Last update: June 11, 2024

7 minute read

The Truth About Ashwagandha Side Effects

Uncover the potential side effects of ashwagandha and how to use it safely. Explore the benefits, risks, and key considerations to make informed decisions about adding ashwagandha to your wellness routine.

Stephanie Wright

By Stephanie Wright, RN, BSN

Edited by Dr. Dimitar Marinov, MD, MBA, PhD

Learn more about our editorial standards

If you're feeling stressed or anxious, you might have considered ashwagandha as a natural remedy, but do you know its potential side effects? Don't worry; we've got your back! In this blog post, we'll dive into the potential side effects of ashwagandha, its benefits, and how to use it safely. So, let's get to the 'root' of the matter and uncover the truth about Ashwagandha’s side effects.

Key takeaways

  • Ashwagandha offers to support stress reduction and immune support
  • Side effects may include gastrointestinal issues, sleepiness, blood pressure or sugar changes, and more
  • Cycle ashwagandha for best results and minimal long-term side effects

    What is Ashwagandha?

    Ashwagandha, scientifically known as Withania somnifera, is a small evergreen shrub native to India, North Africa, and the Middle East. It's been used for thousands of years to promote overall health and wellness in Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional Indian holistic healing system.

    Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen, which helps your body manage and adapt to stress by supporting the adrenal glands and balancing stress hormones. In addition, the plant's roots are also used to make various supplements, like capsules, powders, and tinctures.

    Research suggests that ashwagandha may help support anxiety, stress, sleep, cognitive function, and immune health. Furthermore, it may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which contribute to overall health and wellness.

    What are some side effects of ashwagandha?

    Below are some of the most common side effects of ashwagandha.

    1. Digestive issues

    Ashwagandha, known for its numerous benefits, may sometimes lead to digestive problems. Users may experience stomach discomfort, diarrhea, or nausea.

    A study conducted on 75 participants found that 6.7% of the participants reported digestive issues after consuming ashwagandha root extract for 60 days. To avoid these side effects, starting with a lower dose and gradually increasing it is essential, allowing your body to adjust.

    2. Sleepiness and drowsiness

    Some people experience sleepiness or drowsiness as a side effect of ashwagandha, which might be attributed to its calming properties. A small percentage of users (3.3%) reported drowsiness in an 8-week study with 64 participants.

    While this effect might benefit people struggling with insomnia, it could be inconvenient for others. Therefore, be cautious when driving or operating heavy machinery if you experience drowsiness after taking ashwagandha.

    3. Headaches

    Although ashwagandha is considered safe for most people, a few may experience headaches as a side effect. Therefore, monitoring your body's response and adjusting the dosage is essential. If headaches persist, consider consulting a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

    4. Allergic reactions

    Some people may have an allergic reaction to ashwagandha. Symptoms may include skin rash, itching, or difficulty breathing. If you experience these signs, discontinue use immediately and consult a healthcare professional.

    5. Lower blood pressure

    Ashwagandha has been observed to potentially lower blood pressure in some cases. For example, a study with 98 participants showed a significant reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure after eight weeks of ashwagandha supplementation.

    However, while this might benefit people with high blood pressure, it might pose risks for people who already have low blood pressure or are on medication for hypertension.

    6. Liver toxicity

    Although rare, there have been reports of liver toxicity associated with ashwagandha use. In a case study, a 32-year-old woman developed liver injury after consuming ashwagandha supplements for six weeks.

    VitaRx Tip

    If you have a history of liver problems or are taking medications that can affect the liver, consult your healthcare provider before using ashwagandha.

    7. Interactions with thyroid medications

    Ashwagandha may increase thyroid hormone levels, making it potentially problematic for people with thyroid issues or those taking thyroid medications. For example, a study found that ashwagandha supplementation increased T4 levels, which might lead to thyrotoxicosis in predisposed people.

    Therefore, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional if you have a thyroid condition or are on thyroid medications before using ashwagandha.

    8. Pregnancy and breastfeeding concerns

    Ashwagandha isn't recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, as its safety during these periods is not well-established. Animal studies have suggested potential side effects on fetal development. To ensure the health and safety of both mother and baby, it's best to avoid ashwagandha during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

    9 Interactions with antidepressants

    Ashwagandha may interact with antidepressant medications, leading to increased drowsiness or other side effects. If you're taking antidepressants, consult your healthcare provider before adding ashwagandha.

    10 Fertility concerns for men

    While ashwagandha has been associated with supporting male fertility, excessive intake may have the opposite effect. A study on 180 infertile men showed that ashwagandha supplementation supported sperm quality and fertility.

    However, it's crucial to stick to the recommended dosage and avoid overconsumption, as excessive amounts might potentially lead to side effects on fertility. Always consult a healthcare professional before starting any supplement regimen, especially if you have fertility concerns.

    Are there any long-term side effects of ashwagandha use?

    While ashwagandha is generally considered safe for most people, there is limited research on its long-term side effects. As a result, most studies on ashwagandha have been conducted over relatively short durations, usually ranging from a few weeks to a few months.

    In the studies conducted, ashwagandha has demonstrated a good safety profile with no significant long-term side effects reported. For instance, a 2009 study involving 75 participants taking ashwagandha root extract for 60 days showed no serious adverse effects.

    However, it's essential to approach long-term use with caution. Some potential concerns regarding long-term ashwagandha supplementation include the possibility of developing tolerance or experiencing unknown side effects over longer periods of time.

    Also, the long-term safety of ashwagandha in certain populations, like pregnant or breastfeeding women, is not well-established.

    Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

    Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about ashwagandha's side effects.

    Final thoughts

    As we reach the end of our exploration into the side effects of ashwagandha, it's essential to remember that this ancient herb has many potential benefits. Still, just like anything else, moderation is key.

    So before starting ashwagandha supplementation, consult your healthcare provider and responsibly embrace this adaptogenic herb's power. And as you embark on your journey with ashwagandha, don't forget to take it with a grain of laughter—because laughter is the best medicine, right?

    So, next time you're stressed, think of ashwagandha as your stress-busting support, always there to help you adapt and conquer. Here's to a healthier, happier, and more "a-adapt-o-genic" you!



    Stephanie Wright avatar

    Stephanie brings over 13 years of diverse nursing experience to the table, having honed her expertise in critical care, mental health, and utilization management. Her journey as a registered nurse across these various healthcare sectors underscores her adaptability and deep commitment to patient care.

    Fact checker

    Dr. Dimitar Marinov avatar

    Dr. Marinov has years of experience in scientific research and preventive and clinical medicine. His publications in peer-reviewed journals are on nutritional status, physical activity, and musculoskeletal disorders among adolescents.

    At VitaRx, we're not just passionate about our work — we take immense pride in it. Our dedicated team of writers diligently follows strict editorial standards, ensuring that every piece of content we publish is accurate, current, and highly valuable. We don't just strive for quality; we aim for excellence.

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