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.

Imagem ilustrativa número 1

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. 

Was this information helpful?

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


  • NIRUPAMA; R.; et al. In vitro and in vivo studies on the hypoglycaemic potential of ashwagandha /Ehitania somnifera) root. Biology. 2014
  • PALLIYAGURU, D. L.; et al. Withania somnifera: from prevention to treatment of cancer. Mol Nutr Food Res. 60. 6; 1342-1353, 2016
Show more references
  • AMBIYE, V. R.; et al. Clinical Evaluation of the Spermatogenic Activity of the Root Extract of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in Oligospermic Males: A Pilot Study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013. 571420, 2013
  • CHOUDHARY, D.; et al. Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Functions. J Diet Suppl. 14. 6; 599-612, 2017
  • DONGRE, A.; et al. Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Improving Sexual Function in Women: A Pilot Study. Biomed Res Int. 2015. 284154, 2015
  • SENGUPTA, P.; et al. Role of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) in the management of male infertility. Reprod Biomed Online. 36. 3; 311-326, 2018
  • DURG, S.; et al. Withania somnifera (Indian ginseng) in diabetes mellitus: A systematic review and meta-analysis of scientific evidence from experimental research to clinical application. Phytother Res. 34. 5; 1041-1059, 2020
  • KASHANI, L; AKHONDZADEH, S. Female Infertility and Herbal Medicine. Journal of Medicinal Plants. 16. 3-7, 2017
  • HALDER, B.; THAKUR, S. S. Withania somnifera Has Potential to Treat Cancer. In: Kaul S., Wadhwa R. (eds) Science of Ashwagandha: Preventive and Therapeutic Potentials. Cham: Springer, 2017. 213-226.
  • SINGH, Narendra; et al. An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 8. 5; 208–213, 2011
  • PINGALI, Usharani; et al. Effect of standardized aqueous extract of Withania somnifera on tests of cognitive and psychomotor performance in healthy human participants. Pharmacognosy Res. 6. 1; 12-8, 2014
  • HENLEY, Aine Brigette; et al. Withania somnifera Root Extract Enhances Chemotherapy through ‘Priming’. PLoS One. 12. 1; e0170917, 2017
  • KURAPATI, K. R.; et al . Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) reverses β-amyloid1-42 induced toxicity in human neuronal cells: implications in HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). PLoS One. 16. 8(10); e77624, 2013
  • VISAVAIYA, Nishant P.; et al. Hypocholesteremic and antioxidant effects of Withania somnifera (Dunal) in hypercholesteremic rats. Phytomedicine. 14. 2-3; 136-42, 2007
  • MIKOLAI, Jeremy; et al. In vivo effects of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract on the activation of lymphocytes. J Altern Complement Med. 15. 4; 423-30, 2009
  • KHAN, Mahmood Ahmad; et al. Effect of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) root extract on amelioration of oxidative stress and autoantibodies production in collagen-induced arthritic rats. J Complement Integr Med. 12. 2; 117-25, 2015
  • SANDHU, Jaspal Singh; et al. Effects of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) and Terminalia arjuna (Arjuna) on physical performance and cardiorespiratory endurance in healthy young adults. Int J Ayurveda Res. 1. 3; 144-9, 2010
  • NOSHAHR, Zahra Samadi; et al. Protective effects of Withania somnifera root on inflammatory markers and insulin resistance in fructose-fed rats. Rep Biochem Mol Biol. 3. 2; 62-7, 2015
  • ANDRADE, C.; et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled evaluation of the anxiolytic efficacy ff an ethanolic extract of withania somnifera. Indian J Psychiatry. 42. 3; 295-301, 2000
  • WANKHeDE, Sachin; et al. Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 12. 43, 2015
  • AHMAD, M. K.; et al. Withania somnifera improves semen quality by regulating reproductive hormone levels and oxidative stress in seminal plasma of infertile males. Fertil Steril. 94. 3; 989-96, 2010
  • CHANDRASEKHAR, K.; KAPOOR, J.; ANISHETTY, S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. J Psychol Med. 34. 3; 255-62, 2012
  • ANDALLU, B.; RADHIKA, B. Hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic effect of winter cherry (Withania somnifera, Dunal) root. Indian J Exp Biol. 38. 6; 607-9, 2000
  • MAHDI, A. A; et al. Withania somnifera Improves Semen Quality in Stress-Related Male Fertility. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011. 576962, 2009
  • AGNIHOTRI, Akshay P.; et al. Effects of Withania somnifera in patients of schizophrenia: A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled pilot trial study. Indian J Pharmacol. 45. 4; 417–418, 2013
  • RAUT, Ashwinikumar A.; et al. Exploratory study to evaluate tolerability, safety, and activity of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in healthy volunteers. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 3. 3; 111-4, 2012
  • MIRJALILI, Mohammad Hossein; et al. Steroidal lactones from Withania somnifera, an ancient plant for novel medicine. Molecules. 14. 7; 2373-93, 2009
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.