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Do Doctors Recommend Ashwagandha?

Doctors may recommend ashwagandha for specific health conditions, but it is essential to consult a healthcare provider before starting its use.

Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera, has been a staple in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Its adaptogenic properties help the body manage stress. Recently, it has gained popularity in the Western world. Numerous studies have explored its potential health benefits. This blog post delves into whether doctors recommend ashwagandha based on current research, clinical guidelines, and expert opinions.

Stress and Anxiety Reduction

Ashwagandha’s ability to reduce stress and anxiety is well-documented. Several studies have shown that it can significantly lower cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress. For example, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that participants who took 1,000 mg of ashwagandha extract daily for 12 weeks experienced greater reductions in depression and anxiety than those who took a placebo, according to a study.

Another study concluded that ashwagandha might help manage depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other mental health-related issues. The herb’s adaptogenic properties make it a popular choice for those looking to manage stress naturally. However, it is crucial to consult a healthcare provider before starting ashwagandha, especially for individuals with existing mental health conditions.

Cognitive Function

Ashwagandha has also been studied for its potential to improve cognitive function. A systematic review found that ashwagandha might help ameliorate cognitive dysfunction, particularly in stressed adults, according to a study. Another study demonstrated that ashwagandha root extract could improve cognitive functions in healthy, stressed adults, according to a study.

These findings suggest that ashwagandha could be beneficial for individuals looking to enhance their cognitive abilities. However, more research is needed to fully understand its effects on cognitive function. As always, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.

Athletic Performance

Research has shown that ashwagandha may have beneficial effects on athletic performance. One analysis of research included 12 studies in people who took ashwagandha doses between 120 mg and 1,250 mg per day. The results suggest the herb may enhance physical performance, including strength and oxygen use during exercise, according to a study.

Another study found that male participants who took 600 mg of ashwagandha per day and participated in resistance training for 8 weeks had significantly greater gains in muscle strength and size compared with a placebo group, according to a study. These findings indicate that ashwagandha could be a valuable supplement for athletes looking to improve their performance. However, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider before starting ashwagandha, especially for those with existing health conditions.

Sleep Quality

Ashwagandha has been shown to improve sleep quality in several studies. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that ashwagandha extract improved sleep quality in healthy adults, according to a study. Another study reported that ashwagandha could enhance sleep and mental alertness in elderly, generally healthy people, according to a study.

These findings suggest that ashwagandha could be a valuable supplement for individuals looking to improve their sleep quality. However, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider before starting ashwagandha, especially for those with existing sleep disorders.

Thyroid Function

Studies have shown that ashwagandha can normalize thyroid indices that measure TSH, T3, and T4 hormones. For example, an eight-week supplementation at 600 mg normalized thyroid indices in patients with subclinical hypothyroidism, according to a study. However, ashwagandha’s ability to increase these hormone levels has raised concerns that patients with hyperthyroidism may be at risk of thyrotoxicosis, a dangerous excess of thyroid hormones in the blood.

These findings suggest that ashwagandha could be beneficial for individuals with subclinical hypothyroidism. However, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider before starting ashwagandha, especially for those with thyroid conditions.

Safety and Side Effects

Ashwagandha is generally considered safe for most people when taken in appropriate doses. However, it is not suitable for everyone. It may cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting in some individuals, especially if taken in large amounts, according to a study. Additionally, ashwagandha may interfere with thyroid tests and should not be taken several weeks before having surgery.

Ashwagandha may also interact with certain medications, including blood-thinning medications, thyroid medications, medications for blood pressure and diabetes, and anxiety medications. It may also interfere with immunosuppressant drugs, so it should be used with caution in patients with autoimmune conditions, according to a study.

Ashwagandha should be avoided during pregnancy as it may lead to miscarriage. There is also no information from clinical trials regarding the safety of ashwagandha during breastfeeding, so it should be avoided during this period as well, according to a study.

There have been reports of ashwagandha-induced liver injury. A case series from Iceland and the US Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network highlighted this potential risk, according to a study. Therefore, individuals with liver conditions should use ashwagandha with caution.

Clinical Recommendations

Doctors may recommend ashwagandha for specific conditions based on current evidence. For instance, it is often suggested for stress and anxiety management, cognitive function improvement, and enhancing athletic performance. However, the recommendation is usually made with caution, considering the potential interactions and side effects.

Dosing recommendations for ashwagandha vary depending on the condition being treated. Research has shown effective doses ranging from 250 mg to 1,250 mg per day, according to a study. It is advised to take ashwagandha for at least one month to experience its full benefits.

It is crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before starting ashwagandha, especially for individuals with existing health conditions or those taking other medications. This ensures that ashwagandha is safe and appropriate for their specific health needs.

Key Takeaways

  • Ashwagandha can reduce stress and anxiety.
  • It may improve cognitive function.
  • It can enhance athletic performance.
  • It may improve sleep quality.
  • It can normalize thyroid indices.
  • It is generally safe but may cause side effects and interact with medications.

Summary

Ashwagandha is a potent herb with a range of potential health benefits, including stress and anxiety reduction, improved cognitive function, enhanced athletic performance, and better sleep quality. However, it is not suitable for everyone and may interact with certain medications and health conditions. Therefore, while doctors may recommend ashwagandha for specific conditions, it is essential to use it under the guidance of a healthcare professional to ensure safety and efficacy.

References

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