The best time to take ashwagandha

by Hannah de Gruchy August 11, 2023

The best time to take ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a medicinal herb that’s been used in traditional medical practices such as Ayurveda, for centuries. Also known as Indian ginseng and winter cherry, it’s an adaptogen, meaning that when taken as a supplement, it can help the body adapt to physical and emotional stress.

Research suggests that ashwagandha may help to relieve the symptoms of stress and anxiety, support better athletic performance, and improve sleep quality. It can be taken any time of day, but it may be more beneficial taken at a set time, depending on what benefits you’re seeking.

Native to India and Southeast Asia, our ancestors have used the roots and leaves of the ashwagandha, or Withania somnifera, shrub to make medicines for generations. Now, in the West, ashwagandha supplements are widely available and some people choose to take them daily as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Ashwagandha: Fast facts

  • The ashwagandha plant is a flowering shrub and the roots and leaves have been used medicinally for centuries in the traditional Indian medical practice of Ayurveda.
  • Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that can be taken as a supplement and can help the body adapt to stressors.
  • Its benefits include reducing anxiety, supporting better muscle mass and strength, and promoting better sleep.
  • Ashwagandha can be taken any time of day, and has no known serious side effects for most people.
  • Some people choose to take ashwagandha supplements in the morning to help manage anxiety symptoms and others prefer to take it in the evening to help promote restful sleep.

What time to take ashwagandha

Like many supplements, ashwagandha can be taken any time of day; in the morning, evening, or afternoon. There is no ‘right time’ to take it. However, you may achieve more benefits from it by taking it at a specific time each day.

1. Take ashwagandha in the morning to manage anxiety symptoms

Morning sunrise

Studies show that ashwagandha can be helpful for those experiencing stress and anxiety. One, in 2019, found that those taking 240mg per day reported a significantly reduced level of stress. The study showed that the participants had reduced levels of cortisol, the hormone released in times of stress, in their bloodstream. Animal studies so far also appear to conclude that ashwagandha can reduce anxiety levels on a par with the anti-anxiety drug, lorazepam.

So, if you’re looking to take an ashwagandha supplement for stress and anxiety, then we recommend taking it in the morning, then you will be able to feel the benefits throughout the day.

Ashwagandha is also linked to an improvement in muscle mass and strength, and if you’re taking it to help improve your fitness, it’s also a good idea to take it during the day to assist your workout.

2. Take ashwagandha in the evening to help promote restful sleep

Evening sunset

Being less stressed and anxious will naturally help us sleep better, but there’s more to ashwagandha than calming our minds. This ancient medicinal herb is also helpful for those struggling to achieve a good night’s sleep, due to its gentle sedative effect.

Studies show that taking it an hour before bedtime (as well as practising good ‘sleep hygiene’ including avoiding screens, alcohol, vigorous exercise and a heavy meal an hour or so before you plan to go to bed) can help to promote restful sleep. The study found that taking 600mg of ashwagandha every day over eight weeks can be beneficial.

Not only that, the participants reported improved mental alertness upon waking – this is important because some sleep medications can lead to grogginess the following day.

Some people do find that ashwagandha supplements make them feel drowsy when taken during the day.

How much should I take each day?

There is no strictly defined daily intake for ashwagandha, as it’s not an essential nutrient like many vitamins and minerals. It is, however, widely believed that taking between 250-1,250mg per day can be effective. A daily intake of 600mg is considered the sweet spot for improved sleep and stress can be reduced with as little as 240mg per day.

Ashwagandha supplements are available as capsules, powders, and tonics. They can be taken once a day or spread out over two or three intakes, with or without food.

How long does it take to work?

As is the case with most supplements, the benefits are not instant. Ashwagandha takes time to impart its benefits to the body – for example, the participants in one study found that it took up to ten weeks of daily use before any noticeable improvement in the quality and duration of sleep.

Therefore, to gain the most benefit, take your ashwagandha at or around the same time every day. This kind of consistency is key. Our advice is to take a supplement every day for at least 12 weeks to see if you notice any improvements or benefits.

Are there any side effects to taking ashwagandha?

Plate of vegetables salad

Ashwagandha supplements have no known serious side effects and as such, they’re considered generally safe for most people. However, taking large amounts (generally accepted as more than 600mg per day) may cause stomach upset, diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting. If you have a sensitive stomach, try starting with a lower daily intake, and take with food.

It’s advised that pregnant and breastfeeding women avoid taking ashwagandha as should anyone taking certain antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, or thyroid medications. If you’re in any doubt, speak to your GP or pharmacist before supplementing.

It’s also important to choose high-quality nutritional products. Low-quality ashwagandha may contain heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and mercury, or they may contain such low concentrations of the active herb, that they have no benefit. In very rare cases, this herb can cause liver damage, but it’s thought that this could be down to heavy metal contaminants, and therefore, studies continue. If you have a liver disorder, speak to your medical team before taking ashwagandha.

Ashwagandha supplements for reducing anxiety and promoting better sleep

If you’re looking for a natural way to help manage stress, anxiety, and poor sleep, try taking high quality ashwagandha. Remember to use it consistently and consume in the morning to benefit from their stress and anxiety reducing properties, and before bed to drift off into a deeper, more restorative sleep.

If you are looking for a high-quality supplement, we recommend the organic fermented Ashwagandha capsules from Living Nutrition. They are made using the full ashwagandha root, which has been selected for freshness and quality. As it is certified organic you can be sure it is free from heavy metals, it is also free from artificial fillers, binders, and gluten whilst being suitable for vegans. Two capsules daily provide 600mg ashwagandha, perfect for restful sleep.

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Hannah de Gruchy
Hannah de Gruchy

Author

Health and wellness author and biologist specialised in sustainability, nutrition and eco-living.


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