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Side Effects Of Ashwagandha You Should Know



Side Effects of Ashwagandha

No major side effects have been reported within the recommended dosage range of 300-1200 mg Ashwagandha extract per day. High doses could worsen acidity, ulcers, skin rashes, and anxiety. Very high levels of dosage (450 - 1500 mg/kg) of pure alkaloid extract could be toxic. Pregnant women, and those with hyperthyroidism, low blood sugar, or acute liver problems must exercise caution.

Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicinal system, recommends ashwagandha or Withania somnifera as a key herb to be used as a daily tonic to increase vitality and longevity. The recommended dosage is 3–12 g daily of ashwagandha root or leaf powder, or 300–1200 mg daily of ashwagandha root or leaf extract.

Ashwagandha Has No Major Side Effects, As Per Human Studies

In the recent past, several human studies have been conducted to assess the impact of ashwagandha on a variety of disorders, including stress, metabolism, fatigue, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and male fertility.

Within the recommended effective dosage range (300–1200 mg daily), no side effects have been reported, either for short-term or long-term usage.

Ashwagandha May Aggravate Pitta Disorders

As per Ayurvedic theory, ashwagandha increases pitta (represents the tendency to transform), and pacifies kapha (represents the tendency to accumulate) and vata (represents the tendency to flow). Disorders are a manifestation of imbalance in these 3 basic humors. For example, lack of sufficient pitta will show up in the form of sluggish metabolism, indigestion, accumulation of toxins, and loss of memory.

Ashwagandha is recommended to overcome and correct pitta deficiency. Conversely, those with excess pitta should be careful while consuming ashwagandha, since it may aggravate disorders caused by excess pitta, such as acidity, ulcers, skin rashes, and anxiety.

High Doses Of Pure Alkaloid Extract Of Ashwagandha Is Toxic

Animal studies have reported toxicity at very high levels of dosage (450–1500 mg/kg of body weight), of pure alkaloid extract (alkaloids constitute 2% of the herb). Water extract, on the other hand, did not induce any toxicity, even at levels as high as 2000 mg/kg. That’s about 50 times the recommended dosage (of herb extract) for humans.

Isolated Active Constituents Of Ashwagandha May Cause Toxicity

It has also been suggested that consuming isolated active constituent of ashwagandha, such as Withaferin A, instead of the whole herb (or herb extract), may cause toxicity.

But The Whole Herb Counters Side Effects Of Isolated Components

Radiation biologists studying the effect of ashwagandha on cancer demonstrated that the cumulative doses of ashwagandha extract (500–750 mg/kg daily) did not show any toxicity, in contrast to pure Withaferin A which was toxic even at a low dose.

They hypothesize that the interaction between the components of the crude extracts may either lead to a synergy of cancer cell-killing effects or neutralize each other’s toxicity.1

In simple words, the whole herb may be much more safe and effective than its isolated active constituents. This is in line with modern medical research, which, influenced by advances in systems biology and functional genomics perspective, is moving away from mono-molecular or single-target approach to combinations and multiple-target strategies.

Ashwagandha May Interact With Certain Drugs

Since ashwagandha can both energize and induce restorative sleep, it might negate or amplify the effect of other sedative drugs. Do note that ashwagandha itself does not act as a sedative.

Being an adaptogen – something that has the ability to modulate an immune response – ashwagandha might also interact with or reduce the effects of immunosuppressive drugs.

Ashwagandha is as effective as standard drugs for diabetics. It has been seen to reduce blood glucose levels by 12%.2 So if you are already taking medicines for blood sugar, ashwagandha might amplify its effect and bring your blood glucose to an abnormally low level.

Ashwagandha Is Not Recommended For Pregnant Women

Some sources mention that ashwagandha may induce abortion, which is why it is not recommended for use by pregnant women. It should also be used with caution by young children and breastfeeding women. It is also to be used with caution by those suffering from hyperthyroidism, liver problems, and stomach ulcers and those preparing for surgery.

These observations are, however, based on the properties of ashwagandha root and leaf extract (not based on any human studies that report adverse effects), and may be applicable only if the dosage is beyond recommended range. It’s best to consult a doctor, in any case.

References   [ + ]

1. Deocaris, Custer C., Nashi Widodo, Renu Wadhwa, and Sunil C. Kaul. “Merger of ayurveda and tissue culture-based functional genomics: inspirations from systems biology.” Journal of translational medicine 6, no. 1 (2008): 14.
2. Andallu, B., and B. Radhika. “Hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic effect of winter cherry (Withania somnifera, Dunal) root.” Indian Journal of Experimental Biology 38, no. 6 (2000): 607-609.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.