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How To Cycle Ashwagandha: Should You Take a Break?

Key Takeaways

  • Cycling Ashwagandha is beneficial to prevent potential side effects and maintain its efficacy.
  • Take a 2-4 week break every 6-8 weeks to allow your body to reset and reassess your needs.
  • Continuous use without breaks can lead to digestive issues, sleep disturbances, hormonal imbalances, increased anxiety, and potential dependency.
  • Adapting usage based on personal experiences and health goals is crucial.
  • Consultation with a healthcare provider is recommended if experiencing adverse effects or uncertainties about usage.

Ashwagandha (withania somnifera), or Indian ginseng, is an adaptogenic herb that is thought to have many different health benefits in Ayurvedic medicine.

It contains both water-soluble and fat-soluble compounds that stay in your system for different lengths of time. It differs from person to person, but generally speaking, the water soluble compounds in ashwagandha will leave your system within 2 - 3 days, while the fat soluble compounds may remain for up to a month.

Many people take ashwagandha to help the body manage stress and anxiety levels. Ashwagandha may also have the ability to increase fertility in men, improve exercise endurance and strength, reduce inflammation and so much more.

It’s a herbal supplement that many people take for long periods of time without suffering from adverse side effects, as long as you’ve got your dosage right.

But, even though it can be taken daily, should you take a break from Ashwagandha at some point?

The short answer is yes, you should.

While it’s undeniable that there are numerous Ashwagandha health benefits, taking a break can do your body good in a few different ways. Below, we’ll take a look at how you can cycle ashwagandha and why it’s a good idea to take an occasional break from Ashwagandha.

We’ll also explore some situations where taking a break from Ashwagandha isn’t only a good idea, but is absolutely necessary.

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How To Cycle Ashwagandha

Like many well-meaning things, our bodies can get used to Ashwagandha, potentially dulling its effects. Cycling helps prevent this "adaptation" and keeps your system responsive.

Let's break down how you can smartly cycle Ashwagandha, ensuring it remains safe and effective, to keep reaping its potential benefits.

  1. Kickoff Phase: Start with taking Ashwagandha daily for about 6 to 8 weeks. This gives it ample time to work its magic.
  2. Check-In Time: After those initial weeks, it's good to pause and see how things are going. Noticed any improvements? Feeling better overall? This is your personal checkpoint to gauge the herb's impact.
  3. Time-Out: Next up, take a break for 2 to 4 weeks to cycle off ashwagandha. This break helps ensure that when you restart, your body responds to it as effectively as the first time.
  4. Reflection Point: After your break, think about what you've noticed. Is there a difference in how you feel when you're taking it versus not? This is a great way to truly see if it was doing its job and if you should hop back on.
  5. Fine-Tuning: Based on your observations, decide if it’s round two for you and Ashwagandha. Maybe tweak the amount if you’re not quite hitting your wellness goals.

Remember, everyone's tolerance and constitution are different, so what works for one person might need adjusting for another. It's all about finding what supplement regimen works best for you.

Why You Should Take A Break From Ashwagandha

Take a moment to look back at the reason you started taking Ashwagandha in the first place. You might be using it as a way of lowering your cortisol levels to reduce stress and help you manage your anxiety better.

Perhaps you’ve turned to Ashwagandha supplementation as a natural way to increase muscular strength or help lower your LDL cholesterol. Maybe you're looking for healthier skin and hair?

Whatever the reason, it’s quite likely that you chose Ashwagandha with a specific purpose in mind. But, if you’re taking your Ashwagandha supplements continuously, it can be quite difficult to see how effective it is for your specific needs.

Taking a break from Ashwagandha gives you the opportunity to check in with your body and reassess your needs. When you do this, you’re able to see just how effective the Ashwagandha supplements you’ve been taking are. You’re also able to see if you need to increase or reduce your dosage.

Let’s say, for example, that you started taking Ashwagandha as a fertility supplement. This is a great choice, especially as one study found that it helped to produce higher-quality sperm after a period of three months. In the same study, 14% of the men’s partners had also become pregnant with the help of Ashwagandha.

Now, imagine you’re in that 14% and you and your partner have achieved pregnancy. Is there now any real need to keep taking Ashwagandha? While it’s believed to possess multiple health benefits, the main reason you started taking it has been fulfilled.

In this situation, now would be a good time to take a break and see if it has affected your body positively in any other way.

If, during your break period, you notice that you’re becoming stressed more frequently or you notice issues with your general memory, there’s a good chance that the Ashwagandha was helping with underlying issues that you didn’t even know you had.

Put simply, taking an occasional break from Ashwagandha gives you the opportunity to look at how it’s been helping you and, from there, you’ll know whether or not you need to continue taking it.

Photographer: Adam Winger

Do You Have To Cycle Ashwagandha?

With that being said, there’s no reason why you can’t continue taking Ashwagandha as a general health supplement, even if you feel it’s achieved its intended purpose.

Just make sure you take a break every so often so that you can listen to your body without the influence of Ashwagandha flowing through it.

But, when it comes to taking a break, how long should you go without Ashwagandha? As a general rule, it’s a good idea to take 2 - 4 weeks off every 6 - 8 weeks.

The majority of the studies that have been done on Ashwagandha saw treatment periods of around three months, so the evidence suggests that it would be effective during this time.

Remember, however, that everybody is different and herbal medicine can affect people in different ways. This is why it’s important that you take a break from Ashwagandha every couple of months.

If you’re not finding that it’s helping you within this time frame, you know that you should extend your treatment period by a couple of weeks.

Potential Side Effects of Ashwagandha

Continuing Ashwagandha without cycling can lead to potential side effects due to the body's adaptation to its continuous presence. Notable side effects include:

  1. Digestive Issues: Some individuals may experience stomach upset, diarrhea, or constipation as their system struggles to adjust to prolonged Ashwagandha intake.
  2. Sleep Disturbances: Though often used to improve sleep quality, long-term use without breaks may, paradoxically, lead to insomnia or restless sleep patterns for some users.
  3. Hormonal Imbalance: Ashwagandha may influence hormone levels, including thyroid hormones. Continuous use without cycling might lead to imbalances, affecting thyroid function or testosterone levels, particularly in sensitive individuals.
  4. Dependency: There may be a risk of becoming psychologically dependent on Ashwagandha for stress management or sleep, which could make it harder to cope without it.

To avoid these side effects, it's advisable to follow recommended cycling patterns, taking breaks to allow the body to reset. This approach ensures the benefits of Ashwagandha can be enjoyed without the risk of adverse effects from prolonged uninterrupted use.

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Withania somnifera plant

When Should I Take A Break From Ashwagandha?

There are a few circumstances in which you should take a break from ashwagandha all together

Surgery

There are a few situations where taking a break from Ashwagandha is absolutely necessary, and one of these is when you’re due to go for surgery.

In this instance, you should stop taking Ashwagandha altogether for at least two weeks before your operation.

The reason for this is that it is believed Ashwagandha has an effect on the central nervous system, which is why it’s so powerful at helping to reduce our stress levels. However, when you undergo anesthesia, your central nervous system is also slowed down.

When the two are mixed, there’s a chance that your central nervous system could slow down too much and this could affect your respiratory system.

Plus, Ashwagandha may interact with certain medications, especially post-surgery medicines which also slow down the central nervous system. So, again, there is a risk of slowing it down too much if you’re taking Ashwagandha.

Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

Another situation where it’s advisable to stop taking Ashwagandha altogether is during pregnancy.

Ashwagandha is believed to stimulate the adrenal glands and its adaptogenic properties are thought to help stimulate the menstrual cycle and increase blood flow.

As you can imagine, this is something that you definitely don’t want to happen during pregnancy as it can lead to miscarriage.

It’s also a good idea to stop taking Ashwagandha supplements when you are breastfeeding. The reason for this is that your baby will take in any nutrients from your breast milk.

Ashwagandha is powerful and, if it gets into your baby’s system, it could result in vomiting or diarrhea as they simply won’t have developed enough of a tolerance to such a powerful medicinal herb.

It's always best to consult with a healthcare professional before considering the use of Ashwagandha during pregnancy.

How Long Can You Take Ashwagandha?

There are no conclusive studies or guidelines detailing the long term safety of taking ashwagandha at this stage. That being said, there are countless anecdotal reports of people taking ashwagandha consistently for many years without issues on a good cycling schedule.

How Do I Know Which Ashwagandha Supplement to Take?

When looking for an ashwagandha supplement, be sure to research the source and look for third-party testing. Also consider other ingredients as well as the form of ashwagandha used. For a comprehensive review of trusted supplements, check out our list of the best ashwagandha supplements.

should i take a break from ashwagandha

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Why can you only take ashwagandha for 3 months? 

Taking ashwagandha for 3 months is often recommended to ensure its effectiveness while minimizing the risk of developing tolerance or side effects, with a subsequent break to reassess its impact on your body.

Q2. How to cycle ashwagandha for muscle growth? 

For muscle growth, cycle ashwagandha by using it for 6-8 weeks followed by a 2-4 week break to optimize its benefits on strength and recovery without overwhelming the body.

Q3. How often should I take a break from ashwagandha?

You should take a break from ashwagandha every 2-4 weeks after a consistent use of 6-8 weeks to maintain its effectiveness and prevent potential side effects.

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Conclusion

To sum up, in the case of taking a break from Ashwagandha, it’s a good idea to give yourself a 4 week rest period every 2-3 months. This allows you to check-in with your body and reassess your needs.

During this time, you’ll be able to determine whether or not you still need to keep taking, and whether or not you should increase or decrease your dosage.

As with all supplements and medicines, if you’re ever experiencing adverse effects or have any doubt about taking it - make sure you consult your GP!

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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