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Not all ashwagandha is the same, says Ayush Herbs president Shailinder Sodhi.
Farmers can harvest ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in many places, but this creates what is likely a huge variety in quality of today’s ashwagandha. That variation can translate to consumer health products, too.
For manufacturers who want to make products with ashwagandha-not just for its name but also for also its active botanical properties-Ayush Herbs Inc. (Redmond, WA) says there is much to learn. Ayush Herbs procures wild-harvested ashwagandha from central India and the lower Himalayas, where the company says pesticides are absent and soil is maintained free of contaminants. Quality of soil can be a determinant of ashwagandha quality, as can other factors such as harvesting an upper part of the plant instead of its roots and harvesting ashwagandha when the plant is at its proper height. Thickness of roots may even be important.
“You don’t want roots that are less than a few months old, less than a year old,” says Shailinder Sodhi, ND, president of Ayush Herbs. “And you have to have particular thickness of the root. It is often said that the root should be at least a pinky finger in thickness. In other words, it should be at least 5–7 millimeters of thickness, in order to get the good root quality.”
Different harvest methods likely exist for the sake of price differentiation. Sodhi says he has seen finished ashwagandha products selling as cheap as $5 and as high as $18. If ashwagandha is harvested inadequately, the results can be harmful to the integrity of the ingredient too, oftentimes decreasing its content of desirable compounds such as alkaloids. Such was the case when Ayush Herbs received and analyzed a sample of ashwagandha that was grown in Oregon. Alkaloid content is especially important for ashwagandha because much existing research has included standardizing the plant for levels of an alkaloid called withanolide.
Whether sold as high quality or low quality, ashwagandha in general does have a significant impact in the natural health market. Its presence is traditionally in dietary supplements, but ashwagandha beverages are also possible with soluble powders. The taste and smell of ashwagandha is slightly bitter. For masking, Sodhi suggests peppermint the use of peppermint.
Nutritional Outlook magazineÃ¢ÂÂ¨