Last update: June 11, 2024

Ashwagandha: The Complete Guide

Discover the ancient secrets of Ashwagandha, a cornerstone of traditional medicine renowned for its stress-relieving qualities. Explore its benefits in this complete guide.

Stephanie Wright

By Stephanie Wright, RN, BSN

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

Learn more about our editorial standards

Key takeaways

  • Ashwagandha is an ancient herb and powerful adaptogen with a long history of traditional use in Ayurvedic medicine
  • The potential benefits of ashwagandha include regulating mood and anxiety, boosting performance, and improving sleep
  • Ashwagandha supplements are available in tablets, capsules, powder extracts, and liquid extracts
  • Children and those pregnant or nursing should avoid taking ashwagandha

    What is ashwagandha?

    Ashwagandha, scientifically known as Withania somnifera, is a vital herb in traditional Ayurvedic medicine and has been revered for centuries. This shrub, native to the drier regions of India, the Middle East, and some parts of Africa, is characterized by its small yellow flowers and oval-shaped leaves.

    The roots of Ashwagandha, known for their medicinal properties, are dried and ground into a powder to create extracts. These extracts are then utilized in various forms, such as capsules, tablets, tinctures, and teas.

    Ashwagandha is celebrated for its adaptogenic properties, aiding the body in stress management [1]. Its potential benefits extend to supporting brain function [2], lowering blood sugar [3] and cortisol levels [4], and assisting in combating symptoms of anxiety and depression.

    An herb of many names

    Don't get confused by its various aliases. Ashwagandha, scientifically known as Withania somnifera, is also fondly referred to as 'Winter Cherry' and 'Indian Ginseng.'

    How does ashwagandha work in your body?

    What are some benefits of ashwagandha?

    Known as an adaptogenic herb, ashwagandha may help your body “adapt” to different forms of stress.

    1. Helps reduce stress and anxiety

      Clinical studies show that ashwagandha can reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety, as well as improve cognitive function. A study published in the journal Current Neuropharmacology found it reduced cortisol levels, a hormone released during times of stress. This means it can help your body respond better to stressful situations.

    2. Improves memory, focus, and concentration

      Ashwagandha may even significantly improve memory, focus, and concentration and reduce fatigue.

    3. May help reduce inflammation

      In addition to its benefits for cognitive function and mental health, ashwagandha may also help reduce inflammation and improve your physical health [5].

    4. Promotes restful sleep

      The importance of sleep cannot be understated. Studies have found that ashwagandha has a significant effect on improving sleep.

    Ashwagandha supplement formulations

    Delivery methods

    Ashwagandha supplements come in various delivery methods, each offering its own set of benefits and ways of consumption. Here's a brief overview of the different delivery methods:

    Choose a method that fits your routine

    Do not overlook the delivery method. Ashwagandha supplements come in tablets, capsules, soft gel, chewable, powders, and liquid forms—choose the one that best fits your daily routine to stay consistent.

    What to look for in ashwagandha supplements

    When selecting a supplement, several key factors must be considered to ensure you choose a high-quality product that effectively supports your health goals and overall well-being.

    • Dosage and potency

      The dosage of ashwagandha in supplements varies, so it's important to choose one that aligns with your specific needs. This includes considering your age, gender, and health status, like pregnancy or existing deficiencies. The ashwagandha formulation can impact its potency and bioavailability, which affects how effectively your body can absorb and use it.

    • Quantity and delivery method

      The delivery method is crucial. Ashwagandha supplements come in various forms, including tablets, capsules, powders, chewables, and liquid forms. Your choice may depend on factors like ease of swallowing, convenience for traveling, or personal preference regarding taste and texture. Also, evaluate the quantity of ashwagandha to determine how long it will last based on your daily requirements.

    • Quality and manufacturing

      Quality is paramount when selecting ashwagandha supplements. Look for products manufactured under strict quality control guidelines and those that have undergone third-party testing for purity and label accuracy. Certifications from recognized bodies can be a reliable indicator of a high-quality product. Additionally, consider the manufacturer's reputation and transparency in their production processes.


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    How and when should you take ashwagandha for maximum absorption?

    To get the most out of your ashwagandha supplement, it's crucial to consider the timing and method of consumption. The following dos and don'ts offer guidance on optimizing absorption, efficiently supporting your health and wellness, and minimizing potential discomfort.


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      Like with any supplement, take it with milk or food to avoid stomach upset.

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      Speak with your doctor before you start taking any supplements since they can interact with the other medications you are taking.


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      Avoid taking on an empty stomach to prevent gastric discomfort.

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      Do not mix with sedatives to avoid enhanced sedative effects.

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      Avoid taking simultaneously with other medications to prevent interactions; consult a healthcare provider.

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      Be cautious with immunosuppressants, anticoagulants, thyroid medications, antihypertensive drugs, and diabetes medications; consult a healthcare professional for advice.

    Who should take ashwagandha?

    Taking ashwagandha supplements has its potential benefits, but it may not be for everyone.

    Recommended dosage

    The recommended daily ashwagandha intake varies depending on age, sex, and specific life stages or conditions. Here are the recommended dosages for ashwagandha across various age groups.

    Side effects of excessive ashwagandha consumption

    While ashwagandha is renowned for its health benefits, it's important to be aware of its potential side effects:

    • Digestive Issues: Ashwagandha may cause digestive problems like stomach discomfort, diarrhea, or nausea. Rarely, some researchers have reported cases of liver injury that may be linked to Ashwagandha supplementation.
    • Sleepiness and Drowsiness: This herb can induce sleepiness or drowsiness. Caution is needed when driving or operating machinery.
    • Headaches: Some users might experience headaches. Monitoring and adjusting the dosage is crucial. Persistent headaches require consultation with a healthcare professional.
    • Allergic Reactions: Symptoms like skin rash, itching, or difficulty breathing may indicate an allergic reaction. Discontinue use and seek medical advice if these occur.

    Always consult your doctor

    If you're experiencing side effects, consult your healthcare provider. They may recommend a different ashwagandha formulation or adjust your dosage. Balancing your ashwagandha with any discomfort is crucial and should not be overlooked.

    Health made easy: your go-to resource for essential vitamins and supplements

    Frequently asked questions about ashwagandha (FAQ)

    Our library of expert-authored articles covers just about every question you might have about vitamins, minerals, and supplements — along with some you might not have known you had.

    Final thoughts

    Ashwagandha is an herbal remedy used in Ayurvedic medicine. It's a powerful adaptogen that can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve cognitive activity and memory, and boost the immune system. Ashwagandha also has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help protect against various diseases and conditions and improve physical performance.

    Sources and references

    1. Effects of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) on Stress and the Stress-Related Neuropsychiatric Disorders Anxiety, Depression, and Insomnia - PMC
    2. Ashwagandha in brain disorders: A review of recent developments - ScienceDirect
    3. Benefits of Ashwagandha and How Much To Take – Cleveland Clinic
    4. Effects of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) on Physical Performance: Systematic Review and Bayesian Meta-Analysis
    5. Ashwagandha: A Review of Clinical Use and Efficacy
    6. Ashwagandha | NCCIH
    7. Randomized, Double Blind, Placebo Controlled, Clinical Trial to Study Ashwagandha Administration in Participants Vaccinated Against COVID-19 on Safety, Immunogenicity, and Protection With COVID-19 Vaccine–A Study Protocol
    8. Ashwagandha: Is it helpful for stress, anxiety, or sleep? - Health Professional Fact Sheet


    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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    Get your personalized vitamin recommendations in less than 3 minutes.

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    Get your personalized vitamin recommendations in less than 3 minutes.

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