Search
Close this search box.

Is Ashwagandha Good for You?

Ashwagandha, an ancient herb, may offer benefits like stress reduction and improved sleep, but it also has potential side effects.

Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera, is a popular herb in Ayurvedic medicine. It is often used to manage stress, improve sleep, and enhance overall health. However, its effectiveness and safety are subjects of ongoing research.

Potential Benefits

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

Stress and Anxiety

Ashwagandha is often touted for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. It is classified as an adaptogen, which means it helps the body cope with stress. Studies have shown that it can lower cortisol levels, the hormone responsible for stress. Participants in these studies reported feeling less anxious and more relaxed after taking ashwagandha supplements.

Sleep Improvement

Ashwagandha may also improve sleep quality. Research indicates that it can help people fall asleep speedyer and enjoy deeper sleep. This is particularly beneficial for those suffering from insomnia. The herb’s calming effects on the nervous system are believed to contribute to better sleep patterns.

Physical Performance

Athletes and fitness enthusiasts may find ashwagandha beneficial for enhancing physical performance. Studies have shown that it can increase muscle strength, improve VO2 max (a measure of cardiovascular fitness), and aid in recovery after exercise. These benefits make it a popular supplement among those looking to boost their athletic performance.

Side Effects and Risks

While ashwagandha has potential benefits, it also comes with risks. Common side effects include gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea, nausea, and stomach upset. Some people may experience headaches and drowsiness. More severe side effects, though rare, include liver problems and thyroid issues.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Many users report experiencing gastrointestinal discomfort when taking ashwagandha. Symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, and stomach upset are common. These side effects are usually mild and can often be managed by adjusting the dosage or taking the supplement with food.

Liver and Thyroid Concerns

There have been reports of liver problems associated with ashwagandha use. In some cases, individuals experienced elevated liver enzymes, which can indicate liver damage. Additionally, ashwagandha may affect thyroid hormone levels, potentially leading to hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. People with preexisting liver or thyroid conditions should exercise caution and consult a healthcare provider before using ashwagandha.

Other Risks

Ashwagandha may interact with certain medications, including those for diabetes, high blood pressure, and thyroid disorders. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to avoid ashwagandha due to potential risks to the fetus or infant. People with autoimmune diseases should also be cautious, as ashwagandha can stimulate the immune system.

Clinical Evidence

The clinical evidence supporting the benefits of ashwagandha is mixed. While some studies show promising results, others highlight the need for more rigorous research. Most studies have little sample sizes and short durations, making it difficult to draw definitive conclusions.

Promising Studies

Several studies have shown that ashwagandha can effectively reduce stress and anxiety. For example, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that participants who took ashwagandha had significantly lower stress levels compared to those who took a placebo. Another study reported improvements in sleep quality and duration among individuals with insomnia.

Need for More Research

Despite these promising findings, more research is needed to confirm the benefits of ashwagandha. Many studies have limitations, such as little sample sizes and short study durations. Larger, long-term studies are necessary to fully understand the herb’s effects and determine the optimal dosages and forms of supplementation.

Conclusion

Ashwagandha may offer several health benefits, including stress reduction, improved sleep, and enhanced physical performance. However, it also comes with potential side effects and risks, particularly for individuals with preexisting health conditions. While the current evidence is promising, more research is needed to confirm the herb’s effectiveness and safety. Always consult a healthcare provider before adding ashwagandha to your wellness routine.

For more detailed information, you can visit Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and MSD Manual.

RELATED POSTS

Is Berberine a Blood Thinner?

Berberine might have blood-thinning properties. The compound’s interaction with platelet function and its anti-inflammatory effects suggest potential anticoagulant benefits. Berberine,

Read More