When Should You Take Ashwagandha?

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Ashwagandha superfood powder and root.

A popular herb in the pepper family, the roots of ashwagandha have long been used for medicinal purposes in India and Africa. Traditional uses of ashwagandha include reducing inflammation and fever and treating infectious diseases. Today, there is evidence that ashwagandha benefits treatments for anxiety and cancer. Learn more about this Ayurvedic herb, including ashwagandha in tea and food, what to know about the ashwagandha dose in supplements, and potential negative side effects of ashwagandha.

Ashwagandha is a popular herb often used for medicinal purposes.

Native to India and Africa, ashwagandha—roughly translated as “the smell and strength of a horse”—is a popular herb that grows as a small evergreen shrub. Sometimes referred to as “Indian ginseng” or “winter cherry,” the roots and berries are harvested to make medicine. For hundreds of years, ashwagandha has been used in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine for numerous conditions, such as boosting nutrition, reducing inflammation and treating insomnia. Ashwagandha is known as an adaptogen, which promotes balance throughout the body.

Ashwagandha benefits include improved sleep, reduced stress, and enhanced brain function.

Although large-scale clinical studies are needed to prove the clinical efficacy of ashwagandha, there is evidence of its many health benefits. A 2019 study found ashwagandha improved sleep quality in insomnia patients, while another study found that ashwagandha helped reduce the effects of stress. Ashwagandha for cancer treatment also can be beneficial, with one study showing the herb selectively kills tumor cells, and another study showing it helps reduce cancer-related fatigue and improves quality of life. Ashwagandha also has been shown to slow, stop, reverse or remove neuritic atrophy and synaptic loss related to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases.

Sources to increase consumption include ashwagandha tea and supplements.

When increasing the amount of ashwagandha in your diet, you can use a powder and add it into your dishes, smoothies and other foods. You also can try ashwagandha tea; however, due to the herb’s strong taste and smell, you may want to look for a tea blend that includes ashwagandha. Supplements are available in powder, liquid, and tablet or capsule form, with a tablet generally having the highest concentration of ashwagandha. Check the label, and look for a product with a high-concentration, full-spectrum root extract to ensure you get the full benefits of ashwagandha.

Ashwagandha dose requirements greatly vary.

Although there is no standard or recommended dosage of ashwagandha, there is a general consensus that a daily dose for root powder is between 1,000 mg and 6,000 mg. If taking an extract, the daily dose recommendation is between 500 mg and 1,500 mg. Each dose should contain a minimum of 6 mg of withanolides, a key marker compound in the herb supplement that could affect how the herb performs.

Ashwagandha negative side effects range from upset stomach to allergic reactions.

When taken in typical doses, some people may experience mild or moderate ashwagandha negative side effects, which may include upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and drowsiness. Although rare, more severe ashwagandha negative side effects have been reported, including rapid heartbeat, allergic reactions, and liver injury. There have been no long-term studies conducted to evaluate the safety of ashwagandha supplements, so it’s possible other side effects may appear with use. If you experience any of these, stop or reduce your intake of ashwagandha.

Do not take ashwagandha without first talking to your doctor.

It’s important to talk with your doctor before using any form of ashwagandha to evaluate if you need an ashwagandha supplement and how it could affect your health. It is possible that ashwagandha can interact with other medications and supplements, such as those for stomach ulcers, diabetes, thyroid disorders, and blood pressure conditions; so you should not take ashwagandha without supervision by a licensed healthcare provider. Likewise, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk with your doctor before taking any ashwagandha supplement.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Apr 14
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