12 Serious Side Effects Of Ashwagandha & Precautions To Take

Reviewed by Madhu Sharma, RD
Written by Ravi Teja Tadimalla, Professional Certificate In Food, Nutrition & Health

Ashwagandha is one of the most used herbs in Ayurveda. It is scientifically known as Withania Somnifera. While it offers an array of health benefits, the side effects of ashwagandha are also documented. In people with allergies or autoimmune diseases, ashwagandha may cause adverse effects as it has immunomodulatory and hypoglycemic properties. There is also some evidence that it may cause abortions. In this article, you will read more about such negative effects of this herb. Scroll down to know more.

What Are The Side Effects Of Ashwagandha?

1. May Be Harmful During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding

Ashwagandha is one of those herbs that can harm the baby or terminate pregnancy. According to reports by the Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center, ashwagandha can induce abortion (1).

The herb may also cause miscarriages. There is little information on the safety of ashwagandha during breastfeeding. Hence, stay on the safe side and avoid its use.

2. May Cause Liver Damage

Patients taking commercial herbal products containing ashwagandha were found to experience liver injuries (2). However, the mechanism of the herb in this regard is yet to be understood.

3. May Lower Blood Sugar Way Too Much

Studies show that ashwagandha can lower blood sugar levels (3). However, this may not be beneficial to someone on diabetes medication. The herb may lower blood sugar levels way too much. This causes other complications.

Studies showed hypoglycemic effects and effects on insulin sensitivity in diabetic rats (4), (5). Hence, those on diabetes medications may experience adverse effects with the intake of ashwagandha.

4. May Aggravate Hyperthyroidism

Ashwagandha is known to increase thyroid hormone concentrations. Hence, those with hyperthyroidism may experience undesirable symptoms (6). Hyperthyroidism is a condition characterized by already excess levels of thyroid hormones in the serum.

Individuals diagnosed with hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) must also consult their doctor before taking ashwagandha as the herb may interact with the associated medications.

5. May Aggravate Autoimmune Diseases

Ashwagandha extract is known to boost the immune system (7). This property may be a problem for individuals diagnosed with autoimmune disorders, like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. Medications taken for treating autoimmune diseases decrease immune system response, and supplementing them with ashwagandha may interfere with their effectiveness. More research is needed to understand the mechanism of ashwagandha on autoimmune diseases.

6. May Cause Gastrointestinal Issues

Excess ashwagandha may irritate the gastrointestinal tract (2). Hence, those with stomach ulcers are suggested to avoid the herb. Constipation was another side effect seen in a group that took ashwagandha (8). The herb may also cause diarrhea and an upset stomach (2).

7. May Cause Drowsiness

In rat studies, ashwagandha was found to have relaxing properties that might lead to drowsiness (9). Hence, someone on medications for insomnia may experience excessive sleepiness with the herb intake.

Ensure you don’t use the herb in conjunction with other medications like lorazepam, zolpidem, or alprazolam. Though the research about herb-drug interactions is limited, it is important to exercise caution.

Studies have also confirmed the sleep-inducing properties of ashwagandha (10). Taking the herb along with sedatives may lead to excessive drowsiness. Hence, consult your doctor.

8. May Lead To Erectile Dysfunction

As per researchers from the University of Ruhuna, ashwagandha root extract may cause erectile dysfunction and decrease male sexual performance (11). Though the herb is believed to be an aphrodisiac, this is something to be considered. More research in humans is needed to further understand this phenomenon.

9. May Causes Allergies

Anecdotal evidence suggests that some people may experience allergies due to ashwagandha. The reactions may include skin rashes, itchiness, inflammation, chest pain, and difficulty in breathing. People allergic to nightshades may also be allergic to ashwagandha. However, we need more research on this.

10. May Cause Fever

The use of ashwagandha may increase body temperature in some individuals. However, how this happens is yet to be understood. The elevated body temperature is said to return to normal in a few days. Information in this aspect is insufficient. If you have a high body temperature due to any reason, consult your doctor before taking ashwagandha.

11. May Cause Bleeding

Ashwagandha may cause bleeding. Individuals with bleeding disorders are not recommended to take the herb. However, there is no concrete research to support this,  except for anecdotal evidence.

12. May Cause Dry Mouth

Intake of excess ashwagandha may cause dry mouth in certain individuals. Though there is not enough research, it is better to exercise caution and consult your doctor if the condition arises.

Most of the side effects of ashwagandha are based on anecdotal evidence. While more research is ongoing, it is important to take precautions.

Precautions To Be Taken

It is important to take ashwagandha in the right dosage. Strictly follow medical advice to prevent any adverse reactions. Certain other precautions that one must take include the following:

  • Ashwagandha root extract should be used only as a supplement as it is non-toxic in comparison to Withaferin A (the anticancer molecule).
  • It is advisable to take ashwagandha with meals (or breakfast) with a full glass of water.
  • As ashwagandha may increase the effects of certain drugs or medications, it is important to review the drugs or medications that you are taking before consuming it.
  • Those who experience abdominal disorders after using ashwagandha should consult their doctor. Large doses of ashwagandha may cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and vomiting.

The ideal dosage of ashwagandha would be suggested by your doctor or healthcare provider. However, there are some recommendations you may want to know.

Recommended Dosage

  • Powder (leaf): 1-2 teaspoons a day
  • Root: 1-2 teaspoons a day
  • Capsule: 1-6 g of the whole herb (by mouth) per day
  • Tea: 3 cups of the whole herb per day (1-6 g)
  • Tincture: 2-4 mL (by mouth), thrice a day

Exceeding the dosage may cause side effects. There is less research to substantiate these dosage values. You may talk to your doctor for the exact dosage for you.

Ashwagandha is a popular herb with many medicinal properties. It has been used for treating many ailments and has a long history in alternative medicine. However, one must also be aware of some of the side effects of ashwagandha. Excess intake of this herbal remedy may induce abortion, cause liver damage, lower blood sugar levels way too much, aggravate hyperthyroidism, and lead to autoimmune disease. As it is not suitable for everyone, consult your doctor before using this herb.

If you want to go for ashwagandha supplements, ensure you are procuring them from a reliable manufacturer, and make sure you discuss it with your doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can ashwagandha cause weight gain?

There is no research stating that ashwagandha can cause weight gain. In fact, one study states that the herb may help with weight management in adults under chronic stress (12).

Can I take ashwagandha in the morning?

Yes, ashwagandha is an adaptogen and can be taken in the morning to help combat fatigue and stress.

Should you take ashwagandha on an empty stomach?

There is no scientific evidence on the effects of ashwagandha on an empty stomach. However, if you feel discomfort or experience symptoms such as nausea or vomiting, contact a medical supervisor immediately.


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Madhu Sharma

Madhu Sharma is a member of the National Executive Committee of IDA. She has been associated for almost three decades... more