Does Ashwagandha Kill Emotions?

Recent anecdotal accounts suggest that ashwagandha “kills” emotions, causing dissociation, feelings of detachment, and fewer feelings.   Ashwagandha is a time-tested herb that works with the stress response to balance stress …

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Written by: Siobhan Mendicino
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Recent anecdotal accounts suggest that ashwagandha “kills” emotions, causing dissociation, feelings of detachment, and fewer feelings.  

Ashwagandha is a time-tested herb that works with the stress response to balance stress levels and encourages sustained energy.

Although there is no clinical evidence that ashwagandha blunts emotions, its effects on the stress response and its potential health benefits on individual constitutions may contribute to moderating emotional reactions.

In this article, we’ll look at ashwagandha’s effects on emotional health, its safety, and dosage. 

does ashwagandha kill emotions?

Ashwagandha’s Effect on Emotional Health: 

Since time immemorial, ashwagandha’s root has traditionally been used to support the nervous system and boost vitality. Recently, this herb has increased in popularity due to its adaptogenic activity.  

The herb does have an impact on emotions; however, research shows that it doesn’t dampen or “kill” emotions. Instead, it affects the stress response, which has proven to soothe anxiety and level out stress levels, potentially affecting emotional responses.  

In addition to its potential to balance the stress response, ashwagandha supports hormone health, endurance, and cognitive function. In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is considered a rasayana herb, which promotes longevity through its revitalizing potential. 

Below are the top-researched clinical studies that highlight ashwagandha’s effect on emotional health. 

1. Ashwagandha May Ease Stress 

In a clinical trial involving stressed healthy adults, researchers found that ashwagandha reduced stress hormone cortisol levels and eased stress and anxiety after eight weeks. Participants also experienced an improvement in sleep quality.  

Another clinical trial discovered that daily usage of ashwagandha supplements improved perceived well-being, supported sustained energy levels, and enhanced sleep quality in college students. The students took 700mg/day and also experienced heightened mental clarity. 

2. Ashwagandha May Soothe Anxiety   

In a clinical study involving chronically stressed volunteers, researchers discovered that ashwagandha significantly eased anxiety levels. Supplementation reduced markers of stress such as cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate without adverse effects. It should be noted that some of these effects were dose-dependent.  

A clinical trial involving stressed, healthy adults found that 240 mg of ashwagandha daily significantly reduced anxiety levels. Researchers noted that cortisol levels were lowered, and only male participants saw an increase in testosterone levels, although the levels were insignificant. 

3. Ashwagandha May Improve Quality of Sleep 

A clinical study observing patients with insomnia and anxiety discovered that ashwagandha supplementation significantly improved sleep quality and how long it took participants to fall asleep. Researchers noted that after 10 weeks, anxiety levels were also reduced. 

In a comparison clinical trial involving participants with insomnia and a healthy group, researchers found that usage of ashwagandha supplements significantly improved sleep in both groups. Ashwagandha supported less anxiety, better sleep quality, and how long it took for participants to fall asleep. It also improved mental alertness. Researchers noted that the effects were greater in the insomnia group.  

ashwagandha's effect on emotional health

How Stress Affects the Body:

When the body experiences stress, it triggers the fight-or-flight, or stress, response. The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis releases hormones, including cortisol, the stress hormone, so we can stay and fight the threat or run away.  

During the stress response, the body reacts in a series of physiological responses, including: 

  • Increased heart rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased breathing 
  • Reduced digestion + excretion 
  • Increased blood flow 
  • Greater strength 

While the stress response is necessary for survival, constant daily stressors like traffic, paying bills, deadlines at work, and caring for kids have caused an overstimulation of this response, resulting in excess cortisol release. 

Research shows that long-term stress can lead to anxiety, depression, mood swings, fatigue, weight gain, and insomnia. Since ashwagandha works with the body to balance the stress response and energy levels, supplementation may soothe heightened reactions to stressful situations. 

Although this response probably won’t “kill” emotions altogether, it could regulate emotions, resulting in a calmer reaction when stress occurs.  

Anhedonia & Ashwagandha: 

Anhedonia is a condition where someone experiences a reduced ability to feel pleasure or joy. Researchers have primarily linked anhedonia to depression; however, it can also appear in those who manage schizophrenia, overeating, Parkinson’s disease, and substance use disorder.  

While no scientific studies provide evidence that ashwagandha can cause anhedonia, findings suggest that the herb may decrease feelings of emotion due to its ability to regulate stress.  

Some symptoms include: 

  • Social withdrawal 
  • Few relationships or withdrawal from relationships
  • Reduced pleasure from daily activities 
  • Loss of libido or uninterest in physical intimacy 
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or passions 

it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional if you’re considering supplementation and experience any of the above issues.  

The Impact of Ashwagandha on Individual Constitutions:

Everybody has a unique body constitution. In traditional Chinese medicine, body constitutions impact feelings and behavior and how the body reacts to illness. 

For example, valerian is an herb that supports sleep for most people due to its relaxant and sedative qualities. However, for a small percentage of people, it has the opposite effect, making them feel restless and alert. 

Due to physical variations, herbs may also influence each person’s body differently. While research shows that ashwagandha may have primary effects, some bodies may experience different results. 

Read More:

Below, we’ve compiled several articles going over additional information regarding Ashwagandha for further reading.

• Ashwagandha Dosing: How Much Should You Take Per Day?

• Ashwagandha Side Effects & Safety

• Benefits of Ashwagandha for Anxiety & Stress

• Benefits of Ashwagandha for Men

• Benefits of Ashwagandha for Sleep

• Benefits of Ashwagandha for Women

ashwagandha and anhedonia

Conclusion:

Ashwagandha is an herb that works to balance the stress response, suggesting it may soothe heightened emotions. Supplementation may support lower cortisol levels and reduce stress; however, some may experience different effects due to varying body constitutions.  

It’s important to consult a primary care physician before including ashwagandha in your daily regimen.   

Auddy, B., Hazra, J., Mitra, A., Abedon, B., & Ghosal, S. (2017). A Standardized Withania Somnifera Extract Significantly Reduces Stress-Related Parameters in Chronically Stressed Humans: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Study. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 22(1), 96–106. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/242151370_A_Standardized_Withania_Somnifera_Extract_Significantly_Reduces_Stress-Related_Parameters_in_Chronically_Stressed_Humans_A_Double-Blind_Randomized_Placebo-Controlled_Study

Baker, C., Kirby, J. B., O'Connor, J., Lindsay, K. G., Hutchins, A., & Harris, M. (2022). The Perceived Impact of Ashwagandha on Stress, Sleep Quality, Energy, and Mental Clarity for College Students: Qualitative Analysis of a Double-Blind Randomized Control Trial. Journal of Medicinal Food. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2022.0042

Chu B, Marwaha K, Sanvictores T, et al. Physiology, Stress Reaction. [Updated 2022 Sep 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541120/

Gorwood P. (2008). Neurobiological mechanisms of anhedonia. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 10(3), 291–299. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2008.10.3/pgorwood

Langade D, Kanchi S, Salve J, et al. (September 28, 2019) Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Insomnia and Anxiety: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Study. Cureus 11(9): e5797. doi:10.7759/cureus.5797 

Langade, D., Thakare, V., Kanchi, S., & Kelgane, S. (Year). Clinical evaluation of the pharmacological impact of ashwagandha root extract on sleep in healthy volunteers and insomnia patients: A double-blind, randomized, parallel-group, placebo-controlled study. Journal Name, Volume(Issue), Page range. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2020.113276 

Lopresti, A. L., Smith, S. J., Malvi, H., & Kodgule, R. (2019). An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Medicine, 98(37), e17186. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000017186 

Mikulska, P., Malinowska, M., Ignacyk, M., Szustowski, P., Nowak, J., Pesta, K., Szeląg, M., Szklanny, D., Judasz, E., Kaczmarek, G., Ejiohuo, O. P., Paczkowska-Walendowska, M., Gościniak, A., & Cielecka-Piontek, J. (2023). Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)-Current Research on the Health-Promoting Activities: A Narrative Review. Pharmaceutics, 15(4), 1057. https://doi.org/10.3390/pharmaceutics15041057 

Salve J, Pate S, Debnath K, et al. (December 25, 2019) Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study. Cureus 11(12): e6466. doi:10.7759/cureus.6466

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About Siobhan Mendicino

Siobhan is a herbal researcher and writer. She has a bachelor of science in communications as well as having completed a post-baccalaureate certificate in herbal studies.