We recently published an article about the safety of popular Nootropics ingredients, specifically for pregnant women. A reader promptly wrote an email to us asking about the much-loved ingredient Ashwagandha Root. This popular herb has been used in fat-burners, T-Boosters, and Nootropics, but when you’re pregnant you can never be too safe.
So even though we already know Ashwagandha is highly effective, we’ll dedicate this article to finding out what the scientific literature says about its safety for pregnant women.
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is grown throughout the Near East, India, and North Africa, and its scientific name is Withania somnifera. It’s also known as Indian Ginseng, or Winter Cherry. The latter part of the scientific name refers to the fact that early herbalists recognized its potential to help people sleep.
In modern uses it’s been shown to have anti-stress properties, muscle-building potential, and can even increase Testosterone.
Safety for Pregnant Women
Very little data has been collected on Ashwagandha’s effect in pregnant women, and that’s largely because pregnant women are generally excluded from clinical trials of drugs and supplements. This is partly due to safety and legal issues (for instance, the FDA has several bans in effect). Another reason is that pregnant women have multiple hormonal, immunological, and metabolic differences from other people: this means that data gathered from them is largely useless when comparing those data to the rest of the population.
Here is an example of a recent study that specifically screened pregnant women out of their Ashwagandha study.
What is quite common is to test ingredients and medications on pregnant mammals, usually mice or rats. I did find a study from several years ago that gave incredibly high doses of Ashwagandha to pregnant animals, and there were no safety or toxicity concerns raised or observed.
Because we lack direct clinical trials on pregnant humans, we have to rely on the best estimates by people in academia. One such author wrote an article for an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology that I had to have a University friend track down for me (the article isn’t viewable by the public).
In the article, the author only refers to Ashawandha in one table, citing other blocked literature, and says that Ashwgandha has “Abortifacient” effects. This means it causes a miscarriage.
While we don’t have access to the studies or chemical analysis that led this researcher to this conclusion, the warning against Ashwagandha has been picked up by a leading US Government online Library.
What’s Really Going On?
While many of our readers may be crying foul (“If we can’t see the data, how do we know Ashwagandha is dangerous?”), we should note that in the case of pregnant women, everyone will err on the safe side.
Case in point, recent studies have found that Ashwagandha greatly increases the immunological response in humans. Now we can compare that with the highly complex immune system fluctuations in pregnant women and we begin to see why medical professionals may be skeptical of Ashwagandha use during pregnancy.
It may well be that the miscarriage danger comes from an over-active T-cell response during pregnancy, which could have dozens of untold effects on the fetus. The simple fact is, at this time we just don’t know.
What it Means for You
For most pregnant women, nothing is more important than the health and safety of their unborn child. And for anyone studying pregnancy, these concerns take top priority as well. Therefore, until more is understood about the immune response of women while carrying a child, and until more is known about how Ashwagandha affects that same immune system, there likely won’t be any studies of Ashwagandha and pregnant women.
This is especially true given that mainstream medical libraries have firmly entrenched themselves in the opinion that Ashwagandha could lead to the loss of the fetus.
For you, the consumer, the decision is of course your own. At the Great Green Wall we only give the best data available. Other than that, we only encourage people to make the safest choices for themselves, their health, and obviously for the safety of their children.