Pregnancy is perhaps one of the most challenging times in the life of a woman. Exhaustion, sheer fatigue, anxiety, sleep deprivation and sometimes even depression can refuse to leave the side of a pregnant woman. During such times, one may consider consuming adaptogens and one such popular herb is Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha during pregnancy has been traditionally recommended to be consumed in very little quantities, but then modern science feels that the risks of consuming the herb far outweigh the benefits. The conflicting views have always questioned the safety of the herb. However, experts in Ayurvedic medicine argue about the immense benefits Ashwagandha offers during pregnancy. Let us discuss about Ashwagandha so that you can make an informed decision.
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is the most versatile and important herbs used to treat various health conditions in Indian Ayurveda. Though it literally translates to the ‘smell of the horse’, figuratively experts believe that it refers to the ‘strength of a horse’ or vitality of a horse’.
The scientific name of Ashwagandha is Withania somnifera and it has its natural habitat in the Himalayan ranges of India. It is an evergreen shrub and is also known as Indian ginseng, or winter cherry. Ashwagandha is an important restorative herb in traditional Indian medicine and is renowned for its properties to restore physical and mental strength. As such, Ashwagandha calms and rejuvenates the mind and body, aids in sleep and eases anxiety.
But is this herb safe during the times of gestation? Let us find out.
Ashwagandha And Ayurveda
In the ancient Ayurvedic science, Ashwagandha is recognized as a herb that has nourishing, strengthening, rejuvenating and building properties. However, it is also known to imbalance pitta, affecting digestion, metabolism, and energy production and even worsen ama or toxic buildup in the body. Although it balances vata and kapha in excess. For this reason, caution must be exercised if you are a pitta person as Ashwagandha is a heating herb. It is best to use Ashwagandha during the winter months or during the fall season but it is advised to consult a doctor who can advise you basis your body doshas.
Risks Of Consuming Ashwagandha During Pregnancy
Because the herb has been known to induce uterine contractions and thus trigger abortions, we will first list the risks of consuming Ashwagandha during pregnancy –
- Ashwagandha is medically used to induce periods by strengthening the adrenal glands and inducing menstruation. The mineral rich herb works to reduce stress in the body which can result in better and increased blood flow. Obviously, this is not we want when pregnant
- Ashwagandha is also traditionally used to lower blood pressure, however, this could cause problems if you already have lower blood pressures
- The herb can also irritate gastrointestinal tract and induce loose motions or stimulate stomach ulcers
- If you have thyroid and are on medication for it, be aware that taking Ashwagandha can increase your thyroid levels considerably. Again, increased thyroid levels can cause complications during pregnancy
As you can see, Ashwagandha can directly or indirectly influence the way your pregnancy is progressing. Thus, it is mostly not recommended during pregnancy. More importantly, you should never consume any herb before consulting your doctor.
Benefits Of Consuming Ashwagandha During Pregnancy
Experts in traditional medicine argue that Ashwagandha offers many benefits to women in this sensitive stage of pregnancy. They feel that unless enormous amounts of herb is not taken, the body reacts positively to it and one can observe many benefits. Let’s have a look at the common benefits.
- Pregnancy is a stressful time. Some women get chronically stress thinking about pregnancy, life, changes in body, motherhood and what not. For such women, Ashwagandha can be a saviour as it calms the mind and body and decreases cortisol levels
- As your mind and body calms down, you can have a restful sleep which is a luxury in pregnancy
- Ashwagandha is also known to support energy levels, something pregnant women are always short of!
- Pregnancy makes your body work hard for supporting the growing needs of a baby. As such, it can weaken your immune system when you need it the most. Winter cherry when taken in recommended dosage can actually boost your immunity and keep you away from common colds and flus
Sources – Source(1), Source(2)
As can be seen, Ashwagandha does offer certain benefits that can make a pregnant woman feel lively, energetic and encourages a sense of calm and wellbeing when taken in nominal dosages under the experts guidance of a doctor.
Conclusion- Is It Safe to Take Ashwagandha During Pregnancy?
First thing – never ever take any herb/medicine/tonic or anything else without consulting your doctor when pregnant. Secondly, if you and your doctor feel the herb will be a great addition to your diet as a supplement without causing any untoward incidents, only then go ahead and never go beyond the prescribed dosage in any case.
It may be added here that many women feel that the risks of taking Ashwagandha during pregnancy are more than the benefits it offers so they decide against consuming it. Also, it is not recommended by modern doctors because it has been found to have conflicting results on Ashwagandha being an abortifacient.
There has not been a lot of research on taking Ashwagandha during breastfeeding, but Ayurvedic doctors believe that it does stimulate the mammary glands and boost breastmilk production apart from generating calming effects on the new mother. It is also believed to prevent postpartum depression and promote vitality, strength and restful sleep.
As a pregnant woman, you find yourself overwhelmed with making decisions every day- from what you eat, drink, wear to how you exercise, walk stand and what not. However, these decisions are not just for your well-being but also for the baby’s stready development and well-being – so do what you feel is right. But don’t go by gut – read up on Ayurvedic herbs and their supplements, chat with your doctor and then make an informed choice.