Ashwagandha is a commonly used herb in Ayurvedic medicine, known for its adaptogenic properties and ability to help the body manage stress, improve hormone levels, and improve libido. While there are numerous studies promoting its benefits, some concerning reports and research indicate that Ashwagandha might be linked to a range of worrisome side effects such as emotional numbness, anhedonia, and even Post-SSRI Sexual Dysfunction (PSSD). In this blog, we will investigate these claims and evaluate the scientific evidence behind them.
Understanding the Risks
The symptoms reported by some users of Ashwagandha, particularly the KSM-66 variety, include:
- Reduced emotional depth or numbness
- Diminished pleasure in activities such as listening to music, exercising, or even hugging loved ones
- Reduced sensation on the skin
- Altered sexual sensations
- Blank mind feeling or a sense of nothingness
These symptoms are reminiscent of the condition known as anhedonia and also align with PSSD.
Ashwagandha and Emotional Numbness
Some individuals claim that Ashwagandha led to a feeling of emotional blunting or numbness. While there is not a direct study linking Ashwagandha to emotional numbness, the pharmacological effects on serotonin receptors may offer a theoretical explanation. Ashwagandha’s impact on the 5-HT1A and 5-HT2 receptors, as observed in animal studies, might interfere with emotional processing.
Ashwagandha and Anhedonia
Anhedonia refers to a reduced ability to experience pleasure. Ashwagandha’s reported effects on reducing the sensitivity of the 5-HT1A receptor, which is often associated with feelings of pleasure and motivation, could theoretically contribute to this condition.
Ashwagandha and PSSD
PSSD is a complex and poorly understood condition. It is primarily associated with the use of SSRIs, but Ashwagandha’s influence on serotonin receptors could theoretically cause similar effects.
A mechanism similar to PSSD might occur with Ashwagandha. By affecting serotonin receptors, Ashwagandha might alter the normal functioning of the body’s serotonin system, leading to symptoms similar to those observed in PSSD. The alteration of the 5-HT2C and 5-HT1A receptors has been suggested as a possible link (19).
Considerations for Use
The potential side effects of Ashwagandha are concerning, especially given the lack of direct research on these specific issues. The individual reactions might vary due to differing genes, the product’s preparation (such as KSM-66), or other unknown factors. Consulting with a healthcare provider who understands both the potential benefits and risks associated with Ashwagandha is crucial.
Conclusion: Proceed with Caution
While Ashwagandha is widely hailed for its stress-reducing benefits, the potential risks of emotional numbness, anhedonia, and PSSD should not be ignored. More research is required to fully understand these potential side effects. In the meantime, individuals considering Ashwagandha should be aware of these risks and consult with healthcare professionals to make informed decisions.