- Side Effects
- Drug Interactions
- Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
- What Else to Know
Generic Name: ashwagandha
Brand and Other Names: Indian Ginseng, Withania, Withania somnifera
Drug Class: Adaptogens, Herbals
What is Ashwagandha, and what is it used for?
Ashwagandha is the Indian name of the evergreen shrub Withania somnifera (winter cherry) that grows in Asia, Australia, Middle East and Africa. It grows wild in most of these places, but is also cultivated in India and used as a medicinal plant in the Indian medicine system, Ayurveda. Ashwagandha is considered an herbal adaptogen; adaptogens help people adapt to and manage stress, anxiety and fatigue, and are believed to enhance overall health.
Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicinal preparations since ancient times. The name is derived from Sanskrit, in which “ashwa” means horse and “gandha” means smell. Together, it may be interpreted to mean that ashwagandha provides the strength, vigor and stamina of a horse.
The different parts of ashwagandha plant are consumed in various forms or topically applied to treat countless conditions, and as a tonic to improve general physical and mental health, energy and youthfulness.
As an Ayurvedic approach to attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), ashwagandha has been shown to improve reaction time in children with ADHD.
The various parts of the plants, including leaves, fruits, seeds and dried roots are used to treat many ailments in traditional medicine. In the Ayurvedic system, the dried and powdered root is an ingredient in medicinal preparations used to treat many ailments including male impotence, inflammatory conditions and wasting diseases.
In Africa, the Maasai tribe people use the leaf juice to treat conjunctivitis, and in other places, people use the root as an aphrodisiac and to promote uterine contractions, and the berries and bark infusions to treat skin conditions.
The chemicals in Ashwagandha may have a sedative effect on the brain, and help relieve stress and anxiety. Ashwagandha may have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, decrease blood pressure and cholesterol, boost the immune system, reduce fatigue and increase sperm count. There is, however, insufficient scientific research to support many of its uses.
In the United States, ashwagandha is not listed as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) for any uses in conventional food products, nor does it appear in FDA’s GRAS Notice Inventory database. Ashwagandha is permitted, however, for use as a dietary supplement component.
- Do not take if you are on high blood pressure (hypertension) medications; ashwagandha may further reduce blood pressure
- Do not take ashwagandha if you are pregnant; may induce uterine contraction and miscarriage
- Avoid if you have hyperthyroidism; ashwagandha may increase thyroid function
- Ashwagandha may irritate the gastrointestinal tract; use with caution
- Ashwagandha may decrease blood sugar levels; use with caution if you are on diabetic medications
- Use with caution if you have any autoimmune condition; ashwagandha may boost immune activity and aggravate the condition
What are the side effects of ashwagandha?
Side effects of ashwagandha with large doses may include:
This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug.
Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
What are the dosages of ashwagandha?
There isn't enough reliable information to know what might be an appropriate dose of ashwagandha. Natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Follow directions on product labels and consult a healthcare professional before using.
- 1-6 gram whole herb orally each day
- 3 cups each day (1-6 grams whole herb)
- 2-4 ml orally three times daily
What drugs interact with ashwagandha?
Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking, who can advise you on any possible drug interactions. Never begin taking, suddenly discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.
- Ashwagandha has no known severe interactions with any drugs.
- Ashwagandha has no known serious interactions with any drugs.
- Ashwagandha has no known moderate interactions with any drugs.
- Ashwagandha has mild interactions with at least 29 different drugs.
The drug interactions listed above are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information on drug interactions, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.
It is important to always tell your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, as well as the dosage for each, and keep a list of the information. Check with your doctor or health care provider if you have any questions about the medication.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Do not use ashwagandha during pregnancy; there is some evidence that it might cause miscarriages.
- There isn’t enough information about ashwagandha use while breastfeeding; avoid use.
What else should I know about ashwagandha?
- Ashwagandha is generally safe for adults if used for short periods.
- Natural products are not always necessarily safe; exercise caution.
- Always check labels for ingredients; ashwagandha formulations may contain multiple other ingredients.
- Ashwagandha is marketed as a dietary supplement and does not require extensive pre-marketing approval from the FDA. There may sometimes be discrepancy between the labeling and the actual ingredients and their amounts.
- The FDA has warned against the use of certain unregistered ashwagandha products because they haven’t been evaluated by the FDA for safety. Make sure you only use supplements registered with the FDA.
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Ashwagandha is an herbal adaptogen used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat various ailments and to improve general physical and mental health, energy, and youthfulness. It has also been shown to improve reaction time in children with ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder). Side effects of ashwagandha with large doses may include stomach upset, diarrhea, vomiting, and liver problems (rare). Do not take if you are on high blood pressure (hypertension) medications. Do not take ashwagandha if you are pregnant because of risk of miscarriage. Avoid use if you are breastfeeding.
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