Ashwaghanda and stress, anxiety, and sleep: what does the science say?

Feb 06, 2024
Sébastien Bouley

The ashwaghanda is a plant extract you can find in the ingredient lists of food supplements, but do you know what is it exactly? This article makes a statement of what the science says established concerning this extract: its definition and health effects on human.

What is ashwaghanda?

Wjthania somnifera, known commonly as ashwaghanda, Indian ginseng or winter cherry is an evergreen shrub that grows in tropical areas of Asia, Africa, and in Europe. Ashwaghanda has been used in the traditional Ayurvedic and Unani medecines in India. It is considered as an adaptogen which is defined as a compound or product that inceases the abiity of a person to resist, adapt, or become resilient In nospecific ways to biological, physical, or chemical stressors.

Ashwaghanda based food supplements contain extracts made from plant’s roots, or from roots and leaves.

Ashwaghanda is rich in phytochemicals  such as steroidal lactones known as withanolides and alkaloids. Until now, it is not known which compounds are responsible for proposed health effects of ashwaghanda.


What are the ashwaghanda health effects? What is the science behind? (source: ODS factsheet, USA)

Ashwaghanda is commonly promoted for stress and anxiety reduction and for cognitive function and sleep. But the effects of Ashwaghanda extracts have not been thoroughly studied.

The Office of Dietary Supplements of the National Institute of Health (NIH) recently updated fact sheets for health professionals and for consumers related to the efficacy and safety of ashwagandha.

Stress, anxiety

Ashwaghanda extract intake might help reduce anxiety and stress. In several clinical studies mainly performed in India,  subjects who took ashwagandha for 6 to 8 weeks reported that they felt less stress and anxiety as well as less fatigue and sleeplessness. Ashwagandha also lowered cortisol, a stress hormone, levels. In some studies, ashwagandha appeared to be more effective when taken at doses of 500 to 600 milligrams (mg) per day compared with lower doses.


Ashwagandha extracts consumption might improve sleep according to results from a few small studies. In these clinical studies, people who had trouble sleeping and took ashwagandha reported that they fell asleep faster, slept longer, and woke up less often during the night. Overall, the benefits for sleep were small. Moreover, ashwagandha seemed most helpful when taken at doses of 600 mg per day or more for at least 8 weeks.


In the human studies described above and in many other clinical trials, ashwagandha has been well tolerated by participants for up to about 3 months of use. Common side effects are mild and include stomach upset, loose stools, nausea, and drowsiness. However, data on the longer term safety of ashwagandha use over many months or years are lacking. Ashwagandha might cause liver problems and affect how the thyroid gland works. In addition, it might not be safe for people with prostate cancer or those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

In France, ashwaghanda based food supplements :

In France, some ashwaghanda based food supplements are commercialized for increasing resistance to physical and emotional stress (you can look at the list of the products on this link). Contents in withanolides have to be monitored.

If you want to know more on the health effects of the ashwagandha extracts

Orchidali can help you for the declaration to the administration for launching your food product on the French market.