Ashwagandha is an herbal remedy, and it's one that has been used for centuries in its native country of India. Throughout that time, it has been used as a remedy or a cure for pretty much every medical condition known to man. How effective is it at treating them all? Well, that's a matter for modern science.
The Many Benefits of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen. Adaptogens are herbal remedies that supposedly help the body process stress, relax, and recover from ailments more quickly. Adaptogens are also non-toxic and promote overall holistic health. At least, that's what the legends say. Is it true?
Modern science has taken to studying herbal remedies and has found that many of them have their benefits. So what has it found about ashwagandha?
- It can reduce blood sugar levels. It's not as effective at it as some modern diabetes medications, but it can have that effect, particularly in small cases of high blood sugar. It does this by improving both insulin secretion and sensitivity.
- It might have anti-cancer properties. Thus far, all studies performed with ashwagandha focus on a particular compound in it called withaferin. This compound can inhibit the growth and formation of cancer and can induce the death of cancer cells. These studies have all been performed in mice, however, and no human trials have been conducted.
- It can help reduce stress levels. The hormone cortisol is responsible for the stress reactions in humans. Your body produces it during stressful times, and it helps you get through those tough periods. It lingers, though, and can increase blood sugar retention and fat storage. Ashwagandha has been shown experimentally to reduce cortisol levels by as much as 30% in chronically stressed adults.
- It may be able to help with anxiety. Generalized anxiety is becoming an increasingly common ailment, and most modern anti-anxiety medications are harsh and full of side effects. Anxiety is also linked hand in hand with stress. The herb can reduce stress and, along with it, anxiety.
- It might help with depression. Anxiety and depression are similar ailments, which is why many anti-anxiety medications are also antidepressants; they work in similar ways. Thus, anything that treats one likely helps treat the other, and indeed, ashwagandha seems to have some antidepressant effects.
- It can boost fertility in men. Ashwagandha has shown a side effect of increasing male fertility and testosterone levels, by a surprising amount. This, combined with stress reduction, often resulted in successful conception.
- It increases muscle mass and strength while reducing body fat. You might begin to see links here; body fat comes with high blood sugar and stress, so reducing those helps to reduce body fat.
There are a handful of other benefits as well, but if we went over all of them, we'd be here all day. If you're reading this article, then you probably already know at least some of the benefits, since they're what you're after. If you're not familiar with the herb, you can check out this resource for more details and sources for the claims.
Factors That Influence How Long Ashwagandha Takes to Work
Before we get into giving you specific time estimates – and they'll always be estimates – we should discuss the different factors that may influence how soon and how well ashwagandha works.
First of all, you have the amount you're taking. Larger doses of ashwagandha will have a more pronounced effect and will take effect faster, than taking smaller doses. However, the herb is not without its side effects. People taking the supplement have reported side effects that include drowsiness, headaches, and upset stomachs. It can also interact negatively with some medications you may already be taking, such as blood pressure or blood sugar medications, so exercise caution with it.
Next, you have the type of supplement. Full ashwagandha is essentially just the root of the plant, ground into a powder. Other forms of the herb can be found, including extracts and concentrates. The more concentrated the supplement, the more strongly it will work, though some extracts don't include all of the compounds of the full plant and thus don't bring in all of the same benefits.
Freshness may matter as well. As a plant-based remedy, it loses potency over time. If the supplement you get is old, it may be losing its potency and breaking down. You can also run the small risk of contamination, though that's fairly rare with this particular herbal remedy.
Which effect you're aiming for can influence how long it takes to work, at least in your eyes. Taking ashwagandha for weight loss might be imperceptible, because of how minor the effect is on fat storage. You might lose an extra pound over the course of a month of working out, compared to not taking it. It's difficult to say, as everyone's body reacts differently. Conversely, taking it for anxiety and stress may have a faster effect.
Your existing health levels also have an impact. Someone who has extremely high blood sugar, very bad anxiety, insomnia, or other major issues may not see as much of a result from ashwagandha as someone who has relatively minor cases of those issues. The stronger you need the herb to work to give you benefits, the longer it will likely take.
It's also possible that the quality of the herb matters. Different growing conditions, different chemicals in the soil, different water levels, different levels of health in the plant, can all affect the biological composition of the herb. That is, incidentally, why modern medicine tries to isolate compounds and make medicines rather than using herbal remedies because consistency is important for many health treatments.
Finally, how you take it can matter. There are a lot of different ways to take ashwagandha, some of which may inhibit certain effects or counteract them. This can make it seem like it takes a lot longer to take effect.
So How Long Does It Really Take?
How long does it actually take for ashwagandha to take effect, on average? Considering all of the different factors, it has a fairly wide range.
Most clinical trials of ashwagandha last at least 30 days before they start to measure for effect. This is because, in general, herbal remedies take a while to kick in, so to speak. For simple effects like a reduction in cortisol and blood sugar, you can start to see some effects in as little as two weeks. The full effect of the herb might not be visible for up to 60 days, though.
If you take ashwagandha in the morning, you may notice that you have a more stress-free day. Minor benefits on stress levels make it easier to ignore minor irritations and daily stressors. It may not do much the first few times you take it, but if you take it consistently for a few weeks, you should notice a tangible difference over time.
If you take ashwagandha in the evening, the drowsiness side effect can be a beneficial sleep aid. It might have some minor effects, similar to a low dose of melatonin, in as little as a week. For full anti-anxiety effects, you're looking at closer to a month, or two, before you're seeing the full effects of the herb.
Remember that biochemistry is a fantastically complicated subject. Our bodies are made up of millions of compounds, chemicals, and processes, and tinkering with those processes has a cascading effect. It takes a while for your body to sort out how it should be feeling at any given time based on various factors, and it's often good at "buffering" your current situation in case the future situation is worse.
So, overall, you're looking at a scale ranging from 7 to 90 days for various effects. On the shorter end of the scale, you'll likely see small reductions in cortisol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar. You may also sleep better if you're using it as a sleep aid. Mood changes can take a couple of weeks to kick in for any noticeable degree, though it depends a lot on the roots of your anxiety or depression. Physiological changes, such as testosterone levels, fertility, and body fat changes, can take much longer to become apparent.
So, it really depends on how much you take and what you're taking it for, as well as your own body chemistry. Some examples might look like:
- 500 mg of ashwagandha per day for 6-12 weeks may help reduce anxiety.
- 250 mg of ashwagandha per day for 4 weeks can reduce blood sugar levels a little.
- 3,000 mg of ashwagandha per day, in several doses, for four weeks can reduce blood sugar levels a lot.
- 5,000 mg of ashwagandha per day for 90 days can help boost fertility in men.
- 500 mg of ashwagandha per day can increase muscle growth gains by 1.5x over the course of 8 weeks.
As you can see, there are a lot of different effects, and different amounts of time it takes for those effects to occur. It varies by dose, by purpose, and in measurement. Some effects, such as immunity-boosting, can be tricky to measure as well.
As always, consult your doctor before taking ashwagandha as a supplement, especially if you intend to take it for a specific purpose or if you're taking large doses of it. It can interact with existing medications and the side effects can be dangerous, especially for pregnant women. While the herb is generally considered safe and is unlikely to cause any toxicity effects, it can backfire in some instances.
How to Take Ashwagandha Daily
As an herbal remedy, ashwagandha is a very flexible supplement. You can buy it in capsule, tablet, and powder forms. You can even potentially try to grow it if you live in an area with the right kind of climate, though that's a long-term process and might not be as effective. There are a lot of different traditional preparations you can try.
With milk: Mix some ashwagandha powder with milk and drink. The root has a strong earthy taste and might not be something you enjoy the first time you try it, but give it a shot. It might be a good acquired taste. If you warm your milk first, it can be a good night-time sleep aid.
Churna balls: This is a traditional ayurvedic preparation you commonly see in India. Churna balls are balls of flour, spices, ashwagandha, and a binding agent like ghee to keep it all together. Here's a recipe you can try.
Infused chocolate: Melt some of your favorite chocolate and mix in some powdered ashwagandha. Temper the chocolate and pour it into molds or bars, and you'll have an infused chocolate that can function as a tasty medicine or even an aphrodisiac.
Infused tea: Tea is already full of healthy compounds, so why not add one more? Just add a bit of your favorite ashwagandha powder to your tea and brew it normally. Be aware that this will add some bitterness, so it's not for everyone.
Pills: Of course, there's always the option to simply take your ashwagandha as a pill supplement. Taking capsules full of the powder, or taking a tablet each night, is a hassle-free way to consume your herbal supplement.
Additionally, you might want to create or use something called a nootropic stack. A nootropic stack is a series of herbal remedies – or nootropics – that have a variety of complimentary benefits to your overall health. The full stack can help boost your health in a hundred different ways while counteracting the side effects of each individual ingredient. Sometimes you might put one of these stacks together yourself, and other times you can get pre-mixed sets of ingredients, like our golden ashwagandha.
Regardless of how you choose to take it, remember that an herbal remedy will take some time to take effect, and the lower the dosage, the lower the effect. Be sure to balance out your needs with how much you can take before any potential side effects kick in.