Also Known As: Withania.

Scientific Name: Withania somnifera.

Family: Solanaceae.

People Use This For:

Ashwagandha is traditionally used for arthritis, anxiety, insomnia, tumors, tuberculosis, and chronic liver disease. Ashwagandha is also used as an "adaptogen" to increase resistance to environmental stress, and as a general tonic. It is also used for immunomodulatory effects, improving cognitive function, decreasing inflammation, preventing the effects of aging, for emaciation, infertility in men and women, menstrual disorders, fibromyalgia, and hiccups. It is also used orally as an aphrodisiac.

Safety: Possibly safe when used orally and appropriately, short-term.17,18

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Insufficient scientific information available, consult a medical herbalist.

Effectiveness: There is insufficient scientific information available to comment.

Mechanism of Action: The applicable parts of ashwagandha are the root and berry. Ashwagandha contains several active constituents including alkaloids, steroidal lactones, and saponins.19,18. Animal model research suggests that ashwagandha has a variety of pharmacological effects including pain relief, lowering temperature, reducing anxiety, inflammatory, and antioxidant effects.17,20,21,19,18 , sedative, blood pressure lowering, anti-immunomodulatory. Some researchers think ashwagandha has a so-called "anti-stressor" effect. Preliminary increases of dopamine receptors in the corpus striatum of the brain.  17 It also appears to reduce stress-induced increases of plasma corticosterone, blood urea nitrogen, and blood lactic acid.18 Ashwagandha seems to have anxiolytic effects, possibly by acting as a gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) mimetic agent. Research suggests ashwagandha suppresses stress-induced anxiety. Ashwagandha and its constituents also seem to have modulating effects on the immune system. The withanolides and sitoindosides seem to cause a mobilization of phagocytosis, and lysosomal enzymes.18 

Adverse Reactions: Ashwagandha is well tolerated.

Interactions with Herbs & Supplements

Herbs and Supplements with Sedative Properties: Theoretically, used with herbs that have sedative properties they may have an additive effect. This needs to be taken into account with the dosage.

Interactions with Drugs: Benzodiazepines e.g.Valium, Xanax

CNS Depressants: Theoretically, Ashwagandha's sedative effect may add to the effects of barbiturates (rarely prescribed now except for epilepsy), other sedatives, and drugs for anxiety,17 needed.

Immunosuppressants; refer to medical herbalist

Thyroid Hormone: Theoretically, ashwagandha might have additive effects when used with thyroid supplements. There is preliminary evidence that ashwagandha might boost thyroid hormone synthesis and/or secretion.17

Refer patients on medication to a well qualified Medical Herbalist. 

Interactions with Foods: None known.

Interactions with Lab Tests: Digoxin blood levels (heart medication).

Interactions with Diseases or Conditions: Autoimmune effects.17,20,22,18 The modulating effects on the immune system can be helpful but should be prescribed by a Medical Herbalist.

Diseases: Ashwagandha may have immunostimulant properties.


Dr Clare’s Blends: 1gm per day

Oral: People typically use 1 to 6 grams daily of the whole herb in capsule or tea form.17 The tea is prepared by boiling ashwagandha roots in water for 15 minutes and cooled. The usual dose is 3 cups daily. Tincture or fluid extracts are dosed 2 to 4 mL 3 times per day.

Topical: No typical dosage.

Specific References: ASHWAGANDHA Upton R, ed. Ashwagandha Root (Withania somnifera): Analytical, quality control, and 

17. therapuetic monograph. Santa Cruz, CA: American Herbal Pharmacopoeia 2000:1-25.

18. Mishra LC, Singh BB, Dagenais S. Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Withania

somnifera (ashwagandha): a review. Altern Med Rev 2000;5:334-46.

19. Bhattacharya SK, Satyan KS, Ghosal S. Antioxidant activity of glycowithanolides from Withania somnifera. Indian J Exp Biol 1997;35:236-9.

20. Davis L, Kuttan G. Effect of Withania somnifera on cyclophosphamide-induced urotoxicity. Cancer Lett 2000;148:9-17.

21. Archana R, Namasivayam A. Antistressor effect of Withania somnifera. J Ethnopharmacol 1999;64:91-3.

22. Davis L, Kuttan G. Suppressive effect of cyclophosphamide-induced toxicity by Withania somnifera extract in mice. J Ethnopharmacol

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