Ashwagandha is a plant. The root and berry are used to make medicine.
Ashwagandha has a lot of uses. But so far, there isn’t enough information to judge whether it is effective for any of them.
Ashwagandha is used for arthritis, anxiety, trouble sleeping (insomnia), tumors, tuberculosis, asthma, a skin condition marked by white patchiness (leukoderma), bronchitis, backache, fibromyalgia, menstrual problems, hiccups, and chronic liver disease.
Ashwagandha is also used as an “adaptogen” to help the body cope with daily stress, and as a general tonic.
Some people also use ashwagandha for improving thinking ability, decreasing pain and swelling (inflammation), and preventing the effects of aging. It is also used for fertility problems in men and women and also to increase sexual desire.
Ashwagandha is applied to the skin for treating wounds, backache, and one-sided paralysis (hemiplegia).
The name Ashwagandha is from the Sanskrit language and is a combination of the word ashva, meaning horse, and gandha, meaning smell. The root has a strong aroma that is described as “horse-like.”
In Ayurvedic, Indian, and Unani medicine, ashwagandha is described as “Indian ginseng.” Ashwagandha is also used in traditional African medicine for a variety of ailments.
Don’t confuse ashwagandha with Physalis alkekengi. Both are known as winter cherry.
How does it work?
- Anxiety. There is some evidence that ashwagandha combined with deep breathing and a specific diet might reduce symptoms of anxiety. The effect of ashwagandha alone in anxiety is unclear.
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some clinical research shows that a combination herbal product containing ashwagandha may improve attention and impulse control in children with ADHD. The effect of ashwagandha alone is unclear.
- A brain condition called cerebellar ataxia. Preliminary research shows that ashwagandha in combination with an alternative form of medicine known as Ayurvedic therapy might improve balance in people with cerebellar ataxia.
- Diabetes. There is some evidence that ashwagandha might reduce bloodsugar levels in people with diabetes.
- High cholesterol. There is some evidence that ashwagandha might reduce cholesterol levels in patients with high cholesterol.
- Male infertility. Some preliminary clinical evidence suggests that ashwagandha might improve sperm quality, but not sperm count, in infertile men. It is not known if taking ashwagandha can actually improve fertility.
- Arthritis. There is preliminary research that ashwagandha taken in a particular supplement (Articulin-F) along with other ingredients might improve arthritis symptoms. The impact of ashwagandha alone in osteoarthritis is unclear.
- Parkinson’s disease. Preliminary research suggests that a combination of herbs including ashwagandha improves Parkinson’s symptoms. The effect of ashwagandha alone in Parkinson’s is unknown.
- Liver problems.
- Swelling (inflammation).
- Inducing vomiting.
- Altering immune system function.
- Preventing the signs of aging.
- Other conditions.
Side Effects & Safety
Ashwagandha is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth short-term. The long-term safety of ashwagandha is not known. Large doses of ashwagandha might cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and vomiting.
It’s not known whether it’s safe to apply ashwagandha directly to the skin.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Do not use ashwagandha if you are pregnant. It is rated LIKELY UNSAFE during pregnancy. There is some evidence that ashwagandha might cause miscarriages. Not enough is known about the use of ashwagandha during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Diabetes: Ashwagandha might lower blood sugar levels. This could interfere with medications used for diabetes and cause blood sugar levels to go to low. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar closely.
High or low blood pressure: Ashwagandha might decrease blood pressure. This could cause blood pressure to go to low in people with low blood pressure; or interfere with medications used to treat high blood pressure. Ashwagandha should be used cautiously if you have low blood pressure or take medications for your blood pressure.
Stomach ulcers: Ashwagandha can irritate the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Don’t use ashwagandha if you have a stomach ulcer.
“Auto-immune diseases” such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other conditions: Ashwagandha might cause the immune system to become more active, and this could increase the symptoms of auto-immune diseases. If you have one of these conditions, it’s best to avoid using ashwagandha.
Surgery: Ashwagandha may slow down the central nervous system. Healthcare providers worry that anesthesia and other medications during and after surgery might increase this effect. Stop taking ashwagandha at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Thyroid disorders: Ashwagandha might increase thyroid hormone levels. Ashwagandha should be used cautiously or avoided if you have a thyroid condition or take thyroid hormone medications.
Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination
- Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants) interacts with ASHWAGANDHA
Ashwagandha seems to increase the immune system. Taking ashwagandha along with medications that decrease the immune system might decrease the effectiveness of medications that decrease the immune system.
Some medications that decrease the immune system include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), and others.
- Sedative medications (Benzodiazepines) interacts with ASHWAGANDHA
Ashwagandha might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Drugs that cause sleepiness and drowsiness are called sedatives. Taking ashwagandha along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.
Some of these sedative medications include clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and others.
- Sedative medications (CNS depressants) interacts with ASHWAGANDHA
Ashwagandha might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Taking ashwagandha along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.
Some sedative medications include clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), phenobarbital (Donnatal), zolpidem (Ambien), and others.
Minor Interaction Be watchful with this combination
- Thyroid hormone interacts with ASHWAGANDHA
The body naturally produces thyroid hormones. Ashwagandha might increase how much thyroid hormone the body produces. Taking ashwagandha with thyroid hormone pills might cause too much thyroid hormone in the body, and increase the effects and side effects of thyroid hormone.
The appropriate dose of ashwagandha depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for ashwagandha. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.