Why You Should Only Buy Standardized Ashwagandha KSM-66

Not All Ashwagandha Supplements Are Equal

When researching what the best ashwagandha supplement is to take, many consumers are usually familiar with how many milligrams per dose a product has as it is usually displayed very prominently on the bottle. This is the brand’s attempt to differentiate themselves from their competitors. But this is not the only thing you should be looking at when buying ashwagandha.

What you may not be familiar with are the ashwagandha extract withanolides percentages.

To learn how we began measuring withanolides percentages, let’s first take a look at how ashwagandha extract supplements came about.

A Brief History of Ashwagandha Root Extracts

Ashwagandha and Honey

Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, the traditional way to consume it is by mixing ghee, honey, and milk with dried ground up ashwagandha roots. [1]Rayees S., Malik F. (2017) Withania somnifera: From Traditional Use to Evidence-Based Medicinal Prominence. In: Kaul S., Wadhwa R. (eds) Science of Ashwagandha: Preventive and Therapeutic Potentials. Springer, Cham. doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-59192-6_4 As ashwagandha gained popularity worldwide, some companies started developing ashwagandha supplements for easy administration. As competition grew, the market tendency was to develop different methods of extraction.

There are 2 methods of extraction commonly used:

  • The root and leaf extract
  • The root ONLY extract

The difference between the two is how they’re extracted, the percentage of usable withanolides made available as a result of the extraction process and the testing methods used to determine the percentage of withanolides. [2]Srivastava, S., Singh, R., Singh, R., Srivastava, G., & Sharma, A. (2018). Comparative Study of Withanolide Biosynthesis-Related miRNAs in Root and Leaf Tissues of Withania somnifera. Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology, 185(4):1145-1159. doi: 10.1007/s12010-018-2702-x

So what are these mysterious components of Ashwagandha that are called withanolides?

Ashwagandha Withanolides

Ashwagandha Withanolides

Withanolides are a group of at least 7 different compounds in ashwagandha. They have been shown to help support the body in several ways like reducing stress and improve overall health. [3]Kuboyama, T., Tohda, C., & Komatsu, K. (2014). Effects of Ashwagandha (roots of Withania somnifera) on neurodegenerative diseases. Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 37(6), 892-897. doi.org/10.1248/bpb.b14-00022, [4]Dar, P. A., Singh, L. R., Kamal, M. A., & Dar, T. A. (2016). Unique Medicinal Properties of Withania somnifera: Phytochemical Constituents and Protein Component. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 22(5):535-40. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26601969, [5]Akhoon, B.A., Rathor, L., & Pandey, R. (2018). Withanolide A extends the lifespan in human EGFR-driven cancerous Caenorhabditis elegans. Experimental Gerontology, 104:113-117. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2018.02.004, [6]Yan, Z., Guo, R., Gan, L., Lau, W. B., Cao, X., Zhao, J., … Wang, Y. (2018). Withaferin A inhibits apoptosis via activated Akt-mediated inhibition of oxidative stress. Life Sciences, pii: S0024-3205(18)30565-4. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2018.09.020 They are most potent in a concentrated form so you want to make sure that the ashwagandha you are buying is tested with the proper methods to ensure a high potency.

Withanolides Percentages

These percentages have been known for a while. However, many ashwagandha suppliers do not mention them, because their product may not contain a significant amount. Therefore, they can not use their product as a real differentiator from the other products on the market.

These percentages are seldom seen on ashwagandha supplement bottles. If you do see them, they are the percentage of the extract, by weight, that is withanolides.

So what is the difference between a root and leaf extract and a root only extract?

Root and Leaf Extract

The goal of the root and leaf extract has been to get the highest potency of the entire plant possible, with the most withanolides. [7]Singh, M., Shah, P., Punetha, H., & Agrawal, S. (2018). Varietal Comparison of Withanolide Contents in Different Tissues of Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal (Ashwagandha). International Journal of Life Sciences Scientific Research, eISSN, 2455(1716), 1716. DOI:10.21276/ijlssr.2018.4.3.3 The problem with this is when extracting from the leaves, the resulting extract is highly altered. Because of this, it is not as safe to consume, compared to the “root only” method. The reason this, is that there is a higher level of Withaferin A (a cytotoxic withanolide that can be dangerous at high levels) in the leaves.

More worrisome is perhaps the fact that some products using a less discerning testing process called gravimetric analysis are sold as having 8-15% withanolides. In reality, these products do not contain much of the beneficial withanolides at all and contain more of the harmful Withaferin A (the more potentially harmful withanolide) and other fillers.

Root Only Extract

Ashwagandha Root Only Extract

The “root only” extract is called KSM-66. This process extracts compounds from the roots of the plant. It is considered the most superior organic form available in order to get the most adaptogenic benefits. This method maintains the natural constituents found within the original herb and is the highest concentration, full spectrum, root only extracts in the world.

While there is a small amount of Withaferin A in KSM-66, it is a negligible amount and safe to consume. The amount of the leaves used in the extraction process greatly increases the amount of Withaferin A present in the final product.

So which is the best extract?

Standardized Ashwagandha Root Extract KSM-66

KSM-66 identifies and quantifies withanolides by a lab technique called HPLC. It is a testing process that opened a new era for ashwagandha products, allowing it to be a true “standardized ashwagandha extract.”

High-quality ashwagandha extract contains equal to or greater than 5% withanolides. By measuring withanolides using the HPLC process, you are guaranteed to get a consistent result. It is not enough to buy an ashwagandha product based on dosage in milligrams alone, as this is not a reliable marker of efficacy (in fact the supplement, might not be all ashwagandha either).

Herbolab’s pure organic ashwagandha KSM-66 contains 5% withanolides and uses black pepper extract to assist in making the herb more bioavailable for easier absorption. Learn more about our ashwagandha and discover why we have the best ashwagandha.

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