Ashwagandha – 5 Benefits & 3 Side Effects of This Powerful Herbal Adaptogen

benefits of ashwagandha

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Ashwagandha is an herb that’s been gaining popularity in modern natural medicine practices and with the general public, and for good reason! Promises of reducing stress, enhancing athletic performance, and improving sleep are just a few reasons people take this powerful herb. If hearing about this herb has piqued your curiosity, this article will shed light on the benefits of ashwagandha as well as side effects to be aware of. 

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years in traditional Ayurvedic medicine and has even been referred to as the king of Ayurvedic herbs. Its botanical name is Withania somnifera, also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry. The roots and leaves of the ashwagandha plant are used for medicinal purposes, and modern scientific research has shown promising results in supporting some of its traditional uses.

What Is An Adaptogen?

Ashwagandha is considered one of the most powerful adaptogens. An adaptogen is a substance, usually a plant extract, that helps the body cope with stress. Adaptogens are thought to work by modulating the body’s stress response, helping it to adapt to the stressors more effectively and restoring balance in the body. Adaptogens have been used for centuries in traditional medicine systems such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Top 5 Ashwagandha Benefits

Ashwagandha benefits many aspects of our health and well-being, promoting balance and resilience in the body. Here are five benefits of ashwagandha:

1. Stress, Adrenals & Anxiety

Ashwagandha is best known for its adaptogenic properties, helping the body manage stress. It does this by supporting the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a network of hormone communication between the brain and the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands produce several hormones, including cortisol, often called the body’s ‘stress hormone.’ Ashwagandha reduces cortisol and improves feelings of stress and anxiety.

2. Blood Sugar Control

There is evidence that this powerful herb may benefit those with difficulty regulating blood sugar, such as those with diabetes. This systematic review and meta-analysis assessed the effectiveness of ashwagandha in controlling diabetes. It was shown to restore normal blood glucose, hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c, a marker of blood sugar control), and insulin levels.  

3. Brain Function

Ashwagandha is shown to improve brain function. In people with Mild Cognitive Impairment, it improved attention, memory, executive function, and information-processing speed. In college students, ashwagandha enhanced mental clarity, and in elderly patients, it improved mental alertness

4. Sleep

There are few things more important for health than adequate quality sleep. Ashwagandha can promote more restful, quality sleep and can also improve sleep in people suffering from insomnia.

It’s not just sleep quality ashwagandha improves; it also improves mental alertness on waking. Better quality sleep and feeling more alert in the morning? Yes please!

5. Athletic performance

It seems fitting that the king of Ayurvedic herbs enhances athletic performance through strength and stamina improvements. 

Studies show ashwagandha improves cardiorespiratory endurance, increases muscle mass and strength, as well as improves muscle recovery after exercise. Ashwagandha enhances maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max) in healthy adults and athletes. VO2 max is a measure of cardiorespiratory fitness and athletic performance.

woman doing battle ropes

Is Ashwagandha Safe?

Most adaptogenic herbs are considered safe when used appropriately, including ashwagandha.  

A review of 69 ashwagandha studies looked at the safety and effectiveness of this herb, and it was shown to be a safe therapeutic option for a variety of health conditions.

Most herbs, including ashwagandha, should be avoided when pregnant or breastfeeding. Ashwagandha may increase the risk of miscarriage when taken at high doses during pregnancy.

Some adaptogens may interact with certain medications or pose risks for people with certain health conditions, which is why it’s essential to follow recommended dosages under the guidance of your healthcare professional. It is also crucial to purchase any herb or supplement from a reputable source to ensure purity and quality.

Ashwagandha Side Effects

Ashwagandha is generally considered safe when taken appropriately, but like any supplement, it can cause side effects in some individuals. The following are some potential side effects associated with ashwagandha, which are most often mild and transient when they are experienced:

1. Gastrointestinal Upset

Some people may experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach pain, or nausea.

2. Headache & Dizziness

In rare cases, ashwagandha can cause headaches and dizziness.

3. Drowsiness

Ashwagandha can produce mild feelings of sleepiness.

In addition to these side effects, it’s important to note that ashwagandha may cause allergic reactions in some individuals, especially those with a known allergy to plants in the same family (nightshade), such as tomatoes or peppers.

woman taking an ashwagandha adaptogen supplement

Different Ways To Take Ashwagandha

There are several ways to take ashwagandha, including:

Capsules or Tablets 

Ashwagandha is commonly available in the form of capsules or tablets, which are easy to take and typically come in standardized dosages. This is the most common way to take ashwagandha as a supplement.


Ashwagandha powder can be mixed into drinks or smoothies or added to food such as yogurt or oatmeal. This is a convenient way to incorporate ashwagandha into your diet.


Ashwagandha tea is made by steeping the root or powder in hot water. This method may have a milder effect than capsules or powder, but it can still provide the benefits of the herb.


Ashwagandha tincture is a concentrated liquid extract made by soaking the herb in alcohol. 

The appropriate dosage and form of ashwagandha may vary depending on your goals and whether you have any health conditions.

How Much Ashwagandha Is Good For Women?

The appropriate dosage of ashwagandha for women can vary depending on the individual and her specific health needs and goals. 

That said, the typical recommended dose of ashwagandha for adults is between 250-600 mg per day of standardized extract containing at least 5% withanolides (an active chemical component in ashwagandha). However, some studies have used higher doses of up to 600-1000 mg daily for therapeutic purposes.

Your healthcare provider can help you determine the appropriate dosage and form of ashwagandha that are right for your individual needs.

Quality Ashwagandha Supplements

These supplements are from high-quality brands that I have either used personally or with patients in my previous wellness practice. As previously stated, it’s essential to check with your healthcare practitioner before taking any supplement to make sure it’s right for you.

Integrative Therapeutics Cortisol Manager

This supplement contains both the root and leaf extract of ashwagandha along with other herbs and l-theanine, an amino acid shown to improve mental health in those with stress-related ailments. This high-quality supplement is a wonderful way to support relaxation, a healthy stress response, and even more restful sleep. 

Om Mushroom Hot Chocolate Blend

This hot cocoa blend is a tasty way to get in a small dose of ashwagandha for a little boost. It’s paired with four immune powerhouse mushrooms for an overall vitality boost. Cocoa powder also happens to be a prebiotic (good for gut health) and is full of health-promoting flavonoids. 

Interested in learning more about the immune-boosting properties of mushrooms? Check out this article: Mushrooms: Boost Immunity With These Powerhouse Superfoods

Organic India Tulsi Ashwagandha Tea

If you’re a tea drinker, you might find this option an appealing addition to your cup. This organic tea is a blend of ashwagandha and tulsi (Holy Basil), another adaptogenic herb. Sipping on a cup of this tea is a soothing way to remedy a stressful day (or week…or…).

Four Sigmatic Ground Coffee with Ashwagandha & Eleuthero

If you’re a coffee drinker, cheers! You’re in good company 😉 You might find this a nice option in finding a little balance in your hormones while you sip on your liquid life. It’s a blend of half caff coffee with ashwagandha, eleuthero, chaga mushroom and tulsi. You can enjoy your coffee without the jitters while you soak up the benefits of the other ingredients in this blend!


Ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogenic herb with an impressive ability to enhance our health and support our well-being. The benefits of ashwagandha we covered in this article are just a few of the many examples of what this adaptogen can do. This herb is shown to be generally safe, and the occasional side effects are mostly mild and transient. If the benefits of ashwagandha we discussed have you excited, we get it! We use it and feel more energized and balanced as a result! 

Looking for more ways to support your health? You can find more wellness and self-care articles here, and healthy recipes here.

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