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Have you noticed that ashwagandha—an adaptogen known for its stress and anxiety-soothing properties—has been everywhere lately? It’s on your favorite wellness blogger’s feedIt’s in the pages of The New York TimesIt’s all Cassandra from book club can talk about (besides her love of Koa Beck of course.) 

Even so, as someone who’s dealt with chronic anxiety for 16 years (ugh), I was skeptical at first. What makes this homeopathic remedy any different than all the others (read: crystal healing, tapping, etc.)Well, after planning my wedding and starting a new career, I planned to find out. And guess what? Now I feel a hell of a lot better…or at least as good as someone who rehashes conversations from 2007 can feel. 

What is ashwagandha anyway? 

Ashwagandha (say it with me: ash-wa-gone-duh) is an adaptogenic herb that’s popular in ayurvedic medicine, the Indian practice of healing the body with specific herbs and foods. The word is actually Sanskrit for “the smell of a horse.” Why, you ask? Because some people say its smell is reminiscent of horse sweat. Gross.

Does ashwagandha reduce anxiety? 

study by Phytomedicine showed that the herb can mitigate anxiety as much as pharmaceuticals like lorazepam or imipramine (the generics of Ativan and Tofranil) when taken twice a day over 60 days. In addition to curbing anxiety, a 2012 study suggests ashwagandha also lowercortisol levels (the chemical released into your body when you’re stressed) and reduces insomnia. Other studies claim the adaptogen balances hormones and decreases joint inflammation. Tons more research is required, but such is Eastern medicine life. Obviously every human body is different, and it’s essential to speak with a healthcare professional about your specific needs. 

OK, so how do you use it? 

You can get your ashwagandha fix numerous ways. I personally don’t think it tastes all that great (remember: horse sweat) so I take two capsules in the morning and two right before bed. If you’re pill averse, add a teaspoon of the powder into a green smoothie, tea or—if you’re really brave—water. Both capsules and powder cost about $10 to $25 for 120 capsules or 4 to 16 ounces, depending on the brand and quantity. 

And does ashwagangha really work? 

Well, for me at least. Like I said, anxiety has been my unwanted partner in over-thinking for a long time. It clouded my perception of my relationships, diminished my self-worth and made everyday tasks (like working, grocery shopping or watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills) daunting. Frankly it was exhausting, and I was desperate for a remedy that would make me feel chill, but not like a zombie (sorry, Xanax).  

I started taking ashwagandha and within a couple of weeks I was breathing easier and my thought patterns were less shame-spirally (Is that a phrase? Now it is.) Fast-forward to two months in, when I was walking the aisles of Whole Foods with ease, no longer fearful that strangers were judging my cheese consumption. 

But the true test was my best friends wedding a few weeks later. See, normally I’d experience insomnia before a gathering of this nature and then be quiet for days after, replaying the event over and picking out things I could have done better. But much to my surprise I felt—dare I say?—at peace as my husband and I drove back home. So much so that he even expressed his surprise at how calm and easy-going (two qualities he rarely sees me exhibit) I seemed.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If I skimp on my regular usage I notice my old friend foe returning, but for the most part I’m feeling calm, cool and collected. And really that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

Ashwagandha Editor's Picks

1. Hum Calm Sweet Calm

If you're spooked by all that horse sweat talk, try these cherry-flavored gummies that feature a mood boosting L-Theanine blend with stress-reducing ashwagandha root and leaf extract. This duo of adaptogens is formulated to reduce cortisol in the body, the fight-or-flight hormone that's been linked to poor energy levels, a weakened immune system, poor sleep quality, reduced skin and hair health and a number of other serious health consequences. Two gummies a day helps keep the cortisol at bay (and we appreciate a supplement that takes the form of our favorite candy).

Buy It ($30)

2. Hum Uber Energy

Want to be a humming productivity machine, without depending on the caffeine roller coater? Reduce fatigue and boost a steady stream of energy with this capsule: It blends adaptogens such as relaxing ashwagandha and fatigue-fighting astralagus root with nutrients including metabolism-boosting B6 and concentration-enhancing amino acid L-Tyrosine. 

Buy It ($26)

3. Organic India Ashwagandha 180 Vegetarian Caps

We empty out two capsules (800 mg in total) into our morning smoothie to get an extra mood-stabilizing boost along with our fruits and greens.

Buy It ($29)

4. Moon Juice Spirit Dust

This super-squad of active adaptogens including goji berry, reishi mushroom, ashwagandha root and leaf extract and others has a touch of stevia to create a sweet, nutty flavor that's delish when blended into warm milk and chai. And here's a bonus: Users laud this blend for its power in reducing irritability.

Buy It ($38)

5. California Gold Nutrition, Ashwagandha, 450 mg, 180 Veggie Capsules

With no gluten, no GMO, no soy and suitable for vegans, each capsule contains a daily dose of withania somnifera (that's the botanical name for ashwagandha). Bonus: You can take it with or without food.

Buy It ($16)

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