Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera or Indian ginseng, is a type of plant in the nightshade family that is commonly cultivated in India, China, Nepal and Yemen. Used in many forms of traditional medicine for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments, research has begun uncovering a slew of ashwagandha side effects — both good and not so good — in recent years.
So what does ashwagandha do for the body? This article takes a look at the potential ashwagandha benefits and side effects, plus how much you should take for maximum effectiveness.
Positive Ashwagandha Side Effects
1. Enhances Sexual Function
One of the most impressive ashwagandha side effects for men is its ability to enhance sexual function and fertility. A pilot study conducted in India found that administering ashwagandha to men with low sperm concentrations increased sperm count by 167 percent, boosted sperm motility by 57 percent and enhanced semen volume by 53 percent.
Plus, it may also aid in the treatment of sexual dysfunction for women. In fact, one study in BioMed Research International showed that taking ashwagandha was effective at improving several aspects of sexual function in women, including arousal, sexual satisfaction and lubrication.
2. Fights Depression and Anxiety
The ashwagandha plant is well-known for its ability to boost mood and decrease anxiety. According to an animal model conducted by the Department of Pharmacology at Banaras Hindu University, ashwagandha was found to reduce markers of both depression and anxiety and was comparable to prescription medications used to treat these conditions.
3. Possesses Cancer-Fighting Properties
Although current research is limited to in vitro studies and animal models, one of the most promising ashwagandha extract side effects is its ability to fight cancer growth and slow tumor progression. One in vitro study in PLoS One even noted that ashwagandha is able to selectively kill off cancer cells, which could potentially be effective in the treatment of cancer. However, more research is needed to evaluate the anti-cancer effects of ashwagandha in humans.
4. Reduces Joint Pain
Some studies have found that ashwagandha may help decrease joint pain and could aid in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, a condition characterized by swelling and stiffness of the joints. One study out of India showed that ashwagandha helped improve pain, tenderness and swelling of the joints in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Plus, another 2016 study also found that ashwagandha reduced knee joint pain and stiffness in 60 participants.
5. Improves Thyroid Function
Ashwagandha is often used to enhance thyroid function, especially for those with thyroid disorders like hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s disease. A recent 2018 study found that taking 600 milligrams of ashwagandha for eight weeks helped normalize thyroid levels in people with hypothyroidism. Another study in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine also showed that ashwagandha had thyroid-enhancing properties, which could potentially aid in the treatment of underactive thyroid.
6. Protects Cognitive Health
Early research suggests that ashwagandha can help protect cognitive health and improve memory to prevent neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s. According to one 2011 review, “There are dozens of studies that show that ashwagandha slows, stops, reverses or removes neuritic atrophy and synaptic loss.” The review also notes that ashwagandha could be used to treat disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, although more research in humans is needed.
Negative Ashwagandha Side Effects
Although there are plenty of beneficial side effects of ashwagandha, there are some negative ashwagandha root side effects to consider as well. So what are the side effects of ashwagandha?
When used as directed, ashwagandha is considered safe for consumption. However, in some cases, it may cause symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. If you experience these or any other ashwagandha negative side effects, discontinue use and consult with your doctor.
Taking large amounts can also trigger ashwagandha thyroid side effects, especially in those with hyperthyroidism, because of the plant’s ability to increase the activity of thyroid hormones in the body. This can cause symptoms like mood swings, irritability, excessive sweating, unintentional weight loss and irregular heartbeat.
Ashwagandha is also not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding as there is limited research available on its safety. Additionally, it may interfere with certain medications, so it’s best to discuss with your doctor before starting supplementation if you have any underlying health conditions.
How to Avoid Negative Ashwagandha Side Effects
In order to get the most from your supplement, be sure to use as directed and follow the instructions for how to take ashwagandha carefully. It’s also advisable to start with a low dose and work your way up to monitor and assess your tolerance.
Additionally, be sure to select a high-quality supplement to maximize the health benefits of ashwagandha while also preventing ashwagandha capsules side effects. Buy from a reputable retailer, read the ashwagandha reviews from other consumers and check the ingredients label to pick a product that is free of chemicals, additives and fillers. It’s also important to look for supplements that contain between 1 percent and 10 percent withanolides, which are the main phytochemicals found in ashwagandha.
If you do experience any ashwagandha root or ashwagandha tea side effects, consider decreasing your dosage to see if symptoms persists. For serious side effects, discontinue use and consult with your doctor.
How Much Ashwagandha Is Safe?
So how much ashwagandha should you take per day? Is it safe to take ashwagandha daily? And how long does it take for ashwagandha to start working?
Although there’s no official recommended ashwagandha dosage, many recommend taking around 300–500 milligrams per day and working your way up to around 1,000–1,500 milligrams daily. Although many sources advise taking doses as high as 6,000 milligrams per day, it’s best to stick to a moderate dosage unless under the guidance of a trusted health care practitioner.
Like all supplements, it’s important to use ashwagandha as directed to prevent potential side effects. It’s also recommended to start with a low dosage and work your way up slowly to assess your tolerance.
Ashwagandha is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Additionally, if you have any underlying health conditions or take any medications, it’s best to talk to your doctor before starting supplementation. In particular, ashwagandha may interfere with medications used to lower blood sugar, reduce blood pressure or treat thyroid problems.
If you experience any ashwagandha side effects, consider decreasing your dosage or consult with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment for you.
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