Ashwagandha, an herbal supplement that is known for its effects on alleviating symptoms of anxiety, is facing some controversy on TikTok due to its potential side effects.
Often referred to as the "Indian Winter cherry" or "Indian Ginseng," ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to better overall health, diminish pain and inflammation, and even help with anxiety.
Many TikTok videos have recommended the use of ashwagandha to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression — starting a holistic trend and often glorifying the herbal medicine. Some videos even say ashwagandha changed their lives for the better with its effects on anxiety and stress.
"Ashwagandha is thought to have calming effects," says Patricia Weiser, PharmD. "Some people take ashwagandha because they feel It helps with stress and fatigue, among other uses."
Some TikTok videos, however, are notifying viewers of the possible side effects of ashwagandha and are warning users to be careful before consuming the herbal medicine regularly.
While many videos on TikTok highlight the immense power of ashwagandha in diminishing symptoms of anxiety and stress, many also say it causes feelings of detachment. Other reported side effects are dizziness and increased amount of sleep. One TikTok video said she didn’t necessarily feel emotionally detached but nonchalant and mellow.
While Weiser said she hasn't heard of this phenomenon before, she says, "If a herb is thought to affect the brain, it makes sense that it could impact your emotions. If you dislike how ashwagandha makes you feel, stop taking it. Consider talking to a mental health professional for advice."
Research from 2019 looked at 60 participants who consumed 240mg of ashwagandha for 60 days and saw a decrease in cortisol levels, the main stress hormone.
Despite the small research study results, as ashwagandha is not a prescribed drug approved by the U.S. FDA, and research is limited, it is crucial to consult with a medical professional before hopping on the ashwagandha trend.
Weiser explains that "ashwagandha might interact with certain drugs or supplements," which may be why some TikTokkers feel adverse effects. "Consult a healthcare provider before using ashwagandha if you're taking sedatives, benzodiazepines, thyroid medication, immunosuppressants, diabetes medications, blood pressure medications, or any drugs/supplements that cause drowsiness."
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