How much ashwagandha is too much per day?

Ashwagandha is an ancient medicinal herb that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. It has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its many purported health benefits, which include reducing stress and anxiety, boosting brain function, and improving energy levels. However, questions remain around how much ashwagandha is safe and effective to take on a daily basis.

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an adaptogenic herb in the nightshade family. It is also known by several other names, including Indian ginseng and winter cherry. The name ashwagandha comes from the Sanskrit words “ashva,” meaning horse, and “gandha,” meaning smell. This refers to the distinct horse-like odor of the herb’s root. Ashwagandha is native to India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa, where it thrives in hot, dry climates.

For over 3,000 years, ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicine, a holistic healing system from India. The herb was traditionally prescribed to boost energy, improve concentration, and reduce stress and anxiety. Ashwagandha was also believed to increase stamina and strength. In Ayurveda, the herb is classified as a rasayana, which are herbs taken to promote youthfulness, improve health, and increase longevity.

Active Compounds in Ashwagandha

The medicinal properties of ashwagandha are attributed to a group of active compounds called withanolides, which are steroidal lactones found in the leaves and roots of the plant. The two main active withanolides are:

  • Withaferin A – This compound has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antitumor, and antioxidant effects.
  • Withanolide D – This compound boosts the immune system and reduces inflammation.

In addition to withanolides, ashwagandha contains other beneficial compounds like alkaloids, choline, fatty acids, amino acids, and a variety of sugars. The leaves of the ashwagandha plant have a higher withanolide content than the roots. However, the root is most commonly used medicinally.

Modern Research on Ashwagandha Benefits

A growing body of research is confirming many of the traditional uses of ashwagandha. Scientists have found that extracts or isolated compounds from the herb have anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antioxidant, immunomodulating, and cognition-enhancing effects.

Some of the key research findings on ashwagandha benefits include:

  • Reduces Stress and Anxiety – Multiple studies show ashwagandha reduces symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. It blocks the stress pathway in the brain by regulating chemical signaling in the nervous system.
  • Boosts Brain Function – Ashwagandha may improve memory, attention, processing speed, and reaction time. It helps rebuild axons and dendrites, which are nerve cell components that support brain and nervous system function.
  • Increases Stamina and Endurance – Research indicates the herb increases cardiorespiratory endurance. It also reduces exercise-induced muscle damage and builds strength.
  • Lowers Blood Sugar Levels – Ashwagandha has been shown to decrease fasting blood sugar levels. It may also improve insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin resistance.
  • Fights Inflammation – The herb blocks pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are proteins that trigger inflammation. It also reduces markers of inflammation like C-reactive protein (CRP).
  • Supports Immune Function – Ashwagandha activates immune cells like lymphocytes and phagocytes, boosting immunity against infections and diseases.

How Much Ashwagandha Should You Take Per Day?

When it comes to supplementation, finding the optimal ashwagandha dosage for your needs is important. The amount you should take can vary based on the condition you are trying to treat, your age, and other factors.

Most research studying ashwagandha has used doses between 250 mg to 600 mg, taken once or twice per day. The typical recommendation for general well-being is 300 mg standardizd to contain at least 5% withanolides, taken once or twice daily.

Here are some general dosage guidelines based on your goal:

Goal Daily Dosage
Reduce Stress 300 to 600 mg
Insomnia 300 to 600 mg, taken 30 minutes before bed
Improve Memory 300 mg, twice per day
Increase Stamina 500 to 1,000 mg
Lower Blood Sugar 300 to 600 mg

For anxiety, studies have used higher doses between 500 to 600 mg daily. However, it’s best to start with a lower dose and gradually increase over 2 to 4 weeks to assess your tolerance.

Keep in mind, commercial ashwagandha supplements can vary widely in strength and ingredients. Read labels and look for products standardized to at least 5% withanolides.

Is it Safe to Take Ashwagandha Every Day?

Ashwagandha is generally well tolerated when taken in recommended dosage of ashwagandha. Mild side effects like headache, sleepiness, and upset stomach may occur but resolve quickly. Rarely, ashwagandha can cause more serious side effects like fever, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Ashwagandha is considered safe for short-term use (a few months). However, there is limited research on long-term safety. Some experts advise periodically cycling off ashwagandha every few months.

Certain individuals should not take ashwagandha unless approved by a doctor, including:

  • Pregnant women – Ashwagandha may cause uterine contractions.
  • Breastfeeding women – The safety is unknown for infants.
  • People with autoimmune diseases – Ashwagandha may increase immune system activity.
  • People with diabetes – Ashwagandha may lower blood sugar levels.
  • People taking sedatives – Ashwagandha may have additive sedative effects.

Signs You’re Taking Too Much Ashwagandha

Using ashwagandha as directed on supplement labels and within recommended dosages is unlikely to cause serious side effects in healthy adults. However, taking too much may result in adverse reactions.

Signs you may be taking excessive amounts of ashwagandha include:

  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Fever or chills
  • Headache
  • Hives or skin rash
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Leg swelling

High doses may also exacerbate conditions like hypothyroidism, autoimmune disorders, and diabetes. If you experience any symptoms of an overdose, stop taking ashwagandha and see a doctor.

Interactions With Medications

Ashwagandha can potentially interact with certain medications. Taking ashwagandha along with sedatives like lorazepam may have additive sedative and sleep-inducing effects. Ashwagandha might also increase the effects of anti-diabetes drugs, causing blood sugar to go too low.

Other medications that may interact with ashwagandha include:

  • Anticoagulants and antiplatelet drugs
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Thyroid hormone medications
  • Gastrointestinal acid-reducing agents

Always consult your doctor before taking ashwagandha with any other medications.

Can You Take Ashwagandha Every Day Forever?

There is no evidence that long-term ashwagandha use is unsafe. However, most studies have only assessed the effects of ashwagandha for a few weeks or months. Therefore, the long-term safety and efficacy of taking ashwagandha daily for years or decades are unknown.

To be cautious, most natural health experts recommend periodic breaks from ashwagandha supplementation such as cycling every 2 months on and 1 month off. This gives your body a chance to reset and avoids developing too much tolerance to the herb’s effects.

Also, the dose taken daily does not need to be high to maintain benefits once you’ve achieved your health goals. After the initial loading dose, you can lower the daily amount to the minimum effective dose based on your needs.

As with any supplement, it’s wise to take the lowest effective dose, monitor your body’s response, and give yourself regular breaks under the supervision of a natural health practitioner.

Ashwagandha Dosage Considerations

Several factors determine your optimal ashwagandha dosage:

Your Age

Younger healthy adults tend to tolerate higher ashwagandha doses in the range of 500 to 600 mg per day. Older adults may want to start with lower doses like 300 mg once daily and gradually increase as needed.

Your Health Status

If you have a medical condition or take any medications, check with your healthcare provider before taking ashwagandha. Those with thyroid problems, diabetes or autoimmunity may need lower doses like 200 to 300 mg per day.

Time of Day

For ashwagandha’s calming effects, take it in the evenings. For energy and cognitive enhancement, morning or early afternoon is best. Allow at least 6 hours before bedtime if taken later in the day to avoid sleep disturbances.

Form and Standardization

Ashwagandha comes in powders, capsules and liquid tinctures. Powders offer flexibility for dosing but may have an unpleasant taste. Capsules ensure standardized dosing and easy swallowing. Alcohol-free tinctures provide quick absorption.

Look for products standardized to at least 5% withanolides, which ensures higher concentrations of active compounds. Root-only extracts may be more effective than leaf-only extracts.

Duration of Supplementation

It may take 2 to 6 weeks to experience the full effects of ashwagandha. Short-term use for a few months is considered safe. For long-term use, take breaks periodically to avoid tolerance issues.

Your Sensitivity

Start with lower doses like 300 mg once daily for a week before increasing. Monitor for any digestive upset or drowsiness. Increase slowly over 4 to 6 weeks to assess your tolerance.

The Bottom Line

Ashwagandha is an incredibly healthy adaptogenic herb when taken in proper dosages. The optimal daily amount ranges from 300 to 600 mg for most adults. To maintain long-term benefits, the total daily intake does not have to remain high. Ashwagandha is well-tolerated by most people but it’s important not to exceed recommendations.

Consult an integrative healthcare provider to find the right ashwagandha dosage for your individual health needs and to ensure safe and effective use.

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