Your Ashwagandha Questions Answered

08/19/2021 | 4 min. read

Dr. Drew Sinatra

Dr. Drew Sinatra

Not that long ago, few people had even heard of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), let alone figured out how to pronounce and spell it. Now, it is one of the top-selling herbal supplements—and for good reason. 

Stress levels are at an all-time high, and ashwagandha helps blunt the adverse effects of stress. It is a proven natural remedy for anxiety and insomnia and has also been shown to boost focus, concentration, mood, and immune function. 

If you are looking for solutions for stress and anxiety and have questions about ashwagandha, read on. 

How Much Ashwagandha Should I Take?

It depends on the product. Ashwagandha is available in several forms, including bulk powder, liquid extracts, tablets, and capsules. Many products are whole-root extracts in strengths ranging from 300–1,000 mg (the average dose is 500–600 mg per day). Other products include both roots and leaves and are standardized for bioactive constituents. For example, I often recommend a root and leaf extract, which is standardized for 10% withanolide glycosides and has a suggested daily dose of 125 mg. Bottom line, buy from a trusted company and use as directed.

Do I Take Ashwagandha in the Morning or Night?

I usually recommend taking ashwagandha at night before bed, as it helps with relaxation and sleep. But it can also be taken during the day. It is really a matter of personal preference. 

How Does Ashwagandha Make You Feel?

Everyone responds differently, but what I hear most often from my patients is that ashwagandha helps them feel calmer and less anxious. Many report that it also enhances sleep and mental clarity. The effects are subtle—ashwagandha alone can’t make you feel cool, calm, and collected. It simply improves your body’s resilience to stress.

How Long Does Ashwagandha Take to Work?

Most people notice benefits in the first month of regular use. Some report better sleep and ability to handle stress within the first week or two while others find that the effects improve slowly over weeks to months. I always recommend sticking with a supplement for at least two and preferably three months to give it ample time to take effect. 

Can You Take Ashwagandha Daily?

Yes. In virtually all of the clinical trials, ashwagandha was taken every day. Taking it every other day or only when you’re feeling stressed may work, but there is no guarantee, as sporadic use has not been well studied. These studies, which lasted several weeks to months, also showed that it is safe to take ashwagandha daily. 

What Are the Side Effects of Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is generally well tolerated. Gastrointestinal side effects such as stomach upset, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting have been reported, especially with higher doses. Rare cases of liver problems have also been reported, but this is likely due to contaminants in shoddy products rather than the herb itself. Some claim that ashwagandha can cause headaches, acne, weight gain, and high blood pressure, but valid support for these purported side effects is thin to nonexistent. 

Can Kids Take Ashwagandha? 

There hasn’t been much research involving children. However, ashwagandha-fortified milk has been given to children to promote growth, and a small clinical trial revealed that it improved weight, endurance, and strength in children ages 3 to 12. Ashwagandha supplements for kids are available. If you want to try it, work closely with your child’s pediatrician.

Does Ashwagandha Interact With Any Drugs?

Ashwagandha has few documented interactions with medications or supplements. It’s best to avoid it if you are on an immunosuppressant drug, since it boosts immune function and could potentially reduce the effectiveness of the drug. I wouldn’t recommend it in conjunction with a sedative like Valium or Ativan, as the compounding effect of ashwagandha plus a sedative could make you too sleepy or spaced out. 

You may have heard that you should not take ashwagandha with Zoloft, Lexapro, and other antidepressants, or that ashwagandha affects birth control pills. Although I can find no solid research to support either of these claims, it’s best to discuss this with your doctor. 

Can You Take Ashwagandha With Other Supplements?

There have been no interactions with vitamins, minerals, probiotics, essential fatty acids, and most other supplements. It is perfectly fine to take ashwagandha with melatonin at bedtime to help you sleep. It is also acceptable to use other stress-reducing supplements such as L-theanine and GABA with ashwagandha. 

Who Should Not Take Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is not recommended for women who are pregnant so you should consult a doctor if you are pregnant or nursing. You may have heard that it should not be used by anyone with a thyroid condition, autoimmune disease, or prostate cancer. It does stimulate thyroid hormone production to some degree, so it’s probably best to avoid it if you have hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). On the other hand, 600 mg a day has been shown to improve hypothyroidism (low thyroid). 

Warnings against ashwagandha for patients with autoimmune diseases or prostate cancer are theoretically valid, since the herb enhances immune function and it may slightly raise testosterone levels, which could fuel hormone-sensitive prostate cancer. However, neither is proven, and ashwagandha is actually being studied as a therapy for the treatment of both conditions. When in doubt, talk to your doctor.

Give Ashwagandha a Try

Stress levels are at an all-time high. A 2021 Harris Poll revealed that 84% of US adults experienced feelings associated with prolonged stress such as anxiety, sadness, or anger. Give ashwagandha a try—and let me know how it works for you.

Dr. Drew Sinatra

Meet Dr. Drew Sinatra

Dr. Drew Sinatra is a board-certified naturopathic doctor and self-described “health detective” with a passion for promoting natural healing, wellness, and improving quality of life by addressing the root cause of illness in patients of all ages. His vibrant practice focuses on treating the whole person (mind, body, and spirit) and finding missed connections between symptoms and health issues that are often overlooked by conventional medicine.

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