What To Know About Ashwagandha For Stress

photo of ashwagandha plant

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Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an evergreen shrub part of the nightshade family. It grows in regions of Africa and Asia and may be referred to as “Indian ginseng” or “winter cherry.” Ashwagandha root is most commonly used as a medicinal herb to reduce stress, but its effectiveness is not entirely proven.

Stress-Related Health Benefits of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda, a form of traditional Indian medicine. However, it has only recently entered the mainstream and has been investigated in clinical trials for efficacy.

Many scientists consider it an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body to cope with stress more effectively. Here are some of its stress-related health benefits.

Emotional Stress 

Research has demonstrated ashwagandha’s efficacy in alleviating many common health challenges, with stress being the most robustly studied. One finding observed that ashwagandha reduced stress in participants by moderating the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, a major player in our mood and stress levels.   

Another study had 250 participants take either 250 or 600 milligrams of ashwagandha. After eight weeks of supplementing with the herb, participants reported lower stress levels and also exhibited decreased levels of cortisol when compared to a placebo group.  

Though these findings show promise, future research is needed to determine ashwagandha’s efficacy in stress reduction. 


Many people with chronic stress may also report difficulty falling or staying asleep. Ashwagandha has been advantageous in improving sleep quality. One study found that among adults with insomnia especially, supplementing with the herb demonstrated marked improvement in their sleep. 


Furthermore, stress can affect an individual’s attentiveness. Ashwagandha can positively impact memory and focus. In a study among 130 adults aged 20-55, supplementing with the herb for 90 consecutive days demonstrated improved recall memory and lower error rates on recalling patterns. 

Type 2 Diabetes

Emotional stress can also impact one’s physical well-being through a variety of common chronic illnesses, such as diabetes. Individuals with type 2 diabetes may benefit from supplementing with ashwagandha.

One study found that it significantly lowered blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c levels. It also reduced lipid levels, insulin levels, and markers of oxidative stress, without posing any additional safety concerns.

Possible Side Effects

Ashwagandha is safe for most individuals, however, since research is still in its infancy, long-term effects are unknown. 

Common side effects of ingesting too much ashwagandha include nausea, headaches, diarrhea, and drowsiness.


Individuals with certain medical conditions or taking other pharmaceutical medications or supplements should use caution before taking ashwagandha. Due to ashwagandha’s reported increase in testosterone levels, those with hormone-sensitive prostate cancer should avoid supplementation. 

Furthermore, research has shown that ashwagandha can impact thyroid hormone levels. Those with thyroid conditions should speak with their physician before starting ashwagandha supplements. 

Most clinical trials have found ashwagandha supplementation to be safe. However, there have been instances of liver injury 2-12 weeks after starting the supplement, though these cases are extremely rare. In most cases, the injury subsided within 3 months of supplement cessation. 

As with any change to your supplement or medication regimen, consult with your doctor before adding ashwagandha to your wellness routine. If you believe you are experiencing adverse effects from ashwagandha, seek medical treatment immediately. 

Dosage And Preparation

Most people take ashwagandha in capsule, gummy, tea, or powder form. Though there is no standard dosage, studies have shown 125 mg-600 mg daily to be safe for healthy adults. 

You can take capsules and gummies with or without food. Ashwagandha powder can be mixed into water or smoothies, or even baked into foods. 

It’s best to start off with a lower dose, and work your way up as you notice your body’s reaction to ashwagandha.

What To Look For

Bear in mind that ashwagandha supplements have not been regulated by the FDA. However, if you purchase supplements marked “organic,” this ensures that over 95% of the ingredients are organic.

It’s important that the ashwagandha you use has independent third-party certification marked on its bottle. This indicated that the company is executing the best practices regarding testing, production, and supply chain. GMPs (Good Manufacturing Practices) and FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) are important certifications to look for. 

Other Questions

What’s the best time of day to take ashwagandha?

You can take it at any time of the day that is convenient for you. Due to its calming effects, some people prefer taking it prior to bedtime. 

How long will ashwagandha remain in my system?

There are two types of compounds in ashwagandha—fat-soluble and water-soluble. The water-soluble compounds leave your body between 2-3 days, while the fat-soluble ones may take a month to leave your body. 

Can children take ashwagandha?

Few studies have studied ashwagandha’s impact on children, and little research has been conducted on children in recent years. You should speak to your child’s physician prior to starting your child on ashwagandha supplements. 

Can pregnant women take ashwagandha?

Research on ashwagandha’s impact on pregnant women has been mixed. One study found that up to 2,000 mg of ashwagandha is safe for pregnant women. However, another report pointed out the potential toxicity brought about by herbal medicine, with additional research needed to determine ashwagandha’s effects on pregnant women.

A Word From Verywell

While there are several studies showing the effectiveness of ashwagandha for stress and other conditions, it is still not considered clinically proven on a wider scale, and more research is needed before conclusive claims about stress regulation can be made.

For this reason, you should always consult with your physician and/or psychiatrist prior to incorporating a new supplement into your routine, as many herbs can interfere with certain medications.

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Brina Patel
Brina Patel is a freelance writer from Sacramento, California. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as an applied behavior analysis therapist for children on the autism spectrum. She leverages her own experiences researching emotions, as well as her personal challenges with chronic illness and anxiety, in her storytelling, with the hope of inspiring others to take better charge of their overall wellness and understand themselves on a deeper level.