When researching what the best ashwagandha supplement to take, many consumers are usually familiar with how many milligrams per dosage 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 is the ashwagandha extract withanolides percentages.
To learn how we got to measuring withanolides percentages, let’s first take a look at how ashwagandha extract supplements came about.
A Brief History of Ashwagandha Root Extracts
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. 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.
So what are these mysterious withanolides?
Withanolides are a group of at least 7 different compounds in ashwagandha. They help support the body in several ways like reducing stress and even improve sexual function. They are most potent in a concentrated form so you want to make sure the ashwagandha you’re buying is tested with the proper testing methods to ensure a high potency.
These percentages have been around for a while but many ashwagandha suppliers do not mention them as their product may not contain a significant amount that they can use as a real differentiator from the other products in 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 the root and leaf extract and the root only extract?
Root and Leaf Extract
The goal of the root and leaf extract was to get the most potency of the entire plant possible with the most withanolides. The problem with this is when extracting from the leaves the resulting extract is altered and less safe to consume compared to the “root only” method. The reason is there is a higher level of Withaferin A (a cytotoxic withanolide 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 but in reality, do not contain much of the beneficial withanolides at all and contain more of the harmful Withaferin A (the more harmful withanolide) and other fillers.
Root Only Extract
The “root only” extract is called KSM-66. This process extracts from the roots of the plant and is considered the most superior organic form available 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 extract 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 on the other hand greatly increase the amount of Withaferin A.
So which is the best extract?
Standardized Ashwagandha Root Extract KSM-66
KSM-66 identifies and quantifies withanolides by a lab technique called HLPC, which 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 HLPC process, you are guaranteed to get a consistent result. It is not enough to buy an ashwagandha product based on dosage milligrams alone, as this is not a reliable marker of effectivity (in fact, it might not be all ashwagandha at all).
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.