Ashwagandha, also known as Withania Somnifera and Indian Ginseng, is probably one of the most well-known ayurvedic adaptogenic herbs worldwide. While the herb is generally well-tolerated among most individuals in recommended doses, it does have some known side effects. A few users have also reported experiencing ashwagandha withdrawal symptoms.
In this article, we'll cover what you need to know about the side effects of ashwagandha, whether there is such a thing as ashwagandha withdrawal, and what to know about it.
Ashwagandha Withdrawal Symptoms
Ashwagandha is a herb used for treating a variety of medical conditions like anxiety, depression, fatigue, and insomnia. However, if you decide to stop taking it suddenly, you might experience ashwagandha's withdrawal symptoms. Though there is minimal research in this area, here are the three most common symptoms you may need to watch out for:
Studies have shown that ashwagandha can help reduce anxiety. However, upon discontinuation, some individuals might experience a return of anxiety or heightened irritability, as their body adjusts to the absence of the herb.
Ashwagandha helps in getting sound sleep. But, if you suddenly stop taking it, you might also experience insomnia or disturbed sleep.
3. Digestive Issues
Digestive issues are frequently reported as a reaction to taking ashwagandha and may be experienced upon stopping the herb as well. Possible ashwagandha withdrawal symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pains - though the severity of these will vary depending on how long you have been taking ashwagandha. Fortunately, such issues tend to pass in time.
Withdrawal symptoms of ashwagandha can be managed by gradually reducing the dosage instead of stopping it altogether. It is always advisable to consult your doctor before you make any changes to your medication or start taking any supplements. Seek medical care if you're struggling to keep food or water down or if your symptoms aren't getting better after stopping supplementation.
How Long Does Ashwagandha Withdrawal Last?
As mentioned, there isn't much research focused on the subject of ashwagandha withdrawal. However, we know that ashwagandha is generally safe for most people, provided they stick to low doses (see dosage list below). In general, when discontinuing ashwagandha, you may experience various stages of withdrawal. These stages depend on your body's resilience and capacity to adapt.
Initial Stage: Begins a few days after stopping ashwagandha. It is normal to experience the return of the initial symptoms that prompted you to take the supplement in the first place. These symptoms may last for three days.
Intensive Stage: Deeper withdrawal symptoms emerge 3-5 days after the last dose, reflecting a bodily and mental imbalance. This stage can last from 5 to 28 days.
Prolonged Stage: Experienced by those with long-term use or dependency. Symptoms, such as sleep disruptions, depression, mood fluctuations, and concentration difficulties, can last 12 months or more.
If at any time you're experiencing uncomfortable symptoms that do not improve or continue to get worse, seek medical support at the earliest.
Why People Take Ashwagandha Supplements
People often begin taking ashwagandha based on recommendations from traditional medicine practitioners or on their own after hearing about its reported benefits for the body. According to existing research, ashwagandha may help:
- Reduce cortisol hormone levels in the body, which gets released during stress. Cortisol production is related to the amount of stress and anxiety we can experience. The lower the level of Cortisol, the less stress you feel. Ashwagandha may also potentially help treat depression, but more research is needed in this area before we can reach a definitive conclusion.
- Reduce blood sugar levels, thus showing potential in treating Type II Diabetes.
- Increase testosterone levels in men and improve male fertility by increasing sperm count and motility.
- Reduce inflammation by increasing the activity of the immune system and boosting its ability to fight infection.
- Reduce levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Increase energy by boosting the amount of haemoglobin in the blood.
- Boost brain function and health.
- Sleep better by improving the quality and duration of sleep.
On the downside though, when you use ashwagandha, it's also important to be aware of the potential side effects.
Other Ashwagandha Side Effects and Precautions
Ashwagandha may be safe to use for up to 3 months. We currently don’t know the long-term effects of consuming this supplement beyond this period.
Other side-effects of ashwagandha that aren't as common are giddiness, drowsiness, hallucinogenic, vertigo, hyperacidity, nasal congestion (rhinitis), cough, cold, dry mouth, decreased appetite, nausea, constipation, hyperactivity, weight gain, nocturnal cramps, blurring of vision, and skin rash.
Large doses of ashwagandha have been associated with liver problems but this happens rarely.
Dosages to Take
Based on the research available, 250-500 mg of ashwagandha may be the beneficial dosage for various health benefits when taken for a period of 1 month:
- 225–600 mg per day taken for 1–2 months shows benefits in reducing anxiety and stress.
- Dosages starting at 250 mg may benefit in reducing blood sugar.
- 5 g daily for up to 3 months may help in boosting male fertility.
- 500 mg per day may help in increasing muscle mass and strength in both men and women in as little as 8 weeks.
- 250 mg or 12 mL of ashwagandha extract appears to be the most beneficial in fighting infection and/or inflammation.
- 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract daily may boost memory; however, research is still in its early days in this area.
In general, stick to safe limits and avoid taking ashwagandha for more than 3 months.
Stop Taking Ashwagandha If
- You are pregnant or breastfeeding. There is some research to suggest that ashwagandha may be linked to miscarriages.
- You have hormone-sensitive prostate cancer, as ashwagandha may increase testosterone levels.
- You're consuming drugs such as benzodiazepines, anticonvulsants, or barbiturates. Ashwagandha may work as a sedative and also may show GABAnergic effects.
- You're going in for surgery that requires anesthesia, two weeks ahead of time, to prevent the herb from interacting with the anaesthesia.
When to Talk to Your Doctor Before Taking Ashwagandha
You should consult your physician before taking ashwagandha supplements in all case - especially if you have a medical condition and are taking medicinal drugs or other substances.
Here are a few specific examples of the effect of ashwagandha on certain types of medications:
- The herb may lower blood sugar levels, so it may lower your blood sugar too much if you're already taking antihyperglycemic (glucose-lowering) drugs.
- Similarly, it may lower your blood pressure, so it's best avoided if you're already taking drugs to treat high blood pressure.
- Ashwagandha can boost the functioning of your immune system, so it could interfere with drugs that suppress the immune system, like cyclosporine, mycophenolate, tacrolimus, prednisone, and corticosteroids. These drugs are usually taken by people with autoimmune disorders.
- Ashwagandha may function like a sedative, making you sleepy or drowsy. If you use it together with sedative-hypnotic drugs like oldipem, eszoplicone, clonazepam, quetiapine, and lorazepam, it can make you even more sleepy.
- Taking the herb may increase your thyroid hormone levels, so discuss with your doctor if you're taking thyroid hormones.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do you get withdrawals from ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha has many potential benefits, but those taking it should be aware that they may experience withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop taking it. Symptoms can range from a few days to much longer, including anxiety, insomnia, or irritability. Those with thyroid conditions should use caution and/or avoid ashwagandha altogether. Most side effects are mild and will dissipate once the herb is no longer being taken, but it is important to speak to your healthcare provider prior to beginning treatment.
What happens when you stop taking ashwagandha?
If you take ashwagandha within the recommended limits and for not more than 3 months and otherwise have no other medical complications, side effects resolve themselves over time.
Why do you have to stop taking ashwagandha?
If you've been taking ashwagandha consistently, it's important to take a break from it every now and then. While it can be a helpful herbal supplement for reducing anxiety and treating insomnia, there are potential downsides to ashwagandha with long-term use.
For instance, digestive upset and potential withdrawal symptoms can occur. Additionally, ashwagandha may cause drowsiness and slower breathing, which could be risky when combined with certain medications. Women who are pregnant should also avoid taking ashwagandha to prevent harm to the baby.
To avoid any severe complications, it's not recommended to take ashwagandha for more than 3 months or to consume it in high doses because we do not have enough information on the long-term effects of the drug.
While herbs that are used in indigenous treatments have shown benefits under skilled practitioners, it's important to be cautious when taking such herbs for general health benefits. Follow the recommended doses and stick to the general precautions provided to avoid long-term adverse reactions and other possible ashwagandha withdrawal symptoms.