Feeling the stress of preparing to welcome a new baby into the family is not out of the ordinary.
With a glass of wine off the table for stress relief, ashwagandha’s calming effects are enticing as a “natural” alternative- after all, the herb has been used in Indian traditional medicine for hundreds of years.
Ashwagandha is best avoided when pregnant and is rated as “likely unsafe” by the FDA. There is some evidence that ashwagandha may help boost your chances of getting pregnant. Despite being helpful for fertility, it is known to potentially cause miscarriage.
Though expecting mothers should steer clear of ashwagandha, I’ll break down how it can play a role in fertility for both women and men.
I’ll also give you the scoop on some less common ways to use ashwagandha, including teas and topical treatments.
Is Ashwagandha Powder Safe to Take During Pregnancy?
Ashwagandha, otherwise known as “Indian ginseng” and “winter cherry,” is an herb central to the Indian traditional medicine practice of Ayurveda.
Most often, you will find ashwagandha root ground into a powdered form. Powdered ashwagandha is then usually mixed into a tonic or stirred into beverages, such as lattes or smoothies.
Using herbal products during pregnancy can seem like a more “natural” choice, but many herbs can lead to pregnancy complications (source: American Pregnancy Association).
Across the globe, medical professionals and healthcare organizations alike caution agains consuming ashwagandha during pregnancy, as the herb is known to induce miscarriage (source: Memorial Sloan Kettering, British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Today’s Dietitian).
Though this effect was seen in animal studies where “large amounts” of ashwagandha were given, this still gives enough suspicion that it is not safe for pregnant humans either.
Because of the risk for miscarriage, ashwagandha is rated as “likely unsafe” for use during pregnancy by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (source: Journal of Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences).
In addition to being unsafe during pregnancy, women who take certain medications for anxiety should also steer clear of ashwagandha as it can increase the effects of the medications to unsafe levels (source: Today’s Dietitian).
Besides eating or drinking ashwagandha, it is also used on the skin.
Because ashwagandha is known to be a strong anti-inflammatory agent and antioxidant, it is also a common skincare ingredient, often found in topical creams and lotions (source: African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicines).
What’s more, ashwagandha’s status as a nutritional supplement doesn’t lend itself well to safety. Because supplements aren’t checked for safety by the FDA, this alone carries safety risk, especially during pregnancy.
While it is best to avoid eating or drinking ashwagandha while pregnant, there is not enough evidence to determine if topical use is safe for mom and baby either.
Is Ashwagandha Tea Safe When Pregnant?
While most commonly found in powder form, ashwagandha is also sometimes drunk as a tea.
The advice to avoid ashwagandha when expecting extends to ashwagandha teas as well.
While the concentration of the herb may be less in a tea then if you stirred ground ashwagandha root into your drink, there is still risk of miscarriage due to the herb’s properties (source: WebMD).
Is There a Safe Dosage of Ashwagandha in Pregnancy?
Safe dosages for herbs and other supplements can be confusing, however the safe amount of ashwagandha is more straightforward.
When it comes to ashwagandha use while pregnant, no amount has been proven to be safe.
While the advice to avoid ashwagandha during pregnancy is based on animal studies where the animals were given “large amounts,” the term “large amounts” is a very loose generalization and not a good measure for safety.
Because of the risk for miscarriage, it is best to avoid taking or using this herb orally.
Because of the lack of safety evidence for topical use, choose skincare that does not contain ashwagandha while pregnant.
Does Ashwagandha Cause Miscarriage in Early Pregnancy?
The first trimester can be an especially sensitive time, with extra cautions when it comes to food safety.
While ashwagandha was rumored to support healthy pregnancies, the belief that ashwagandha prevents miscarriage is just that – an old wives’ tale.
As I mentioned above, taking large amounts of ashwagandha can, in fact, induce miscarriage and is not safe for use during the first trimester.
Further, knowing that ashwagandha is rated as “likely unsafe” during pregnancy, the herb should not be used during any trimester of pregnancy.
Can Ashwaganda Help Me Get Pregnant or Boost Fertility?
When infertility strikes, many couples understandably try a myriad of supplements, therapies, and other treatments in hopes of boosting their fertility.
Across blogs and forums, ashwagandha is herald as a natural way to increase fertility – in both males and females alike. But is there any truth to this claim or simply wishful thinking?
The answer is that it depends on the root cause of your infertility.
In 2018, an analysis of over 40 studies related to fertility and ashwagandha found that taking the herb has favorable effects on some aspects related to fertility (source: BioMed Research International).
In females, the researchers concluded that ashwagandha increased sexual function and increased follicle size (source: BioMed Research International).
Follicle size is important for conception, as optimal egg size for fertilization is 18-20 mm (source: London Women’s Clinic).
Ashwagandha has shown benefits for male fertility as well.
The same research analysis found that men who supplemented their diets with ashwagandha had higher sperm count and greater sperm motility (source: BioMed Research International).
Interestingly, many male fertility nutritional supplements list ashwagandha as an ingredient.
For both males and females, ashwagandha’s beneficial effects on fertility are thought to be related to the antioxidant properties I mentioned earlier.
Another fertility link is ashwagandha’s similarity to the neurotransmitter known as GABA, helping to balance luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and testosterone.
These are all important hormones for optimal fertility (source: BioMed Research International).
Are There ‘Success Stories’ Using Ashwagandha To Conceive?
A common query is whether or not ashwagandha can help you or your partner successfully conceive.
Based on ashwagandha’s positive impact on male fertility, specifically sperm quality, as well as its hormonal effects that can lead to increased follicle size, there may be some truth to its success stories.
Supplement trials, such as the ones discussed above, show that ashwagandha has a greater impact on male fertility than female fertility.
So if you are trying for a baby and looking towards ashwagandha to boost your chances, supplementing may be more beneficial for the male partner.
While there is some research to back to ashwagandha use for conceiving a child, remember, not all fertility issues stem from the same cause.
If sperm quality, follicle size, or hormones aren’t the source of infertility then ashwagandha will likely have little impact on conception.
Though use during pregnancy is unsafe, ashwagandha has shown positive effects on boosting fertility and chances for conception, especially in men, so you may want to try it.
As ashwagandha does interact with some medications, like those that treat anxiety, it’s best to discuss with your medical provider(s) before doing so.