Ever feel like you're running on empty? If so, you've probably heard about the herb ashwagandha - a herb that has long been used for overall wellness and energy.
This ancient Ayurvedic remedy is quickly becoming a go-to for people looking to increase their energy levels and manage stress.
But did you know that one major factor in determining the efficacy of this ancient remedy is how long it stays in your system?
Should you take it once or several times a day to experience its full effects, or is it okay to just supplement it when needed?
To get some clarity on all of this, let's take a deep dive into what science has to say about ashwagandha and its metabolism in your body.
What is ashwagandha, and how can it help?
Before you dig into the science behind the metabolism of its different components, we should start with what ashwagandha is and what are its main active compounds.
Ashwagandha, also known as "Indian ginseng," is an herbal root extract commonly used since ancient times in Ayurvedic medicine to reduce stress, promote sleep quality and improve overall well-being.
The herb bears the Latin name Withania somnifera, which is indicative of its calming properties as "somi-fera" means "sleep-inducing." Indeed, studies show that supplementation with ashwagandha significantly improves sleep quality .
Ashwagandha is one of the most popular herbal adaptogens due to its potency for boosting resistance to stress and even lowering the levels of the stress hormone - cortisol.
It's so effective that 8 weeks of supplementation was found to lower cortisol by almost 30% .
The herb may also provide unique benefits for men, as it was found to increase testosterone levels in infertile males according to one trial and also increase muscle strength according to another study , .
Therefore, supplementing with ashwagandha may even have the potential to increase muscle mass.
All these benefits of Withania somnifera occur because of its active compounds called withanolides. They are steroidal lactones which means that part of their structure is a steroid ring connected to another carbon ring called a lactone.
Despite the fact that withanolides have steroid structures, ashwagandha is not a steroid, and it doesn't possess any of the typical side effects of performance-enhancing substances.
Notable withanolides in ashwagandha include Withaferin A, Withanone, Withanolide A, Withanolide E, Withanoside IV, Sominone, and others. They have different properties despite the similarities in their structures.
For example, animal studies suggest that a major contributor to the cortisol-reducing properties of ashwagandha is Withanoside IV . Another withanolide called Withanone was found to increase lifespan and survival in human cells .
Moreover, the withanolides in ashwagandha also have synergistic effects and work together to exert additional benefits, such as reducing fatigue, improving sleep quality, increasing testosterone, and more!
How long does ashwagandha stay in your system?
The period in which ashwagandha stays in your system and then its effects wear off is difficult to estimate because each of its withanolides has a different half-life. A half-life of a substance is the time it takes for its amount in your body to drop by half.
Animal studies have shown that withaferin A tends to have a slightly longer half-life compared to other withanolides, which is about 2.5-3.5 hours . The researchers also report that withanoside IV has a half-life of about 1 hour, while withanolide A's half-life is 0.5-1 hour.
Considering the fact that 94 to 97% of a substance in the human body gets eliminated after 4 to 5 half-lives, then it means that it takes 4-14 hours before most of the ashwagandha's bioactive molecules leave your body .
This means that ashwagandha should be taken several times a day if you want to experience its full effects.
Additionally, ashwagandha is known to accumulate in the body over time. This means that with continued use, its effects are likely to increase as time goes on. So make sure to keep taking your ashwagandha root supplement regularly and avoid missing doses.
It's okay to take ashwagandha everyday as it is generally safe and effective when taken in recommended doses. Taking ashwagandha every day has been shown to help reduce stress levels and improve overall well-being,
The optimal ashwagandha dosage of a full-spectrum root extract is about 1300-1900 mg per day, split into 2-3 intakes. Higher doses can lead to minor side effects such as nausea and upset stomach.
Make sure to speak to your doctor before adding ashwagandha to your routine, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, taking medications, or have any pre-existing health conditions.
Ashwagandha may affect the efficacy of certain medications, especially antidiabetics, antihypertensives, thyroid medications, immunosuppressants, and sedatives. That's because ashwagandha can lower blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
Can you become dependent on ashwagandha?
Despite the fact that withanolides have a partial steroid structure, they do not cause any form of dependence or withdrawal, similar to medications or anabolic steroids.
Therefore, you can just stop taking ashwagandha at any time you want.
Furthermore, ashwagandha does not have any of the side effects of anxiolytic medications and antidepressants. Therefore, ashwagandha can reduce stress and anxiety without making you emotionally numb or causing you to gain weight.
Generally, you do not have to stop taking ashwagandha at any point unless there is a medical reason to do so or if you are experiencing negative effects. Studies suggest that adverse reactions may include drowsiness, nausea, and loose stools .
You may have to stop taking ashwagandha if you are planning to have surgery, as some of its effects may interact with the sedatives used during surgery. Therefore, discontinue the supplement 1 week prior to the intervention.
Should you take ashwagandha in the morning or at night?
The best time to take ashwagandha is whatever works best for you and your lifestyle. As previously discussed, ashwagandha should be taken multiple times a day for its effect to remain strong, so keep this in mind when determining when to take your dose.
It might be most optimal to split your intake in 2 and take it both in the morning and before bedtime.
On the other hand, if you find it easier to stay consistent by taking the whole dose at once a day, go for it. Ultimately, ashwagandha will work best when taken consistently at regular times – so choose a schedule that fits your lifestyle and stick with it!
Some people find that taking ashwagandha in the morning helps them to feel energized, while others prefer to take it in the evening as ashwagandha can also aid in a restful night's sleep.
Regarding your diet, the best way to take ashwagandha may be on an empty stomach - either before a meal or at least 2 hours afterward .
That's because the different withanolides and other active ingredients in the ashwagandha root extract may be better absorbed this way,
Yet, as we already mentioned, ashwagandha may rarely lead to mild discomfort and nausea. In such cases, you may want to consider taking your supplement with food, as it still appears to have a decent absorption even when paired with a meal.
How long does it take for ashwagandha to start working?
With proper use, ashwagandha can be an effective way to manage stress and improve your overall quality of life – so give it a try! But remember, ashwagandha is not a magic pill!
It takes time for its effects to become noticeable, so don't be discouraged if you don't see results right away. With patience and consistency, ashwagandha can be a powerful tool in your journey to better health.
The amount of time it takes for Withania somnifera to start working can vary from person to person. Generally, most studies report that the beneficial effects of the herb occur within 60 days of regular use.
Multiple trials reveal that within 8 weeks of supplementation, ashwagandha was capable of lowering cortisol levels, increasing strength, and improving memory , , .
In 12 weeks, the herb also led to improved sleep quality, as well as a reduction in levels of stress, depression and anxiety , . Therefore, ashwagandha should be taken daily for at least 8-12 weeks in order to experience its full effects.
In order to maximize the benefits of the herb, make sure to select a supplement that contains full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract.
Ashwagandha by Nutririse is a US-made supplement that contains full-spectrum ashwagandha extract that is certified 100% organic by the UDAF.
It is also a third-party tested by an independent organization, so you can rest assured that you will receive the highest quality ashwagandha supplement.
Note: This article is for informational purposes only and not intended for use as medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any dietary supplement.