Health Guide delivered to your inbox

You can unsubscribe at any time.
Please review our privacy policy for more info.

Last updated August 14, 2020. 5 minute read

Ashwagandha: is it safe to use daily to help cope with stress?

It’s not exactly new, either. Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry, has been used 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.

Linnea Zielinski Written by Linnea Zielinski
Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD, MPH

Is it safe to take ashwagandha daily?

Humans aren’t known for their patience. We want to be 20 pounds slimmer in two weeks, double our paychecks in the next five years, and retire at 35. Some things do deliver on a timeline we’re happy with: Amazon, for one, and some medications that go to work relieving your symptoms immediately—or at least within 30 minutes. We run into problems when we expect supplements, like ashwagandha, to work the same way as medicine. Here’s what you need to know about whether it’s safe to take ashwagandha daily and how it can safely be dosed.

Vitals

  • Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that may help your body cope with stress.
  • This supplement is available in powders, capsules, extracts, and tinctures.
  • The most studied daily doses in humans fall between 250 mg and 600 mg.
  • Studies show low rates of side effects, which tend to be mild, but they do happen.

If you’re considering taking ashwagandha, or Withania somnifera, you already know that this plant is an adaptogen. This plant, which is commonly used in herbal medicine, helps combat stress—whether that’s chronic stress from a job or physical stress from a grueling workout. It’s not exactly new, either. Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry, has been used 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 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.

Advertisement

Roman Daily—Multivitamin for Men

Our team of in-house doctors created Roman Daily to target common nutrition gaps in men with scientifically backed ingredients and dosages.

Learn more

How to take ashwagandha

First and foremost, you should always consult your healthcare provider before beginning a new supplement regimen. They can advise based on your individual health status and concerns whether this Ayurvedic herb may be helpful and if there are any potential concerns you should be aware of—though we’ll go over some of those.

Although you can find ashwagandha extract in powder, tincture, 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. Capsules and pills are easy alternatives and widely available.

Finding the right dose

Choosing a form may be relatively easy compared to selecting your ashwagandha dosage, which depends on what you’re taking ashwagandha to address. Studies across different health concerns have used doses ranging from 250 mg to 5 g, but that doesn’t mean hopping in at the higher end is advisable or necessary. Here’s what you need to know about standard dosage (Auddy, 2008):

  • Just 250 mg a day may reduce cortisol and anxiety levels.
  • Doses between 250 mg and 600 mg are the most studied.
  • Larger daily doses are typically broken up into servings taken 2–4 times a day,
  • Higher doses may be better at managing blood sugar, with a peak at 500 mg.
  • You may not notice the effects for 30–60 days.

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 150–2,000 mg. Lower doses are common in supplements that use multiple ingredients to address a specific health concern, while higher doses are mostly found in ashwagandha-specific supplements. It’s worth noting that most experimental studies looked at effects over the course of 30 days. But in some cases, positive outcomes weren’t noted for six weeks. Give your supplement time to work before deciding whether it’s a treatment worth continuing.

Choose your ashwagandha extract carefully

If you’re using this Auyvedic herb daily, you want the best form available. Ashwagandha extracts can be made from the root of the plant, the leaves, or a combination of the two. These supplements aren’t all necessarily equivalent. Studies have shown that the leaves and roots of Withania somnifera have different concentrations of withanolides (Kaul, 2016). The roots are considered the best source of these health-boosting compounds, which is also why most studies on ashwagandha use extract made from this part of the plant.

An ideal withanolide concentration for an ashwagandha supplement is between 1.5–5%, which best balances potential health benefits and side effects of these compounds (Singh, 2019). Check the label for information on what part of the plant is used and always buy from a brand you can trust to help ensure that your ashwagandha extract is made with the more potent root.

Is it safe to take ashwagandha daily?

The daily therapeutic use of Withania somnifera is generally considered safe at doses that range between 250 mg and 500 mg. The safety of ashwagandha at these doses has been established with human studies. To hit the higher end of this range, most brands of ashwagandha supplements 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.

Though there’s a scientific basis for deeming these doses safe, everybody is different, and so is their tolerance to specific supplements. Starting low will help you gauge your own tolerance, and you should discuss the upper range with a medical professional. You may want to start with one pill or capsule of ashwagandha a day to see how you react and slowly add capsules until you’re taking the full suggested dose. Research has also paced well behind traditional medicine when it comes to adaptogens like Withania somnifera. So though studies have safely used daily doses of this plant with relatively few side effects, more research may be needed to fully understand its effects on health.

Potential side effects of ashwagandha

Clinical trials on the effects of this adaptogenic herb in humans do show remarkably low rates of side effects—but they happen. One participant in a study on Withania somnifera dropped out after experiencing increased appetite and libido as well as vertigo (Raut, 2012). 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 hormone function, be sure to talk to a healthcare provider about ashwagandha.

The use of ashwagandha is not suggested for people with an autoimmune disease—such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, or systemic lupus erythematosus—as it may affect your immune system. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also avoid taking ashwagandha extract. Finally, those who are following diets that eliminate the Solanaceae or nightshade family—a group of plants that includes tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants—should also skip this supplement since ashwagandha is part of this family of plants.

Things to consider when purchasing ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is considered a supplement, a class of products that is 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.