Sometimes referred to by its species name, Withania somnifera, or in some circles as Indian ginseng, poison gooseberry or winter cherry, ashwagandha is a plant of the Solanaceae, or nightshade, family. Typically identified as a short shrub sporting small green flowers and orange-red ripe fruit, ashwagandha tends to be cultivated in many of the drier regions of India and is commonly used as a herb in Ayurvedic medicine.
“It was the Ixoreal science team who first sought to introduce to the world the true quintessence of ashwagandha and all its benefits,” states Ixoreal’s CEO, Kartikeya Baldwa. “Convinced that the essence of the ashwagandha root could be extracted without losing its potency, the science team dedicated itself to learning the nuances of plant chemistry and did what no one was able to achieve until then. With Green Chemistry processing, we were able to holistically extract all the root essence while preserving its natural healing potency. This proved to be immensely successful.”
This uniquely processed ashwagandha today goes by the name of KSM-66® ashwagandha and it has gone on to open up new frontiers for the use of ashwagandha in pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements, food and beverages, and sports nutrition.
There are many ashwagandha based formulations available today in the market, however they do not possess a similar level of therapeutic response. This is put down to the absence of sufficient amounts of the ashwagandha’s active phyto-constituents to deliver a clinically efficacious product.
“From the traditional Ayurvedic perspective, ashwagandha’s value is due to an incredibly complex synergy of all its natural constituents,” Baldwa continues. “Reductionists’ efforts to standardize chemical isolates alone of ashwagandha are counterproductive as the process of concentrating a few specific constituents may imbalance the level of other therapeutically useful compounds. To this effect, KSM-66® ashwagandha is different from hydro-alcoholic extracts and other ashwagandha preparations because Ixoreal’s innovative extraction process, entirely free of chemical solvents and alcohol, does not upset the delicate balance of various constituents found in raw/whole ashwagandha root.”
Aside from expressing both the hydrophilic and lipophilic components of ashwagandha, the process also retains and potentiates the synergism of various phyto-active components of the whole root.
“Standardised hydro-alcoholic extracts of ashwagandha root might be spiked using withanolides extracted from ashwagandha leaves in order to achieve a moderate to high percentage of withanolide content,” Baldwa highlights, “however, this is against the very philosophy of ashwagandha usage as prescribed by ancient Ayurvedic texts. The root alone has been advocated for internal usage and not the leaves. Unlike other such extracts, KSM-66® ashwagandha is the only available ashwagandha extract in the world to possess the highest withanolide content derived from roots alone.”
This unique extraction processing technology also enabled Ixoreal to achieve superior sensory characteristics by downsizing the bitterness, whereas both raw/whole root powder and standardized hydro-alcoholic extracts are extremely bitter. In a bitterness test, KSM-66® ashwagandha was found to be the least bitter (three times less to be exact) when compared to other ashwagandha extracts, thus making it a premium choice for food and beverage developers.
Ixoreal is understandably keen to emphasis the extreme benefit KSM-66® possesses in a number of cases. Considered to be the most important adaptogen in ayurvedic system of medicine, KSM-66® relieves stress due to presence of vata suppressant properties, which helps in nurturing nervous system, and also helps in preventing early aging and rejuvenates the whole body.
KSM-66® increases muscular endurance and helps in building up of stamina, works as a powerful immune booster, helps in promoting calmness and mental satisfaction, improves mental ability, helps in gaining retaining power and improves mental concentration, and decreases untimely fatigue. Furthermore, KSM-66® is recognised as being a powerful aphrodisiac, is one of the most commonly used herb in relieving hypertension and has also been found to be an excellent supplement that helps in providing strength to heart muscles and keeps the heart working normally.
Penetration of KSM-66® has been extremely rapid, with KSM-66® having been included in more than 70 products found in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa in the last two years alone. This growth has seen the product embraced by a number of leading manufacturers, such as Swanson, Garden of Life, Healthy Directions, 4life, Purity Products, Swisse and Bobybuilding.com. Meanwhile, a search on Amazon.com will highlight that the best-selling ashwagandha is KSM-66®, sold as Ashwagandha Gold by Nutrigold.
“Many of the formulators using KSM-66® today had in fact been interested in using ashwagandha for several years but held off because there was no clinically-proven high-concentration root-only extract on the market prior to KSM-66®,” Baldwa says. “Before KSM-66®, similar products were typified by being either of low concentration or using parts of the ashwagandha plant other than the root, such as the leaves. For maximum clinical effectiveness, the ashwagandha extract is conceptualized primarily as a root extract, not only in ayurveda textbooks, but also in the standard references like the Indian, the British and the U.S. Pharmacopeias.”
There are dozens of studies documented in PubMed and conducted by universities and research hospitals, virtually all of which use root-only extracts and no other parts like the leaves. “Conditions within the marketplace which resulted in many formulators being hesitant to use extracts containing parts other than the root meant that pent up demand for a product like KSM-66® was able to increase rapidly, and this in turn resulted in our own increase in prominence,” Baldwa enthuses.
Another reason for the rise of KSM-66® is that customers like Ixoreal’s dedication to quality in science, clinical trials and production. “We are obsessed with quality here and it is because of this obsession that we consider it very important to control the entire supply chain,” Baldwa adds. “This degree of control means that today we are the only ashwagandha maker that possesses its own farms, production facilities, testing labs, research centre and distribution.”
Historically, the supply of the raw ashwagandha plant has been rather erratic, unreliable and uncertain because the local farmers respond to market pressures and grow whichever plants are perceived to be more profitable in that season.
“Ixoreal strives to protect itself and its customers from such uncertainties. It is with that in mind that we decided to take control of our supply chain and make our production processes entirely vertically integrated,” Baldwa concludes. “Ixoreal is the only ashwagandha maker in the world which has its own farms, R&D, testing labs, manufacturing and distribution. Because we own our farms, we are also able to ensure green, sustainable agriculture practices. KSM-66® is the only high-concentration extract that is 100 percent organic as certified by USDA.”
Written by Will Daynes, research by Peter Rowlston