Ashwagandha for Anxiety: Is It Effective?

Angela Sheddan

Reviewed by Angela Sheddan, FNP

Written by Nicholas Gibson

Updated 01/31/2023

Wondering about ashwagandha for anxiety? Here’s what you need to know.

Anxiety disorders are common mental health conditions that can have a serious impact on your well-being and quality of life. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 31 percent of all US adults experience anxiety disorders at some point in life.

Most of the time, anxiety disorders are treated using therapy and prescription medications that can change your moods and help you effectively manage the symptoms of anxiety. 

If you’ve ever looked into natural treatments for anxiety, you may have heard of ashwagandha, or Withania somnifera, a substance often used in Ayurvedic medicine. The herbal supplement is marketed as an alternative to medication for numerous conditions, including anxiety disorders.

Although the scientific evidence on ashwagandha and anxiety isn’t crystal-clear right now, a few studies suggest it may offer benefits for certain anxiety symptoms.

Below, we’ll explain what ashwagandha is and how it may work as a non-medication treatment for anxiety.

We’ll also discuss some of the limitations of existing science on ashwagandha, as well as why it shouldn't necessarily be viewed as a replacement for anxiety medication.

Ashwagandha is the common name for Withania somnifera, an evergreen shrub that grows in Asia and Africa. Also known as “winter cherry,” ashwagandha is a popular ingredient in herbal supplements for reducing stress and improving sports performance. Ashwagandha hair loss is another popular use for this particular supplement.

Within the supplement industry, ashwagandha is often promoted as an adaptogen — a plant that provides medicinal stress- and/or anxiety-reducing effects.

However, as the National Library of Medicine points out, there’s currently little evidence for the use of ashwagandha as an adaptogen.

Ashwagandha contains naturally occurring chemicals that may offer benefits for reducing blood pressure and regulating your immune system. These chemicals might also have a calming effect on your mood, which could be why ashwagandha is gaining popularity as a natural anxiety treatment.

So, does ashwagandha actually work well as an anxiety treatment? Over the last few decades, several studies have looked into the potential benefits of ashwagandha as a natural alternative to anxiety medications.

In a 2014 systematic review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, a group of researchers dug into the literature on ashwagandha and anxiety with the goal of understanding how well ashwagandha supplementation actually works.

After screening more than 60 abstracts, they found four studies that showed improvements in anxiety symptoms in people who used ashwagandha extract supplements. But the researchers concluded that the current scientific evidence should be “received with caution” because of the mix of different study methods and risk of bias.

In other words, while there’s some evidence that ashwagandha improves anxiety, the scientific studies we have right now are mixed in quality and far from conclusive.

A more recent review published in the journal Current Neuropharmacology in 2021 looked at a variety of human trials and animal studies on ashwagandha to assess its effects on depression, anxiety and stress.

Researchers found that ashwagandha root and leaf extracts appear to have anti-stress and anti-anxiety activity, and that supplements containing ashwagandha improved the symptoms of depression and insomnia.

However, they also noted that there was significant variability in the ashwagandha supplements used in research, making it hard to work out an optimal dosage of ashwagandha for anxiety and other mental health issues.

When it comes to symptoms of anxiety, such as sleep issues, ashwagandha appears to provide clearer benefits. 

In a systematic review published in the journal PLoS One, researchers found that ashwagandha extract appears to have a small but significant beneficial effect on overall sleep in adults, with its effects most noticeable in people who take more than 600 mg (milligrams) per day for eight weeks.

The researchers also found a link between ashwagandha supplementation and mental alertness on waking, suggesting that ashwagandha may offer benefits for sleep quality.

Other research has found a link between ashwagandha supplementation and reduced levels of stress hormones, with one study showing a reduction in serum cortisol levels.

These effects might make it easier to deal with anxiety in certain situations by improving sleep quality and reducing the body’s stress response.

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Ashwagandha supplements are widely available online and in health food stores, making them easy to incorporate into your daily routine.

If you’d like to use ashwagandha as a form of alternative medicine to treat anxiety, sleep issues or elevated stress levels, the following can help you get the best results:

  • Before you begin, let your healthcare provider know. If you’re prescribed medication for anxiety or any other health condition, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before you start using ashwagandha.

    Some supplements can interact with medications, potentially causing side effects. Your healthcare provider will inform you about whether it’s safe to take ashwagandha and what you can do to avoid drug interactions and other safety issues.

  • Follow the instructions. Because ashwagandha is a supplement rather than a medication, there’s no FDA-approved dosage for reducing the severity of anxiety or managing stress.

    If you use an ashwagandha supplement for anxiety, insomnia or stress, make sure not to exceed the recommended dosage listed on the product label.

  • Don’t view ashwagandha as a replacement for medication. While ashwagandha may offer some benefits for anxiety, evidence of its effectiveness is mixed, and it shouldn’t be viewed as a completely proven treatment for any type of anxiety disorder.

    If you’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and usually take medication to control your symptoms, don’t think of ashwagandha as something you can use as a replacement for your existing anxiety medication.

  • Pay attention to adverse effects. Ashwagandha supplements can cause side effects, including diarrhea, vomiting and upset stomach. In rare cases, it’s also been linked to liver problems. If you develop persistent or bothersome side effects after using ashwagandha, inform a healthcare professional as soon as you can.

Ashwagandha appears to offer benefits for anxiety, stress and insomnia, meaning it might be an option worth considering if you suffer from occasional anxiety.

However, if you think you could have an anxiety disorder (or are already diagnosed with one), it’s important to talk to a mental health provider about evidence-based treatment options.

Most anxiety disorders can be treated with therapy, medication, changes to your habits or a mix of approaches. Your mental health provider will likely tailor your treatment to best match your symptoms and individual needs.

You can access expert help for anxiety by asking your primary care provider for a mental health referral or by connecting with a provider from home using our online psychiatry service

Because anxiety disorders can vary so much in type and severity, there isn’t any one-size-fits-all form of treatment that can help everyone. Your mental health provider may recommend:

  • Talking to a therapist. Many symptoms of anxiety improve with talk therapy, particularly anxiety-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of psychotherapy involves identifying and changing the thoughts and behaviors that make you feel anxious.

    We offer online therapy as part of our wide range of mental health services, helping you find a provider and take part in private sessions from your home.

  • Taking medication. If you have persistent anxiety symptoms, you may be prescribed an anti-anxiety medication or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) to help you better manage your symptoms.

    Medication for anxiety is effective, but it often takes several weeks to start working. It’s important to keep using your medication even if you don’t notice any changes during the first few weeks.

  • Changing unhealthy habits. Certain habits, such as smoking, consuming caffeine in excess, taking illicit drugs or being physically inactive, may worsen anxiety symptoms and make it harder to deal with your anxiety disorder.

    Your healthcare provider might recommend making changes to your lifestyle, especially if you currently have habits that aggravate the symptoms of anxiety.

  • Participating in a support group. Connecting with other people in a support group can give you a platform to share your difficulties, celebrate your successes and learn how to deal with your anxiety symptoms effectively.

    You can find support groups in most large and medium-sized cities. We also offer online anonymous support groups, allowing you to connect with others in a safe and supportive environment through your phone or computer. 

Our complete guide to anxiety disorder treatments has more information on psychotherapy, medication and other options for successfully dealing with anxiety.

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Ashwagandha is a popular herbal supplement. Research suggests it may help with certain symptoms of anxiety, including stress and insomnia. Having said that, studies on ashwagandha vary in quality a lot, and it shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as a proven treatment for anxiety.

If you’re prescribed medication for an anxiety disorder, replacing it with ashwagandha definitely isn’t recommended. But if you get occasional, normal anxiety, using an ashwagandha supplement might help to make your symptoms easier to manage. 

It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before starting any supplement or medication, and ashwagandha is no exception. They can tell you if it’s safe to take an ashwagandha supplement, especially if you’re currently prescribed medication.

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6 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Ashwagandha. (2022, August 2). Retrieved from
  2. Pratte, M.A., Nanavati, K.B., Young, V. & Morley, C.P. (2014, December). An Alternative Treatment for Anxiety: A Systematic Review of Human Trial Results Reported for the Ayurvedic Herb Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 20 (12), 901-908. Retrieved from
  3. Speers, A.B., Cabey, K.A., Soumyanath, A. & Wright, K.M. (2021). Effects of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) on Stress and the Stress- Related Neuropsychiatric Disorders Anxiety, Depression, and Insomnia. Current Neuropharmacology. 19 (9), 1468-1495. Retrieved from
  4. Cheah, K.L., Norhayati, M.N., Yaacob, L.H. & Rahman, R.A. (2021). Effect of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract on sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 16 (9), e0257843. Retrieved from
  5. Salve, J., Pate, S., Debnath, K. & Langade, D. (2019, December). Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study. Cureus. 11 (12), e6466. Retrieved from
  6. Anxiety Disorders. (2022, April). Retrieved from

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Angela Sheddan, FNP

Dr. Angela Sheddan has been a Family Nurse Practitioner since 2005, practicing in community, urgent and retail health capacities. She has also worked in an operational capacity as an educator for clinical operations for retail clinics. 

She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, her master’s from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, and her Doctor of Nursing Practice from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. You can find Angela on LinkedIn for more information.

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