Ashwagandha: Herbal Remedy with Dangerous Repercussions

Ashwagandha is a powerful herb. In this week’s post, I share the hidden dangers in this adaptogenic herb.

I often hear my clients talk about “adrenal fatigue” and how they have to “fix” their adrenals. What I’ve discovered is that most people are confused about the true underlying cause of their adrenal fatigue or more accurately put, systemic oxidative stress.

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha, also known as winter cherry, is a powerful herb in Ayurvedic medicine. The herb grows in India, the Middle East, and northern Africa, and is in the same family as the tomato. Due to its increasing popularity in the west, it is now also being grown in North America.

Ashwagandha proponents claim this herb can be used to alleviate stress, fatigue, low energy, improve problems with learning and concentration, reduce anxiety, stabilize brain-cell degeneration, lower cholesterol, and reduce inflammation. This popular herb is being touted as a fantastic immune booster and superfood.

Ashwagandha and Fatigue

Ashwagandha is touted as a wonderful remedy for adrenal fatigue, but in my clinic, I see that adrenal fatigue is secondary to copper toxicity, undermethylation, pyrrole disorder, zinc deficiency, and systemic oxidative stress.

Many of our patients have admittedly tried various herbal remedies that they believe will enhance their recovery, but what I often see are negative symptoms associated with this powerful herb such as diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, depression, insomnia, and anxiety to name a few.

Ashwagandha Dangers

Ashwagandha is often called “Indian ginseng” because it is very energizing, but botanically speaking, ginseng and Ashwagandha are completely unrelated. I urge you to be careful about buying into marketing claims. Ashwagandha can do a lot of damage to folks with abnormal methylation issues and copper toxicity.

Does Ashwagandha Affect Hormones?

Hormone production needs a feedback mechanism. Hormone levels are not an indication of hormone activity. This is why we look at the methylation cycle. If this is not in balance, methylation disorders could hinder the optimal functionality of hormones, neurotransmitters, and feedback mechanisms that drive hormone production, especially those produced by the adrenal glands.

Proponents of Ashwagandha don’t understand the connection between elevated copper levels, methylation cycles, and adrenal fatigue. Hormone therapy, glandulars (such as desiccated glandular supplements), and/or herbal remedies may be problematic for you and may create adverse symptoms that can impair your progress, especially if you have a methylation disorder and/or copper toxicity.

This is because most adrenal supplements contain copper-carrying and stimulatory ingredients (such as organs and glands, and adaptogenic herbs) that can be detrimental to the methylation cycle.

Saliva-based adrenal stress index tests are the most common testing method to determine cortisol, DHEA, sex, and other hormone levels that impact energy production. Keep in mind that if your hormones are present but are not activated, then they are not doing their job even though they are present.

Ashwagandha and Adrenal Fatigue

The first question one should ask is “what’s causing my adrenal fatigue to begin with?“

Excess copper, elevated kryptopyrroles, and undermethylation are classic underlying causes of chronic fatigue. Copper is especially insidious as it causes an increase in norepinephrine while lowering dopamine, which puts stress on the adrenal glands, thus impairing hormone activity.

Our protocols for oxidative stress work at the root biochemical cause of your adrenal fatigue, making the need for potentially damaging herbal adaptogens unnecessary.

Have you had an adverse reaction to ashwagandha? If so, I’d love to hear your story in the comments below.

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200 thoughts on “Ashwagandha: Herbal Remedy with Dangerous Repercussions”

    1. I have used ashwaghanda and it made me feel ill . The negative outweighed whatever positive that supposedly it was doing . extremely uncomfortable feeling in my throat .you won’t want to talk . It’s a sick ill feeling . It also elevated my body temperature and I felt uncomfortably hot …even inside the house in a/c . it made me feel weak and faint . I am not sure why but it made me feel ill and I was not taking any medications with it . I guess my immune system just can’t handle it

      1. I agree it made me feel very weak, difficulty in breathing, diarreha and stomach ache. Think it does not suit my digestion system

      2. I have taken it three times, and each time I became increasingly nauseated. The third time I became violently ill, with vomiting and diarrhea as well as elevated temperature and profuse sweating. The first two times I was unaware that is was the herb until I realized that it was the only thing I had done identically on both days; on the chance I had simply gotten a hold of a ‘bad batch’ I tried a different source the third time which caused a reaction much worse than the first two. I have no idea why I react this way, as I have used other adaptogenic herbs in the past with no issues.

      3. Ashwagandha is grown in India – has many pollution and heavy metals in the ground. Since it’s an adaptogen it uses one body system at expense of other . You feel good in one area and bad in other in the body. I noticed dizziness, upset stomach, and runny nose. Taking with food lower stomach pain, ask manufacturer for certificate of analysis to get quality supplement.

      4. Me too. Sooooo dizzy. Thought I was going to faint. Heart racing….. nearing on anxiety. Not for me. I tried it 3 times. 2 days apart each time….. same result!

      5. It can affect your thyroid. It does make some people feel better, some worse. It’s not for people with hyperthyroidism.

      6. This is exactly what I’m going through after taking gummies for 3 days with the herb and b-vitamins. Sick for 2 days vomiting and sweating and chills and bowel movements that are water. Horrible for me, others it works wonders. 🤷‍♂️

      7. I have the same symptoms. Feeling like I can’t talk. I feel exhausted no matter how much sleep I get. I have also had the worst mood swings and every little thing gets on my nerves which is completely out or character for me. I took this for stress and feel I have only been more stressed than before I had taken it.

    2. Me and my daughter have found great help with Ashweghanda putting in capsules and swallowing. Helping us a lot. We no longer take the ssri snri type medication. It helps with energy.
      I’ve had chronic fatigue since a car accident this has helped me with that. I don’t know about negative effects as only found positive for me and my daughter.

    3. I agree. There’s so many people I know personally that Ashwagandha has literally changed their life. And no longer take any medications due to it. No more ambien for me as well with other meds. I do believe this is in the hands of the marketing right now. They are giving 1950mg as the number one selling product on amazon with Black pepper extract! That’s way way to much and how many bad reviews about Ashwagandha causing stomach problems? Stop taking dosages we don’t have research for and I stopped taking the brand with black pepper extract and I had no more stomach problems. Also you have to take a day off and cycle you don’t take this everyday for the rest of your life. And is this better than what your pharmacy is giving us? Of course. Will it work for everyone? Of course not. Just be careful don’t get sold by marketing know what works for you. Lower dosage could be the simple change in their negative results and products! I’m in a better mood, I haven’t had a panic attack In a week or two and I can’t remember the last time I didn’t get 2/3 everyday. So, we will take What is effective Ashwagandha isn’t going anywhere. There’s to many people who prefer natural supplements than detoxing off well, there’s to many medications to name…

      1. Hi there Drew, I had to reply when I read you were having 2/3 panic attacks everyday.

        Have you considered heavy metals. In Feb 2016 I started having panic attacks that would last all day every day for weeks at a time, and many more symptoms. I tried telling doctors it felt like a toxin or electrical type burning in the head. They looked at me as if I was the crazy one. But about 6 months ago I found a reference to a movie called “brain on fire”, it is a true story of a girl who was written off as a psycho case, anyway 10 years later a doctor heard of her and offered to help, he found it was her NMDA receptors. I think I have had that, but triggered by heavy metals. About 6 months ago also I managed to prove I have heavy metals even though the doctor argued with me for an hour telling me I didn’t need the test, she certainly was shocked when the results came in.

        Anyway, from the start doctors were trying to convince me it was all psychological and I should take ssri, snri and valium and xanax, I did take valium at the start because it was so bad, and when I tried stopping it took 18 months of horrific symptoms to stop.

        Heavy metals compromises the cns, they impair detox and methylation and digestion, all of this causes malnutrition too.

    1. This post is based on clinical research with patients, not research data that may or may not apply to someone with severe oxidative stress. Research states things in black and white, but in a clinical environment, there are many shades of grey. I encourage you to peruse forums such as this one where real people are sharing their disastrous experiences with ashwagandha. This post is not alarmist, it is an accurate representation of what Dr. Mensah and I see clinically.

      1. A well-researched paper on Aswhagandha.
        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3252722/

        Perhaps the real reason why so many people cannot tolerate Aswhagandha and why it could be dangerous is because a lot of people find themselves, through no fault of their own, on combinations of SSRI’s, z-drugs,benzodiazepines, anti-convulsants (mood stabilizers), other atypical anti-psychotics and or other anxiolytics. As such, their system may have a very hard time tolerating something like Ashwagandha, because many people may just be depleted and tired and feeling very sensitized simply because of being incorrectly prescribed many psychiatric drugs in sequences and/or dosages that are not recommended. I feel that this is the real reason that many people have problems with herbals such as this one. I don’t think that the problem is necessarily intrinsic to herbals such as Aswhagandha. It lies into the actual Rx lists that people actually take. The times of content people taking a single SSRI and a blood pressure medication are long gone. Many are now found on puzzling concoctions of pharmaceuticals that cannot be stopped, yet cause more harm than good in the long run.

      2. I’m on zero medications and have a hard time tolerating Ashwagabdha. I think it’s more likely that some peoples biochemistry make them more susceptible to the potential negative effects .
        I cant tolerate caffeine either. It’s rarely one size fits all in medicine ( or life in general).

      3. I cannot tolerate caffein either, same result with Ashwagandaha, although only when I took a larger dose (500mg seems to be okay). I took one pill with 1950mg Ashwagandh and woke up at nightsweating and with a hot flash (I never have hot flashes otherwise), feeling like I had a hard time to breath (even though my pulse was normal). I went outside to the cold and could fall asleep an hour later, but the experience was scary.

      4. I don’t take any SSRI’s. I have hypothyroidism and hashimoto’s and tried ashwagandha because I was told it was good for thyroid issues. Every time I take it at night to help me sleep, it causes heart palpatations. My heart literally stopped for a second and kept doing this throughout the night. I was honestly afraid to go to sleep. It was scary so I’ve stopped taking it.

      5. Same to me. Ended up in ER with palpitations every 15 seconds to one minute. Scary. Chalking it up to this herb because everything camr back normal besides the PVC’s. Not taking it again!

      6. The same thing happened to me. I took it once and knew it was that. Never taking it again. People act like just because something is an herb or all natural means it can’t harm you, but that is false.

      7. I’m bipolar 1 and take several meds. Can I take Ashwaganda long term. Also curious about Maca and Gotu Kola long term use? I don’t find many entries about psychiatric meds and herbal use. I could expand if you comment.

      8. The first two weeks I took Aswhagandha it helped considerably with my social anxiety. Then suddenly it stopped and my general anxiety was as high as it’s ever been. Does something change with potency after a short time- is this a common reacation?

      9. I’ve found this too. It helps me considerably with anxiety for around 2 weeks before then making me feel really ill, cold (i assume from lowering my blood sugar), and more anxious than without it.

      10. Ashwaganda almost killed me last week, I was taking it for about two weeks then all of a sudden I started feeling weak and depleted my heart rate was dropping down to 37 bpm!
        immediatly I stopped taking the ashwaganda and saw the Cardiologist the next day and he said I had arrhythmia! and ordered blood work and an echo.
        so that evening I came home after seeing doc I started noticing my heart rate going back to normal.
        went the next day for my echo and blood results everything was perfect heart rate was about 90% better.
        will see doc again next week for a 24 hour monitor, just tp be on the safe side.
        im 100% sure it was the ashwaganda 🙁

      11. Do you take it for two weeks then stop and retake? Does it work when you stop/start again? Currently experiencing this same thing. The impact it has was life changing, now I feel my general anxiety has worsened as it’s stopped working and feeling discouraged.

      12. I had the same thing happen..seems to really be helping with anxiety and sleeping, then all of a sudden it made anxiety worse…I’ve been off ashwaghanda for 2 weeks and still have panic attacks….don’t know how long till it’s out of my system…

      13. The half-life of ashwagandha, off the top of my head vs. looking it up again is something like 4-6 hours. Super short, which is why a BID dosing schedule is indicated for. Given this fact, it has been long gone from you body for some time @ two weeks cessation.

      14. Thank you for your wise comment. I have recently been using ashwaganda and I believe it is causing a flare in my RA joint pain.

    2. I took this back in November and had some nausea/ stomach issues. At first, I chalked it up to having the flu but as I realized there maybe was a connection, I decreased daily intake to every other day then quit completely after a couple weeks and my stomach started to feel better again. My husband takes this often and has know issues; it really helps his stress. So, lately I’ve been going through a tremendous amount of stress and decided to try one caplet yesterday evening. I should probably point out that I had a half glass of wine earlier, not a lot of calories eaten for the day, and I ate a basil leaf out of our garden. I noticed my stomach felt off about 15 minutes after taking the caplet. About an hour later, I was projectile vomiting several times to the point of vomiting bile, and dry heaves. My stomach, is just now seeming to feel normal. I don’t know if I’m allergic to something in ashwagandha or if I’m having issues with some of the areas they talk about in this article. I definitely can not take this, however it works great for my husband.

      1. I decided to take Ash to supplement hypothyroidism issue in hopes of boosting metabolism. I took it once and, within 30 minutes, I became violently ill. Severe and almost unbearable abdominal pain, vomiting bile and diarrhea for almost 24 hours. I’m grateful that I’ve never had digestive issues, so I was pretty scared and my husband wanted to take me to the hospital, but I realized it was obviously the Ash and, in light of COVID, I prefer not to go unless absolutely unavoidable. I felt human again the next day with some residual abdominal pain but tolerable. Simple premise is that if something don’t feel right, it’s not right. Things you only do once! I can’t imagine even considering developing a tolerance for it.

      2. I took my first dose of Ash Tuesday morning and within an hour I had an upset stomach and then began vomiting like I did when my gall bladder was quitting. I honestly thought I had caught a stomach bug but just felt like it was due to the Ash. I took it again today, and didn’t vomit, but have felt sick and just do not feel “right”. My breathing is off and my heart seems to want to be out of rhythm. I will not take this again. Pretty sure my body does like it.

      3. Thank you for sharing your experience. I too started taking Ashwagandha to assist with hormone imbalance and general anxiety. I could not find anything online that suggested it can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea. I have had both symptoms, and originally thought it was COVID-19. It was recommended I take it after eating, that only ensured there was something to come up when the nausea symptoms took effect. Not for me, and I think I’m done trying to make it work for me.

      1. I bought ashwaganda last year in powder form tried it In my smoothie and was violently sick a couple of hours later, I thought I had a bug but next time I tried it same thing and the nauseous feeling was very bad. Just recently I bought a mixed green super food powder not realising it had Ash in it and once again very sick so as we know one size doesn’t fit all.

      2. How long did it take to exit your body do think? im so lost, i started taking an herbal hormone supplement (Ashwasgandha among other herbs) and my life went upside down. Im healthy, althetic, 40 year old female with no symptoms and honestly picked this up on a whim to help with energy and skin….Ive been to the ER and primary, lots of EKG’s labs etc. I just want to know when to expect it to be out of my system. I took it for 3 weeks.

      3. YES! And my primary just called, all my blood tests were normal. I have been going insane trying to understand what was happening. It started with what seemed like heart racing, and brain fog then turned into severe anxiety (which I have never experienced before) and I chopped it up to thinking I was panicking of what I could have developed i.e. Hyperthyroidism…..literally to the point I couldn’t drive over a bridge because I began to panic so bad. So scary to feel so disconnected.Now Im just trying desperately to know when will this get out of my system. And I do not take any other meds just a multivitamin.

      4. Hi there do you have an update for how you are feeling? I am suffering in a similar way and my last dose was nearly two weeks ago

      5. Hi Andrew! Sorry your going through this too….each day I get better but it’s been almost 2 months since my last dose and it was a day to day challenge but each day DID get better. For me it was the not knowing how long it would take that was making me frustrated. I’m not 100%, but at least I know the worst is behind me. I have not had caffeine or alcohol and am following a clean diet to give my body a chance to heal. For whatever reason, Ashwagandha was not a fit for me and I’ve learned a lot from the whole experience. My advice would be try and find a holistic dr perhaps that can help you navigate what it has thrown off in your body and hopefully you can manage a way to heal it sooner than later. L-glutamine was suggested to me, and it’s been a lifesaver. Best wishes, feel free to ask me any other questions, because if you found yourself here, I’m sure you’ve been searching for a lot of answers like I was.

  1. I tried the so-called adrenal remedies, including ashwaghanda and had disastrous reactions that landed me in the ER a few times. I’m convinced I have severe methylation issues and copper toxicity but can’t afford a pricey practitioner after spending thousands on false hopes. Just be cautious of anyone who pushes expensive supplements. As I know now, there is a root cause that drives adrenal fatigue. That is what needs to be identified and addressed first.
    Thank you Sami, for stating the obvious and reassuring me I’m not a crazy hypochondriac.

      1. WOW I JUST FOUND THIS I have MTHFR too, fibromyalgia, POTS, and CFS, and I have been taking ashwagandha the last few days and I have been feeling extremely fatigued the last two days and noticed my tachycardia is worse today! I am glad I found this.

    1. I began taking an herbal supplement called Stresscare, which does include ashwagandha. I have recently stopped taking it as often and I’ve now developed an inflamed thyroid gland in my neck and realize I have the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Should I start taking it again? Or should I just try to treat the thyroid symptoms with diet and rest?. I have taken chelated chromium in the past to lower my copper levels. I can start taking that again. It has worked for me before. I think that this supplement was a bad idea because there are so many ingredients that I have no idea how or what is affecting me. After a few months I did notice stronger hair, more energy, and better focus. However I think that this may have just rebalanced my adrenal function and then I should have stopped taking it. I am just hoping I have not done any permanent damage.

      1. Interesting. I have thyroid issues ( hypo ) for years and cannot tolerate Ashwagandha
        Winder if there is a connection.

      2. I have hypothyroidism too… but everytime I take a thyroid med a breakdown follows.

        No different with ash… I had like a 7 day honeymoon period then wham. Made my ocd crazy and depression worse.

    2. I’m currently going through a breakdown that happened while taking this. Um I’ve been on a thyroid 3 times and each time its ended like this. The previous two were levothyroxine 25 (50 for like a week the first time). This one feels different though like a more spacey feeling at times, some manic, and waking up every morning with a crap ton of anxiety to the point where I gotta melt down

    3. Adrenal fatigue is not a real condition. Experementing on somthing that does not exist is dangerous.

  2. Thank you Sami for another enlightening and thought provoking article. It seems that so many people are diagnosed with, or trying to treat their ‘adrenal fatigue’. There always seems to be some mystery as to what exactly that is. I also see that eating dessicated thyroid from a pig each day is a popular treatment for thyroid issues.

    I accept that the underlying causes could be undermethylation, elevated Pyrroles, elevated copper etc. I would also love to know what it is that may make Ashwaganda or dessicated glandular supplements problematic or “create adverse symptoms and impair your progress”.

    Could you possibly expand on this any further?

    1. Hi Michelle,
      Most adrenal supplements contain organs and glands that are high in copper. Ashwagandha is a stimulant and like all stimulants, has the ability to impair detox pathways thus making oxidative stress worse, even if there is an initial increase in energy.

      Our concern, and the reason for this post, is that folks suffering from copper toxicity and/or any of the aforementioned issues are taking these supplements without a clear understanding of the true cause of their fatigue. Ashwagandha is especially detrimental if you have a thyroid imbalance and are taking thyroid medication – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4296437.

  3. Sorry, but my brain is too scattered. I don’t understand the why on not taking Ashwagandha. What is the bad that it does? I’ve always read good things about it. Can you expand more?

    Also – the above comment on thyroid. Naturethroid and the like is the only way to go on helping the thyroid if you need supplements thyroid hormones. Synthroid is a joke.

    1. See my reply to Michelle. Regarding bio-identicals vs. synthetic thyroid replacement, everyone’s body responds differently to hormones regardless of the source. Some of my patients respond well to Synthroid and cannot tolerate the bio-identicals. Some do better on animal-based options. Everyone is unique.

      1. Thank you for your reply explaining further on the above comment. Now I understand on the Ashwagandha.

    2. Thyroid problem is often secondary to adrenal exhaustion. Once the adrenals are fixed they stop instructing the thyroid to produce reverse T3 and the hormones settle naturally.

      1. Yes, I took it for a month and stopped a month ago. I am Still having issues. It has caused severe anxiety, tremors, heart palpitations, insomnia and just a manic type of feeling. Who would have thought? I don’t know when I am going to get better but it is horrible!

  4. Interesting! I was taking it during the year leading up to my crash. I had heard it was good for hormones and was taking it for cramps. I wonder how much it had to do with my issues… Thankfully, not taking it now!

  5. Hi Sami, I have Pyroluria and an Undermethylator and last year suffered from PTSD with Adrenal Fatigue. Also menopausal! Are you suggesting that anyone with these issues should be careful with Ashwagandha? I have been taking adrenal supplement containing this for 6 months as well as being treated for Pyroluria and copper/methylation which have improved mood but I am still quite fatigued! Could this be why?

    1. Hi Lea,
      Yes, we recommend you be very cautious with ashwagandha if you have these underlying chemistries.

  6. Should an undermethylator not be taking dessicated thyroid for thyroid disorders? I have Hashi’s and have always been told to ask for the dessicated instead of the synthetic. Honestly, none of the medications (synthetic or dessicated/natural) have made me feel any better.

  7. Oh my God, I’m high copper and I was taking the dessicated thyroid. I gad no idea that it could contain lots if copper! Is there any research that prooves this?

  8. My naturopath put me on Ashwagandha for my anxiety due to a lot of anxiety from PTSD. I’ve been on it for 3 months. How does it affect you badly?

    1. I’ve been taking Ashwagahnda for about 2 weeks, and it was almost an immediate response of calmness, peace and feeling better. I was having anxiety pretty badly. But now after 2 weeks, I am having stomach cramping a few hours after taking it, it almost feels like I’ve eaten gluten which I’m allergic to. Has this happened to anyone else? Its disappointing for sure.

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