Ashwagandha is an herb prescribed in Ayurveda as a supplement that reduces anxiety and improves mood. While it can be implemented in a variety of culinary applications (and we cover some here among the substitutes), its benefits lie in the area of its effects rather than its flavor. It is classified as an adaptogen, which is a medicinal herb that helps to normalize the body’s processes. There are other herbal ingredients that can provide those same effects, so you have several options when looking for an ashwagandha substitute. Try one of these.
Your best bet: Rhodiola rosea
Rhodiola rosea is another adaptogen that is used in essentially the same way as ashwagandha. These herbs are quite different in terms of their origins since Rhodiola rosea comes from Europe while ashwagandha is an Indian herb. Despite the differences between their original environments, the effects of Rhodiola rosea are similar to those of ashwagandha in that both herbs are used to treat stress and can be used as antidepressants; however, Rhodiola is also used to increase alertness.
Both herbs have a bitter taste that can be disguised when accompanied by the right ingredients. For example, Rhodiola rosea is usually used in fruit smoothies. The sweetness of the fruit helps to disguise the bitterness. This herb can also be made into a tea.
A decent second choice: Maca
Maca is an Andean tuber plant that is in the same family as the radish. While maca root is eaten fresh in its home country of Peru, it is sold in powder form in the US. Maca powder has many of the same properties as ashwagandha. It is used to relieve stress and, like Rhodiola rosea, it can do this while also increasing energy and alertness. Peruvians have used maca for centuries and it is a great source of quite a few vitamins along with some minerals and amino acids.
Maca’s taste is arguably the most pleasant of all the ashwagandha substitutes; it is mildly nutty with a slight earthiness. Because its flavor is not as bitter as that of ashwagandha, some people may consider it a better option. The most common way to consume maca and to get its health benefits is in the form of a smoothie but it can be baked into desserts or added to hot chocolate as well.
–> Learn More: Cooking With Maca – The Dos And Don’ts
In a pinch: Licorice root
Licorice root is unique among the ashwagandha substitutes because it is the one of the few that could be used simply for its flavor. It has camphor notes accompanied by a flavor similar to those of fennel and anise. The flavor is deeply controversial, as many people find it medicinal and unpleasant, while others love it.
Licorice root has some of the same benefits as ashwagandha in that you can use it to help with your blood pressure. It helps with stress and can be beneficial for gastrointestinal health.
Ginseng is another herb that you can use to relieve stress. It has a long history of use in China. It has a similar bitterness to ashwagandha and can be used in the same ways. Traditional ways to use it include in teas and in soups.
Reishi is an adaptogen mushroom that is used to fight inflammation and cancer. Other effects that make it very much like ashwagandha include its ability to help improve cognition while being beneficial for blood pressure management.