Can Ashwagandha Cause Anxiety: The Truth Revealed

by | Mar 20, 2024 | Health, Supplements | 0 comments

Key Highlights

  • Can Ashwagandha cause anxiety?
  • Ashwagandha is an herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine for relieving stress, improving cognitive function, and enhancing physical performance.
  • The use of ashwagandha among teens for mental health is still unclear and insufficiently researched.
  • Ashwagandha supplements can have physical and emotional side effects in teens, including mood changes, depression, dissociation, anger, nausea, and dizziness.
  • It is important to use ashwagandha like any other mental health medication – with caution, under the supervision of a licensed medical professional, and as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes therapy.
  • While some people may experience short-term benefits from ashwagandha, it is not a cure-all and can have negative emotional and physical side effects for many others.
  • Evidence-based teen mental health programs like Newport Academy offer safe and effective treatment for teens struggling with mental health issues.

Introduction

can ashwagandha cause anxiety

Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng or Withania somnifera, is a herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine for its potential health benefits.

It has gained popularity in recent years, particularly among teens and young adults, who are seeking natural remedies for stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

On TikTok ashwagandha has become the latest hyped-up health trend, with users posting videos about their experiences with the herb and its supposed benefits for mental health, including weight gain.

However, there is limited research on the safety and efficacy of ashwagandha, especially in younger age groups.

While some people may find relief from their symptoms when using ashwagandha for the first time, others may experience negative emotional and physical side effects. It is important to approach the use of ashwagandha with caution and under the guidance of a medical professional. In this blog, we will explore the truth about ashwagandha and its effects on anxiety, stress, weight gain, and overall mental health in teens.

Understanding Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera, is an herb that has been used for its medicinal properties in Ayurvedic and traditional medicine for thousands of years. Ayurvedic medicine is a traditional system of medicine that originated in India and is still widely practiced today.

The name “ashwagandha” comes from the Sanskrit language and means “smell of the horse,” which is thought to refer to the herb’s unique smell and its reputation for providing strength and vitality. This powerful herb is native to Africa, India, and the Middle East, and has been used in cooking, teas, and supplements for its numerous health benefits, including reducing anxiety.

However, it is important to note that some individuals may experience stomach upset, drowsiness, diarrhea, or even liver damage after consuming ashwagandha supplements. Understanding the potential effects of ashwagandha is crucial for incorporating it into your wellness routine.

In Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha has traditionally been used for a variety of purposes. It is believed to have adaptogenic properties, meaning it helps the body adapt to stress and promotes overall well-being.

Ashwagandha is commonly used for reducing stress and anxiety, improving brain function and memory, reducing brain cell degeneration, and protecting against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

It also boosts energy levels, regulates blood sugar levels, decreases blood pressure, improves gastrointestinal tract health, and treats various health conditions such as insomnia, arthritis, asthma, and hormonal imbalances, all without adverse effects to the nervous system.

Today, ashwagandha is available in various forms, including supplements, powders, gummies, and teas, and is widely used for its potential health benefits. However, it is important to note that while ashwagandha has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, its effects and optimal doses are still not fully understood.

Further research is needed to determine its safety and efficacy, especially in different populations such as teens. It is also important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplement, as they are not regulated like drugs by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and may have possible side effects. Ashwagandha supplements are the only way to get this beneficial herb, as it is not naturally found in foods.

Origins and Use in Ayurvedic Medicine

Ashwagandha has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine. It is considered one of the most important herbs in the Ayurvedic pharmacopeia. In Ayurveda, it is classified as a rasayana, which means rejuvenating or restorative. It is believed to help maintain youthfulness, vitality, and overall well-being.

Ashwagandha has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a wide range of health conditions. It is known for its adaptogenic properties, which help the body adapt to stress and promote balance.

It is also used as a nerve tonic, promoting mental clarity and cognitive function, including antioxidant activity to protect nerve cells from free radical damage and oxidative stress. In addition, ashwagandha is used to support the immune system, improve digestion, balance hormones, and promote healthy sleep.

In Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is often prescribed as a single herb or combined with other herbs to create formulas tailored to individual needs. It can be taken in various forms, including capsules, powder form, teas, and oils.

The dosage and form of ashwagandha may vary depending on the specific health condition being treated and the individual’s constitution. For example, those who do not enjoy the taste or smell of ashwagandha may prefer to take it in powder form, which can easily be mixed into other foods or drinks to create a healing tonic. Some popular options include adding ashwagandha powder to energy ball recipes, turmeric or pumpkin spice lattes, or even smoothies with warm milk.

Popularity Outside Ayurveda

In recent years, ashwagandha has gained popularity outside of Ayurvedic medicine, particularly in the Western world. It has been recognized for its potential health benefits and is now widely available as a dietary supplement in various forms.

One of the reasons for ashwagandha’s popularity is its classification as an adaptogen. Adaptogens are substances that help the body adapt to stress and promote overall well-being. Ashwagandha is believed to help balance the body’s stress response system and support overall mental and physical health.

Ashwagandha is also known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It contains bioactive compounds such as withanolides, which have been shown to have various health benefits. These compounds have been studied for their potential effects on reducing inflammation, boosting the immune system, improving cognitive function, and supporting overall vitality.

Additionally, ashwagandha has been the subject of scientific research exploring its potential effects on various health conditions. Preliminary studies have suggested that ashwagandha may have potential benefits for reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, improving cognitive function, and supporting overall well-being.

However, more research is needed, including studies on the potential relationship between ashwagandha and vitamin D, to fully understand the effects of ashwagandha and its optimal doses in different populations.

Health Benefits of Ashwagandha

health

Ashwagandha is believed to have a range of health benefits, including reducing stress, anxiety relief, improving cognitive function, boosting energy levels, regulating blood sugar levels, and supporting the immune system.

It is also thought to have anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce inflammation in the body.

Additionally, ashwagandha has been shown to improve underactive thyroid function and bipolar disorder, making it a potential solution for weight loss and cognitive function in patients with these conditions.

However, the scientific evidence supporting these health claims is limited and further research is needed to fully understand the effects of ashwagandha benefits.

Reducing Stress

Reducing stress is one of the most well-known benefits of ashwagandha. Chronic stress can have a negative impact on both physical and mental health, and ashwagandha is believed to help the body adapt to stress and promote overall well-being. Some potential ways ashwagandha may help reduce stress include:

  • Lowering cortisol levels: Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released in response to stress. Ashwagandha has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, potentially helping to alleviate the physiological effects of chronic stress.
  • Supporting the stress response system: Ashwagandha is believed to support the body’s stress response system, helping it to better adapt to stress and promote overall resilience.
  • Promoting relaxation: Ashwagandha has been reported to have calming and relaxing effects, which may help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

It is important to note that while ashwagandha may help reduce stress, it should not be used as a substitute for healthy coping mechanisms and stress management strategies. It is always advisable to speak with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement or treatment regimen.

Reducing Anxiety

Anxiety is a common mental health condition characterized by persistent worry, fear, and apprehension. Ashwagandha has been studied for its potential effects on reducing anxiety and promoting overall mental well-being. Some potential ways ashwagandha may help reduce anxiety include:

  • Modulating neurotransmitters: Ashwagandha has been shown to interact with neurotransmitters in the brain, such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is known for its calming effects. This interaction may help reduce anxiety symptoms.
  • Balancing stress hormones: Ashwagandha is believed to help balance stress hormones, such as cortisol, which can contribute to anxiety when levels are elevated.
  • Improving sleep quality: Ashwagandha has been reported to improve sleep quality, which can have a positive impact on overall mental health and reduce anxiety symptoms.

It is important to note that while ashwagandha may help reduce anxiety, it should not be used as a substitute for professional mental health treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, it is important to seek support from a qualified healthcare professional.

Other Health Benefits

In addition to reducing stress and anxiety, ashwagandha is believed to have other potential health benefits. Some of these include:

  • Supporting the immune system: Ashwagandha has been shown to have immunomodulatory effects, meaning it helps regulate the immune system. This may help support overall immune function and promote a healthy immune response.
  • Regulating blood sugar levels: Ashwagandha has been studied for its potential effects on blood sugar levels. Some research suggests that it may help regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
  • Anti-inflammatory properties: Ashwagandha contains bioactive compounds with anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds may help reduce inflammation in the body, which is believed to play a role in the development of various chronic diseases.
  • Supporting cognitive function: Preliminary studies have suggested that ashwagandha may have potential benefits for improving cognitive function, memory, and focus. However, more research is needed in this area to fully understand the effects of ashwagandha on cognitive health.

Myths about Ashwagandha Causing Anxiety

myths

There is a common misconception that ashwagandha can cause anxiety or worsen anxiety symptoms. However, this belief is not supported by scientific evidence.

In fact, ashwagandha is often used as a natural remedy for anxiety and stress relief. The idea that ashwagandha can cause anxiety may stem from several factors, including misinformation, anecdotal evidence, and the placebo effect.

Why the Misconception Exists

The misconception that ashwagandha can cause anxiety may exist due to various factors. Some of these include:

  • Misinformation: There is a lot of information available online and on social media platforms that may not be accurate or based on scientific evidence. This misinformation can contribute to misconceptions about the effects of ashwagandha.
  • Anecdotal evidence: Personal experiences and stories shared by individuals may give the impression that ashwagandha can cause anxiety. However, it is important to consider that individual experiences may vary and may not be representative of the general population.
  • Placebo effect: The placebo effect refers to the phenomenon where individuals may experience a perceived improvement in their symptoms due to the belief that a treatment or intervention is effective, even if the treatment itself has no therapeutic value. It is possible that some individuals may attribute their anxiety symptoms to ashwagandha, even if the anxiety is unrelated or has other underlying causes.

What Science Says

Scientific evidence does not support the belief that ashwagandha causes anxiety. In fact, research studies have suggested that ashwagandha may have potential benefits for reducing anxiety and promoting overall mental well-being. Some key findings from scientific studies include:

  • A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine found that ashwagandha supplementation was associated with significant reductions in anxiety symptoms.
  • A randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that ashwagandha supplementation significantly reduced anxiety symptoms in individuals with generalized anxiety disorder.
  • A study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine reported that ashwagandha supplementation improved anxiety levels and quality of life in individuals with chronic stress.

While more research is needed to fully understand the effects of ashwagandha on anxiety, the existing scientific evidence suggests that it may be a potential natural remedy for reducing anxiety symptoms.

A study showed that after 30 days of taking either 225 or 400 milligrams of ashwagandha, participants reported positive effects on their anxiety. However, it is important to note that individual responses to ashwagandha may vary, and it is always advisable to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement or treatment regimen for anxiety, especially when considering taking large doses.

Safe Use of Ashwagandha

When using ashwagandha, it is important to ensure safe and responsible use. This includes understanding the recommended dosage and taking necessary precautions, particularly for certain populations such as pregnant or breastfeeding women, and individuals with specific medical conditions.

Recommended Dosage

The recommended dosage of ashwagandha may vary depending on the specific product and individual needs. It is important to follow the instructions provided on the product label or consult with a healthcare professional for guidance. Some general guidelines for ashwagandha dosage include:

  • Therapeutic dose: The therapeutic dose of ashwagandha may range from 250-600 mg per day, depending on the specific health condition being treated. This dosage may be split into multiple doses throughout the day.
  • Daily intake: It is generally recommended to start with a lower dose of ashwagandha and gradually increase the dosage if needed. It is important to listen to your body and adjust the dosage accordingly.
  • Standardized extract: Look for ashwagandha supplements that contain standardized extracts, as these provide a consistent amount of the active compounds found in the herb.

It is important to note that the optimal dosage of ashwagandha may vary depending on individual factors such as age, weight, and overall health. It is always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement or treatment regimen.

Precautions to Take

While ashwagandha is generally considered safe for most individuals, there are certain precautions that should be taken, particularly for certain populations and individuals with specific medical conditions. Some precautions to consider when using ashwagandha include:

  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid ashwagandha, as its safety during these periods has not been fully established.
  • Medical conditions: Individuals with specific medical conditions, such as autoimmune disorders, thyroid problems, stomach ulcers, and certain types of cancer, should consult with a healthcare professional before using ashwagandha.
  • Drug interactions: Ashwagandha may interact with certain medications, including thyroid medication, blood pressure drugs, and sedatives. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional if you are taking any medications to ensure there are no potential interactions.

It is always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement or treatment regimen, particularly if you have any underlying medical conditions or are taking any medications.

Side Effects of Ashwagandha

side effects

Ashwagandha is generally considered safe when used as directed. However, like any supplement or medication, it can have side effects, particularly when used in high doses or for prolonged periods. Some potential side effects of ashwagandha include gastrointestinal issues and allergic reactions.

Common Side Effects

Common side effects of ashwagandha may include:

  • Upset stomach: Some individuals may experience gastrointestinal issues such as upset stomach, diarrhea, and nausea when using ashwagandha.
  • Headache: Headaches have been reported as a potential side effect of ashwagandha use.
  • Dizziness: Some individuals may experience dizziness or lightheadedness when using ashwagandha.
  • Nausea: Nausea is another potential side effect that has been reported with ashwagandha use.

It is important to note that these side effects are usually mild and transient, and they may subside with continued use or by adjusting the dosage. If you experience persistent or severe side effects, it is advisable to discontinue use and consult with a healthcare professional.

Severe Side Effects

While rare, severe side effects from ashwagandha use have been reported. These may include:

  • Liver damage: There have been rare reports of liver damage associated with ashwagandha use. It is important to monitor liver function if using ashwagandha for an extended period or at high doses.
  • Allergic reactions: Some individuals may experience allergic reactions to ashwagandha, such as rash and itching. If you experience any signs of an allergic reaction, such as hives or difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical attention.
  • Severe rash: In rare cases, ashwagandha has been associated with the development of a severe rash known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome. This condition requires immediate medical attention.

It is important to note that these severe side effects are rare and may be more likely to occur with high doses or prolonged use of ashwagandha. If you experience any concerning symptoms or side effects, it is advisable to discontinue use and seek medical attention.

Interactions of Ashwagandha with Medications

interactions

Ashwagandha may interact with certain medications, including prescription drugs, sedatives, and anticoagulants. It is important to be aware of these potential interactions and consult with a healthcare professional if you are taking any medications.

List of Medications

Ashwagandha may interact with the following medications:

  • Thyroid medication: Ashwagandha may affect thyroid hormone levels, so caution should be exercised when using ashwagandha with thyroid medication.
  • Blood pressure drugs: Ashwagandha may have hypotensive effects, so it may interact with blood pressure medications and cause a further decrease in blood pressure.
  • Sedatives: Ashwagandha has sedative properties and may enhance the effects of sedative medications.
  • Anticoagulants: Ashwagandha may have anticoagulant effects and may interact with medications that have similar effects, increasing the risk of bleeding.

It is important to consult with a healthcare professional if you are taking any medications to ensure there are no potential interactions with ashwagandha. They can provide guidance on the appropriate use and dosage of ashwagandha in conjunction with your medications.

Safety Measures

If you are considering using ashwagandha while taking medications, it is important to take certain safety measures:

  • Consult with a healthcare professional: Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement or treatment regimen, particularly if you are taking medications. They can provide personalized guidance based on your specific health needs.
  • Dosage adjustments: Your healthcare professional may recommend adjusting the dosage of ashwagandha or your medications to minimize potential interactions.
  • Monitoring: Regular monitoring of your health, including liver function and blood pressure, may be necessary when using ashwagandha in conjunction with certain medications.

It is important to note that ashwagandha is not a substitute for prescribed medications. Always follow the advice of your healthcare professional and continue taking any prescribed medications as directed.

Choosing the Right Ashwagandha Supplement

When choosing an ashwagandha supplement, it is important to consider factors such as product quality, certification, and brand reputation. Not all ashwagandha supplements are created equal, and it is important to choose a high-quality product.

Things to Look for

When selecting an ashwagandha supplement, consider the following:

  • Lab testing: Look for products that have been tested by reputable third-party laboratories to ensure quality and purity.
  • Active ingredients: Check the label to ensure that the supplement contains the active ingredients found in ashwagandha, such as withanolides.
  • Brand reputation: Choose a trusted brand with a good reputation for producing high-quality supplements.
  • Certification: Look for supplements that have been certified by reputable organizations, such as the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or NSF International, to ensure quality and safety.

By considering these factors, you can make a more informed decision and choose a high-quality ashwagandha supplement.

Recommended Brands

While specific brand recommendations may vary depending on availability and personal preferences, some popular ashwagandha supplement brands include:

  • Organic India
  • Gaia Herbs
  • Himalaya
  • Banyan Botanicals
  • Nature’s Way

It is important to do your own research and read customer reviews to determine the best ashwagandha supplement for your needs. Additionally, consult with a healthcare professional for personalized recommendations based on your specific health goals and needs.

Summary

It is important to understand the potential benefits and risks of using Ashwagandha for anxiety. While it has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine and shows promise in reducing stress and anxiety, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement or herb.

They can provide guidance on the appropriate dosage, potential interactions with medications, and any precautions to take. Remember to choose a reputable brand and carefully read the label for any additional ingredients. If you have any further questions or experiences with Ashwagandha and anxiety, we encourage you to comment below and share your thoughts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Ashwagandha Cause Anxiety?

No, ashwagandha does not cause anxiety. In fact, it is often used as a natural remedy for anxiety relief and stress reduction. However, individual responses to ashwagandha may vary, and it is important to consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

Can I Take Ashwagandha Daily?

The daily dosage of ashwagandha may vary depending on individual needs and health conditions. It is generally recommended to start with a lower dose and gradually increase as needed. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance on the appropriate dosage for your specific needs.

Is Ashwagandha Safe for Everyone?

While ashwagandha is generally considered safe for most individuals, there are certain populations and individuals with specific medical conditions who should exercise caution or avoid using ashwagandha.

These include pregnant or breastfeeding women, individuals with autoimmune disorders, and those taking certain medications. It is always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement or treatment regimen.

What Should I Do If I Experience Side Effects from Ashwagandha?

If you experience any side effects from ashwagandha, such as persistent or severe symptoms, it is important to discontinue use and consult with a healthcare professional. They can provide guidance on managing the side effects and may recommend adjusting the dosage or trying a different form of ashwagandha.

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