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Health & Nutrition
Dimitar Marinov
Senior Product Researcher MD, PhD, Assistant Professor

Ashwagandha vs. Turmeric - Which One is Better for Stress and Inflammation?

 

It is a well-known fact that stress and inflammation can take a toll on your health. But what if we could fight back with the help of two powerful natural remedies?

Ashwagandha and turmeric are both known for their ability to reduce stress and inflammation, but which one is better? Both of these powerful herbs have long been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments. 

If you're looking for an all-natural way to improve your health, then adding either ashwagandha or turmeric to your diet can have dramatic benefits. What is more, you can also take them together to maximize their effects!

In this article, you will learn all about the advantages and disadvantages of each of these herbs and find out how they can work together to help your body naturally deal with stress and inflammation.

 

 

 

What are the benefits of ashwagandha?

 

 

Ashwagandha is a small shrub that originally comes from the lands of India and Southeast Asia. It bears the Latin name Withania somnifera (somnifera - sleep-inducing), which highlights its stress-reducing and calming properties.

Ashwagandha, also known as Indian Ginseng, is an Ayurvedic herb that has been used for centuries to balance and support the body's natural processes.

It is renowned for its broad range of beneficial effects, especially regarding its ability to increase your tolerance to stress and reduce levels of the stress hormone - cortisol [1]. This is why ashwagandha is considered to be one of the most potent natural Adaptogens.

Additionally, clinical studies have shown ashwagandha can help support the immune system, reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol levels, and even help maintain brain health [2], [3], [4]. Hence, in Ayurveda, it is also known as Rasayana, meaning "rejuvenator." 

Trials even show that Asheganadha can help you fight fatigue by improving energy and alertness [5]

Finally, this powerful herbal remedy has been shown to improve sleep quality and reduce anxiety levels when taken regularly over time [6]

Overall, the most well-studied benefits of ashwagandha are:

  • improved tolerance to stress
  • reduced inflammation
  • increased energy levels
  • better alertness and brain health
  • lower cortisol levels
  • improved sleep

As a result, ashwagandha is becoming increasingly popular, with people looking for an all-natural way to improve their health and well-being.

 

 

What are the side effects of ashwagandha?

 

Ashwagandha is a well-tolerated herb with very few side effects, and studies suggest that it can be taken safely over long periods of time [7]. Some of the adverse reactions that occur are minor and include nausea and indigestion.

While it is generally considered safe for consumption, there are several contraindications to be aware of before incorporating ashwagandha into your diet. 

Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also not take ashwagandha due to its effects on hormones and reproductive organs [8].

People undergoing cancer treatments such as chemotherapy may want to abstain from taking Ashwagandha supplements since there is a potential for enhanced medication absorption and side effects.

Individuals with autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, and Hashimoto's disease should avoid ashwagandha as it may have unexpected effects due to its immuno-modulatory activity.

Finally, those who have thyroid issues like hyperthyroidism or Grave's Disease should avoid ashwagandha because it can interfere with the body's natural production of hormones in this area.

Before taking any supplement or herbal remedy, be sure to consult your doctor for further advice tailored specifically to your medical history and needs.

 

 

How do you consume ashwagandha?

 

Ashwagandha can be consumed in a variety of ways, including ashwagandha powder, capsules, gummies, tinctures, and teas. 

However, it's important to select a product that contains the right part of the ashwagandha plant and, more specifically - the ashwagandha root.

That's because the roots of the plant contain the most balanced ratio of different withanolides - the main bioactive substances in Withania somnifera

For example, studies show that the ashwagandha root extract contains lower levels of Withaferin A but higher levels of other withanolides such as Withanolide A, Withanoside VI, and 27-deoxywithanone [9].

Withaferin A is a withanolide that is under investigation for various medicinal properties due to its cytotoxicity towards tumor cells, but unfortunately, it can be toxic to the whole body in high concentrations [10].

Therefore, Ashwagandha root powder is the better and safer source of withanolides which you can add to your daily supplement stack.

By far, the most convenient form to add it as a supplement is either as capsules or gummies. This makes the ashwagandha much easier to dose and consume and also allows you to select a full-spectrum extract that has all the good stuff preserved in it

 

 

 

What are the health benefits of turmeric?

 

 

Turmeric is a spice best known for its bright color and earthy flavor and has been used for centuries in Indian cooking and traditional medicine. 

Lesser known to most, however, is the fact that turmeric contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties that provide health benefits for those who consume it. 

Curcumin, which is the main active ingredient in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory characteristics and helps with digestion, stress, cardiovascular health, and much more. 

For example, studies suggest it can reduce symptoms of depression due to its effects on monoamine neurotransmission, reducing oxidative stress in the brain and modulating the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis [11]

Regarding cardiovascular health, curcumin may have the potential to lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels.

In one trial, 500 mg of curcumin taken daily has been shown to reduce triglycerides by a whopping 47% over only 7 days of supplementation [12]. Total cholesterol levels also decreased by 17%.

In another study, using 500mg turmeric thrice daily (22.1mg curcumin each time) has noted significant decreases in blood pressure in persons with kidney problems [13].

The most well-studied effect of turmeric and curcumin is the ability to reduce inflammation. Numerous studies show that curcumin can reduce levels of systemic inflammation, lower oxidative stress in the body, alleviate pain and improve function in osteoarthritis [14].

Therefore, the main benefits of turmeric include the following:

  • reducing inflammation
  • alleviating pain
  • fighting depression and anxiety
  • protecting the brain against stress
  • lowering blood pressure levels
  • improving lipid profile parameters

 

 

When should you not take turmeric?

 

Turmeric is a popular spice that can provide many health benefits. While it is well-known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, it is important to note that taking turmeric should be avoided in certain situations. 

People who are pregnant or nursing should check with their doctor before taking turmeric, as some components may not be suitable during this stage. 

Additionally, people with gallbladder problems or gallstones should talk with their doctor before ingesting turmeric. It can worsen their symptoms and interfere with the effectiveness of treatments they may be receiving. 

Furthermore, those on blood-thinning medications should avoid taking turmeric as it may increase the risk of bleeding or bruising due to interference with drug metabolism. 

In terms of side effects, turmeric is extremely safe. Doses of up to 8 grams of curcuminoids have not been associated with serious adverse effects in humans. 

There are only some mild adverse effects that you may experience, which include nausea, diarrhea, headache, skin rash, and yellow discoloration of your stools which is harmless. 

 

 

How can you use turmeric?

 

Taking turmeric by itself is rather ineffective because of the extremely poor absorption of curcumin and other biologically active substances in the herb.

Thus, no matter how you choose to take turmeric or curcumin, make sure that your supplements also contain black pepper extract. Studies show that the alkaloid in black pepper, which is called piperine, can boost the absorption of curcumin by 2000% [15].

The most convenient and effective way to take curcumin is via capsules, which combine a standardized turmeric extract with BioPerine. BioPerine is a patented piperine extract containing at least 95% piperine in a form that is well absorbed by your body.

When combined with piperine, you can rest assured that your body will absorb the maximum amount of curcumin from your turmeric supplement.

 

 

 

Ashwagandha VS Turmeric

Which one is better for stress?

 

 

Studies have shown that both ashwagandha and turmeric can help reduce stress and stress-related conditions such as anxiety or depression.

Turmeric and, more specifically, its main active ingredient - curcumin, have been shown to reduce stress-related cognitive impairment and protect brain cells from damage due to stress-related spikes in cortisol [16]. Clinical studies also show that curcumin may reduce levels of anxiety among women [17].

While turmeric is quite effective in increasing your tolerance to stress and reducing anxiety symptoms among study participants, research reveals that ashwagandha may be even more potent.

Ashwagandha helps reduce stress by interacting with the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis and reducing cortisol levels by 27.9% in chronically stressed individuals [18].

The same study also noted that supplementation led to a whopping 44% reduction in perceived stress and anxiety levels as assessed by a standardized stress scale compared to only 5.5% for the placebo group.

The participants taking ashwagandha also had a 68.1% improvement in social functioning, compared to only a 3.7% improvement in placebo.

Numerous other studies also report similar findings [19], [20], [21], [22], [23]. Therefore, ashwagandha appears to be a more effective herb when it comes to dealing with stress and stress-related problems.

 

 

Which one is better for inflammation?

 

 

Studies suggest that both ashwagandha and turmeric have potent anti-inflammatory properties.

Animal research reveals that ashwagandha can significantly reduce inflammation in rat models of arthritis [24]. Studies on human cartilage also support its anti-inflammatory effects [25].

Clinical research reveals that turmeric can help reduce inflammation in several tissues, including adipose tissue, joints, tendons, and more. Its main active ingredient - curcumin, works by inhibiting TNF-a, which is a major proinflammatory signaling molecule in the human body [26].

Curcumin is so effective that one study that lasted over three months has noted that supplementation was able to improve symptoms in patients with osteoarthritis by a whopping 58% [27].

Therefore, turmeric is widely considered one of the most potent anti-inflammatory herbs known to mankind, and it is a must-have if you are dealing with joint pain and inflammation.

 

 

 

Can you take ashwagandha and turmeric together?

 

Whether you should combine ashwagandha and turmeric together depends on your health needs and goals, but generally speaking, both ayurvedic herbs are safe to use simultaneously in moderate doses as a part of an overall positive health plan. 

Whether used alone or together, these two herbs have purported benefits for reducing inflammation, supporting mental well-being, and enhancing your body's immunity process. 

Taking ashwagandha and turmeric together is an increasingly popular choice among those looking to maximize their potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and adaptogenic properties.

Overall, these two powerful herbs have potential synergistic benefits when incorporated into an individualized wellness program. 

For example, ashwagandha can help reduce chronically elevated cortisol levels, while turmeric protects your brain from acute cortisol spikes.

Furthermore, both herbs are effective in reducing joint inflammation, while turmeric can also help reduce systemic inflammation by lowering levels of proinflammatory cytokines.

Make sure that your ashwagandha and turmeric supplements are providing you with sufficient dosage. In order to reap the maximum benefits of your ashwagandha supplement, make sure that it contains at least 1300 mg of root extract per serving.

Furthermore, a high-quality turmeric supplement should deliver at least 1500 mg of the herb per serving.

Taking them together offers a synergistic effect - essentially, combining two powerful herbs into one - so that you can get even more benefits from them. 

 

Note: This article is for informational purposes only and not intended for use as medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any dietary supplement.

 

Dimitar Marinov
Senior Product Researcher MD, PhD, Assistant Professor
Dr. Marinov is a licenced physician and scientist with years of experience in clinical and preventive medicine, medical research, nutrition and dietetics. His research is focused primarily on nutrition and physical activity as preventive measures to improve and preserve human health. He is passionate about creating evidence-based content about various medical topics and takes great care in referencing every statement with high-quality evidence.
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