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Is Ashwagandha a Drug?

Ashwagandha is not classified as a drug. It is a herbal supplement used in traditional medicine.

Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera, is a popular herb in Ayurvedic medicine. It is used for its potential health benefits, including stress relief and improved sleep. However, it is not considered a drug by regulatory authorities.

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub found in India, Africa, and the Middle East. Its roots and berries are used in traditional medicine. The herb is known for its adaptogenic properties, which help the body manage stress. It is available in various forms, including capsules, powders, and extracts.

Common Uses

  • Stress and anxiety relief
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Enhanced athletic performance
  • Boosted fertility and testosterone levels

Forms of Ashwagandha

  • Capsules
  • Powders
  • Extracts
  • Gummies

Legal Status

Ashwagandha is classified as a food supplement in many countries, including the UK and the US. It is not a controlled substance and can be purchased over the counter. In the UK, it is regulated by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and must meet safety and labeling requirements.


  • Not a controlled substance
  • Classified as a food supplement
  • Must meet safety and labeling standards


  • Health food stores
  • Online retailers
  • Pharmacies

Health Benefits

Ashwagandha is believed to offer several health benefits. These include reducing stress and anxiety, improving sleep, and enhancing physical performance. Some studies suggest it may also help with male infertility and cognitive function.

Stress and Anxiety

Ashwagandha is often used to reduce stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that it can lower cortisol levels, the hormone responsible for stress. This makes it a popular choice for those looking to manage stress naturally.

Sleep Quality

Ashwagandha may improve sleep quality. Research indicates that it can help people fall asleep rapider and enjoy deeper sleep. This is particularly beneficial for those with insomnia or other sleep disorders.

Athletic Performance

Athletes use ashwagandha to boost performance. It may increase muscle strength, endurance, and recovery. Some studies have shown improvements in VO2 max, a measure of cardiovascular fitness.

Side Effects

While ashwagandha is generally considered safe, it can cause side effects in some people. These may include stomach upset, diarrhea, and drowsiness. Rarely, it can cause liver problems and interact with other medications.

Common Side Effects

  • Stomach upset
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness

Rare Side Effects

  • Liver problems
  • Interactions with medications

Who Should Avoid

  • Pregnant women
  • People with autoimmune diseases
  • Those with thyroid disorders

Safety Concerns

Ashwagandha has been under scrutiny in some countries due to safety concerns. Denmark banned it, citing potential negative effects on hormones and the inability to establish a safe dose. Other EU countries are considering similar actions.

Regulatory Actions

  • Denmark banned ashwagandha
  • Other EU countries considering bans
  • Concerns over hormone effects

Expert Opinions

Experts recommend caution when using ashwagandha, especially for those with preexisting health conditions. It is always best to consult a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.


Ashwagandha is a widely used herbal supplement with potential health benefits. It is not classified as a drug and is available over the counter in many countries. While generally safe, it can cause side effects and interact with medications. Always consult a healthcare provider before use.

For more information, you can visit Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and WebMD.