The Pros and Cons of Ashwagandha
People often talk about the benefits of ashwagandha, especially in the community of herbal remedies, but only a few people know both the pros and cons of ashwagandha. This ancient herb, of course, offers several advantages to promote health and overall well-being, but knowing its limitations is also important so that one can avoid any kind of unpleasant adverse effects. Keep reading to learn both.
In this article, we’ll be discussing some of the most common pros and cons of ashwagandha that everyone should know when considering using it. But before we get into the discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of ashwagandha, first, we’ll need to know exactly what ashwagandha is and what ingredients it contains. So, let’s dig a little deeper.
What is ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha or otherwise known as Indian ginseng, winter cherry, or botanically Withania somnifera is an ancient herb that has a long history of therapeutic use in traditional medicine, especially in longstanding Indian traditional medicine called Ayurveda. It is native to the dry regions of Asia, Africa, and parts of the Middle East.
Ashwagandha has many possible benefits in terms of promoting physical and mental health. Although flowers and leaves have therapeutic properties too, the roots of the plant are most commonly used to prepare herbal remedies. Today, ashwagandha is widely available in various forms such as ashwagandha powders, capsules, pills, gummies, and liquid drops.
Active ingredients in ashwagandha
Ashwagandha has a plethora of biologically active ingredients including various types of alkaloids, tannins, saponins, and steroidal lactones, primarily nicotine, somniferine, withanone, and withanolides just to name a few. The health benefits of ashwagandha seem to come from the active ingredients it contains and their medicinal properties.
The pros and cons of ashwagandha
like many other herbs and natural remedies, ashwagandha has both advantages and disadvantages. But of course, the disadvantages are relatively minimal and the benefits of ashwagandha obviously have the overwhelming majority.
let's take a quick look at some of the most common pros and cons of ashwagandha one by one.
Potential benefits of ashwagandha
The therapeutic properties of ashwagandha have been identified since the ancient ages. The roots of the plant have traditionally been used in medicine for over 5000 years and are reported to have myriad health benefits.
This evergreen herb is best known as one of the most acclaimed adaptogens throughout the world. From a therapeutic perspective, adaptogens are natural substances that help the human body better adapt in response to stress, meaning they help manage physical and mental stressors in such a way that the body gets back its balance and vitality in the quickest possible way.
Modern research has also substantiated many of its traditional uses and advantages. Let’s take a look at some of the most common benefits of ashwagandha that are scientifically proven so far.
Ashwagandha may lower stress and anxiety
One of the most purported benefits of ashwagandha is its incredible ability to lower stress and anxiety. It works wonders in managing physical and mental stressors and their associated symptoms such as fatigue, fear, panic, and pain.
In a 2012 randomized controlled trial (RCT) published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, researchers concluded that ashwagandha root is a safe and effective agent to improve one’s resistance towards stress and overall quality of life .
Ashwagandha may support the immune health
Research suggests that ashwagandha may benefit immune health by activating several immune cells in the body which in turn may help protect the body from various conditions caused by a compromised immune function.
One 2009 clinical study investigating the immunologic effects of ashwagandha on humans found positive results in immune cell activation. But further in-depth research is required to confirm these effects .
Ashwagandha may help improve sleep
In Indian traditional medicine Ayurveda, ashwagandha has long been used to promote restful sleep. There is also a decent amount of evidence as well that claims ashwagandha has the potential to address various sleep issues and improve overall sleep quality.
A recent 2020 study in Cureus showed that ashwagandha root extract is effective in improving sleep quality, mental alertness, and overall quality of life, especially in elderly people .
Ashwagandha may boost testosterone levels and fertility in men
Ashwagandha has significant reproductive benefits for men. Multiple studies suggest that ashwagandha can increase male fertility by significantly rebalancing the levels of reproductive hormones and improving sperm quality .
Ashwagandha may improve sexual function in women
Ashwagandha may provide benefits to women experiencing different types of sexual difficulties. A 2015 clinical study in Biomed Research International shows that ashwagandha is effective and relatively safe in improving sexual function in women .
Ashwagandha may support brain function, including memory
Ashwagandha has been found to be effective in improving memory and other brain functions. These benefits seem to come from the antioxidant compounds found in ashwagandha that help protect and maintain cognitive health .
Ashwagandha may ease pain
Ashwagandha and the plant chemicals it contains have been shown to possess noticeable anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that can help ease pain in many health conditions. In one study in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, researchers have shown that the administration of ashwagandha extracts (both roots and leaves) significantly reduced knee pain and swelling after 12 weeks .
Disadvantages of ashwagandha
Nearly every good thing has some potential disadvantages and so ashwagandha has some limitations too. But most disadvantages of ashwandha are easily avoidable and even reversible with taking simple precautions. Let’s have a look at some common ones:
Drowsiness - ashwagandha may cause drowsiness and may interrupt daytime work.
Unsuitable during pregnancy and breastfeeding - this herb may not be suitable during pregnancy or breastfeeding and hence, should not be used without medical advice.
Possible interactions - ashwagandha may interfere with how certain medications, supplements, and herbs work in the body, and therefore, those who are on medications or other herbs must ask their healthcare providers prior to using it.
Side effects - even though rare, some people may experience some uncommon adverse effects, such as gastrointestinal discomfort, rashes, and a fall in blood pressure. However, It’s best to consult with a certified naturopathic doctor or herbalist before taking this herb to determine whether it's right for your specific health status.
How to use ashwagandha
Ashwagandha can be taken in many different ways including as powders, capsules, tablets, and liquid extracts. Most often ashwagandha is recommended with meals or warm milk.
In general, doses range from 250 mg to 600 mg per day which can be taken in two to three divided doses throughout the day. It’s highly recommended to consult with a professional natural healthcare practitioner to get your personalized dose prior to starting ashwagandha, especially if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or on medications for any underlying health issue.
Here you go. Now you know both the pros and cons of ashwagandha. Ashwagandha offers diverse health benefits ranging from reducing stress to boosting immunity to improving brain function. This is the reason why this herb is increasingly popular for thousands of years despite some possible disadvantages.
Consider working with a licensed naturopathic doctor or herbalist to determine whether this amazing herb is right for you and what method of use would be the best for your personal health needs.