Understanding The Benefits And Potential Side Effects Of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic herbal supplement that has long been used in traditional Indian medicine for its many potential health benefits. The root and berry of the ashwagandha plant are most commonly used to make medicines, although the leaves and flowers may be used as well. It is believed that ashwagandha can be used to treat a range of medical issues.

It is important to understand the possible benefits and potential side effects of taking ashwagandha before deciding to take this supplement. Here we will look at the evidence for its health benefits and the potential side effects.

Ashwagandha, also known as ‘Indian ginseng’, is a herb that has been used in traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda) for centuries. It is an adaptogen, a natural product that helps the body to adapt to everyday stress and to resist disease. It is a widely available and reasonably priced supplement, sold as a capsule, liquid extract, or powder.

Potential Health Benefits

Ashwagandha may offer a variety of health-related benefits and has been used to treat the following conditions:

  • Anxiety and stress.
  • Depression.
  • Insomnia.
  • Fatigue.
  • Low sex drive.
  • Inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
  • Memory and cognitive deficits.
  • Diabetes, and to help manage blood sugar levels.
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Pain.
  • Arthritis.

Studies have also shown that ashwagandha may have anti-cancer effects, enhance fertility in both men and women, improve thyroid function, and even help with weight management.

How Does Ashwagandha Work?

Ashwagandha contains several active ingredients, including withanolides, which are believed to be responsible for its many medicinal properties.

Research suggests that Ashwagandha works by enhancing the immune system, alleviating the effects of stress, and counteracting the negative effects of free radicals on the body. It is also thought to help balance hormones and improve the body’s ability to tolerate stress.

Potential Side Effects

When taken in recommended doses and with professional advice, ashwagandha is generally considered to be safe.

Although rare, there are some potential side effects to be aware of when taking ashwagandha. These include:

  • Stomach Upset – Some people may experience digestive issues such as stomach cramps, bloating, or diarrhea when they first start taking ashwagandha. This should go away after a few weeks.
  • Hypothyroidism – Long-term use of ashwagandha could affect the thyroid, primarily by decreasing thyroid hormone production.
  • Drowsiness – Ashwagandha may cause drowsiness, so it’s best to avoid driving or operating machinery at least two hours after taking it.
  • Allergic Reaction – Some people may experience an allergic reaction to ashwagandha. Symptoms include itchy skin, hives, breathing difficulties, and chest tightness.

If you experience any of these side effects, you should stop taking ashwagandha and see your doctor for advice.


Ashwagandha is a widely available supplement that may offer a range of potential health benefits. It is generally considered to be safe when taken as directed, however users should be aware of potential side effects.

Anyone considering taking ashwagandha should seek advice from a qualified healthcare provider to ensure it is suitable for them.

As with all dietary supplements, do not take more than the recommended dose and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.