How to Take Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha supplements can be taken for many reasons. Find out how to take ashwagandha, possible side effects and interactions with other herbs and medications.
In most countries, Ashwagandha is available as a dietary supplement, which means that it is not under control of supervising agencies, such as FDA.
Ashwagandha supplements are generally considered safe. There have been reports, though, of supplements containing traces of heavy metals. For that reason, it is recommended that you buy your supplement from a well known manufacturer. High quality ashwagandha supplements are regularly tested by third party laboratories and adhere to the purity standards set by the US Pharmacopoeia.
Starting with Ashwagandha Supplementation
When you are taking ashwagandha for the first time, begin with small doses. Observe any changes that you experience and, if needed, increase your dosage every few weeks.
The best way to monitor your reaction to ashwagandha, is to keep a diary, in which you note both your physical as well as emotional response.
Ashwagandha can sometimes cause gastrointestinal distress (stomach pain and diarrhea). To reduce the risk of side effects, take your supplement with meals.
Doses that have been used and studied in clinical research vary widely. The most commonly used doses range between 100 mgs and 2 grams per day.
In these doses, ashwagandha is considered safe as there have been no proven toxic side effects.
Typically, supplements in capsule form contain powder from ashwagandha roots (although you can find supplements that also contain powder from ashwagandha berries).
Besides capsules, you can also take ashwagandha in the form of loose powder, boiled in tea, or prepared in alcoholic extract.
Not all ashwagandha supplements are the same
Be careful which ashwagandha you choose, as some supplements have been found to contain harmful contaminants, such as heavy metals or residues of solvents used in the extraction process.
Also, many ashwagandha supplements on the market aren't effective, as they don't contain enough withanolides (active ingredients found in ashwagandha roots).
Here's more on how to choose a safe and effective ashwagandha supplement.
Most Common Side Effects from Ashwagandha
Most common side effects from ashwagandha are stomach discomfort, diarrhea and vomiting. Usually, these subside in time. The risk of gastrointestinal distress is reduced if you take your supplement with meals.
Ashwagandha is used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine as both rejuvenating tonic as well as sleep aid.
The reason for this double action can be found in the adaptogenic nature of Ashwagandha. This means that it can sometimes act as a sedative, while other times it gives you an energy boost – depending on your needs.
Many people choose to take ashwagandha only in the evening as it causes them to feel sleepy.
Ashwagandha can cause miscarriage due to its spasmolytic activity on the uterus. Ashwagandha is not recommended for use in pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Precautions and Interactions
People Who Should Be Cautious When Taking Ashwagandha
People With Autoimmune disorders
Ashwagandha causes the immune system to become more active. This in turn may worsen the symptoms of autoimmune disease. These diseases include multiple sclerosis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, and more.
Suffering from stomach ulcers
People who have stomach ulcers shouldn’t use ashwagandha supplements. The reason for this is that ashwagandha can irritate stomach lining and cause new flare ups of the condition.
Ashwagandha slows down the nervous system and may interact with medications used for anesthesia. Stop with ashwagandha supplementation at least two weeks before scheduled surgery.
Interactions With Prescription Medications
Ashwagandha is known to interact with the following prescription medications:
Antidepressants and anxiolytics (medications for anxiety)
Ashwagandha has a similar action as many common antidepressants and medications for anxiety. If you take these medications along with ashwagandha, the combined effect might be too strong.
Ashwagandha can act as a sedative and may increase the effect of barbituates. It is not advisable to combine ashwagandha with central nervous system depressants.
Ashwagandha has a significant effect on the levels of thyroid hormones. If you have a thyroid disorder and you are taking ashwagandha, you should regularly check the level of your thyroid hormones.
Ashwagandha helps you regulate your blood glucose levels. If you are taking ashwagandha along with medications for diabetes or insulin resistance, this may result in too low blood sugar levels. Monitor your blood sugar closely if you have a blood sugar disorder and you are taking ashwagandha.
Medications for high blood pressure
Ashwagandha may decrease blood pressure. People, who have low blood pressure or are taking medications for high blood pressure, must be careful when taking ashwagandha.
Other Herbs and Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha can be combined with many supplements and herbs.
- For vitality, physical endurance, and mental concentration, it can be combined with rhodiola, ginseng, and terminalia arjuna.
- Maca and ashwagandha are sometimes used together for sexual stimulation and fertility issues.
- Curcumin and silymarin (milk thistle extract) can be added to ashwagandha for increased antioxidant effect.
- For immunostimulatory effect, ashwagandha can be combined with Echinacea and taken together with eucalyptus and thyme, which both have antiviral and antibacterial effect.
- Ashwagandha and Gingko Biloba combination is taken for nervous system and brain health.
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