Ashwagandha is sometimes called
, not because it's related botanically (it's closer to potatoes and tomatoes), but because its traditional uses were similar. Like ginseng, ashwagandha was thought to be a "tonic herb" capable of generally strengthening the body. On this basis it has been used in hopes of prolonging life, improving overall health, enhancing mental function, increasing fertility and libido, augmenting physical energy, and preventing infections.
In addition, as its species name
suggests, ashwagandha been used traditionally for inducing sleep.
Modern herbalists classify ashwagandha as an adaptogen, a substance said to increase the body's ability to withstand
of all types. (See the article on
for more information on adaptogens.) However, the evidence for an adaptogenic effect is limited to test tube and animal studies.
Other proposed uses of ashwagandha are based on even weaker evidence, including: preventing cancer,
8,18enhancing mental function
Some traditional uses of ashwagandha are also invoked today, such as
enhancing sexual function in men
, increasing fertility in
enhancing sports performance
; however, there is no supporting scientific evidence for these uses.
A typical traditional dosage of ashwagandha is 1 to 2 g of the root (boiled in milk or water for 15-20 minutes) taken 3 times daily.
Ashwagandha is believed to be safe; however, formal safety studies have not been reported. Therefore, it should not be used by pregnant or nursing women, young children, or those with severe kidney or liver disease.
According to one study in animals, ashwaghanda may raise thyroid hormone levels.
For this reason, it should not be used by people with
In addition, based on traditional beliefs that ashwagandha has sedative effects, interactions with sedative drugs are a potential concern.
If you are taking
, you should not take ashwagandha at the same time except under your doctor's supervision.
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As of 6/7/2011, additional research published on ashwagandha does not warrant any changes to this article.
Last reviewed September 2014 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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