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Can Ashwagandha Cause Anxiety? How It Affects Cortisol

Key Takeaways:

  • Ashwagandha helps reduce stress and anxiety by lowering cortisol levels.
  • Adjusting dosage is crucial if experiencing anxiety while taking Ashwagandha.
  • Start with smaller doses (250-300mg) to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Timing intake of Ashwagandha can optimize its anxiety-relieving effects.
  • Studies suggest Ashwagandha doesn't lower cortisol excessively.
  • Balancing cortisol with Ashwagandha may aid weight management and promote overall health.
  • Ashwagandha shows promise in reducing stress and anxiety levels, backed by studies.
  • Lowered cortisol levels from Ashwagandha may indirectly contribute to a happier mood.
  • Effects of Ashwagandha vary among individuals, requiring patience and consistency.
  • Ashwagandha offers a natural alternative to managing stress and anxiety.
  • Be aware of potential side effects like digestive issues and drowsiness when taking Ashwagandha.
  • Consult a healthcare provider if experiencing adverse reactions to Ashwagandha.

Ashwagandha is a powerful ayurvedic medicinal herb that is used by many people to help reduce stress and ease anxiety. It is believed to work by helping to lower the level of cortisol in your body, which is a hormone we produce as a response to stress.

As this is one of the primary benefits of Ashwagandha, it’s very unlikely that it will make you feel more anxious, however, not impossible as everybody can react differently to medicinal herbs and supplements.

If you are experiencing anxiety when taking an Ashwagandha supplement, there’s a chance that you haven’t got your dosage correct.

This is especially true if you’re new to Ashwagandha and you’ve only just started taking it. In this instance, you'll need to practice a little patience.

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One study found that taking 500-600mg of Ashwagandha every day could be helpful in reducing anxiety in adults, but the effects really started showing after a period of 6-12 weeks.

Don’t jump straight into your Ashwagandha journey with a large dose, though. Start by taking a smaller amount of around 250-300mg per day so that your body can adjust to the effects, rather than feeling overpowered by it.

It’s also very important that you’re taking your Ashwagandha supplement at the correct time if you’re using it to relieve anxiety.

If you find yourself feeling anxious at a certain time of day, it’s best to take Ashwagandha an hour or two before you know your anxiety will kick in. Take it too early and the effect may not be as powerful.

Can Ashwagandha Lower Cortisol Too Much?

There is no evidence to suggest that taking Ashwagandha can lower cortisol levels too much.

Since Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, it is believed to help restore your cortisol levels to a normal level rather than causing them to plummet.

There have been several studies that have shown the cortisol-lowering effect of Ashwagandha, including one that showed a 30% reduction on average. However, there are no studies indicating that a side effect of Ashwagandha is to lower cortisol ‘too much’ - i.e. to levels below healthy.

With this in mind, taking an Ashwagandha supplement daily could be a good option for anybody that finds themselves facing stressful situations or feeling anxious at certain intervals throughout the day.

Keeping your cortisol levels in check doesn’t only reduce stress, though. It can also help with weight management as an increased level of cortisol in the body can lead to a higher amount of visceral fat being stored around the stomach and reduced testosterone levels.

It is worth remembering, however, that we actually need some cortisol for healthy body function. It might be known as the stress hormone, but it is also responsible for many essential functions including:

  • Managing how our body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
  • Preventing and reducing inflammation
  • Regulating blood pressure
  • Increasing blood sugar levels
  • Controlling our circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle)
  • Boosting energy

The goal is never to remove cortisol from the equation completely, and Ashwagandha can be a great help in restoring it to healthy levels without causing it to dip too low or spike too high.

Ashwagandha capsules

Does Ashwagandha Cause Anxiety?

Ashwagandha doesn't typically cause anxiety, but it can happen in some people when they take too large doses. Our body chemistry can also vary, and what calms one person might have the opposite effect on another. It's also possible that ashwagandha interacts with other medications you're taking, leading to anxiety.

In most cases, though, ashwagandha is believed to be one of the most effective medical herbs at helping with anxiety and not causing it. There have been several solid studies on its anxiety-reducing capabilities.

One of these studies involved a group of 64 adults, all of whom were suffering from chronic stress. A portion of the participants were given an Ashwagandha supplement while the others were given a placebo over the course of 60 days.

The results showed a 69% reduction in stress and anxiety in the group given the Ashwagandha supplement, while the placebo group showed an 11% reduction.

A small study but nonetheless, promising results. So, how does Ashwagandha help manage anxiety?

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As we’ve mentioned above, Ashwagandha is thought to help lower cortisol levels in your body. If you don’t know what cortisol is, the simplest way to explain it is that it is our body’s “stress hormone”.

When we are faced with a stressful situation, our adrenal glands start pumping out more and more cortisol as a way of responding to danger. It’s basically the start of our primal “fight or flight” response.

In the modern world, there are loads of things that can cause a spike in cortisol. Stressful jobs, health worries, and even social anxiety can send them soaring. And, the more stress we’re under, the higher the risk of developing anxiety.

But, as Ashwagandha is potentially capable of lowering your cortisol levels, it can help you remain calm during these stressful situations. In turn, you may find yourself feeling less anxious and able to cope better when faced with stress.

There are a number of other health benefits in taking Ashwagandha to help manage anxiety as well as anxiety doesn’t only have an effect on your mental health, it can affect your body in a variety of ways including:

  • Migraines
  • Problems with memory and concentration
  • Digestive problems
  • Insomnia
  • Weight gain
  • Heart disease

Taking a daily Ashwagandha root extract supplement offers many benefits for stress, anxiety and many other related ailments. Keep in mind it's good to cycle Ashwagandha and take a break from time to time - as you would from all supplements.

Ashwagandha (Winter Cherry) plant

Can Taking Ashwagandha Make You Happy?

Multiple studies have shown that Ashwagandha could have the potential to lower cortisol levels, reducing stress and anxiety as it does. But does this mean that it will make you feel happy? This is a bit of a tricky question to answer.

As an adaptogen, Ashwagandha may help your body manage stress more efficiently. However, it doesn’t mean that in doing so it necessarily boosts your mood. It simply helps you cope better.

That happy feeling you get from certain situations is generally caused by serotonin. When your serotonin levels are balanced, you’ll find yourself in a good mood, you’ll have a normal appetite, and you’ll be able to sleep better.

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When we are stressed, cortisol is produced which decreases our serotonin levels. This leads to bad moods, insomnia, weight gain, and more.

Since Ashwagandha is believed to help lower cortisol levels, there’s a better chance of keeping your serotonin levels in check and, as a result, you may find yourself feeling happier.

So, while there isn’t any evidence to suggest that Ashwagandha can improve your mood by raising your serotonin levels, it may help by lowering your cortisol levels.

How Does Ashwagandha Feel?

Ashwagandha may help you feel more relaxed, it can help you achieve better sleep, and it can help you manage stress better. However, the effect of taking an Ashwagandha supplement can vary from person to person.

It can also take a while to start feeling the effects, so you need to practice a little patience. This is especially true if you’ve never taken it before as your body will take time to adjust to it.

One thing it won’t do, however, is give you the harsh numbness that some prescription drugs and antidepressants can. This makes it a great choice of supplement for anybody struggling with stress and anxiety, but looking for a natural way of dealing with it.

Check out the great video below for an excellent visual rundown on Ashwagandhas effects on anxiety and stress levels:

Frequently Asked Questions

What are other potential side effects of Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is generally well-tolerated, but it's important to be aware of some potential side effects. These can include digestive issues like diarrhea and nausea, drowsiness, and even headaches in some cases. If you're considering taking ashwagandha, especially for long-term use, it's wise to learn more about these and other potential drawbacks. Read here for a more in-depth look at ashwagandha side effects.

Stop taking ashwagandha if you feel other adverse reactions and consult your healthcare provider for a personalized assessment before using ashwagandha.

Can Ashwagandha make you anxious?

Ashwagandha is generally known for its stress-reducing properties. However, some individuals may experience anxiety, especially at higher doses. If you experience anxiety after taking ashwagandha, consult your doctor and adjust the dosage or discontinue use.

When should ashwagandha be avoided?

Ashwagandha may interact with certain medications, including thyroid medications, sedatives, and blood sugar medications. Pregnant or breastfeeding women, and people with autoimmune conditions should avoid ashwagandha unless advised by their doctor.


There you have it! Everything you need to know about Ashwagandha’s power over anxiety.

In the case of increasing anxiety, there is very little evidence to suggest that taking Ashwagandha would cause this.

If you are feeling as though you’re not feeling its full effects, it’s probably more than likely that you need to look at your dosage and adjust accordingly. When you get the dosage right, your cortisol levels will be reduced, you’ll feel less stressed and, as a result, you should feel less anxious.

In some cases, it may even make you feel happier as your high cortisol levels are replaced with an influx of naturally produced serotonin.

As with all supplements and natural medicines though, you should consult your GP to make sure you won’t have any issues with it and get the ‘all clear’ first. It also helps to know about the side effects and withdrawal symptoms before starting on your journey.

Be sure to check out our review of the best ashwagandha supplements to help you get started on the right brands when you're ready to kickstart your journey!

Darcy Ogdon-Nolan

Holding a Bachelor Of Science (Hons.) combined with close to a decade now in the health food and wellness industry, I believe I'm uniquely positioned to provide a depth of knowledge and first-hand experience on emerging health products, trends and ideas! From greens powders and medicinal mushrooms through to protein powders and workout nutrition - I'm particularly interested in what modern science can uncover about what human cultures have been using to treat ailments for millennia!

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