the blender—there are lots of good herbs in there.
Yield: 5 cups, 3 to 5 servings
Recipe from Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients into Foods and Remedies That Heal by Rosalee de la Forêt (Hay House, 2017)
Now we’d love to hear from you!
What are your favorite nourishing smoothie ingredients?
Have you ever used ashwagandha?
Let us know in the comments below.
- Cooley, Kieran, et al. “Naturopathic Care for Anxiety: A Randomized Controlled Trial ISRCTN78958974.” PloS One 4, no. 8 (2009): e6628. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006628. ↩
- Ahmad, Mohammad Kaleem, et al. “Withania Somnifera Improves Semen Quality by Regulating Reproductive Hormone Levels and Oxidative Stress in Seminal Plasma of Infertile Males.” Fertility and Sterility 94, no. 3 (August 2010): 989–96. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2009.04.046. ↩
- Gupta, Ashish, et al. “Efficacy of Withania Somnifera on Seminal Plasma Metabolites of Infertile Males: A Proton NMR Study at 800 MHz.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 149, no. 1 (August 26, 2013): 208–14. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2013.06.024. ↩
- Dongre, Swati, Deepak Langade, and Sauvik Bhattacharyya. “Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) Root Extract in Improving Sexual Function in Women: A Pilot Study.” BioMed Research International 2015 (2015). doi:10.1155/2015/284154. ↩