Table of Contents > Herbs & Supplements > Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera, Physalis somnifera) Print

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera, Physalis somnifera)

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Also listed as: Withania somnifera, Physalis somnifera, Indian ginseng
Related terms
Background
Evidencetable
Tradition
Dosing
Safety
Interactions
Attribution
Bibliography

Related Terms
  • 5beta, 6alpha, 14alpha, 17beta, 20beta-pentahydroxy-1-oxo-20 S, 22R-witha-2, 24-dienolide (1) and 6alpha, 7alpha-epoxy-5alpha, 14alpha, 17alpha, 23beta-tetrahydroxy-1-oxo-22R-witha-2, 24-dienolide (2), ajagandha, amangura, amukkirag, asan, asgand, asgandh, asgandha, ashagandha, ashvagandha, ashwagada, ashwaganda, ashwagandholine, asoda, asundha, asvagandha, aswagandha, avarada, ayurvedic ainseng, clustered wintercherry, ghoda asoda, Indian ginseng, kanaje Hindi, kuthmithi, Physalis somnifera, samm al ferakh, Solanaceae (family), winter cherry, withaferin A, withania, Withania coagulans, Withania somnifera, Withania somniferum, Withania somnifera Dunal, Withania somnifera glycowithanolides, Withania somnifera Kaul, Withania somnifera L, withanolide A (WL-A), withanone, withanosides.
  • Combination products: EuMil (polyherbal formulation containing standardized Withania somnifera (L) Dunal, Ocimum sanctum L, Asparagus racemosus Wilid and Emblica officinalis Gaertn. extracts), Siotone (ST) (herbal formulation containing Withania somnifera, Ocimum sanctum, Asparagus racemosus, Tribulus terristris and shilajit, all which are classified in Ayurveda as rasayanas), Transina (TR) (Ayurvedic herbal formulation containing of Withania somnifera, Tinospora cordifolia, Eclipta alba, Ocimum sanctum, Picrorrhiza kurroa and shilajitturangi-ghanda).

Background
  • Ashwagandha is a small evergreen shrub that grows in India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. The name means "horse smell."
  • Ashwagandha has been used as medicine for hundreds of years. Traditional uses include reducing stress and promoting normal body functions. The berries may be used in the process of making cheese.
  • Evidence is lacking to support the use of ashwagandha for any medical condition.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *


A combination therapy that includes ashwagandha has been studied for ADHD. More research on the effects of ashwagandha alone is needed.

C


Ashwagandha has been studied for its possible anti-aging effects. It may help promote physical and mental health, as well as improve resistance to disease. More research is needed in this field.

C


A combination therapy that includes ashwagandha has been studied for anxiety. More research on the effects of ashwagandha alone is needed.

C


A combination therapy that includes ashwagandha has been studied for cerebellar ataxia, a condition in which there is nerve damage in the part of the brain that controls muscle movement. More research on the potential effects of ashwagandha alone is needed.

C


Ashwagandha has been studied for use in diabetes with some evidence of benefit. More high-quality studies are needed.

C


Ashwagandha has been studied for drug addiction. More research is needed in this area.

C


Ashwagandha may increase body weight and protein levels in children. More research is needed before a firm conclusion may be made.

C


Ashwagandha may lower cholesterol levels. More evidence is needed in this area before firm conclusions can be made.

C


Ashwagandha has been studied for immune function as part of a combination therapy. More research is needed on the use of ashwagandha alone.

C


Ashwagandha has been studied for the improvement of urine flow with some evidence of benefit. More high-quality studies are needed.

C


Ashwagandha has traditionally been used to improve sex drive. One study looked at its effects on semen quality with some evidence of benefit. More study is needed.

C


Ashwagandha has been studied for the treatment of osteoarthritis. It may have anti-inflammatory benefits. More research is needed in this area.

C


A combination therapy that includes ashwagandha has been studied for Parkinson's disease. However, evidence is currently lacking in support of this use.

C
* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)


Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Activity stimulant, adaptogen (increase resistance to stress), allergic reactions, Alzheimer's disease, anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction), anorexia, anti-androgen, antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, asthma, astringent, back pain, blood disorders, blood thinner, boils, bronchitis, cancer (connective tissue), carbuncles (skin infection), cognition, CNS stimulant (speeds up physical and metal processes), depression, endocrine disorders, exercise performance, fatigue, fibrosarcoma, galactagogue (lactation stimulant), hay fever, heart disease, hemiplegia (paralysis on one side of body), hiccups, HIV, inflammation, insomnia, kidney protection, liver conditions, liver protection, low white blood cell counts, lung conditions, lymphoma (blood cancer), memory improvement, menstrual disorders, menstrual flow stimulant, mood stabilization, nerve damage, nerve disorders, nervous exhaustion, poisoning (heavy metals or lead), radiation side effects, sexual arousal, skin disorders, tardive dyskinesia (uncontrolled movements), testicular development, toxicity, tuberculosis, skin ulcers/sores, stroke, ulcers.

Dosing

Adults (18 years and older)

  • The following doses of ashwagandha have been taken by mouth daily: 1-6 grams in capsule form; 3 grams of powder taken twice daily in boiled warm milk; a tea made from boiling the root in water for 15-30 minutes, then taken twice daily; 1-6 grams daily of the whole herb as a tea; 2-4 milliliters of tinctures or fluid extracts, three times daily; and 5 teaspoons of dried herb in one cup of boiling liquid, taken as 2-4 cups daily with raw sugar or honey.
  • To treat type 2 diabetes, powdered roots of ashwagandha have been taken by mouth for 30 days.
  • To improve urine flow, powdered roots of ashwagandha have been taken by mouth for 30 days.
  • As an anti-aging agent, two tablets of powdered ashwagandha root (0.5 grams each) have been taken by mouth three times daily with milk.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • To promote childhood growth, 2 grams of ashwagandha has been taken by mouth daily in milk for 60 days.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid if allergic or sensitive to ashwagandha products, any of their parts or ingredients, or members of the Solanaceae family.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Ashwagandha is likely safe when taken by mouth in suggested amounts in otherwise healthy people.
  • Ashwagandha may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in people with bleeding disorders or taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
  • Ashwagandha may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in people with diabetes or low blood sugar, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood sugar levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, and medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Ashwagandha may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs or herbs and supplements that lower blood pressure.
  • Drowsiness or sedation may occur. Use caution if driving or operating heavy machinery.
  • Use cautiously in people who take agents that may affect the nervous system or heart.
  • Use cautiously in people who have peptic ulcers or thyroid disorders.
  • Avoid using in large doses, especially with other agents that may affect breathing. Large doses may cause breathing difficulty or diarrhea.
  • Avoid using in pregnant women. Ashwagandha may cause abortion.
  • Avoid if allergic or sensitive to ashwagandha products, any of their parts or ingredients, or members of the Solanaceae family.
  • Ashwagandha may also cause anemia, antidepressant effects, changes in the immune system, increased sodium in the urine, increased urination, kidney lesions, nausea, skin irritation (burning, changes in color, itching, or rash), and stomach pain.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • There is a lack of scientific evidence on the use of ashwagandha during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Avoid in pregnant women, as ashwagandha may cause abortion.

Interactions

Interactions with Drugs

  • Ashwagandha may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. People taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Ashwagandha may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs that lower blood pressure.
  • Ashwagandha may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
  • Ashwagandha may increase the amount of sedation or drowsiness caused by some drugs. Examples include benzodiazepines such as lorazepam (Ativan®) or diazepam (Valium®), barbiturates such as phenobarbital, narcotics such as codeine, some antidepressants, and alcohol. Caution is advised while driving or operating machinery.
  • Ashwagandha may also interact with agents that may affect heart rate, agents that may affect the immune system, agents that may affect muscle contractions, agents that may affect the nervous system (including anticholinergic agents and cholinesterase inhibitors), agents that may improve sex performance, agents that may promote urination, agents that may protect against radiation side effects, agents that may treat Parkinson's disease, amphetamines, androgens, anticancer agents, anti-inflammatory agents, blood thinners, central nervous system (CNS) depressants, cholesterol-lowering agents, cyclophosphamide, digoxin, fertility agents, haloperidol (Haldol®), heart agents, hormonal agents, iron salts, kidney agents, lung agents, narcotics, paclitaxel (Taxol®), pain relievers, steroids, stimulants, stomach agents, and thyroid agents.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Ashwagandha may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.
  • Ashwagandha may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.
  • Ashwagandha may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
  • Ashwagandha may increase the amount of sedation or drowsiness caused by some herbs or supplements.
  • Ashwagandha may also interact with 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), anti-androgens, anticancer herbs and supplements, anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements, antioxidants, arginine or L-arginine, blood thinners, cholesterol-lowering herbs and supplements, fertility herbs and supplements, herbs and supplements that may affect heart rate, herbs and supplements that may affect the immune system, herbs and supplements that may affect muscle contractions, herbs and supplements that may affect the nervous system (including anticholinergic agents), herbs and supplements that may improve sex drive, herbs and supplements that may promote urination, herbs and supplements that may protect against radiation side effects, herbs and supplements that may treat heart disorders, herbs and supplements that may treat kidney disorders, herbs and supplements that may treat lung disorders, herbs and supplements that may treat Parkinson's disease, herbs and supplements that may treat stomach disorders, hormonal herbs and supplements, iron, ornithine, pain relievers, potassium, saw palmetto, steroids, stimulants, and thyroid herbs and supplements.

Attribution
  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
  1. Ahmad MK, Mahdi AA, Shukla KK, et al. Withania somnifera improves semen quality by regulating reproductive hormone levels and oxidative stress in seminal plasma of infertile males. Fertil.Steril. 2010;94(3):989-996.
  2. Bhat J, Damle A, Vaishnav PP, et al. In vivo enhancement of natural killer cell activity through tea fortified with Ayurvedic herbs. Phytother.Res. 2010;24(1):129-135.
  3. Cooley K, Szczurko O, Perri D, et al. Naturopathic care for anxiety: a randomized controlled trial ISRCTN78958974. PLoS.One. 2009;4(8):e6628.
  4. Katz M, Levine AA, Kol-Degani H, et al. A compound herbal preparation (CHP) in the treatment of children with ADHD: a randomized controlled trial. J.Atten.Disord. 2010;14(3):281-291.
  5. Lu L, Liu Y, Zhu W, et al. Traditional medicine in the treatment of drug addiction. Am.J.Drug Alcohol Abuse 2009;35(1):1-11.
  6. Malviya N, Jain S, Gupta VB, et al. Recent studies on aphrodisiac herbs for the management of male sexual dysfunction--a review. Acta Pol.Pharm. 2011;68(1):3-8.
  7. Misico RI, Nicotra VE, Oberti JC, et al. Withanolides and related steroids. Prog.Chem.Org.Nat.Prod. 2011;94:127-229.
  8. Sehgal VN, Verma P, and Bhattacharya SN. Fixed-drug eruption caused by ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): a widely used Ayurvedic drug. Skinmed. 2012;10(1):48-49.
  9. Sriranjini SJ, Pal PK, Devidas KV, et al. Improvement of balance in progressive degenerative cerebellar ataxias after Ayurvedic therapy: a preliminary report. Neurol.India 2009;57(2):166-171.
  10. Toniolo M, Ceschi A, Meli M, et al. Haemolytic anaemia and abdominal pain--a cause not to be missed. Br.J.Clin.Pharmacol. 2011;72(1):168-169.
  11. Vaishnavi K, Saxena N, Shah N, et al. Differential activities of the two closely related withanolides, Withaferin A and Withanone: bioinformatics and experimental evidences. PLoS.One. 2012;7(9):e44419.
  12. Vanden Berghe W, Sabbe L, Kaileh M, et al. Molecular insight in the multifunctional activities of Withaferin A. Biochem.Pharmacol. 11-15-2012;84(10):1282-1291.
  13. Ven Murthy MR, Ranjekar PK, Ramassamy C, et al. Scientific basis for the use of Indian ayurvedic medicinal plants in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders: ashwagandha. Cent.Nerv.Syst.Agents Med.Chem. 9-1-2010;10(3):238-246.
  14. Wollen KA. Alzheimer's disease: the pros and cons of pharmaceutical, nutritional, botanical, and stimulatory therapies, with a discussion of treatment strategies from the perspective of patients and practitioners. Altern.Med.Rev. 2010;15(3):223-244.
  15. Yu Y, Hamza A, Zhang T, et al. Withaferin A targets heat shock protein 90 in pancreatic cancer cells. Biochem.Pharmacol. 2-15-2010;79(4):542-551.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.


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