Ashwagandha: What It Is And How To Use It - Neuropedia

Ashwagandha: What It Is And How To Use It

Fact Checked By: Dr. Liora Mor, ND

While you probably know that stress management is vital, finding ways to de-stress can become a stressor all on its own. That’s where supplements that can make you stronger in the face of stress, like ashwagandha, come in handy.

Ashwagandha is an herb that potentially assists in vitality and longevity and could be the missing piece to your stress-management protocol. With antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, ashwagandha comes packed with benefits that support your body as a whole. 

This article will discuss what ashwagandha is, the benefits of this ancient herb, and answer some frequently asked questions about how and when to use ashwagandha. 

What Is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera, is a medicinal herb that’s been used for thousands of years in India as part of the traditional medicine called Ayurveda. This evergreen shrub is found growing in India, Africa, and the Middle East.

Ayurvedic practitioners reach for ashwagandha to increase energy, reduce inflammation, assist in stress management, and promote overall health. Considered an “adaptogenic herb,” ashwagandha is said to counteract the effects of stress on your body and mind. In this way, it can either energize you if you’re feeling burnt out or relax you if you’re on overdrive. 

Ashwagandha Health Benefits

Research in humans and animals shows that ashwagandha may exhibit the following benefits.

Reduced Stress and Feelings of Anxiousness

One of the most well-known benefits of ashwagandha is its role in stress management. As an adaptogenic herb, it can help your body and mind adapt to stress in a way that’s unique to your needs. Specifically, research shows that ashwagandha may enhance your resistance to stress and reduce feelings of stress and anxiousness.[1]

In a randomized controlled trial, participants with chronic stress took ashwagandha supplements for 60 days, followed by a stress-assessment test. The researchers found that those who took the ashwagandha experienced a significant reduction in both anxiety and insomnia, as well as reduced cortisol levels.[2][3]

Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is one of the best physical markers for stress. Many people with chronic stress experience dysregulation of cortisol, which further drives an inability to manage stress. Ashwagandha’s ability to regulate cortisol levels helps your body manage incoming stress while keeping your nervous system calm.[4]

Improved Memory

Ashwagandha has been studied for its ability to improve brain function, particularly memory and psychomotor function like eye-hand coordination and reaction time

In one study, a group of adults with mild cognitive impairment took ashwagandha supplements for eight weeks to assess the herb’s impact on cognition. After the eight weeks, the treatment group showed improvements in both immediate and general memory, along with executive function, attention, and information processing speed.[5]

In another study, healthy volunteers took 250 mg of ashwagandha twice daily for a period of 14 days. At the end of the trial, the volunteers taking ashwagandha showed improvement in cognitive and psychomotor skills, with enhanced choice discrimination, reaction time, and card sorting compared to the placebo group[6]

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May Boost Fertility In Men 

One of the many side effects of excessive stress is infertility. When your body is in a fight or flight stage, your hormones aren’t exactly cued up to reproduce. Instead, most of your energy is focused on survival. 

Ashwagandha is known to enhance vitality in both men and women and has been shown to support male fertility. 

In one study, 60 males that were struggling with fertility were given five grams of ashwagandha a day for three months. At the end of the study, the treatment group showed significant decreases in stress, improved antioxidant levels, and improved overall semen quality. What’s more, the treatment resulted in pregnancy in the partners of 14% of the participants.[7]

In another study, researchers found that supplementation with ashwagandha regulated hormones related to semen quality in males and reduced oxidative stress.[8]

Reduced Inflammation

Inflammation is said to be at the root of almost every chronic disease, from cardiovascular disease to neurological disease and more.[9]

In ancient Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years to treat inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and to calm the pain that comes with inflammatory swelling.[10]

Clinical research shows that taking ashwagandha may reduce C-reactive protein levels, one of the most reliable markers for inflammation.[11] … Continue reading


Do I take ashwagandha in the morning or at night?

Your ideal time to take ashwagandha depends on your needs and preferences. If you’re after more energy, try taking ashwagandha in the morning as part of your daily supplement routine. If you find that it’s hard to wind down at night, try taking ashwagandha in the evening before bed.

Since ashwagandha can either promote relaxation or energy, you’ll have to determine the best time to take it for you, depending on your needs and how it affects you. It may take several weeks before you start to see the benefits of this herb, so keep assessing what time of day is right for you.

Some people find that taking ashwagandha on an empty stomach leads to diarrhea, upset stomach, or nausea. If you have a sensitive stomach, be sure to take this supplement with food. 

Does ashwagandha work?

Ashwagandha has been clinically shown to improve symptoms of stress and anxiety, inflammation, memory issues, fertility outcomes, and more. As a medicinal herb, these changes likely won’t happen overnight, so you may need to be patient before you start noticing big shifts. 

How much ashwagandha do I take per day?

There is no set dose of ashwagandha, but studies show that anywhere between 125 mg to 5 g could be effective depending on your goals. For instance, ashwagandha for stress relief is typically somewhere between 250 to 600 mg per day.  

Does ashwagandha make you sleepy?

As an adaptogenic herb, ashwagandha works with your body’s current needs. If your nervous system is in need of more relaxation, taking ashwagandha may make you feel drowsy or sleepy and should therefore be taken before bed. However, it shouldn’t cause excessive sleepiness. 

Studies show that ashwagandha can help with insomnia that’s caused by stress, so if you suffer from insomnia, this herbal medicine may assist you in getting a restful night of sleep.[12]

How long does ashwagandha take to work?

Unlike pharmaceutical medications, ashwagandha offers a more holistic approach, so it likely won’t work overnight. Typically, the benefits of ashwagandha can be seen after about two to four weeks of supplementation. However, some studies show that it may take up to ten weeks to experience the full effects. 

Is ashwagandha a nightshade?

Yes, ashwagandha is a nightshade plant, which means that it may not be the right choice for you if you’re sensitive to nightshades like tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant. According to Ayurveda, however, the anti-inflammatory and health-promoting qualities of ashwagandha counteract the inflammatory aspects of this nightshade. 

Who should not take ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha may interfere or increase drowsiness for people taking sedative medications. Furthermore, you should always consult with your healthcare practitioner before taking any new supplement if you’re currently on any medications, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding. Young children and adolescents should also consult with a healthcare professional.

Can ashwagandha cause anxiety?

Ashwagandha is often used to calm stress and anxiety and shouldn’t increase these symptoms. With that being said, everyone’s body and needs are different. Therefore, if you notice increased anxiety when taking ashwagandha, you should discontinue your use and try something better suited for your needs. 

Taking too much of any natural remedy may cause imbalances, so be sure to stick with the recommended dosage.

Does ashwagandha lower blood pressure?

Research shows that ashwagandha may have a blood pressure-lowering effect. While well-tolerated by most people, if you’re taking blood pressure medication for either high or low blood pressure, be careful with this herb and consult with your prescribing healthcare practitioner before taking it. 

Can you take too much ashwagandha?

In short, yes. Taking too much of any natural medicine can cause imbalances. Sticking with the recommended dose is always important. While there aren’t any long-term studies on the safety of high-dose ashwagandha, research shows that the most common side effects are upset stomach, nausea, and diarrhea. 

With that being said, taking higher than recommended doses could cause an over-correction in any of the research-backed health benefits, so you should always be careful not to overdo it. 

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