As reported by Forbes and New York Times, the rising claims that Ashwagandha causes emotional numbness, emotional bluntness and depression are side effects of Ashwagandha which are common amongst women. Users reported feeling demotivated, anhedonia and PSSD after prolonged use of ashwagandha.
In this article, we shall investigate Ashwagandha’s most severe side effects on emotional well-being and mental health, including health experts’ views from scientific studies and real-world user feedback.
Our honest review from a collection of unbiased views provides better insights into Ashwagandha’s long-term side effects on mental health and the severity of its effect on your emotions.
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha, scientifically known as Withania somnifera, boasts a rich history in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, spanning centuries of use in India. Celebrated for its adaptogenic properties, this ancient herb is believed to reduce stress with calming and mood-lifting effects.
Nonetheless, recent claims have raised concerns about Ashwagandha’s potential to suppress emotions or dampen emotional responses.
Impact of Ashwgandha on Emotions, Stress, Depression & Mental Health
One of the primary uses of Ashwagandha is to reduce stress and anxiety. Ashwagandha and Tongkat Ali are both comparable herbal supplements used to improve mood. Several studies showed that Ashwagandha can lower cortisol levels better than Tongkat Ali, although the stress response mechanism by ashwagandha may suppress other hormones, causing a hormonal imbalance that can impair focus and mental health.
Doctors are quick to react on ashwagandha’s risks, advising patients and users not to take Ashwagnadha for more than 4 weeks. Professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Dr. Nicole Avena said that Ashwagandha should not be taken more than 12 weeks to avoid any severe side effects and complications.
Past studies on Ashwgandha’s effect on 5HT2 serotonin receptors, suppression of cortisol levels and the increase of prolactin 5HT2A secretion may cause severe emotional numbness, leading to premature depression and other mental health issues.
According to an opinion piece written by Shambhavi Sarasvati at Medium.com, ashwagandha is a sedative and may cause depression. She added, “If your current state of mind is accompanied by a feeling of suppressed anger, ashwagandha is likely going to make it worse”.
Common Side Effects of Ashwagandha
The potential downside of Ashwagandha is that it affects the emotions of women who are hormone-sensitive as suppression of cortisol may lead to depression, anhedonia, emotional numbness, and frequent drowsiness.
There are other side effects of Ashwagandha that are commonly experienced by women and even men such as:
- Emotional numbness
- Emotional bluntness
- Prolonged depression
Does Ashwagandha helps control mood or anxiety?
Yes, Ashwagandha may help to improve your mood by reducing cortisol if you are taking it short-term, typically less than 2-3 weeks. Long-term use of ashwagandha may suppress your cortisol hormones (stress hormones), dopamine (feel-good hormones) and serotonin receptors leading to emotional numbness- a disconnected feeling of pleasure as reported by many users who took ashwagandha after 30 days. As a result, this may affect your sexual pleasure or desire. Healthcare professionals recommend users avoid taking ashwagandha for more than 3 months.
Does Ashwagandha make you emotionless?
Dr. Melinda Ring, an integrative medicine specialist at Northwestern Medicine, said that Ashwagandha could potentially suppress dopamine receptors in the brain. However, ashwagandha is also thought to help regulate cortisol levels (as reported in some studies), she added.
Despite studies showing Ashwagandha reduces cortisol (stress hormones) and anxiety, Ashwagandha has a profound impact on emotions, potentially causing excessive emotional numbness, feeling emotionally unresponsive based on reported by users on TikTok in recent years.
Does Ashwagandha suppress my emotions?
Yes, taking ashwagandha daily for 30 to 60 days may cause emotional numbness, demotivation and feeling detached, especially for women who are sensitive to hormonal changes.
A 10-week study in 2022 by a group of researchers showed that long-term usage of ashwagandha may lead to a permanent suppression of adrenal function, affecting hormone production that controls your emotions. The study warned users of the potential detrimental effect of continuous use of Ashwagandha and how it may suppress your emotions due to adrenal insufficiency.
Is Ashwagandha safe for women?
Ashwagandha is relatively safe for women up to 3 months at low dosages, but long-term safety has not been established as the side effects of emotional numbness, depression and anhedonia may be severe for women who are hormone-sensitive, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, women diagnosed with Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and those experiencing constant mood swing symptoms.
Does Ashwagandha affects libido?
An animal study showed that Ashwagandha significantly affects the 5-HT1 and 5-HT2 receptors lead to a host of clinical effects ranging from shortening duration to falling asleep, but also reduced sex-drive, increased depressive mood, increased appetite, increased impulsivity, reduced attention, emotional numbness, detachment/dissociation with reduced “high,” reduced motivation and inability to feel pleasure in sexually pleasurable activities.
Does Ashwagandha cause anhedonia or PSSD?
Anecdotal evidence from users reported that ashwagandha causes anhedonia (demotivation) when taken daily after 4 weeks. Reddit users reported feeling demotivated to complete simple tasks, which may impair your work productivity, or mental focus if you are taking Ashwagandha during work hours.
Users are advised not to take ashwagandha during work hours (daytime) or if they are driving at night as this may cause drowsiness, and demotivation and reduce your overall cognitive alertness and response time on urgent tasks (or even during work crisis)
An animal study showed that Ashwagandha significantly enhances the sensitivity of 5 HT2 (serotonin-2) receptors in the brain and a reciprocal sub-sensitivity of the 5HT1A receptors based on 100mg/kg bodyweight dosage after 8 weeks. The same study showed 5-HT2 stimulation increases prolactin (5-HT2A) and ACTH (5-HT2C). This concludes that ashwagandha is potently anti-cortisol which causes emotional numbness after prolonged use as reported by users who took KSM66 Ashwagandha.
Does Ashwagandha kill your emotions forever?
Ashwagandha does not kill your emotions forever and your emotional senses will be restored after you stop taking Ashwagandha for two weeks. As reported by Insider.com, Ashwagandha is less likely to cause severe complications if you stop using it after three months, says Nicole M. Avena, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Does Ashwagandha mess my hormones?
A case patient report study showed that a 10-week ashwagandha supplementation may cause adrenal insufficiency (or better known as Addison’s disease), a hormonal disorder that happens when the adrenal glands are not producing sufficient cortisol, aldosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These hormones help control a variety of important functions in the body, including stress and anxiety.
Can Ashwagandha make you feel more depressed?
Health expert Dr Legrand (who is also an ADHD patient) reported being more depressed in the 2nd and 3rd week after taking Ashwagandha. In his viral TikTok video, his followers reported a similar experience of emotional numbness after taking ashwagandha.
If you are diagnosed with ADHD or exhibit any mental health symptoms, you need to avoid taking ashwagandha. It is best to consult a healthcare professional for advice before taking ashwagandha or any form of herbal supplements.
Should you feel easily depressed, or exhibit any form of emotional “numbness” or unresponsive to emotional triggers, then it is recommended to stop taking Ashwagandha completely.
Is Tongkat Ali better than Ashwagandha for anxiety or stress?
Tongkat Ali provides an alternative to Ashwagandha as studies showed that it may reduce stress, anxiety and depression by reducing cortisol levels and increasing dopamine in your brain (both cortical and hippocampal). Tongkat Ali does not disrupt your serotonin receptors, and prolactin nor does it suppress your cortisol levels, but it produces similar calming effects that are not detrimental to your mental health if taken long term compared to ashwagandha.
Related Article: Tongkat Ali vs. Ashwagandha: Which is better?
Can Ashwagandha be used as a treatment for depression?
Ashwagandha may be effective in reducing mild anxiety, or mild depression that are related to hormonal imbalance or due to premature aging based on short-term consumption. However, if you have chronic depression that affects your mental health, please seek advice from a healthcare professional or your nearest doctor before consuming Ashwagandha.
Is Ashwagandha an SSRI drug?
Ashwagandha is not classified as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) drug although it exhibits SSRI-like effects that may reduce anxiety, depression and stress with severe side effects on emotional numbness and feeling detached.
Can I take Ashwagandha and SSRI drug together?
It is not advisable to take both Ashwagandha and SSRI drugs (eg: Zoloft) together as it may cause severe emotional numbness, PSSD and demotivation (anhedonia) due to excessive suppression of cortisol and serotonin receptors. In addition, there is limited study on the safe of the drug interaction and how it affects mental health over prolonged use of Ashwagandha.
Can I use Ashwagandha for ADHD?
Ashwagandha should not be used to treat ADHD or ADHD symptoms as it may cause emotional numbness due to negative effects on your adrenal glands and, or dopamine receptors. Patients diagnosed with ADHD should not take ashwagandha supplements as it may cause further damage to their present mental health state.
Experts’ views on Ashwagandha
“For ashwagandha to have a calming influence, a person would need to consume it regularly for several weeks — a capsule or drink infused with the supplement isn’t likely to have the kind of instant effect some manufacturers advertise.”
– Dr. Yufang Lin, Medicine Specialist, Cleveland Clinic USA
“Ashwagandha could potentially suppress dopamine receptors in the brain”
– Dr. Melinda Ring, Medicine specialist, Northwestern Medicine, USA
Lilian Cheung, a lecturer on nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health also commented that today’s ashwagandha supplements may contain higher concentrations of ingredients than are found in nature.
In other words, due to the unregulated herbal industry, you may be consuming more than what your body requires, and this practice is far from what was practiced in the traditional eastern medicine.
User reviews of Ashwagandha's effects on emotions
Medical School Professor Dr. Cam Maximus commented that Ashwagandha acts like a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) drug and may cause blunted emotions, anhedonia and apathy.
Dr. Cam Maximus is one of influential health coaches for celebrities and personalities in California who cautioned his followers against taking Ashwagandha as it is deemed overrated.
Ashwagandha is one of the most overrated supplements out there.— Dr. Cam Maximus🤴🏻 🥷🏻 🧙🏻♂️ 🤵♂️ (@DrCamRx) June 11, 2023
Just because it’s herbal doesn’t mean it’s safe; it acts a lot like an SSRI.
It reduces sensitivity of the 5-HT1A serotonin receptors and can cause anhedonia, apathy, & blunted emotions.https://t.co/GusNznVUyW
Meanwhile, other users reported the same numbing effects of Ashwagandha due to its strong SSRI drug-like effects on emotions. Users are warned by doctors not to take Ashwagandha for more than 3 months as prolonged use may increase the chances of drowsiness that can impair work productivity, and work safety.
Ashwagandha’s numbing effects on emotion sparked fear in the health community with many US health coaches now advising their clients to stop taking Ashwagandha.
I urge caution around prolonged use of ashwagandha at higher doses. It can have an effect similar to SSRI’s in some causing a dulling of emotions!!— Dan Connell (@AncestralDan) July 29, 2023
A young female user reported feeling inhumane after she stop taking ashwagandha, claiming that she could not handle her emotions and not express herself to the fullest.
Her followers echoed the same sentiment, expressing negative feeling after taking ashwagandha.
I don’t know why I ever took ashwagagagacacanda— raf ❁ (@rafdelafuente) August 3, 2023
All the emotions hit you like a huge wave after hopping off of it & you forget what it’s like to deal with real emotions
I literally felt inhumane after
What do you think about ashwagandha?
Professional fitness health coach Greg O’Gallagher shared the downside of ashwagandha and how it affects emotions negatively.
In his video posted on X.com, he warned his followers that taking ashwagandha may reduce the depth of feelings causing blunted emotions and apathy. This was echoed by many functional health coaches against the use of Ashwagandha over a prolonged period.
Ashwagandha is renowned for a range of potential health benefits that may contribute positively to emotional well-being by effectively mitigating stress and anxiety. However, it may cause emotional numbness and kill your emotions if taken continuously, or for a prolonged period. There are also further risks of anhedonia, depression and even causing you to feel demotivated and less excited to accomplish your goals or your present tasks.
The warning signs are clear on the negative side effects of Ashwagandha on your mood, mental health and emotional state. The best advice is to use Ashwagandha for a short period of less than 2 weeks to avoid any negative emotional side effects to your brain and mood receptors.
If you are contemplating taking Ashwagandha to reduce your stress or anxiety, it is prudent to seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional to ascertain its suitability and safety.
Naressa Khan contributes regularly on AKARALI and is part of the global Tongkat Ali research team. As a writer and journalist, Naressa specializes in nutrition, health supplements, and natural wellness. With this approach always in mind, she explores fact-based and scientific evidence of topics related to health, herbs and natural wellness.
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