Is Ashwagandha Safe During Pregnancy? We Review The Science
Ashwagandha has a range of potential medicinal uses. However, it is not recommended to consume large amounts of it when you are pregnant. It does offer several health benefits for both men and women, and although its side effects are not well-researched, it is believed to be safe to consume for most people.
What Is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub that is part of the nightshade family. It is sometimes referred to as Indian ginseng, although it is not connected to ginseng in any way. The roots of the plant can be dried and ground used for making tea and tinctures. Ashwagandha extract supplements are often labeled as Withania somnifera.
It is believed to have a number of health benefits and is also classified as an adaptogen. Adaptogens are compounds that help your body regulate its stress responses.
Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years and is claimed to help with a range of health issues, including:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Poor memory
- Trouble sleeping
- Low libido
- Frequent illness or disease
- Low mental or physical endurance
- Joint pain
- Neurological condition
- Male infertility
There is limited research into all of the effects of ashwagandha, but scientific research has confirmed some of its medicinal properties in humans. Some positive effects have been shown in animal testing but have not yet been tested in human trials. For example, testing on rats has suggested that ashwagandha extract could be used to reduce epileptic seizures. However, there has not yet been any testing to confirm this effect in humans.1
Ashwagandha contains withanolides, which are a group of natural steroids that may inhibit tumor growth and slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.2
Effects On Blood Sugar And Diabetes
Several studies have also shown it to lower blood sugar levels, especially in people with diabetes. Additionally, one study has suggested that it may increase insulin secretion and improve insulin sensitivity in muscle cells.3
Reduced Cortisol Levels
Although it is not fully understood why, consuming concentrated ashwagandha extract has been proven in clinical trials to significantly reduce cortisol levels, which is the hormone responsible for stress. Participants in the trial showed a noticeable reduction in their stress assessment scores across the board, in addition to the reduced cortisol levels.
Cortisol is also a key hormone involved in the immune system’s inflammatory response. As a result, taking ashwagandha supplements to reduce cortisol levels can help manage a range of inflammatory conditions.4
Side Effects of Consuming Ashwagandha
Some people can have an allergic reaction to ashwagandha, however for most people, eating ashwagandha or taking ashwagandha supplements does not cause any side effects. There can be mild side effects for some people, however. These can include:
- Low blood pressure
- Low blood sugar
- Increases thyroid hormone levels
This can make ashwagandha unsuitable for people with blood pressure or thyroid conditions. It can also interact with some medications, such as:
- Blood thinners
- Thyroid supplements
- Immune system suppressants
- Some anxiety medications
Additionally, ashwagandha can interfere with some medical tests. If you have an ongoing health condition, consult your doctor before adding an ashwagandha supplement to your daily regimen.
Consuming more than the recommended dosage of ashwagandha can cause more unpleasant side effects, including an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea.
As a supplement rather than a drug, ashwagandha extracts are not approved or regulated by the FDA and have not been through the rigorous safety testing that drugs are subject to. Because of this, it may have other side effects that have not yet been documented.
Is It Safe To Eat Ashwagandha During Pregnancy?
It is best to avoid consuming large amounts of ashwagandha during pregnancy. The extract is sometimes used in traditional medicine to help pregnant women get restful sleep and restore their energy, however its other effects could endanger the pregnancy because one of the mechanisms in which it works, is by decreasing the stress hormone cortisol (up to 29%), and a woman's body needs higher levels of cortisol to sustain pregnancy.. Ashwagandha can cause the early onset of menstruation and could increase the risk of miscarriage in pregnant women.
After a pregnancy, ashwagandha supplements can be beneficial, however. Besides increasing energy levels and reducing stress levels, and may also stimulate the mammary glands to increase milk production.
How Much Ashwagandha Should You Take?
Most ashwagandha powders recommend a daily intake of between 1/4 to 2 tablespoons per day, depending on the concentration. Starting with a smaller dose and working your way up can help manage any side effects that may occur when first introduced to your diet.
How To Consume Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha has a mildly bitter taste that is easily masked by other flavors. It is traditionally consumed in a mixture of ghee, honey, cardamom powder, or mixed with warm milk and honey before sleeping. However, it can be easily added to many foods such as smoothies, soups, and desserts and can be added to both sweet and savory dishes. It can also be taken as a supplement in the form of a pill.
Ashwagandha is a versatile extract that has many potential health uses. It has many proven benefits to your health, however, numerous claims about it have not yet been proven, and some of those claims could be harmful. The use of the extract as a treatment for pregnancy symptoms is an example of this. Although ashwagandha does offer restorative effects, consuming enough of it to get those effects could risk the pregnancy.
Looking to get the best nutrition for your pregnancy or you are just looking to supplement your life now post-partum?
At Mother Nutrient, we offer 2 different unique ashwagandha products. First we have our Organic Ashwagandha capsules that are combined with bioperine for best absorption rates and delicious Ashwagandha gummies, combined with nutrients like vitamin D and calcium.