Ashwagandha vs. Melatonin: Similarities & Differences Explained

Ashwagandha and melatonin are two popular supplements that are often compared because of their similar abilities to improve sleep. However, there are also some key differences between these two supplements …

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Written by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Ashwagandha and melatonin are two popular supplements that are often compared because of their similar abilities to improve sleep.

However, there are also some key differences between these two supplements that you should be aware of before choosing one over the other.

In this article, we’ll dig into the differences between ashwagandha vs. melatonin, as well as their similarities.

ashwagandha vs melatonin

Ashwagandha Overview & Uses:

Ashwagandha is a traditional Indian herb that has been used as a herbal adaptogen.

Ashwagandha has been used to reduce stress and improve sleep in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years.

New research shows that ashwagandha may help with sleep, hormone production, and mild anxiety.

ashwagandha vs melatonin - ashwagandha

1. May Improve Sleep

According to research, ashwagandha may be an effective natural sleep aid for increasing sleep quality and reducing insomnia.

One study found that ashwagandha improved sleep quality in individuals with poor sleep quality.

Another clinical trial looked at the impact of ashwagandha on insomniacs. The study found that ashwagandha improved sleep quality in both the insomniac and healthy groups.

2. May Help With Mild Anxiety

Ashwagandha has been clinically shown to help with anxiety and general mental well-being.

A clinical trial revealed that 300mg of ashwagandha root daily reduced self-reported levels of stress in the study participants.

Ashwagandha root has also been found to reduce anxiety in humans, as determined by a variety of anxiety measures.

3. May Improve Hormone Production

Studies suggest that ashwagandha may improve physical performance and enhance testosterone production.

A clinical study involving older overweight males found that ashwagandha supplementation increased testosterone by 14.7% compared to placebo. The researchers noted that the study participants also had a significant 18% increase in DHEA-S (an endocrine marker for healthy aging).

Another study found that daily ashwagandha supplementation was shown to increase upper and lower-body strength in recreationally trained men. The study also noted that ashwagandha appeared to help build muscle mass.

One other study found that ashwagandha root helped to raise testosterone levels. It was also discovered to be helpful for building muscle mass and strength.

Melatonin Overview & Uses:

Melatonin is a hormone that’s involved in regulating the body’s circadian rhythm (or sleep-wake cycle). Melatonin is commonly called the “hormone of darkness” due to the fact that the body secretes it at night when it senses darkness.

The pineal gland is the organ that creates melatonin within the body, however, as you grow older, the natural production of melatonin decreases.

When melatonin is released in your body, it activates a variety of biological processes that wind down your brain and prepare your body for sleep.

This is why melatonin supplementation is popular, especially as a natural sleep aid.

The primary benefits of melatonin are as follows.

ashwagandha vs melatonin - melatonin

1. May Improve Sleep Quality

Melatonin is a popular insomnia remedy for good reason. Melatonin has been shown to help people sleep better at night.

A research review found that melatonin supplementation at night is effective at reducing the time it takes to fall asleep. It was also found to increase total sleep time.

One study showed that melatonin supplementation in individuals with insomnia worked to improve sleep induction and overall sleep quality. The researchers stated that they gave the melatonin supplement to the study participants 2 hours before bedtime.

A clinical trial discovered that melatonin supplementation improved subjective and objective sleep quality in patients with sleep complaints due to traumatic brain injury.

2. May Help With Jet Lag

Research suggests that melatonin is an effective way to combat jet lag.

A research review discovered that melatonin supplementation works to reduce jet lag from flights crossing five or more time zones. The research scientists who conducted this study found that nightly doses of melatonin between 0.5 and 5mg are similarly effective in reducing jet lag, but that individuals fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly when taking 5mg or more of melatonin.

Another study found that 3mg of melatonin helped to lower jet lag in individuals during an 11-hour eastward flight. The study found that melatonin supplementation accelerated the rate of re-entrainment by 15 min per day and helped to alleviate jet lag symptoms.

3. May Be Helpful For Shift Workers

Late night shift work is associated with disrupted circadian rhythms, fatigue, accidents, and various other issues. Melatonin supplementation may be a helpful solution as it works to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm.

A clinical trial discovered that melatonin helped to increase sleep latency (i.e. the amount of time it takes to fall asleep) in individuals that worked night shifts. The researchers noted that sleep latency was significantly reduced while subjects were taking melatonin as compared with both placebo and baseline. No adverse effects were reported.

Ashwagandha vs. Melatonin: Similarities & Differences

When it comes to comparing melatonin vs. ashwagandha, there are many important similarities and differences to keep in mind.

Both melatonin and ashwagandha are impactful for sleep. Melatonin works by signaling to the brain and body that it’s time to sleep. This helps to reset the body’s circadian rhythm. On the other hand, ashwagandha is a relaxing, anti-stress herb that helps to improve sleep by relaxing the brain.

While melatonin is primarily for individuals who are looking to improve sleep quality and/or optimize their circadian rhythm, ashwagandha is more of a multi-faceted supplement.

Ashwagandha helps with sleep, but it also may reduce anxiety levels. It can also help to build stress resistance. Ashwagandha has also been shown to impact hormone health.

Ashwagandha vs. Melatonin: Which is right for you?

One can think of ashwagandha as an anti-stress herb that helps to improve stress resilience within the body. As a side bonus, ashwagandha has also been shown to increase sleep quality as well as testosterone production.

However, melatonin’s primary abilities lie in impacting the circadian rhythm and improving sleep quality.

If you have sleep issues that are related to stress or anxiety, then ashwagandha root may be the best option for you. Its hormone-building properties are a great secondary benefit.

If you are struggling with jet lag or need a circadian rhythm reset to get your sleep back on track, then melatonin is a great option.

Can You Take Ashwagandha and Melatonin Together?

Yes, you can take ashwagandha and melatonin together.

These two supplements do not have any known negative interactions when taken together.

In fact, these supplements may be a great combination to help increase sleep quality and hormone production at night.

Potential Side Effects & Interactions:

As with all things, supplements can have the potential to interact negatively with your body.

Ashwagandha is well-tolerated and generally safe to consume for most individuals

A recent safety review showed that moderate doses of ashwagandha root (~300mg daily) do not appear to be associated with any side effects or adverse reactions.

You can find our full safety review of ashwagandha here.

Melatonin is also generally well-tolerated and safe to consume.

A safety review found that short-term use of melatonin supplements is safe, even in extreme doses. 

Only moderate adverse side effects, such as dizziness, headaches, nausea, and sleepiness have been reported during melatonin usage.

As with all supplements, it’s best to run them by your personal physician for feedback prior to ingestion.

Conclusion:

As you can see, both ashwagandha and melatonin are generally well tolerated and safe to consume.

Consider testing each supplement yourself for a few weeks before deciding between them.

You may discover that one is superior to the other, or vice versa! Alternatively, combine them to see whether you get an additive effect.

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About Daniel Powers, MS

Daniel has a master's degree in herbal science from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He has a passion for herbal medicine and how it can be used to support everyday health & wellness.

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