Thyroid Reference Guide
Ashwagandha and Thyroid

Ashwagandha and Thyroid

Withania Somnifera
Ashwagandha, scientific name Withania somnifera, also known as Indian Ginseng, is a member of the nightshade family Solanaceae

Ashwagandha, scientific name Withania somnifera, also known as Indian Ginseng, is a member of the nightshade family Solanaceae. The family contains a number of medicinal and agricultural plants, including potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and cape gooseberries.

Ashwagandha thyroid products in particular are popular with people who have subclinical hypothyroidism or low thyroid function.

The name ‘Ashwagandha’ is derived from 2 Sanskrit words – ashva (horse) and gandha (smell) in reference to the plant’s distinctive equine smell.  Somnifera means ‘sleep-inducing’, and refers to its adaptogenic ability to combat stress and promote relaxation.

Ashwagandha: A Source of Valuable Plant Compounds

Ashwagandha contains ‘oxygenated steroids’, a group of medically significant natural plant chemicals. The particular ones in ashwagandha, withanolides and sitoindosides, contribute significantly to the herb’s successful therapeutic uses in traditional medicine.

Ashwagandha and Alzheimer - A Source of Valuable Plant Compounds
Ashwagandha and Alzheimer – A Source of Valuable Plant Compounds

Notably, these chemicals have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-tumor, anti-depressive, anti-stress, hematopoietic, and immunomodulatory qualities. They can also interact with neurotransmitter receptors throughout the central nervous system.

Preliminary research shows they have potential for treating neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimers.

Likewise, they show promise for treating symptoms of psychiatric illnesses like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, as well as anxiety conditions. Equally impressive are their results in treating inflammatory disorders such as osteoarthritis and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.

A Thyroid Stimulating Hormone?

It’s important to note that ashwagandha is not a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). The pituitary gland alone is responsible for producing TSH and maintaining TSH levels.

Ashwagandha Benefits For Thyroid Health

Rather, the primary benefits of the planet for thyroid health lie in its adaptogenic compounds. The root in particular is rich in chemicals commonly used in complementary medicine to reduce stress.

Reducing stress and cortisol levels results in significant thyroid health benefits and improves thyroid hormone levels.

Stress And Your Thyroid Health

Chronic stress adversely affects thyroid health. It interrupts the production of thyroid hormones, and reduces thyroid hormone levels. It particularly contributes to underactive thyroid disorders like hypothyroidism.

Ashwagandha - Stress And Your Thyroid HealthThe downward spiral starts when stress prompts the adrenal gland to increase cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone that triggers our flight or fight response and causes available resources to be redirected to those organs needed to facilitate this response.

Because the thyroid isn’t one of them, production of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) by the pituitary gland drops.

As TSH levels fall, the thyroid responds by reducing production of thyroid hormones.  Conversion of the thyroid hormone T4 to T3 also slows down.

The result is an overall lowering of thyroid hormones and a drop in thyroid hormone levels. If the stress and elevated cortisol levels continue, it can result in ongoing subclinical hypothyroidism.

How does ashwagandha increase thyroid hormone?

Significantly for the thyroid, adaptogens can have a profound effect on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (adrenal or HPA axis). By reducing stress and anxiety, they can help reduce cortisol levels. As these drop, the pituitary begins producing TSH normally again, which in turn normalizes thyroid function and T3 and T4 thyroid hormone levels.

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The Ashwagandha Root Extract

Products are available as powders, extracts, teas, and in skincare products.  Note though that most research to date has focused on oral applications.  This means there is no hard evidence so far supporting ashwagandha’s effectiveness in topical products.

Ashwagandha and Thyroid - Supports a healthy thyroid for energy focus and clarityRoot Or Leaves?

Ashwagandha supplements are predominantly made from the roots because they have higher concentrations of withanolides than the leaves. Further, most research thus far has likewise used ashwagandha root extract products.

Interestingly though the leaves are higher in the cytotoxic compound withaferin A, which is showing promise as an anti-cancer treatment.

Root extract Vs Root powder?

Ashwagandha root extract is usually preferred over powder because it’s more concentrated and can be taken in smaller doses. Likewise, full-spectrum is often more benefical than isolates. This is common with plant-based alternative and complementary medicine because the various compounds all work together synergistically.

About the Safety

Current research indicates that if you’re healthy then taking ashwagandha root shouldn’t cause too many concerns. However, there isn’t much evidence about the potential effects of long-term use of ashwagandha root.

That’s why, for now, research suggests you only use it for up to 3 months at a time. It is also possible that its effectiveness will reduce the longer you use it. Talk to your healthcare provider about any concerns you may have about the safety of ashwagandha root.

How does Ashwagandha improve Thyroid Health?

As cortisol production drops, the body relaxes and calms down (and vice versa).  This allows the pituitary to resume normal TSH production, which in turn signals the thyroid gland to increase its thyroid hormone production.

A blind randomized placebo-controlled trial in India found that 600 mgs of full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract, taken orally for 8 weeks by people with mild hypothyroidism:

  • significantly improved their levels of T3 thyroid hormone by 41.5%
  • moderately improved their levels of T4 thyroid hormone by 19.6%
  • moderately reduced their levels of TSH by 17.5%

These findings have been supported by other double-blind randomized placebo trials. Therefore, using ashwagandha root extract for thyroid stimulation may be an effective way to normalize thyroid hormone production in subclinical hypothyroid patients.

Ashwagandha Supplements – What to watch out for!Thyroid Support for young women

Potential adverse effects of ashwagandha supplements include:

  • gastrointestinal symptoms – ashwagandha may irritate the stomach lining causing diarrea, upset stomach, nausea etc
  • drowsiness – ashwagandha may help sleep disorders but can cause excessive sedation if taken with sedative drugs
  • abortifacient effects – ashwagandha may cause uterine contractions, miscarriage, and premature birth
  • immunostimulation – stimulates the immune system and may worsen symptoms of immune system disorders and autoimmune diseases
  • thyroid function alteration – boosts thyroid gland function and thyroid levels, which is good for hypothyroidism but not good for hyperthyroidism
  • raises testosterone levels – has implications for prostate cancer
  • impacts blood sugar levels – animal testing has shown ashwagandha can lower blood sugar levels

Who should not take ashwagandha?

You should avoid this root product if you are:

  • on thyroid medicine or thyroid treatment for either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
  • taking sedatives or sleep medications
  • taking medications for high blood pressure, diabetes, psychoactive/neurological disorders, or immunosuppression
  • taking medications for an autoimmune disease
  • pregnant or breastfeeding

or have

  • gastrointestinal disorders like stomach ulcers
  • diabetes
  • prostate cancer

Always talk to your healthcare provider before taking root products.

Can it be taken with thyroid medication?

Don’t take ashwagandha if you’re on thyroid medications except under medical supervision.

Is it good for Hyperthyroidism?

Taking ashwagandha for hyperthyroidism or any overactive thyroid disorder is contraindicated. Ashwagandha may increase thyroid hormone levels and worsen symptoms of these thyroid dysfunctions.

When and why is ashwagandha bad for thyroid?

Thyroid and ashwagandha side effects: thyroid problems may arise if you:

Therefore, avoid ashwagandha if you have:

  • hyperthyroidism symptoms / overactive thyroid common symptoms ie elevated T3 and T4 levels
  • thyroid cancer or are on cancer medications

Although ashwagandha root extract is beneficial for people with subclinical hypothyroidism, it shouldn’t be used when subclinical hypothyroid patients are already on thyroid medicine.

How To Take Ashwagandha For Hypothyroidism

Ashwagandha Tea
Ashwagandha powder can be sprinkled over food or added to smoothies and other beverages. It’s also available as a tea.

For hypothyroidism, the plant may be taken in tablet or capsule form. It’s usually taken twice daily ie morning and night, with food. Powders can be sprinkled over food or added to smoothies and other beverages. It’s also available as a tea.

What time of day is best to take it?

What you’re taking ashwagandha for, and how it affects you, will dictate when you take it. If you’re taking it for a sleep disorder or it makes you drowsy, evening is the best time. Experts also recommend taking it at night for hypothyroidism.

How long does it take ashwagandha to work for hypothyroidism?

Like most alternative medicine, it can take several days to several weeks before ashwagandha benefits will be felt.


Recommended daily dosage is:

  • root extract: 500 – 1500mg daily
  • root powder: 1,000 – 6,000mg daily

Most supplements come in 300mg capsules or tablets, or as a bottled tincture.

Is Ashwagandha Good For Hypothyroidism?

Always talk to a medical professional first about ashwagandha and hypothyroidism treatment.

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