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Finding the perfect dose of a supplement can make you feel like Goldilocks—with so many options and little guidance on what’s best, it can feel like you have to try everything out first. Ashwagandha, a popular herb, is no exception. It comes in a wide range of doses, and unfortunately, there isn’t much research to tell us what dose is best. Learning more about this herb can help, though. Let’s dig in!
What is ashwagandha?
Since you’re here, you likely already know that ashwagandha is an adaptogen, a plant that is believed to help your body deal with different kinds of stress and improve your overall well-being. But you may not know that the ashwagandha plant or Withania somnifera—also called Indian ginseng or winter cherry—has a long history of use in Ayurvedic, Indian, and African traditional medicine. Traditional practices like Ayurveda used the root and berries of this plant to treat a wide range of health conditions, and modern research is finding evidence to support some of these uses.
The potential health benefits of ashwagandha are surprisingly wide-reaching. Ashwagandha root is considered a drug of “Rasayana,” a Sanskrit word that translates to “the path of essence.” It’s a practice of Ayurvedic medicine that refers to the science of lengthening lifespan.
It’s fitting to describe this rejuvenating root this way. Many different systems in your body have to operate at their best for you to live a long, healthy life—and potential ashwagandha benefits range from cognition to joint health.
How does ashwagandha help with weight loss?
Benefits of ashwagandha
Animal studies and clinical trials suggest that ashwagandha supplements such as powders and root or leaf extracts (Mandlik Ingawale, 2021):
- May boost testosterone
- May boost male fertility by increasing sperm count
- May reduce blood glucose (blood sugar levels)
- May reduce chronic stress
- May lower cortisol levels (stress hormone)
- May reduce anxiety and depression
- May decrease inflammation
- May increase muscle mass and muscle strength
- May help lower cholesterol
- May improve sleep
The effects of ashwagandha are thought to come from compounds called withanolides. One withanolide, withaferin A is most well-known for its anxiolytic properties. Ashwagandha also has glycowithanolides and alkaloid compounds (Mandlik Ingawale, 2021).
Although you can find ashwagandha in powder and elixir forms, there’s a reason you’ll mostly see capsules and pills in health stores and online. The word ashwagandha is Sanskrit for “smell of the horse” referencing the herb’s ability to increase strength—and its unique smell.
Ashwagandha powder can be blended into hot beverages or smoothies, but you may need to experiment with ingredients to mask the supplement’s unique flavor and smell profile. For those who want to bypass that potential hurdle altogether, capsules and pills are easy alternatives and widely available.
Is ashwagandha safe? Who should not take it?
The right dose for you may depend on what you’re taking ashwagandha to address. Studies across different health concerns have used doses ranging from 125 mg of ashwagandha extract all the way up to 5 g (Mahdi, 2009).
In most cases, the ashwagandha dose was broken up so that the participants took the herbal supplement 2–4 times a day instead of all at once. But there is no specific recommended dose for ashwagandha root extract (Pérez-Gómez, 2020; Raut, 2012).
If you look at supplements from the average company on the shelves of your local health store or online, you’ll see a wide range of daily suggested doses ranging from 150 mg–2 g. Lower amounts tend to be used in supplements that use multiple ingredients to address a specific health concern.
The higher doses are mostly found in ashwagandha-specific supplements. To hit these ranges, most brands have you take between two and three capsules each day shortly before eating or with a meal. Starting low will help you gauge tolerance, and you should discuss the upper range with a medical professional. You may want to start with one pill or capsule a day to see how you react and slowly add capsules until you’re taking the full suggested dose.
It’s also worth noting that most experimental studies looked at effects over the course of 30
days, though in some cases, positive outcomes were noted earlier. Give your supplement time to work before deciding whether it’s a treatment worth continuing.
Potential side effects of ashwagandha
Side effects are not common, but they do happen, and certain people should not take ashwagandha at all.
If you’re taking medication for high blood pressure, blood sugar, or thyroid function, be sure to talk to a healthcare provider about ashwagandha. Ashwagandha may increase your thyroid function, which could interact with your prescription if you’re on thyroid hormone medication. Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid ashwagandha (MedlinePlus, 2020).
People with an immune system condition—such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus—should consult a healthcare provider before starting a supplement regimen (MedlinePlus, 2020).
Ashwangandha is also part of the Solanaceae or nightshade family, so those following a diet that eliminates this group of plants (including tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants) should avoid taking this supplement.
Is ashwagandha tea effective?
Things to consider when purchasing ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is considered a supplement, a class of products that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only loosely regulates. Even though you can easily get ashwagandha products at health stores and online, it’s essential to buy from a company you trust.
- Mahdi, A. A., Shukla, K. K., Ahmad, M. K., Rajender, S., Shankhwar, S. N., Singh, V., & et al. (2009). Withania somnifera improves semen quality in stress-related male fertility. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: eCAM, 2011, 576962. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1093/ecam/nep138. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19789214/
- Mandlik Ingawale, D. S. & Namdeo, A. G. (2021). Pharmacological evaluation of Ashwagandha highlighting its healthcare claims, safety, and toxicity aspects. Journal of Dietary Supplements, 18(2), 183–226. doi: 10.1080/19390211.2020.1741484. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32242751/
- Medline Plus. (2020). Ashwagandha. Retrieved Aug 25, 2021 from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/953.html
- Pérez-Gómez, J., Villafaina, S., Adsuar, J. C., Merellano-Navarro, E., & Collado-Mateo, D. (2020). Effects of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) on VO2max: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrients, 12(4), 1119. doi: 10.3390/nu12041119, Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7230697/
- Raut, A., Rege, N., Shirolkar, S., Pandey, S., Tadvi, F., Solanki, P., et al. (2012). Exploratory study to evaluate tolerability, safety, and activity of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in healthy volunteers. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 3(3), 111–114. doi: 10.4103/0975-9476.100168. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23125505/
Dr. Chimene Richa is a board-certified Ophthalmologist and Senior Medical Writer/Reviewer at Ro.