The ashwagandha root, scientifically known as Withania somnifera, has been a cornerstone of ayurvedic medicine for millennia, earning its title as the “King of herbs.” Its prominence in the holistic health sector and among the general populace has surged in recent years, thanks to its profound health benefits. Current projections suggest that the global ashwagandha market could touch USD 1.14 billion by 2028, with a steady 6.40 percent growth rate.1
With its rising popularity and demand, certain suppliers have started including aerial components, specifically leaves, in their products as a cost-saving measure, deviating from the traditional use of just the root. KSM-66 views this as a misstep.
Government of India Advisory
In response to this trend, India’s Ministry of Ayush has released an advisory cautioning against the use of ashwagandha leaves for internal purposes.2 They state that, “No substantial evidence and literature is available to endorse the efficacy of crude drug/extract of Withania somnifera leaves. Considering this, it would not be appropriate to consider the Withania somnifera leaves as ASU (ayurveda, siddha, Unani) medicine at this stage. Extensive studies are required to establish the safety and efficacy of leaves of Withania somnifera for different indications. Till then, the usage of leaves may not be considered for therapeutic purposes in ASU systems.”
Global Regulatory Approvals and Pharmacopeial Recommendations
Pharmacopoeias across the globe, such as the United States Pharmacopoeia, British Pharmacopoeia, Ayurveda Pharmacopoeia, and Siddha Pharmacopoeia, along with monographs from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Health Canada, predominantly emphasize the ashwagandha root. The consistent mention of the root, with the leaf often being overlooked, underscores its universal endorsement as an essential medicinal ingredient.
Furthermore, international regulatory authorities, including those in Poland and Hungary, sanction herbal treatments and consistently validate only the ashwagandha root. This endorsement is more than just a nod of approval; it’s an affirmation of the root’s therapeutic potency and safety.
So, why are manufacturers adding leaves to their products? It’s a matter of cost.
Ashwagandha Leaves Are Cheaper Than Roots
Ashwagandha leaves are significantly cheaper than the roots, allowing suppliers to boost their profit margins. Leaves are sold at $0.03/kg, while ashwagandha roots are sold between $3-4/kg. This approach not only diminishes the earnings of diligent farmers but also deprives ashwagandha fields of essential compost for future crops.
This is a primary reason KSM-66 Ashwagandha emphasizes using only the root in its products.
Ashwagandha Leaves Are Sustainable
Though not advised for consumption, ashwagandha’s aerial parts play a crucial role in sustainability. Leaves (as well as stems) are left in the fields to dry, serving as compost, while the seeds are harvested for the subsequent year’s crop. Thus, we can say, that roots are for health and rejuvenation, while leaves are decomposed and used for compost.
However, certain producers have propagated misleading information regarding ashwagandha, including claims about its cost-effectiveness and environmental impact, which do not align with traditional knowledge or practices.
Traditional Use of Ashwagandha Root
Historically, ashwagandha root has been a trusted remedy for stress for around 3,000 years.3 Ayurvedic practitioners, sages and rishis that have confidently recommended and dispensed only ashwagandha roots and their preparations for internal use have consistently vouched for the root’s internal use. The name ‘ashwagandha’ itself references the root, as it smells reminiscent of a horse, symbolizing vigor. Moreover, ashwagandha root has diverse health benefits, from enhancing energy and sleep to addressing respiratory issues and arthritis.
In the thousands of years of traditional usage, there is no widespread mention, instruction or practice with the ashwagandha leaf. In fact, an ancient text from Ayurvedic scripture clearly defines the use of the ashwagandha leaf, stating: ”Leaf of the ashwagandha herb is used for topical applications. Usage of this leaf is limited to the external applications.”4
Modern Scientific Research Into Ashwagandha
Modern scientific research and clinical studies consistently focus on the ashwagandha root. Numerous clinical trials across various global registries have predominantly utilized root extracts. The Clinical Registry of India has 247 clinical trials registered on ashwagandha (excluding commercial extracts): 246 of these use only root-based formulations.5
In conclusion, ashwagandha’s time-tested benefits make it a sought-after medicinal plant. To preserve its authentic effects, it’s essential to refrain from adulterating extracts with leaves. The roots are the primary source of ashwagandha’s therapeutic properties, while the leaves play a pivotal role in agriculture. KSM-66 Ashwagandha remains committed to offering only root extracts.
1 OpenPR. Ashwagandha Market Has Huge Potential for Growth by 2028.
2 Ministry of Ayush, Government of India. (2021). Advisory on Ashwagandha.
3 Charak Samhita 6000BC. (1949). Charaka translation into English: Translator: Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society. Jamnagar, India.
4 Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD). (2007). Monograph: Ashwagandha. Ottawa, Ontario: NHPD.
5 Advanced Search in Clinical Trials Registry – India. Clinical Trials Registry – India.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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