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 grams daily of ashwagandha root or leaf powder, or 300–1200 mg daily of ashwagandha root or leaf extract.
Ashwagandha Side Effects
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, neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and male fertility.
Within the recommended effective dosage range (300 mg – 1200 mg daily), no side effects have been reported, either for short term or long term usage.
May have minor side effects, as per Ayurveda
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, loss of memory etc.
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, anxiety, etc.
May be toxic, if high dosages of isolated components are used
Animal studies have reported toxicity at very high levels of dosage (450 – 1500 mg/kg), 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.
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.
Whole herb counters side effects of isolated components
It is interesting to note that modern medical research, 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.
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 that was toxic even at a low dose. They hypothesize that the interaction between components of the crude extracts may either lead to a synergy of cell killing effects or neutralize the toxicity of each other.1
In simple words, the whole herb may be much more safe and effective than its isolated active constituents.
Some sources have cited precautions for ashwagandha use:
- not recommended for use by pregnant women
- to be used with caution by those suffering from hyperthyroidism
- to be used with caution by nursing women
- to be used with caution by young children
- might negate or amplify effect of other sedative drugs
- might interact with or reduce the effects of immunosuppressive drugs
- to be used with caution by those with low blood sugar levels
- to be used with caution by those suffering from liver problems
- to be used with caution by those with stomach ulcers
- not recommended for those preparing for surgery
These are 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. 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.|