Ashwagandha: Benefits, How to Use & Side Effects

Clinical review: Manuel Reis
Registered Nurse

Ashwagandha (botanical name: Withania somnifera, common name: Indian Ginseng) is a medicinal plant with calming, anti-stress and anti-inflammatory properties. It is used to help improve physical and mental performance and to reduce anxiety. It can also be used for stress management or general fatigue

The part of the plant that is usually used is the root, which can be consumed in the form of tea, capsules or liquid. These forms can be found in herbal stores, natural health product stores, pharmacies, and some street markets. 

Ashwagandha should only be used under the supervision of a doctor or health professional who has experience with the use of medicinal plants. This is because when it is consumed in excess it can cause headaches or diarrhea. It is also not indicated for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

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Main health benefits

Ashwagandha has anti-hyperglycemic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, calming, and anxiolytic properties. So it can provide several health benefits, such as:

  • Reducing fatigue;
  • Reducing stress;
  • Increasing libido;
  • Improving memory;
  • Decreasing depressive symptoms;
  • Decreasing anxiety;
  • Increasing muscle strength;
  • Improving energy levels;
  • Boosting the immune system;
  • Controlling blood sugar levels;
  • Lowering bad cholesterol;
  • Fighting insomnia.

In addition, some studies also indicate that ashwagandha can help treat different types of cancer. However, more studies are still necessary to confirm its efficacy against malignant cells..

How to use Ashwagandha

The root is the part of the plant obtained when using this plant. It contains active substances that can be extracted and can be consumed in the form of tea, capsules, or a fluid extract.

The main forms of using ashwagandha are:

  • Capsules: take one pill of 500 mg, once or twice a day with meals;
  • Fluid extract: take between 2 and 4 ml (40 to 80 drops) diluted in water, once a day;
  • Ashwagandha tea: mix 1 teaspoon of dry Ashwagandha root in 120 ml of boiling water. Let it infuse for 15 minutes, strain, and then take it while it’s still warm. It is recommended that you drink one cup per day, for a maximum of six months.

The duration of the ashwagandha treatment depends on the doctor’s recommendation. 

Possible side effects 

Ashwagandha is safe when consumed in the quantities recommended by the doctor and for a maximum of six months. When consumed too frequently, in a dosage that is superior to what is recommended, or for more than six months, there may be some side effects such as stomach pain, diarrhea, or vomiting.

Some studies suggest that taking ashwagandha can cause liver disease, like hepatitis or jaundice. These types of conditions can start two to twelve weeks after the initial use of this medicinal plant. If these conditions appear, the symptoms will be yellow skin, yellow eyes, and intense itchiness in the body. 

Contraindications to consider

Ashwagandha should not be taken by pregnant or breastfeeding women, by people with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, or by people with stomach ulcers.  

In addition, ashwagandha may reduce blood pressure and interfere with blood pressure treatment in people with hypertension. It can also drastically reduce blood sugar levels, and can especially cause hypoglycemia in diabetics.

Because ashwagandha has a sedative effect, people who are already taking medication for anxiety or depression should avoid this medicinal plant, as it can cause excessive sleepiness. 

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Edited by Tua Saude editing team in March 2022. Clinical review completed by Manuel Reis - Registered Nurse in March 2022.

References

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Clinical review:
Manuel Reis
Registered Nurse
Manuel graduated in 2013 and is licensed to practice under the Ordem dos Enfermeiros de Portugal, with license #79026. He specializes in Advanced Clinical Phytotherapy.