Ashwagandha, medically known as ‘Withania Somnifera', and also called Indian Ginseng, Winter Cherry, is a plant in the Solanaceae or nightshade family like tomato with red berries and yellow flowers. The entire plant including the root, leaves and berries are used in its herbaceous preparation. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient medicine system of India, where it is known as ‘rasayana’.
Rasayana is a plant that provides both physical and mental health benefits. It increases resistance to diseases and revitalises a body drained of its energy. It is known to increase life longevity and improve sex life. It is reputed to strengthen the immune system and believed to be an effective remedy against multiple sclerosis, cancer and AIDS. Onlymyhealth editorial team talked to Dr. Anjali Phatak, Director Nutripulse and Senior Clinical Nutritionist, Nutripulse, Jaipur, about the side effects of ashwagandha.
Side effects of ashwagandha
Ashwagandha has many antioxidant properties and used to treat fungal infections, tuberculosis, chronic upper respiratory tract illnesses and is used in the treatment of gynaecological problems, male fertility and impotence. While there are claims of Ashwagandha’s efficacy in various curative properties, it is not entirely free of side effects. Some of them are:
1. Drowsiness and nausea
After taking Ashwagandha for the first time, many people experience drowsiness and nausea, but according to certain experts, such effects may decrease over time. It is advised that if it is bothersome, you should take it only before bedtime in doses of 3g to 5g. You may also take it at mealtimes or on a full stomach to reduce periods of drowsiness. This side effect occurs mostly if you overdose on ashwagandha.
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2. Stomach ache
Powdered leaf or root forms of Ashwagandha may be hard on some people who have a sensitive stomach leading to a sense of fullness or gas. People with ulcers should not take ashwagandha alone, but in combination with other herbs or with food. Large amounts of ashwagandha may also cause diarrhoea and vomiting.
3. Medication contraindication
You should always ask your doctor about using natural herbs like Ashwagandha as it may interfere with the effect of certain medications, like cyclosporine based medications, prednisone and azathiopene based medications.
4. Inflammatory conditions
Individuals diagnosed with inflammatory or muscular degenerative conditions should not take ashwagandha. Such conditions include arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus. These are considered as autoimmune diseases and because Ashwagandha boosts the immune system, it may cause flare-ups of greater severity and frequency.
5. Body temperature
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Some people have a rise in body temperature, like a fever after a week or two of starting the Ashwagandha routine. You should monitor yourself everyday to check any other severe side effects and consult your doctor immediately. If your body temperature is fluctuating after consuming ashwagandha, it is advised to stop taking it immediately.
Also read: You Must Try Ashwagandha Tea: The Immune-Tea
Many herbalists have warned that people with diabetes, liver diseases, digestive disorders and ulcers should not take Ashwagandha. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also avoid Ashwagandha as it has been suspected to cause miscarriages and poses a potential risk to the foetus and the infant. Ashwagandha side effects have vague evidences that are not clinically conclusive. Indian adults men, women and children have used it for centuries without any major problems. Still, taking in account the risks you should have Ashwagandha with your doctor’s advice only.
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