If you experience severe stress or anxiety, chances are you’ve tried multiple things to curb those feelings. If you’ve tapped into the supplement or herbal industries, you’ve likely heard of ashwagandha and its ability to curb some levels of stress and anxiety. But, just how effective is ashwagandha in treating those symptoms, and what else can it do?
What is ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is in the Solanaceae plant family. It is a green, leafy plant with medium-brown roots and is frequently used in supplemental and medicinal form.
Other common names for this plant include:
- Winter cherry
- Poison gooseberry
- Indian ginseng
Perhaps the most common benefit of ashwagandha is its potential to reduce stress. MedlinePlus states this benefit is substantiated by some evidence, particularly if people take it routinely for about two months.
Other potential benefits of ashwagandha that are not completely backed up by evidence include but are not limited to:
- Anxiety reduction, including anxiety in people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and/or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Blood sugar reduction in people with diabetes
- Cholesterol reduction
- Brain function improvement in people with bipolar disorder
- Sleep improvement – does Ashwagandha make you sleepy?
- Improvement for those with an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
- Inflammation reduction
Again, please be aware the benefits mentioned above are only potential, and it is absolutely critical to talk to your primary care physician before incorporating ashwagandha into your daily diet. Your doctor will be able to best determine its effectiveness, as well as any risks, to your health.
MedlinePlus also states a variety of potential side effects of taking ashwagandha, including but not limited to:
- Stomach ulcer interactions resulting in gastrointestinal issues
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Low blood pressure (hypotension)
- Digestive problems
- Dangerously low blood sugar levels, particularly for people with diabetes
- Dangerously increased thyroid hormone levels, which can harm people with thyroid disorders
Please note this list is not comprehensive, and side effects may differ from one individual to another. Always consult your doctor before taking ashwagandha so you are aware of potential risks and side effects.
How to Take Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha comes in many forms. It is up to you and your healthcare provider to determine the safest, healthiest way to consume it. It can come as follows:
Ashwagandha has the potential to interact with certain medications and medical conditions, as mentioned above. MedlinePlus states the following medications can negatively interact with ashwagandha:
- High blood pressure medications
- Diabetes medications
- Thyroid medications
- Certain herbs and supplements
For this reason, ask your doctor or another health professional about personalized dosing instructions, even if supplement packaging outlines specific dosing instructions.
Before taking ashwagandha, safety should be your top priority. Because not all evidence is conclusive on the effectiveness of and potential dangers of taking ashwagandha, it is critical to speak with your doctor accordingly. Remember:
- Ashwagandha may interact with certain medications and medical conditions
- Ashwagandha may affect everyone differently
- More research needs to be done in order to fully understand the effectiveness of ashwagandha
Furthermore, when purchasing products that contain ashwagandha, look to the packaging labels for more information, especially:
- What, if any, government labels the package has to determine the level of regulation and testing the product underwent
- Other ingredients in the product you could be sensitive to
Disclaimer: This article does not constitute professional medical advice, nor can it replace the advice of a licensed professional.