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As a powerful adaptogen, ashwagandha improves the body's defense system and protects against cellular damage from free radicals. The biologically active chemical components of ashwagandha include alkaloids, steroidal lactones, and saponins, which have significant anti-stress properties and help to modulate the immune response.
The Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine published a study of 64 chronically stressed people that demonstrates that ashwagandha root extract can safely and effectively improve an individual's resistance toward stress by lowering cortisol levels, thereby improving quality of life.
Research shows that ashwagandha can significantly improve thyroid hormone levels. A study in the Thyroid Research Journal suggests that elevated thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is associated with high cortisol. It's thought that ashwagandha's ability to increase thyroid hormone levels is due to its ability to lower cortisol levels.
Another study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine evaluated the effectiveness and safety of ashwagandha root extract in subclinical hypothyroid patients. Compared to the placebo group, the people with subclinical hypothyroidism who were treated daily with 600mg of ashwagandha root extract showed higher levels of T3, T4, and TSH after eight weeks.
A placebo-controlled study by the Journal of Dietary Supplements evaluated the effect of ashwagandha on memory and cognitive functioning in adults with mild cognitive impairment. After taking ashwagandha-root extract twice daily for eight weeks, the treatment group showed enhanced memory and improved executive function, attention, and information processing.
Ashwagandha is likely safe when taken orally in the short term. Still, research doesn't currently exist to measure long-term safety. Large doses of ashwagandha might cause minor side effects like upset stomach, diarrhea, or vomiting.
Ashwagandha might increase thyroid hormone levels, which is encouraging for people with hypothyroidism. However, people with hyperthyroidism should avoid ashwagandha to prevent possible thyrotoxicosis (excess of thyroid hormone in the body) unless recommended by a doctor.
Similarly, ashwagandha is likely unsafe to use when pregnant. Some evidence shows that it may have abortifacient properties, which may cause miscarriage if taken in high doses. There isn't enough information available to know if ashwagandha is safe to use when breastfeeding.
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