Ashwagandha is what we call an “adaptogen” – a substance believed to help the body respond to various stressors. Commonly known as “Indian Ginseng,” ashwagandha has for thousands of years been part of the Indian practice of Ayurvedic medicine. While longer-term studies are needed to establish its effectiveness, the available evidence points to the high likelihood that ashwagandha can support our health in a number of important ways. Read on for more information on ashwagandha’s health benefits, and for some tips on the right time of day to take this supplement.
There is no golden rule for the best time of day to take ashwagandha. Rather, the time of day you take ashwagandha depends on what you’re taking it for. Here’s what we know about the benefits of taking in the morning versus at night.
When considering the optimal time to take ashwagandha, many studies don’t pinpoint a specific time of day. Nevertheless, there are still good reasons to take a morning dose. Ashwagandha can be helpful when taken in the morning for those looking to kick start their day with an energy boost. This herb is known for potentially promoting healthy immune system function and boosting cellular defenses against oxidation, both of which can be beneficial during the active hours of the day.
In addition, since ashwagandha is an adaptogen, it has the potential to support a sense of well-being and feelings of balance. If you find yourself heading into a busy day at work, school, or other events, taking ashwagandha in the morning might offer a feeling of calm and resilience. This can be extremely helpful for providing stability while navigating challenging tasks.
It’s important to keep in mind that the half-life of ashwagandha varies based on the formula being used and active withanolides present. One animal study started the research process regarding half-life of ashwagandha which can pave the way for future human clinical studies. However, its effects are meant to build up over time, often requiring consistent intake over a period of weeks, rather than an as-needed basis. For example, one systematic review and meta-analysis of ashwagandha’s effect on sleep quality found that it took 8 weeks or more for participants to feel the full effect. So, if you decide on a morning routine, it’s recommended to maintain consistency to truly enjoy its full benefits.
If you’re looking to promote better overall sleep, taking ashwagandha at night might be just the thing you need. Ashwagandha has been linked to improved sleep quality, making it a great choice for those who may experience trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. One study found that participants who took ashwagandha root extract twice daily experienced improved sleep quality, and they also fell asleep more quickly over a 10 week period.
But the benefits of ashwagandha’s nighttime intake don’t end at promoting sleep. Unlike other sleep aids that can leave you feeling groggy upon waking up, ashwagandha has been associated with better alertness the next morning. Other research notes that taking ashwagandha once daily in the evening can be beneficial for sleep support.
While the initial findings about ashwagandha’s sleep-enhancing properties are promising, it’s still important to approach its use with caution. A systematic review and meta-analysis comparing five randomized controlled trials concluded that ashwagandha appears to be beneficial for supporting healthy sleep, but notes that safety data is missing for adverse events and long-term use.
Taking ashwagandha on an empty stomach can lead to some potential discomfort for people. You may want to take your ashwagandha after you’ve eaten a meal or snack. This can help reduce any potential for digestive discomfort.
It’s safe to take ashwagandha daily. Some studies have tested supplementation for up to 8 weeks, while others have tested for 12 weeks. It’s always advisable to consult a doctor before adding a new supplement. At Care/of, we offer an excellent 30-day supply of ashwagandha, harvested in India.
Ashwagandha is safe when taken for up to three months, but safety data beyond this timeframe is unavailable. Only your healthcare provider can provide you with the proper guidance on how long to take it for.
One of the primary concerns with ashwagandha is its potential to affect thyroid hormones. It has been shown to increase levels of thyroxine, which could be unsafe if you have any pre-existing thyroid issues. Because of these potential implications, you should always consult your healthcare provider before starting this supplement.
If you miss a dose of ashwagandha, simply take it during your next scheduled time. Do not double up on doses.
Safety data on herbal medicine in pregnancy, including ashwagandha, is lacking. Thus, it should definitely be avoided during pregnancy. Although ashwagandha may help with reproductive health, it’s particularly concerning as some data has indicated that ashwagandha at high doses may increase the risk of potential complications. Additionally, LactMed, a reputable source on the safety of drugs and dietary supplements in lactating women states: “Because there is no published experience with Withania during breastfeeding, it should be avoided, especially while nursing a newborn or preterm infant.”
There’s a reason we call ashwagandha the “Chill Pill.” Studies show that it helps reduce stress, promote better moods, and encourage more mental balance. One study – a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study – was performed on 64 participants. The participants were split into two groups and then given either 300 mg of ashwagandha extract, twice daily, or otherwise given a placebo. At the end of 60 days, the ashwagandha group reported a 44% improvement in their mental health. Levels of cortisol, sometimes dubbed “the stress hormone,” were also lower in the ashwagandha group.
Another study examined the effect of ashwagandha on a group of people trying to achieve healthy weight management and lower stress levels. It found ashwagandha supplementation contributed to significant improvement in both areas. Furthermore, an animal study involving rats found that administering ashwagandha to rats experiencing stressors had a calming effect.
Sleep is essential to your overall health, and there’s solid evidence to suggest that ashwagandha improves sleep quality. Consider this recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 150 healthy subjects who were experiencing sleep issues. The group was split in two, with one receiving 120 mg of standardized ashwagandha extract once daily for six weeks, and with the other receiving a placebo. The results were stark: Of the group that consumed the ashwagandha, 72% of participants reported improvements in their sleep. Activity monitoring equipment helped researchers determine that the treatment group fell asleep more quickly, slept for longer, and felt better rested upon awakening. Likewise, the treatment group reported significant improvements in quality of life. Researchers believe that these improvements can be attributed to ashwagandha’s ability to encourage restorative sleep.
Evidence of ashwagandha’s effectiveness in regulating healthy blood sugar levels (already within normal range) is limited, but promising nonetheless. A study done with healthy participants found that ashwagandha can help people maintain healthy blood sugar levels (for those whose levels are already in normal range). Participants fasting glucose levels were measured over 30 days and small positive changes were seen. Moreover, some researchers believe that certain compounds within ashwagandha can help stimulate your cells to take in glucose from the bloodstream (in healthy people whose blood sugar levels are already in normal range). Still, more research is needed.
Cortisol is sometimes called “the stress hormone,” because our brains release it in response to stressful situations. Some cortisol can be good for us, but when levels remain heightened for too long, it can have negative effects on our moods and mental balance. Fortunately, ashwagandha has been shown to reduce cortisol levels. One randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that the group that took 300mg of ashwagandha experienced significant cortisol reductions compared with the placebo group by the end of the 60 day study.
Several studies have shown ashwagandha to be helpful for sports performance. One study, for example, measured the effects of ashwagandha on Indian cyclists. A group of over forty major Indian cyclists were selected at random, and divided into two groups: one that would receive 500 mg capsules of ashwagandha, twice daily for eight weeks, and one that would take a placebo. The findings couldn’t have been clearer, with the treatment group seeing improvements in aerobic capacity, energy level, and overall endurance.
Another study of healthy athletic adults yielded similar findings, with the ashwagandha group experiencing greater endurance capacity than the placebo group. And yet another study – this one involving young athletic men – found that a 500 mg dose of an aqueous extract of ashwagandha can lead to improved body strength over a 12-week resistance training period.
Ashwagandha is generally considered safe for many, but it may not be suitable for everyone. Specifically, individuals with certain health conditions, especially those related to the immune system or hormonal balances, should always check with their doctor first. While there is a body of research on ashwagandha, large-scale double-blind controlled trials, the gold standard in scientific research, are currently lacking. Thus, more robust evidence is needed to fully understand both its benefits and potential side effects.
Moreover, if you’re taking medications, you should talk to your medical team about the possibility of interactions. Most of the studies we have on ashwagandha involve using 600 mg doses.
Also, since ashwagandha is part of the nightshade family (i.e., eggplants, bell peppers), anyone sensitive to these foods might also react to ashwagandha. Therefore, it should be avoided entirely.
There is currently no data on how or if ashwagandha interacts with birth control. However, given its potential link to an elevated risk of complications and the lack of safety data during pregnancy, it's strongly advised to abstain from this supplement while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Ashwagandha is an herbal adaptogen with roots in Ayurvedic medicine. It offers promising health benefits, from stress reduction to improved sleep and even enhanced athletic performance. The best time of day to take it depends on your specific objective, whether it’s kickstarting your day with energy, or promoting restful sleep at night. While generally safe, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting, especially if you have certain medical conditions. Given its limited safety data during pregnancy, anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid ashwagandha.