Ashwagandha Benefits, Side Effects & Safety Information

Also Known As: Ashwagandha Root, Ashwagandha Extract, Indian Ginseng, Withania Somnifera, Poison Gooseberry and Winter cherry.

Information About Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a powerful herb, which has been used for over 3,000 years – particularly in Ayurvedic healing.

It is believed that Ashwagandha has rejuvenating and restorative health benefits. The root and berry of Ashwagandha are commonly used to help strengthen the immune system after surgery, chemotherapy or other severe illness. It is also believed to promote nutrition and restore good health as well as fight symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Due to its healing abilities, Ashwagandha is also often applied to wounds and sore muscles, particularly to treat back pain.

The herb is also used as an “adaptogen” that helps the body manage everyday stress. Due to its adaptogenic abilities, Ashwagandha is also often used as a supplement by those aiming to boost their energy and lose weight.

The Bottom Line – Ashwagandha is a herb that’s been used in Ayurvedic healing for over 3000 years. It is believed to have a range of healing and restorative properties, helping people regain strength as well as promote nutrition. It is thought that, due to its adaptogenic abilities, Ashwagandha could boost fat-burning and aid weight loss.

Ashwagandha Health Benefits

Ashwagandha is believed to have several health benefits, which enable the body to more effectively cope with stress, recover after illness as well as lose weight.

Below is a list of the possible benefits we’ve found:

Ashwagandha Can Lower Blood Sugar Levels

Several studies have shown that Ashwagandha can effectively lower blood sugar levels, both in healthy individuals [1], and those with diabetes. One study has even shown that taking Ashwagandha supplements was as effective in lowering blood sugar levels as taking oral diabetes medication. [2]

Ashwagandha Could Help With Weight Loss

Cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone”, is released by your adrenal glands in response to stress. When cortisol levels are chronically high, this may lead to increased blood sugar levels and increased storage of fat in the abdomen. As Ashwagandha reduces cortisol [3] and boosts energy levels, there is some evidence that it could help with weight loss.

Ashwagandha Could Increase Muscle Mass and Strength

Research has shown that Ashwagandha herb can effectively increase strength and improve body composition [4]. The study aimed to identify a safe and effective dosage of Ashwagandha. The participants (healthy men) took 750 to 1250mg of Ashwagandha per day – and the results showed that they lost fat and gained muscle mass after 30 days. [5]

Could Help Reduce Stress and Anxiety

As mentioned before, Ashwagandha has been shown to effectively lower the levels or cortisol, which is released in response to situations perceived as stressful by the body. The study, conducted with chronically stressed people and a control group, showed that those taking Ashwagandha as a supplement experienced a significant decrease in cortisol levels. [6]

The Bottom Line – Studies into the effectiveness of Ashwagandha have shown that the herb is effective in improving the body’s health by lowering cortisol and blood sugar levels, improving muscle mass and boosting energy. Because it supports various body processes related to weight loss, Ashwagandha could be used as a supplement by those looking to lose weight.

How To Use Ashwagandha

There are several ways you could use Ashwagandha as a supplement.

The most common methods of taking Ashwagandha are:

  1. As capsules that contain fine powder made from Ashwagandha roots; 1-2 capsules daily.
  2. As powder made from Ashwagandha roots; 1-2 teaspoons twice daily.
  3. Ashwagandha leaf or root extract: 600 – 1,200 mg daily.

The typical dosage amount for Ashwagandha ranges between 500-6,000mg daily. It is recommended that you do not exceed 6,000mg.

Are There Any Foods That Contain Ashwagandha?

In some parts of the world, people consume Ashwagandha seeds, shoots and fruit.

However, such products would be difficult to find for the average shopping so your best bet is to consume it in supplement-form.

Ashwagandha Side Effects List

We have found the following possible side effects for Ashwagandha:

  • Stomach upset
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting

Note: these side effects are possible but may not be the typical user experience.

Is Ashwagandha Safe?

Ashwagandha is possibly safe when taken as a supplement by mouth short-term. There isn’t enough information about the effects of its use long-term. It is also not known whether applying Ashwagandha directly to skin is safe.

Remember, prior to using Ashwagandha, you should consult with your doctor if you have any kind of medical condition.

When Should I Not Take Ashwagandha?

  • If you are pregnant and/or breast-feeding: Those pregnant and/ or breastfeeding should NOT use Ashwagandha, as it is likely unsafe during pregnancy. Some evidence suggests that Ashwagandha may cause miscarriages. However not enough is known whether it is safe to be taken while breastfeeding. It is best to avoid use if you are within this group.
  • If you have diabetes: Research shows that Ashwagandha lowers blood sugar levels, which could interfere with medications used to treat diabetes.
  • If you have low or high blood pressure. Research suggests that Ashwagandha may lower blood pressure, which could cause blood pressure to go too low for those with naturally low blood pressure – or interfere with medications for lowering blood pressure.
  • If you have stomach ulcers. Ashwagandha could irritate the gastrointestinal tract (GI).
  • If you have auto-immune diseases. As Ashwagandha could boost immune system, taking it could increase the symptoms of auto-immune diseases.
  • If you are having surgery. It is best to stop taking Ashwagandha at least 2 weeks before surgery. That’s because Ashwagandha has been shown to slow down the central nervous system – and anaesthesia and other medications may increase this effect.
  • If you have a thyroid disorder. Research suggests that Ashwagandha may increase thyroid hormone levels – which could interfere with medications.

Has Ashwagandha Been Linked To Any Deaths?

Ashwagandha has not been linked to any deaths.

The Bottom Line – Ashwagandha is possibly safe when taken by adults as a supplement short-term. However, there could be side effects which are important to note before taking the supplement. Also, particular groups (such as pregnant/ breastfeeding women, people who have high blood pressure, thyroid disorders, auto-immune diseases or are having surgery) should not take the supplement or be particularly careful with it.

Where Can I Buy Ashwagandha & Do I Need A Prescription?

You can buy Ashwagandha in a supplement form without a doctor’s prescription.

Ashwagandha can be bought from a range of pharmacies, and speciality nutrient and supplement stores.

Conclusion

Ashwagandha is a popular Ayurvedic herb, which has been used for thousands of years. Due to its healing properties, it is commonly used in the West to manage stress levels, boost energy levels and help people recover after illnesses. The herb has also been shown to support weight loss and could be used as a supplement by those aiming to shed unwanted pounds.

Beth Coats, RD LN
Staff Writer at DietProbe
Beth is a registered dietician with over 20 years experience in general nutrition.