Ashwagandha is an evergreen, medicinal plant. It is found to grow in several parts of Africa, the Middle East and India. It is mainly used to relieve stress levels. The herb also has a few extended uses. The side effects ashwagandha triggers are specific to your medical condition as well as on which part of the body it is applied or used for. Before starting to use this medicinal herb, it is better to know the likely side effects it can trigger.

Ashwagandha has substances that bring about a calming effect to your brain. It is due to this effect it is widely considered as a stress relieving medicine. Extracts from the roots of this plant – if used over a period of 2 months – are known to produce anxiety reducing effects. Dosages are administered twice a day, after you have taken your meal.

Ashwagandha is also used in the reduction of blood pressure levels (hypertension) and to decrease the effects of inflammation causing agents.

Widely believed therapeutic properties of Ashwagandha

It does not have substantive evidences towards many of its therapeutic properties. Such claims include its ability to slow down the aging process. A few basic level clinical researches however do indicate a possible association between this drug and overall wellbeing. This is characterised by improvement in your sleeping cycles as well as enhancement of cognitive skills or mental wellbeing. The results are found to be more pronounced among elderly people – especially, those aged above 67 years.

Ashwagandha is also considered as a treatment option to work on metabolic changes triggered by the used of antipsychotic medications. It is a scientific fact that drugs taken to manage spells of mental conditions (such as schizophrenia) cause a spike in the levels of sugars and fats. Your blood may hence see a marked increase in sugar levels.

Ashwagandha is known to reduce these high levels from the blood of people who consume antipsychotic medications.

This herb also has other therapeutic capabilities such as provision of needful oxygen in blood during workout sessions. Owing to this, the drug is considered favourably for enhancement of performances of athletes. The shrub is also assumed to have strengths to reduce your blood cholesterol levels, decrease the symptoms associated with anxiety related disorders, bring down the levels of blood sugar in people living with diabetes, etc.

It is also used as a supplementary medicine to people who are undertaking chemotherapeutic treatment. Such patients have reported a higher level of energy while being treated with ashwagandha along with other drugs they use for the treatment of cancers.

Ashwagandha is also believed to enhance sperm quality and enable men to get their partner pregnant. Also, it has several other claims in its favour; some are – its capability to treat attention deficit hyperactivity levels (ADHD), autoimmune medical conditions – especially of the knee, bipolar disorders, Parkinson’s disease, respiratory disorders, hepatic dysfunction, etc.

Side effects of ashwagandha

It is widely considered as a safe product. However, assurances of its safety levels pertain to its use for upto 90 days. Its safety standards over a long term use – i.e., for a time span of more than 100 days – are yet to be ascertained with proper evidences and scientific research. Even within the safe period of less than 90 days, an excessive intake of the herb is known to result in several reactions and side effects.

The most common side effects are abdominal problems including an upset of the stomach, vomiting, nausea as well as diarrhea. These are possible side effects when ashwagandha is consumed orally. In extremely remote instances, the drug is seen to trigger mild levels of hepatic disorders. Liver conditions may show up in the form of discoloration of skin or eyes, pain in abdomen, darkened urine etc. Though a few studies are done on the effects of an oral intake, not much research has been done on the topical application of ashwagandha and its possible effects.

Is it safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women to take ashwagandha?

If you are nursing a baby or if you are pregnant, you need to be more careful while using this drug. Especially if you are already pregnant or planning to get pregnant, this drug is suspected to trigger miscarriage. Also, not much evidences or scientific studies are available to clear its use for lactating mothers. As the effects of this drug on your baby remains largely unknown, it is generally advised not to use ashwagandha while breastfeeding your baby.

Autoimmune conditions and ashwagandha

This herb is also known for its capabilities to boost immunity levels of your body. Hence, if you are having an autoimmune disorder – such as osteoarthritis or cancers – this drug can increase the signs associated with your current medical condition. Your treating doctor will advise you to avoid the intake or topical application of ashwagandha in such instances.

Similarly, ashwagandha is widely considered to stimulate the production of thyroid in your body. If you are experiencing hypothyroid symptoms and are using iodine supplements, you may need to avoid using ashwagandha. This is because, the combination of these supplements and ashwagandha can enhance thyroid to a very high level in your body.

Anesthesia and ashwagandha

Due to the calming properties of this medicinal herb, it usually relaxes your nerves. Hence, your central nervous network gets into a slackened mode. This is the reason why intake of ashwagandha during the run-up to your surgery can cause dangerous side effects. Anesthetic drugs may overwork in combination with ashwagandha and can bring about extremely dizzy conditions. It is one of the reasons why your surgeon will tell you to discontinue the intake of topical application of ashwagandha at least a fortnight prior to the date of your surgical procedure.

Other precautions and associated risks of side-effects

You will need to inform your treating doctor if you have blood sugar related problems or if you are diabetic. This is because ashwagandha is considered to lower your blood sugars. As the drug can alter your blood sugar levels, it can aggravate the effects of many diabetic drugs. So, if you are taking drugs to lower the sugar level, intake of this herb can only aggravate the condition by lowering it to abysmally low levels.

Similar to blood sugar levels, ashwagandha is also widely considered to lower your blood pressure levels. If you are already part of an ongoing treatment plan or a medication plan to reduce hypertension and if you are taking antihypertensive drugs, you need to avoid taking ashwagandha. This is because of a likely occurrence of an extremely low blood pressure level. This is highly possible that both anti-hypertensives as well as ashwagandha may start working together to substantially bring down your blood pressure levels. Such hypotensive conditions can be near-fatal and at times, can become fatal. Hence, it is always considered a good practice to tell your treating doctor about your exiting medical conditions and about the medicines that you are currently taking, if any.

In general, keep away from ashwagandha if you are advised to take drugs that can reduce your immunity levels (such as immunosuppressant medicines), drugs that are used for sedative purposes, hormonal medications (especially, thyroid boosting drugs), etc. Common side effects are stomach problems which may lead to a stomach upset, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, etc. Ashwagandha is widely believed to be a safe product. However, how safe it is for long term use is not fully evidenced through scientific research and clinical studies.

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