Ashwagandha's All the Rage These Days. Should You Be Taking It? (2023)

At the height of World War II, the USSR became obsessed with a berry.

Soviet scientists were intrigued by “the stimulating and tonic effects ofSchisandrachinensis,” more commonly known as the five-flavor berry, a vine plant endemic to the Russian Far East. The Nanai people — a group of hunter-gatherers some 10,000 strong — had sourced and consumed the berry for thousands of years. And half a century earlier, Russian topographers had cataloged their findings in Eurasia’s largely undeveloped basins, raving about the habitual use of medicinal plants.

The Nanai hunters, they reported back, ate the five-flavor berry “to reduce thirst, hunger and exhaustion, and to improve night vision.” Looking for any advantage possible in the two-front war against the Axis Powers, the USSR gave the berries to pilots and submarine crews. If the plant gave the Nanai a boost when hunting red deer and moose, they reasoned, it could give their soldiers more energy and focus when hunting enemy planes.

After the war, the Soviets doubled down on this sort of research and experimentation, carrying out over a thousand biomedicinal studies in the realm of Schisandrachinensis and the fruits, herbs and mushrooms similar to it — a family known as adaptogens, which are non-toxic in normal doses and lauded for their stress-relieving capabilities.

In the States, we’re familiar with vitamins, minerals and nootropics. But as the supplements industry continues to grow (from a market size of $163.9 billion today, to an estimated revenue forecast of $327.4 billion by 2030), adaptogens will play a massive role. The roots that were once the exclusive purview of the Far East (communities in India and China have also relied on various types of adaptogens for millennia) have now been capsulized for Brooklyn-based DTC labs, which regularly advertise on subways in soothing ’70s fonts.

Ashwagandha, an herb that’s long been associated with India’s alternative Ayurveda therapy, is perhaps the foremost darling of the adaptogen market. Google Trends data displays a steady increase in online interest (the search term “what is ashwagandha” has surged over the last five years), just as brands like Care/of, Moonjuice, Roman, Thorne and From Great Origins have begun to offer the plant in pill, root powder and tea bag variations.

The promises these companies make are manifold; buy a month’s worth of the supplement — or better yet, subscribe and save! — and you can expect life-changing results. Think: reduced fatigue, increased alertness, improved sexual wellness and bolstered cognitive function. (I lifted each one of those phrases from real branded copy.) But what’s the truth? Are adaptogens legit? And if you’re going to take the plunge, should you spend your cash on ashwagandha?

The scientific theory behind adaptogens is primarily concerned with the stress response. Basically, when we encounter a stressor (a workout class, a first date, a problem at work, etc.), the body goes through three distinct stages: alarm, resistance and exhaustion. The resistance phase is where the body pumps out a slew of helpful hormones that help the brain focus and the body meet the rigors of the moment. But that exhaustion phase has a nasty habit of creeping in earlier than we’d like, and especially as we age — it leads to poor focus and underperformance. You could call them “crashes.” And once stressors start to mount, the body compensates by releasing more cortisol, more often.

Cortisol-swamped, chronically-stressed, maladjusted people spend most hours of their days in fight-or-flight mode, battling through commutes, Zoom meetings, pick-up lines at their kids’ school, you name it. This is hell on the body, typically compounding weight gain and exacerbating insomnia.

Lifestyle changes and shifts in attitude/approach can turn the ship around. But so too, researchers say, can adaptogens. One study concluded: “Adaptogens exert an anti-fatigue effect that increases mental work capacity against a background of stress and fatigue, particularly in tolerance to mental exhaustion and enhanced attention.” And a traumatologist says: “Like a mini vaccine, some adaptogens appear to inoculate us to stress and help us cope.”

Translation: a regimen involving the right adaptogens (like Arctic root, Siberian ginseng and our old friend Schisandra) could help you ward off that unsavory “exhaustion” phase, while stabilizing the hormone stress response in the body. In moments of acute stress, they’ll help the body self-regulate; over time, the thinking goes, this would positively impact your focus, decision-making and happiness. Self-help gurus like to wax poetically that the only thing you can truly control in a situation is your response. Well: that response could be more sound with an adaptogenic advantage.

But while the medical community doesn’t deny the existence of adaptogens, it’s nowhere close to anointing them an anxiety cure-all. Ashwagandha, in particular, has a checkered record. For one, it’s closely linked to Ayurveda, which is pseudoscientific. Period.

There also just haven’t been enough double-blind placebo studies to confirm the dozen-plus claims supplement manufacturers blithely slap onto Instagram ads. The National Library of Medicine allows that ashwagandha is “possibly effective” at improving sleep quality and reducing stress in “some people.” That’s it. But will it improve your running, lovemaking or memory recall? There’s no unanimous consent there; and it’s unlikely to arrive, considering adaptogens are not regulated by the FDA.

Obviously, this puts consumers in a tricky spot. Almost every study that’s linked ashwagandha to some impressive health feat (enhancing VO2 max, vanquishing depression, boosting testosterone), involves participants taking somewhere between 250 and 1,000mg of the herb each day (a standard capsule is usually in the 500mg-range) for two or three months. If you want to test the root out for yourself, you have to buy at least sixty days’-worth, and even then, depending on your lifestyle, there’s a good chance you register absolutely zero change in any relevant department. (Sort the review sections on some of these products by “lowest rated” and you’ll find page after page of verified buyers begging people not to waste their money.)

Still, there’s a chance that the botanical could prove short-term support, with long-term benefits. Some brands seem to almost admit that it’s a crapshoot whether it will work for you or not, offering a “you might as well” pitch. One page reads: “It’s not commonly used in Western medicine, and larger scale studies are needed to prove clinical efficacy. Still, ashwaghanda’s appeal in this increasingly hectic world is clear.”

(Video) How to Reduce Stress | Improves Nerve Strength | Ashwagandha Powder | Dr. Manthena's Health Tips

Yes, the world is hectic. Stressors are everywhere. Adapting is your best bet at retaining some semblance of equilibrium. Does adapting have to mean using adaptogens? Are you really as stressed as a hunter-gatherer stalking a moose, or a submarine captain closing in on a war ship? That’s up for you to decide. There are a number of “natural stress-relievers” already available to you, and remember, many of them for free.

But if you’re convinced you need the extra boost, can clear it with your doctor (if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic or have thyroid issues, stay away) and don’t mind spending a few months as a guinea pig, then give it a try. Just don’t be surprised if you stumble upon the same knowledge the Soviets reached decades ago: there are no superpills.

More Like This

You Might Have "Social Jetlag." Here's How to Snap Out of It.

(Video) शिलाजीत और अश्वगंधा : stamina boost के लिए | Dr Preeti Chhabra

Why Is the Internet Obsessed With the Size of Zac Efron’s Jaw?

This article was featured in the InsideHook newsletter. Sign up now.

(Video) Ashwagandha Supplement Review | Does It Work?

FAQs

What happens when you take ashwagandha daily? ›

Ashwagandha is a medicinal herb that may offer several health benefits, such as improved blood sugar, inflammation, mood, memory, stress and anxiety, as well as a boost in muscle strength and fertility. Dosages vary depending on your needs, but 250–500 mg per day for at least one month seem effective.

When should you take ashwagandha? ›

Studies on ashwagandha have used dosages of 250–600 mg/day of a root extract. The most common dosing protocol is 600 mg/day divided into two doses, with one taken in the morning with breakfast and the other in the evening. Evidence suggests that 600 mg/day is superior to lower doses for improving sleep.

How long can you take ashwagandha? ›

When taken by mouth: Ashwagandha is possibly safe when used for up to 3 months. The long-term safety of ashwagandha is not known. Large doses of ashwagandha might cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and vomiting. Rarely, liver problems might occur.

Who should not take ashwagandha? ›

Ashwagandha is considered safe for most people. However, pregnant or breastfeeding women, as well as people with autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes and Hashimoto's thyroiditis, may need to avoid it.

When should I stop taking ashwagandha? ›

Robinett recommends taking a break from ashwagandha once you've been taking the herb for about a year, to check in with your body and assess your needs. “The goal with plant-based medicine is to repair our system and get back to a place where we're balanced on our own,” she says.

How long should you take a break from ashwagandha? ›

You should always take a break for 2 - 4 weeks before beginning your daily intake again. Large doses or prolonged use of ashwagandha may cause issues with the stomach (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), as well as potential liver issues--although this is exceptionally unlikely.

How long does it take for ashwagandha to kick in? ›

Ashwagandha can take anywhere from 2-3 days to several weeks to work. Current research suggests it may take ten or more weeks to achieve maximum benefits related to stress and anxiety reduction [5].

Can ashwagandha cause weight gain? ›

Ashwagandha helps in reducing muscle weight related to stress. It does not lead to weight gain.

How long does it take for ashwagandha to work for anxiety? ›

When used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, ashwagandha can begin to positively impact the body within two weeks. However, depending on your individual health, it may take a few months to experience or even notice big changes. The quality of your ashwagandha supplement is what will make the biggest difference.

What are the negative effects of ashwagandha? ›

People can usually tolerate ashwagandha in small-to-medium doses. However, there have not been enough long-term studies to fully examine the possible side effects. Taking large amounts of ashwagandha can lead to digestive upset, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. This may be due to irritation of the intestinal mucosa.

What does ashwagandha do to the brain? ›

Extracts of ashwagandha may protect the brain from damage caused by a wide range of toxins, injuries, and stroke. Oral intake improves cognitive performance in healthy adults and in those with signs of cognitive decline. Ashwagandha reduces stress and anxiety, and relieves symptoms of depression.

What are the 12 benefits of ashwagandha? ›

Here are the top 15 health benefits of ashwagandha:
  • Reduces Stress and Anxiety. Ashwagandha is known to help reduce stress and anxiety. ...
  • Enhances Cognitive Function. ...
  • Boosts Energy Levels. ...
  • Regulates Blood Sugar Levels. ...
  • Lowers Blood Pressure. ...
  • Improves Cardiac Health. ...
  • Reduces Inflammation and Pain. ...
  • Supports Immunity.
Oct 17, 2022

Can ashwagandha cause hair loss? ›

2. Can Ashwagandha cause hair loss? While Ashwagandha has many advantages for healthy hair growth, some people report experiencing hair loss after beginning Ashwagandha hair loss treatment.

Can ashwagandha cause blood clots? ›

Ashwagandha is extremely effective in treating various heart ailments due to its strong antioxidative nature. It strengthens the heart muscles, prevents lipid build up in the blood vessels, and hence reduces the risk of heart attacks, heart blocks, blood clots, etc.

Can ashwagandha make anxiety worse? ›

You could end up doing more harm than good. Ashwagandha, for example, may increase thyroid hormone levels, which could cause fatigue, anxiety, shortness of breath and other problems.

Can ashwagandha be addictive? ›

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is one of the most popular herbs used in Ayurvedic Medicine. It is known as an energy booster, and many prefer it to drinking coffee, because it doesn't give you the jitters, interfere with sleep, and is not addictive.

Does ashwagandha affect heart rate? ›

Studies show ashwagandha reduces cortisol levels in your body, reducing stress and its symptoms like elevated blood pressure and heart rate. It also helps block nervous system activity associated with conditions like generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia, and clinical depression.

Can ashwagandha cause high blood pressure? ›

People with high blood pressure: Studies suggest that ashwagandha has a blood pressure-lowering effect (Andallu, 2000). This effect could potentially be a problem for people with either high or low blood pressure.

Should you take ashwagandha before bed? ›

Do I take Ashwagandha in the morning or at night? Because this multifaceted herb has numerous benefits for mind and body, it can be taken morning or night — but, Ashwagandha's potent relaxation and sleep-enhancing benefits make it perfect for consuming before bed (enter FOCL Night).

Is ashwagandha good for belly fat? ›

Rich in antioxidants

Ashwagandha is full of antioxidants that are essential for weight loss and overall well-being. These antioxidants speed up your metabolism, decrease inflammation and thus help in burning the stored fat in your body.

Is ashwagandha hard on liver? ›

The widely used medicinal herb Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) has been recently reported to cause liver damage. Withanone is a major metabolite of Ashwagandha. Withanone was found to cause DNA damage. Withanone forms adducts with amines and thiols.

Does ashwagandha help with sleep? ›

Ashwagandha root extract is a natural compound with sleep-inducing potential, well tolerated and improves sleep quality and sleep onset latency in patients with insomnia at a dose of 300 mg extract twice daily.

Does ashwagandha calm you down? ›

Several studies have shown that ashwagandha supplements may help relieve stress and anxiety. In a small study with 58 participants, those who took 250 or 600 mg of ashwagandha extract for 8 weeks had significantly reduced perceived stress and levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared with those who took a placebo.

Is ashwagandha good for panic attacks? ›

Taking an Ashwagandha dosage for anxiety can potentially give you a feeling of balance and control whilst reducing symptoms of anxiety. An Ashwagandha dosage for anxiety could potentially reduce the severity of panic attacks or start to prevent them if taken consistently.

What does ashwagandha do for females? ›

At least one clinical study indicates ashwagandha can benefit women experiencing sexual dysfunction. The administration of ashwagandha resulted in significant improvements in arousal, lubrication, orgasm and satisfaction, as self-reported by the participants.

What are the 12 benefits of ashwagandha? ›

Here are the top 15 health benefits of ashwagandha:
  • Reduces Stress and Anxiety. Ashwagandha is known to help reduce stress and anxiety. ...
  • Enhances Cognitive Function. ...
  • Boosts Energy Levels. ...
  • Regulates Blood Sugar Levels. ...
  • Lowers Blood Pressure. ...
  • Improves Cardiac Health. ...
  • Reduces Inflammation and Pain. ...
  • Supports Immunity.
Oct 17, 2022

How long does it take for ashwagandha to start working? ›

Ashwagandha can take anywhere from 2-3 days to several weeks to work. Current research suggests it may take ten or more weeks to achieve maximum benefits related to stress and anxiety reduction [5].

What does ashwagandha do for female? ›

What are the benefits of ashwagandha for women? In addition to helping the body adapt to stress, ashwagandha has many benefits for women including gentle hormone balancing and reproductive support. It also assists with improving mood and supporting cognitive function.

Does ashwagandha help hair growth? ›

Ashwagandha has nutrients such as protein, iron, vitamin C, tyrosine and potassium. These are essential for hair growth. Ashwagandha also helps in the delivery of these nutrients to your hair follicles by dilating the blood vessels that in turn improve blood circulation.

Is ashwagandha good for your heart? ›

Ashwagandha-categorised as Rasayanas, and described to promote health and longevity and Arjuna primarily for heart ailments. coronary artery disease, heart failure, hypercholesterolemia, anginal pain and can be considered as a useful drug for coronary artery disease, hypertension and ischemic cardiomyopathy.

Does ashwagandha give you energy? ›

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is one of the most popular herbs used in Ayurvedic Medicine. It is known as an energy booster, and many prefer it to drinking coffee, because it doesn't give you the jitters, interfere with sleep, and is not addictive.

How does ashwagandha affect blood pressure? ›

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.

Should you take ashwagandha before bed? ›

Do I take Ashwagandha in the morning or at night? Because this multifaceted herb has numerous benefits for mind and body, it can be taken morning or night — but, Ashwagandha's potent relaxation and sleep-enhancing benefits make it perfect for consuming before bed (enter FOCL Night).

Can you have withdrawal from ashwagandha? ›

You could use herbal medicine to reduce anxiety and treat insomnia. Digestive upset is a downside to ashwagandha. So is withdrawal.

Does ashwagandha help you sleep? ›

Ashwagandha root extract is a natural compound with sleep-inducing potential, well tolerated and improves sleep quality and sleep onset latency in patients with insomnia at a dose of 300 mg extract twice daily.

Can ashwagandha cause weight gain? ›

Ashwagandha helps in reducing muscle weight related to stress. It does not lead to weight gain.

Does ashwagandha increase facial hair in female? ›

Check to see if your collagen complex or hair vitamin has ashwagandha. Not only can it cause hair loss but it can grow facial hair on women.

Does ashwagandha reverse GREY hair? ›

Reverses Premature Greying Of Hair

You can find an amino acid called 'Tyrosine' in ashwagandha that helps in stimulating the melanin production in your hair follicles. This helps you restore the lost melanin and reverse your premature hair greying.

Who needs ashwagandha? ›

Ashwagandha is a safe supplement for most people, although its long-term effects are unknown. A review of 69 studies found that ashwagandha root appears to be safe and effective for managing certain health conditions, including stress, anxiety, and insomnia ( 1 ).

Is ashwagandha good for face? ›

It is absolutely safe to apply Ashwagandha on the face. It can be used as a face pack with other ingredients or in the form of a facial toner for refreshing effects.

Videos

1. The Benefits of Ashwagandha
(Dr. Eric Berg DC)
2. Why is Ashwagandha a miracle herb? | Food For Thought
(Hindustan Times)
3. 7 Signs You Have ABNORMALLY HIGH Testosterone Levels
(Teachingmensfashion)
4. Benefits & Medicinal Uses Of Ashwagandha | Veda Vaidhyam #15 | TV5 News
(TV5 News )
5. 4 things you should do before Workout to get Results
(FitMuscle TV)
6. Andrew Huberman Talks About Testosterone Optimization
(PowerfulJRE)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Lidia Grady

Last Updated: 01/11/2023

Views: 5910

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (45 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Lidia Grady

Birthday: 1992-01-22

Address: Suite 493 356 Dale Fall, New Wanda, RI 52485

Phone: +29914464387516

Job: Customer Engineer

Hobby: Cryptography, Writing, Dowsing, Stand-up comedy, Calligraphy, Web surfing, Ghost hunting

Introduction: My name is Lidia Grady, I am a thankful, fine, glamorous, lucky, lively, pleasant, shiny person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.