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Cultivating Organic Ashwagandha in India

Indian farmer sitting in Ashwagandha field cutting the leaf and flowers from the dried roots

Ashwagandha is to Ayurveda what Ginseng is to Traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s a cornerstone root used through the ages as a part of daily life. A root so treasured that its popularity has spread globally and its use is common.

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is among the most highly regarded herbal tonifiers in Ayurvedic herbalism, where it has been long classified as a tonic, nervine, and adaptogen. This gentle, nourishing herb is a member of the nightshade family that grows wild throughout the untamed dry landscapes of northern India.

This plant easily propagates itself in the arid deserts of Rajasthan and Gujarat and has been known to have a wide range in this region overall. Though, like many plants with increasing global use and popularity, pressure has been put on this plant due to market demand.

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Most of the Ashwagandha root on the market is wild collected from northern India. While this plant is widely naturalized there, it has been observed by local collectors that the plants aren’t as abundant as they once were and the roots smaller than what was historically gathered.   

We are, however, very fortunate to be able to partner with conscientious farmers in this region who are cultivating Ashwagandha on organic farmland. This project is the first of its kind, an innovative approach to this plant that has typically been wild collected in the deserts. An area once known for agricultural wheat and grain has slowly been transitioning into Ashwagandha cultivation, and each year their field range broadens. This allows us to keep up with our customers’ demand for this popular herb without contributing to the potential of overharvesting in the wild.

Despite some issues with excess rain, the farmers are seeing a better return on their fields than wheat and are now able to employ more people in the region. Their income per acre has increased with this new crop, and the overall sentiment is one of success; the risk of giving up their steady wheat production is worth it and now and other neighboring farmers are wanting to get involved.

Farmers harvesting Ashwagandha by hand and using tools in Ashwagandha field in India

Harvesting Organic Ashwagandha

The roots are hand harvested in a very traditional manner using custom, handmade forged tools designed specifically for this plant. The tops are cut off, and the roots are washed on site. They are left to dry in the sun before transport to the facility for further analysis, cleaning, and drying. The perfectly matured, clean and dry whole roots are then ready for transport to our organic facility in Eugene, Oregon. Upon arrival, we meticulously inspect and test the roots for any contaminants or quality concerns. After inspection, they are cut, freshly powdered, or encapsulated in our mill.

The powdered form is a customer favorite. Traditionally mixed with honey and ghee or nowadays added to smoothies or baked goods, there are many tasty ways to incorporate this adaptogen into your daily life.

By purchasing this botanical from us, you‘re directly supporting rural farming communities in northern India. Thanks for helping further the global advancement of organic agriculture.
 

Inspired to use Ashwagandha Powder?

Try Our Rejuvenating Ashwagandha Chocolate Bites!


Pictured from top to bottom: (Top:) The roots are meticulously cut from the top of the ashwagandha plant during harvest. The tools are handmade for this particular purpose. Farmers are paid a fair wage and take great pride in this work. (Middle top:) Mountain Rose Herbs Executive Director of Operations out in the field with our head farmer. He switched from cultivating wheat to cultivating aryurvedic plants, a successful venture for the farm community. (Middle bottom:) Ashwagandha being harvested by our farmers in Rajasthan. The roots are hand extracted fully intact from the dry organic soils. (Bottom:) Plant tops are carried off the field to be mixed for compost and then added back to top dress the soil and prepare for replanting.

Bundle of Freshly Harvested Ashwagandha Sitting On The Farm In Dirt in Field of Ashwagandha

Topics: Our Farms, Sustainability

Jennifer

Written by Jennifer on December 30, 2017

Jennifer Gerrity is the Executive Director of Operations at Mountain Rose Herbs and has played a key role in establishing the company's botanical sourcing program over the last decade. She was educated in Plant Science at Rutgers University, where she specialized in propagation and agribusiness management. Jennifer oversees the staff, production, and quality assurance at Mountain Rose Herbs. She takes special interest in the procurement of high quality organic herbs, spices, and teas through domestic farm visits and international travel. She is committed to farm development and outreach in the form of special projects such as our Fair For Life partnership in Karnataka, and cultivating a domestic market for woods grown American Ginseng.