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Discovering the amount of a supplement that works best for you can make you feel like Goldilocks—except more frustrated. This is especially true when it comes to trying to find your perfect ashwagandha dose. After all, it’s not porridge or a comfy bed on the line but rather some potential benefits for your mental or physical health.
Some trial and error will always be necessary because people are different. We’ve dug into the research to point you in the right direction of doses that have been tested based on what you’re looking to get from your ashwagandha supplement. But it’s always important to remember that, just because a dose worked for participants in a study, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you—or that you’ll experience benefits the same way. Still, this may help cut down the time you’d spend hunting down the dose that’s, as Goldilocks put it, just right.
- Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, a plant traditionally thought to help the body with different types of stress.
- These supplements may benefit many different systems of your body.
- Doses range from 250 mg to 5 g daily, but the right dose for you depends on the health benefit you’re after as well as your tolerance of the supplement.
- Ashwagandha is generally well-tolerated, but capsules and pills may mask its unique smell better than extracts and powders.
- Some people should not take ashwagandha, so speak to a medical expert before starting a supplement regimen.
What is ashwaganda?
You’re already here, which means you likely already know that ashwagandha is an adaptogen, a plant that is believed to help your body deal with different kinds of stress. But you may not know that ashwagandha 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.
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The potential health benefits of ashwagandha are surprisingly wide-reaching. Ashwagandha root is considered a drug of “Rasayana,” a Sanskrit word that translates to path of essence and a practice of Ayurvedic medicine that refers to the science of lengthening lifespan. It’s fitting to describe the root this way. Many different systems in your body have to work at their best in order for you to live a long, healthy life—and potential ashwagandha benefits range from cognition to joint health in your toes.
Benefits of ashwagandha
In fact, research shows that ashwagandha supplements such as powders and extracts:
- May boost testosterone
- May boost male fertility by increasing sperm count
- May reduce blood sugar levels
- May reduce cortisol levels
- May reduce anxiety and depression
- May decrease inflammation
- May increase muscle mass and muscle strength
- May help lower cholesterol
(We’ve gone over all of these potential effects in-depth in our guide to the benefits of ashwagandha.)
The potent effects of this plant are thought to come from compounds called withanolides, which are naturally occurring steroidal lactones (the most well-known of which is withaferin A). It’s these compounds that are known for their anxiolytic properties or ability to ameliorate the effects of chronic stress. The ashwagandha plant also contains compounds called glycowithanolides, which have antioxidant properties, and alkaloids (Singh, 2011).
But one of the major advantages of ashwagandha is that it’s widely available and well-tolerated by most. Although the herb has potential side effects, human studies tend to find that they’re mild. They rarely cause participants to drop out of studies. One participant in a study on Withania somnifera dropped out after experiencing increased appetite and libido as well as vertigo, but overall side effects rates in clinical trials are low (Raut, 2012).
Ashwagandha dosage and forms
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,” and references 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 unique flavor and smell profile of the supplement. For those who want to bypass that potential hurdle altogether, capsules and pills are easy alternatives and widely available.
The right dose for you depends on what you’re taking ashwagandha to address. Studies across different health concerns have used doses ranging from 250 mg to 5 g. Doses as low as 250 mg daily for 60 days significantly reduced self-reported anxiety levels as well as serum cortisol levels in participants of a 2014 placebo-controlled study in which they were given ashwagandha root and leaf extract (Auddy, 2008). But daily doses in research attempting to treat anxiety specifically range between 250 mg and 600 mg. In most cases, this dose was broken up so that the participants took the herbal supplement from 2–4 times a day instead of all at once. But research has also found that for the management of blood sugar, the effect is dose-dependent. The larger the dose, the larger the decrease in blood glucose when looking at daily doses between 125 mg and 500 mg (Auddy, 2008).
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 or with a meal. There’s no need to break your dose up throughout the day, and even three capsules or pills can be taken at once. But 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, there were positive outcomes noted as early as six weeks. Give your supplement time to work before deciding whether it’s a treatment worth continuing.
Potential side effects of ashwagandha
As mentioned, clinical trials on the effects of this adaptogenic herb in humans show remarkably low rates of side effects, but they do happen. Although everyone should speak to a healthcare provider before starting a new supplement regimen, there are certain people for whom this is even more important. 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.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid ashwagandha. And people with an autoimmune disease—such as Hashimoto’s, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus—should consult with a healthcare provider before starting a supplement regimen, as ashwagandha has been shown to boost how the immune system reacts (Vetvicka, 2011). It’s also part of the Solanaceae or nightshade family, so those following a diet that eliminates this group of plants (that includes tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants) should avoid taking this supplement.
Things to consider when purchasing ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is considered a supplement, a class of products that’s only loosely regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). So though products like ashwagandha powder, extract, and capsules are readily available at health stores and online, it’s important to buy from a company you trust.