Ashwagandha is an herbal supplement for its anxiety-calming effects. However, can you take ashwagandha with prescription anxiety medications?
Ashwagandha is a popular herb that has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. It is claimed to have various benefits, such as reducing stress, improving mood, enhancing memory, and boosting immunity.
However, if you are taking anxiety medication, you may wonder if you can take ashwagandha with it, or if there are any risks of interactions.
In this blog post, we will explain what ashwagandha is, how it works, and how to use a medication interactions checker to find out if it is safe to combine with your anxiety meds.
What Is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an herb used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine.
The name roughly translates to “smell of horse” in Sanskrit, referring to its unique scent and ability to provide strength.
As an adaptogen, ashwagandha is believed to help the body manage stress and regulate physiological processes. Some of its key benefits include:
- Reducing anxiety and depression
- Lowering cortisol levels
- Boosting brain function and memory
- Alleviating insomnia and fatigue
- Strengthening the immune system
Ashwagandha supplements typically contain extracts of the plant’s root powder processed into capsule or powder form.
The active compounds include withanolides, alkaloids, and other potent antioxidants.
I started taking 450mg ashwagandha capsules once a day and noticed a mild calming effect within a couple weeks.
It wasn’t a huge difference but did seem to take the edge off my anxiety during stressful days.
Ashwagandha Drug Interactions
While ashwagandha shows promise for anxiety relief, there are some key factors to consider if you already take anti-anxiety meds.
Anxiety drugs like Xanax (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam), and Valium (diazepam) work by enhancing the effect of GABA. This neurotransmitter produces a calming effect in the brain.
Ashwagandha may also act on GABA pathways and have a sedative effect. Combining both could potentially lead to excessive drowsiness or fatigue.
While some may benefit from the amplified relaxation, it’s best to be cautious when first combining ashwagandha and anti-anxiety meds. Start with a low dose of each and monitor your reaction closely.
Changes in Drug Metabolism
Some research indicates ashwagandha may alter how certain drugs are broken down in the liver.
The herb can affect the cytochrome P450 system, a group of enzymes involved in drug metabolism.
One study found taking ashwagandha for 30 days decreased liver enzyme activity in healthy adults.
This could cause some medications to be cleared from the body more slowly. In turn, their effects and side effects could be enhanced.
Anti-anxiety meds, antidepressants (e.g. Lexapro, Zoloft), and sedatives seem most likely to be affected.
If combining ashwagandha, be vigilant about any increase in side effects like drowsiness, dizziness, or nausea. Adjusting your medication dosage may be necessary.
Is It Safe to Combine Ashwagandha and Anxiety Medications?
With all of the above factors considered, is it safe or advisable to take ashwagandha if you already use anti-anxiety meds?
The short answer is – it depends. Here are a few key tips:
- Talk to your doctor – Get their input, especially if you take medications affected by liver enzymes like Xanax or Lexapro. They can monitor potential interactions.
- Start slow – Introduce ashwagandha gradually and begin with low doses of both the supplement and medication. Watch for increased sedation.
- Time it right – Take ashwagandha and anti-anxiety meds several hours apart to minimize combined effects. For instance, take your medication in the morning and ashwagandha at night.
- Take a break – Discontinue ashwagandha for a while if you notice any issues like extreme fatigue or changes in medication efficacy.
- Avoid other supplements – Don’t take ashwagandha with other herbs that can cause drowsiness, like kava or St. John’s wort.