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Health & Nutrition
Zaheera Swing
Nutritional Therapist & Herbalist BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD

Ashwagandha Root Vs. Leaf: Differences, Benefits, Pros & Cons

Ashwagandha Root and Ashwagandha Leaf are both derived from the same plant, known as Withania somnifera, a small shrub in the nightshade family native to India, Africa, and the Middle East. This plant has been used in Ayurveda, a traditional Indian medical system, for thousands of years. The root and leaf of the Ashwagandha plant are used differently in Ayurvedic medicine, and each part offers unique health benefits, however, while both leaf and root extracts contain health promoting compounds, they differ in their compositions. The root extract is typically preferred and a superior choice due to its high concentration of beneficial withanolides and greater safety profile. 



What is Ashwagandha Root?




Ashwagandha, also known by the Latin name Withania Somnifera or Winter Cherry, is an evergreen shrub within the nightshade family and is native to India, Africa, and the Middle East.

The Ashwagandha plant has been used in Ayurveda, a traditional Indian medicine paradigm, for thousands of years to offer a natural solution for chronic stress and anxiety, low mood, fatigue, fertility issues, and overall vitality. Its primary bioactive components are withanolides, particularly withaferin A and withanolide D.

Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen, which is a type of herb used to help the body cope with stress, promote vitality and balance various physiological processes for more resilient mental and physical health. 

In this article we provide detailed information about the benefits and differences between Ashwagandha root and Ashwaganda leaf.



What Are The Benefits Of Ashwagandha Root?


Ashwagandha offers various health benefits such as:

  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Improves cognitive acuity and memory 
  • Enhances physical performance
  • Improves sleep quality and duration
  • Increases thyroid hormones 
  • Boosts testosterone levels in men 
  • Supports fertility and sexual function in men 

Scientific research has backed Ashwagandha's effects in multiple clinical studies, which show statistically significant benefits for lowering cortisol levels, improving brain function, enhancing muscle health and growth, and even boosting testosterone levels. [1] [2] [3] [4]

Learn more about the sought-after health benefits of consuming Ashwagandha root here.




What is Ashwagandha Leaf?




Ashwagandha leaf, while less commonly used than the root, is another part of the Ashwagandha plant that has been utilized in traditional medicine. The leaf is typically used in the form of a dried powder or extract that is added to creams or oils. While Ashwagandha leaf also contains withanolides, its composition is different from that of the root, and it may provide different health benefits.



What Are The Benefits and Use Of Ashwagandha Leaf?


The primary use of Ashwagandha leaf by practitioners of traditional Ayurvedic medicine is as a topical treatment for skin conditions, such as wounds and ulcers. 

However, some research suggests that Ashwagandha leaf may also have systemic effects, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Nonetheless, the health benefits of Ashwagandha leaf are not as well studied as those of the root and there may be safety concerns with internal consumption.




What Are The Differences Between Ashwagandha Root and Ashwagandha Leaf?


The primary difference between Ashwagandha root and leaf lies in their chemical compositions and safety profile. While both parts of the plant contain the bioactive compounds known as withanolides, the specific types and concentrations of these compounds differ, which is the main reason Ashwagandha leaf is not considered the optimal choice for supplementation. 


1. Health Benefit Differences Between Ashwagandha Root Vs Ashwagandha Leaf


While both Ashwagandha root and leaf come from the same plant, their uses and health benefits differ. The root is primarily used for systemic effects, such as stress and anxiety reduction, cognitive enhancement, and hormonal regulation.

On the other hand, the leaf form of Ashwagandha is traditionally used topically for skin conditions. Although some evidence suggests it may also have systemic effects, there are safety concerns regarding internal consumption of Ashwagandha leaf. Read more below.


2. Safety Differences Between Ashwagandha Root Vs Ashwagandha Leaf


Ashwagandha root is generally considered safe for most people. While side effects from Ashwagandha are usually negligible, it may cause some gastrointestinal symptoms like indigestion, nausea and diarrhea at high doses. Ashwagandha root may also interact with certain medications such as:

  • Thyroid medication
  • Sedatives
  • Immunosuppresants

Ashwagandha leaf is considered less safe for internal consumption due to it's composition of withanolides compared to the root.

Withanolides are beneficial due to a wide range of pharmacological activities, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, and anti-cancer effects [3].

Notable withanolides in Ashwagandha include Withaferin A, Withanone, Withanolide A, Withanolide E, Withanoside IV, Sominone, and others.

High levels of withaferin A are found in Ashwagandha leaf compared to the Ashwagandha root. While withaferin A may have significant medicinal potential that is still under investigation, consuming too much of it as a supplement is not recommended and thus, Ashwagandha leaf is not the optimal choice for dietary supplements. 6] [7] [8] [9]

According to modern research, Ashwagandha leaves also have higher levels of Withanone and Withanoside IV [10].

On the other hand, Ashwagandha root has higher levels of Withanolide A - a safe and well tolerated withanolide which has potent anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects according to research [11].



3. Consumption Form Differences Between Ashwagandha Root Vs Ashwagandha Leaf


It is typically much easier to find products containing Ashwagandha root compared to Ashwaganda leaf due to its widespread use. Ashwagandha root is available in a variety of forms such as capsules, gummies, Ashwagandha powder, teas and tinctures. 

The availability of Ashwagandha leaf is limited and since it is mostly used for topical applications it is usually found in the form of natural products like creams, lotions or oils as apposed to dietary supplements.




Overall Pros and Cons When Comparing Ashwagandha Root Vs Leaf


Ashwagandha root is renowned for its medicinal properties, with extensive research supporting its stress-reducing, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant benefits. It's generally considered safe for consumption, though side effects such as indigestion may occur in some individuals.

In contrast, Ashwagandha leaf, while offering similar benefits, contains high levels of withaferin A, a compound that may be less safe for internal use. However, a significant advantage of Ashwagandha leaf lies in its topical use. It's often applied externally, which can support skin health and treat various skin issues. 




Why is Ashwagandha Root Superior to Ashwagandha Leaf?


Several reasons make Ashwagandha root superior to Ashwagandha leaf:


  • Safety: Ashwagandha root is considered to be significantly safer for internal consumption when compared to Ashwagandha leaf.
  • More Extensive Research: The health benefits of Ashwagandha root supplements has been more extensively studied than those of the leaf. Numerous clinical trials and scientific studies support the use of Ashwagandha root extract for stress reduction, cognitive enhancement, physical performance improvement, and hormonal regulation.

  • Greater Availability: The root of Ashwagandha is widely available in a variety of forms, including capsules, powders, and extracts. This makes it easy to incorporate into your daily routine.

  • Traditional Use: In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, the root and root-based formulations of the Ashwagandha plant has been used for thousands of years for its systemic benefits. While the leaf is also used in traditional medicine, its use is generally more topical in the form of creams or lotions.

  • Superior Systemic Effects: The root of the Ashwagandha plant is believed to provide superior systemic effects in human health compared to the leaf, including stress reduction, cognitive enhancement, and hormonal regulation.



How To Use Ashwagandha Root and Leaf




  • Ashwagandha Root: The recommended dosage of Ashwagandha root extract ranges from 500mg-1900mg per day for men and women, split into 2-3 separate doses. Certain clinical trials have used 600 mg of Ashwagandha per day, while other studies suggest higher doses may be more effective such as 1300-1900 mg per day of full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract.

    Take Ashwagandha with or without food at any time of the day or night.

    Make sure to speak to your doctor before adding Ashwagandha to your routine, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, taking medications, or have any pre-existing health conditions.

  • Ashwagandha Leaf: It's generally considered safer to use Ashwagandha leaf topically instead of internally. Ashwagandha leaf extract can be found in creams that promote skin health, thanks to Ashwagandha's anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-microbial properties.

While both Ashwagandha root and leaf offer health benefits, the root is superior due to its more extensive research, greater availability, traditional use, and superior systemic effects. If you're considering adding Ashwagandha to your daily routine, the root is the best place to start. However, as with any supplement, it's important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new regimen.



NutriRise Ashwagandha: The Superior Choice




NutriRise is a health and wellness brand providing dietary supplements to support the health of your mind, body, and spirit, including our top-selling Organic Ashwagandha Root Extract, used by over 1 million happy customers.

Co-founders Basim & Ramsha Mirza started NutriRise in 2016, fuelled by the desire to transform their own health through the power of nutrition and ancient wisdom. NutriRise is now backed by a world-class team of researchers, chemists, biologists, doctors, and nutritionists. Every supplement we provide is produced in the U.S in a CGMP-certified facility for unparalleled safety, purity, and quality.

At NutriRise, we ensure the quality and effectiveness of our Organic Ashwagandha Root Capsules and Ashwagandha Root Gummies by rigorous third-party testing. This stringent protocol helps us guarantee that the Ashwagandha extract we offer is of the highest standard. 

We also ensure you're getting the most potent and effective form of Ashwagandha by only using full-spectrum extract of the ROOT of the Ashwagandha plant. This delivers the perfect, safe amount of bioactive withanolides for optimal thyroid support, stress relief, sleep and mood, hormonal balance, and overall vitality, making it the superior choice. 

Finally, we go beyond just creating and selling products; at NutriRise, we care deeply about the customer experience too. Through our efficient delivery system, we ensure your Ashwagandha reaches you in perfect condition. By choosing NutriRise, you can trust in the quality and potency of each product, from our meticulous production processes to its arrival at your doorstep. 




Key Points


  • Ashwagandha, derived from the Withania somnifera plant, has been used in Ayurveda for thousands of years, with both root and leaf offering unique health benefits.

  • Ashwagandha root is typically preferred due to its high concentration of beneficial withanolides and greater safety profile.

  • Benefits of Ashwagandha root include stress and anxiety reduction, cognitive enhancement, and hormonal regulation, backed by multiple clinical studies.

  • The Ashwagandha leaf, while less common, is utilized in traditional medicine mostly for topical treatment of skin conditions, but also possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Ashwagandha leaf contains higher levels of withaferin A, which may pose safety concerns for internal consumption.
  • Products containing Ashwagandha root are more readily available in various forms, while leaf availability is limited, typically used in creams, lotions, or oils.

  • Ashwagandha root is superior due to its safety, extensive research, availability, traditional use, and systemic effects, while leaf offers benefits for topical skin health.



Note: This article is for informational purposes only and not intended for use as medical advice or intended to diagnose or to prevent any disease. The statements and claims have also not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. While Ashwagandha root is generally safe for human consumption, always consult your doctor before taking Ashwagandha or any herb to ensure safety and efficacy. 




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Zaheera Swing
Nutritional Therapist & Herbalist BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD
As a qualified Nutritional Therapist (BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD), Zaheera Swing has a deep passion for restoring balance and harmony to the body through the modalities of nutritional science, herbalism, and holistic lifestyle practices. Using the functional medicine model coupled with wisdom from ancient paradigms, she aims to provide insight into the underlying root causes of poor health and the holistic tools we can harness to enhance the well-being of mind, body, and spirit.
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