Parts Used & Where Grown
Ashwagandha, which belongs to the pepper family, is found in India and Africa. The roots of ashwagandha are used medicinally.
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For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
Osteoarthritis (Boswellia, Turmeric)
1,000 mg daily boswellia resin herbal extract or two capsules, three times per day of Aticulin-F (formula containing 100 mg boswellia, 450 mg ashwagandha, 50 mg turmeric, and 50 mg zinc)
A combination of boswellia, ashwagandha, turmeric, and zinc effectively treated pain and stiffness in one study, without the stomach irritation that is a common side effect of NSAIDs.
Boswellia has anti-inflammatory properties that have been compared to those of the NSAIDs used by many for inflammatory conditions. Clinical trials have found that boswellia is more effective than a placebo for relieving pain and swelling and preventing loss of function in people with osteoarthritis. Boswellia has also been found to be as effective as the anti-inflammatory drug valdecoxib (Bextra). In addition, while the improvements occurred more slowly in the boswellia group than in the valdecoxib group, they persisted for a longer period of time after treatment was discontinued. One clinical trial found that a combination of boswellia, , turmeric, and zinc effectively treated pain and stiffness associated with OA but did not improve joint health, according to X-rays of the affected joint. Unlike NSAIDs, long-term use of boswellia does not lead to irritation or ulceration of the stomach.
3 to 6 grams daily of the dried root as tea or in a capsule
Ashwagandha stimulates the immune system and is considered a tonic or adaptogen—an herb with multiple actions that counteract the effects of stress and generally promote wellness.
is considered a general stimulant of the immune system, and has been called a tonic or adaptogen—an herb with multiple, nonspecific actions that counteract the effects of stress and generally promote wellness. More research is needed to better evaluate these claims.
Refer to label instructions
Ashwagandha may be helpful for reducing the effects of stress, including chronic psychological stress.
The herbs discussed here are considered members of a controversial category known as adaptogens, which are thought to increase the body's resistance to stress, and to generally enhance physical and mental functioning. Many animal studies have shown that various herbal adaptogens have protective effects against physically stressful experiences, but whether these findings are relevant to human stress experiences is not always clear.
Animal studies have suggested that may be helpful for reducing the effects of stress, including chronic psychological stress. In a double-blind study of people experiencing chronic stress, supplementation with 300 mg per day of a concentrated ashwaganda extract for 60 days significantly decreased perceived stress, compared with a placebo.
An herbal formula from the Ayurvedic medicine tradition, containing extracts of , asparagus, pueraria, argyreia, dioscorea, mucuna, and piper, has been studied as an aid to coping with the stress of military combat. A double-blind study found that soldiers performed similarly in a set of mental and psychological tests after an eight-day combat mission whether they were given two capsules daily (exact content not revealed) of this formula or a placebo. This suggests there was no real benefit of the herbal formula under these conditions.
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
The health applications for ashwagandha in traditional Indian and Ayurvedic medicine are extensive. Of particular note is its use against tumors, inflammation (including arthritis), and a wide range of infectious diseases.1 The shoots and seeds are also used as food and to thicken milk in India. Traditional uses of ashwagandha among tribal peoples in Africa include fevers and inflammatory conditions.2 Ashwagandha is frequently a constituent of Ayurvedic formulas, including a relatively common one known as shilajit.
How It Works
How It Works
The constituents believed to be active in ashwagandha have been extensively studied.3 Compounds known as withanolides are believed to account for the multiple medicinal applications of ashwagandha.4 These molecules are steroidal and bear a resemblance, both in their action and appearance, to the active constituents of Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) known as ginsenosides. Indeed, ashwagandha has been called “Indian ginseng” by some. Ashwagandha and its withanolides have been extensively researched in a variety of animal studies examining effects on immune function, inflammation, and even cancer. Ashwagandha stimulates the activation of immune system cells, such as lymphocytes.5 It has also been shown to inhibit inflammation6 and improve memory in animal experiments.7 Taken together, these actions may support the traditional reputation of ashwagandha as a tonic or adaptogen8—an herb with multiple, nonspecific actions that counteract the effects of stress and generally promote wellness.
How to Use It
Some experts recommend 3–6 grams of the dried root, taken each day in capsule or tea form.9 To prepare a tea, 3/4–1 1/4 teaspoons (3–6 grams) of ashwagandha root are boiled for 15 minutes and cooled; 3 cups (750 ml) may be drunk daily. Alternatively, tincture 1/2–3/4 teaspoon (2–4 ml) three times per day, is sometimes recommended.
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
Interactions with Medicines
The safety of ashwagandha in pregnancy and lactation has been questioned in the popular literature and some other sources.10 These theoretical concerns appear to be based on ashwagandha’s alkaloid, specifically nicotine, content.11 Alkaloids, as a family, are known for their ability to affect the central nervous system and their potential to cause toxicity. Although ashwagandha’s adaptogenic effects are attributed to its steroidal lactones, known as withanolides, it contains numerous other constituents, including an array of alkaloids such as nicotine.12 These alkaloids are concentrated in the leaves, with only small amounts being present in the root, which is by far the most commonly used part of the plant. Alcohol extracts contain the highest amounts of alkaloids.13
In a study in rats, ashwagandha demonstrated no maternal or fetal toxicities, even at high doses.14 Its many historical uses include improving fertility, bringing on pregnancy, preventing miscarriage, and promoting lactation.15 Nonetheless, there are also reports of its use to induce abortion, although there is no information about the parts or doses used for this purpose.16
Given its long and broad history of use, the toxic potential of ashwagandha appears to be very low when used in typical amounts. Nevertheless, ashwagandha’s safety during pregnancy and lactation has not been rigorously studied and therefore cannot be confirmed.
1. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985, 514-5.
2. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985, 514-5.
3. Bone K. Clinical Applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs. Queensland, Australia: Phytotherapy Press, 1996, 137-41.
4. Wagner H, Nörr H, Winterhoff H. Plant adaptogens. Phytomedicine 1994;1:63-76.
5. Wagner H, Nörr H, Winterhoff H. Plant adaptogens. Phytomedicine 1994;1:63-76.
6. Anabalgan K, Sadique J. Antiinflammatory activity of Withania somnifera. Indian J Exp Biol 1981;19:245-9.
7. Bhattacharya SK, Kumar A, Ghosal S. Effects of glycowithanolides from Withania somnifera on an animal model of Alzheimer's disease and perturbed central cholinergic markers of cognition in rats. Phytother Res 1995;9:110-3.
8. Bone K. Clinical Applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs. Queensland, Australia: Phytotherapy Press, 1996, 137-41.
9. Bone K. Clinical Applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs. Queensland, Australia: Phytotherapy Press, 1996, 137-41.
10. Ashwagandha. NIH US National Library of Medicine: Medline Plus [last reviewed 2017 Oct 31]. Available from URL: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/953.html#Safety.
11. Mills E, Dugoua J, Perri D, Koren G. Herbal Medicines in Pregnancy and Lactation: An Evidence-Based Approach. London, England:Taylor and Francis;2006:35.
12. Dhar N, Razdan S, Rana S, et al. A Decade of Molecular Understanding of Withanolide Biosynthesis and In Vitro Studies in Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal: Prospects and Perspectives for Pathway Engineering. Front Plant Sci 2015;6:1031.
13. Mirjalili M, Moyano E, Bonfill M, et al. Steroidal lactones from Withania somnifera, an ancient plant for novel medicine. Molecules 2009;14:2373–93.
14. Prabu P, Panchapakesan S. Prenatal developmental toxicity evaluation of Withania somnifera root extract in Wistar rats. Drug Chem Toxicol 2015;38:50–6.
15. Moteetee A, Seleteng Kose L. Medicinal plants used in Lesotho for treatment of reproductive and post reproductive problems. J Ethnopharmacol 2016;194:827–49.
16. Gardner C, McGuffin M, eds. American Herbal Product Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook, Second Edition. Boca Raton, FL:CRC Press;2013:936.
Last Review: 05-23-2015
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The information presented by TraceGains is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2023.