Ashwagandha is an herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine. It is most often used as a natural supplement for its potential health benefits. These include reducing stress and anxiety, improving cognitive function, and enhancing physical performance.
Recently, ashwagandha has taken TikTok by storm. The new trend involves teens and young adults taking the Ayurvedic medicine and touting its benefits in their videos—or warning about its negative impacts. But is ashwagandha for teens a safe and effective approach for mental health?
- Ashwagandha is an herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine for relieving stress and anxiety, improving cognitive function, and enhancing physical performance.
- Ashwagandha has many physical and emotional side effects in teens. These include mood changes, depression, dissociation, anger, nausea, and dizziness.
- There is limited research on the safety of ashwagandha specifically for teenagers.
- Evidence-based teen mental health programs like Newport Academy offer safe and effective treatment for teens who are struggling.
Should Teens Take Ashwagandha for Mental Health?
Ashwagandha has been used in Eastern medicinal cultures for millennia. But its safety and efficacy haven’t been well-studied in diverse populations, including younger age groups. However, teens are starting to treat the herb as a cure-all for anxiety, stress, sleeping problems, weight gain, and more.
So is the new trend safe or effective for teens? Research involving ashwagandha supplements and teens is still unclear and insufficient. What we do know is that when people try to suppress or numb their emotions using substances, it’s rarely a safe or useful tactic in the long term.
While some people experience short-term benefits while using ashwagandha, many others experience negative emotional and physical side effects when using it. These ashwagandha side effects include an emotionally blunt affect—feeling flat and emotionally numb.
In general, ashwagandha should be used like any other mental health medication. That is, with caution, under the supervision of a licensed medical doctor or psychiatrist, and as part of an overall treatment plan that includes therapy and/or other medications.
H2 What Is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an herb that has been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine. This traditional system of medicine originated in India. The name “ashwagandha” comes from the Sanskrit language and means “smell of the horse.” It’s thought to refer to the herb’s unique smell and its reputation for providing strength and vitality.
In Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha has traditionally been used for a variety of purposes, including:
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Improving brain function and memory
- Boosting energy levels
- Regulating blood sugar levels
- Decreasing blood pressure
- Improving gastrointestinal tract health
- Treating various health conditions, such as insomnia, arthritis, asthma, and hormonal imbalances
Today, ashwagandha is available in various forms, including supplements, powders, gummies, and teas, and is widely used for its potential health benefits.
Research on Ashwagandha Effectiveness
Recent research on the effects of ashwagandha has investigated its potential benefits for various health conditions. These include stress and anxiety, depression, cognitive function, and physical performance.
But while the research seems promising, the effects of ashwagandha still aren’t fully understood. And its optimal doses and safety in different populations—like teens—haven’t been well studied.
The Ashwagandha TikTok Trend
Ashwagandha is TikTok’s latest hyped-up health trend. The herb has gained traction in mental health discussions among teens and young adults for its ability to lower cortisol levels in the body. As a result, people are claiming that it can reduce depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health issues.
Some sources state that ashwagandha has been found to increase the production of reproductive hormones, such as a luteinizing hormone. Luteinizing hormone is involved in the production of testosterone. Thus, some teens use the herb in an attempt to boost testosterone.
Teens and adults alike are making videos about their experiences using the herb—some good, and some not so good. Many are also comparing the side effects of the drug to the flat affect and volatile behaviors of a fictional television character, Nate Jacobs. This character is in the show Euphoria and is known primarily for his unfeeling attitude toward the people around him.
Many TikTok videos about ashwagandha are made by health coaches or people within the fitness industry who may not have medical training. Hence, they shouldn’t be telling other people how, when, or why to use the herb. The more popular a video is, the more legitimate it may seem to those watching it. But just because a video is highly visible doesn’t mean it’s reliable or accurate.
Is Ashwagandha Good or Bad for You?
A quick glance through TikTok confirms that thousands of people are trying ashwagandha and posting videos about it. And there is an equal amount of varying and contradictory experiences and instructions.
Some people say not to use it in the morning, while others take it first thing. It’s been described as a great thing to take right before going to the gym, while others say consuming it prior to exercise is bad for you. While some people call it a wonder drug after using it for just a few days, others have been using it for months to no effect. Many say it calms their anxiety and other overwhelming emotions.
The ashwagandha health trend, like other health trends, has no solid evidence to back up the claims being made. And it’s safe to say that the herb impacts everybody differently. Every teen and young adult varies in genetics, behaviors, habits, brain chemistry, and background. Ashwagandha, therefore, is going to feel different to each person using it.
Ashwagandha Side Effects: Emotions and Physical Symptoms
Like any supplement, ashwagandha has potential side effects for its users. It also interacts with other medications, such as sedatives and immunosuppressants. Additionally, women and people who are breastfeeding should not take ashwagandha.
Here are some of the potential physical and emotional side effects of ashwagandha.
Physical Side Effects of Ashwagandha
- Gastrointestinal distress, such as upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting
- Allergic reactions, such as rash and itching
Emotional Side Effects of Ashwagandha
- Changes in mood
- Feelings of sedation
- Anxiety or agitation
- Emotional bluntness—inability to feel emotional highs and lows
Many of the side effects seem to be contradictions of one another. For example, anger and emotional bluntness are both common side effects of the herb. But different people may experience one or the other. And some people will experience both.
Ashwagandha for Numbing Emotions
Teens and young adults often take ashwagandha as a way to stop feeling emotional pain. One user’s video has a caption that says, “Me taking ashwagandha after a breakup.” In the video, the content creator empties a huge handful of ashwagandha supplements into their hands and pretends to take them all.
Many other users have made similar videos. Such content creators claim to be making a joke, but the reality is that young people are indeed taking ashwagandha as a way to numb or divert grief and other difficult feelings.
But numbing feelings often does more harm than good, especially for developing brains. It can result in an inability to develop healthy coping mechanisms, negatively impact a teen’s relationships, and keep them from feeling a wide variety of positive emotions.
What Is Emotional Bluntness?
Moreover, trying to numb one’s emotions can result in what’s known as feeling emotionally blunt. Emotional bluntness refers to a diminished or reduced ability to experience emotions or to express them in an appropriate way. People who experience emotional bluntness may have difficulty feeling or expressing a wide range of emotions, including joy, sadness, stress, and empathy.
Emotional bluntness can be a symptom of various mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders. It can also be a side effect of certain medications or substance use. Individuals who experience emotional bluntness may have difficulty forming and maintaining interpersonal relationships, as they may feel distant or uninvolved. They may also have difficulty understanding the emotional experiences of others, leading to difficulties with empathy and communication.
Teens and young adults might think they want to experience emotional bluntness to avoid pain and distress. But avoiding emotions is not actually helpful in dealing with distress. The root causes of a distressing issue must be properly addressed in order for an individual to move through the painful feelings. Moreover, emotional blunting prevents all emotions from being felt fully, not just the negative ones. That includes joy, humor, excitement, and even love.
Ashwagandha for Teens: Is It Safe?
There are many herbal supplement sites and some Ayurvedic research that claim the drug is safe for use for everybody, teens included. But in truth, the safety and efficacy of ashwagandha for teens is still unknown. There isn’t enough peer-revised research to suggest it’s safe for young people. And the thousands of reports from those using ashwagandha root as an adolescent or young adult illustrate the risk of experiencing increased depression, anger issues, or emotional blunting.
The unpredictable effects of the herbal root powder can cause issues for users. These include potential negative interactions with other drugs or substances and disturbing and uncomfortable side effects. There is also the possibility that teens or parents will try to use ashwagandha instead of seeking professional assessment and care. Even if the herb is temporarily helpful for symptoms, it doesn’t provide what struggling teens really need: healthy coping mechanisms, and therapy to address underlying trauma and mental health. The bottom line: Medications for teen mental health, including ashwagandha, should be prescribed and overseen by a medical doctor or psychiatrist and not used outside of that.
However, for all its potential drawbacks, the ashwagandha Ayurvedic medicine trend does point to the growing desire of teens and young adults to have open discussions around mental health. Young people are becoming more and more open to frank conversations about their mental health and struggles. They want to connect with one another and feel less alone in their difficulties. And making videos on TikTok that focus on mental health is one way to do that.
Evidence-Based Treatment for Teen Mental Health
While ashwagandha may be useful in certain areas for certain people, it’s not helpful on its own as a long-term mental health treatment. In order to achieve long-term, sustainable healing, young people need scientifically validated treatment that addresses the underlying causes of their emotional distress and provides them with the tools they need to thrive.
Evidence-based modalities for teen mental health include, but are not limited to:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
- Somatic Experiencing
- Yoga therapy
These approaches take the whole person into account, rather than focusing on symptoms. Therapies like these help teens and young adults build life skills, foster healthy relationships, and develop key internal strengths like self-compassion and self-trust. While a teen treatment plan may also include medications or supplements, they should always be prescribed and taken under the supervision of psychiatrists or other medical providers.
Teen Mental Health Treatment at Newport Academy
Teens who are experiencing feelings of grief, confusion, sadness, anger, anxiety, and depression may attempt to self-medicate with substances like ashwagandha. But such substances can cause unpleasant side effects and confusing physical and emotional changes. Newport Academy provides safer, more effective ways for teens to process past trauma, manage difficult emotions, improve communication skills, and build healthy coping tools for life’s challenges.
Moreover, Newport Academy treats the entire family, not just the teen. Our teen treatment programs help rebuild parent-child bonds to help teens and parents alike trust one another and strengthen family relationships. We tailor our treatment to clients’ individual needs and goals, using multiple evidence-based modalities delivered by trained and licensed clinicians.
Start the healing journey today: Contact us for a free teen mental health assessment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is ashwagandha safe for teens and those under 18?
The effects of ashwagandha in teens and young adults is not yet fully known, so it’s impossible at this point to say that ashwaganda is safe for teens. What is known is that it can cause symptoms such as vomiting, dizziness, emotional bluntness, anger, and depression. Further, it can negatively interact with other medications or processes such as breastfeeding.
Who should not take ashwagandha?
No one should take ashwagandha without the supervision and care of a qualified medical provider, such as a doctor or psychiatrist.
What are the benefits of ashwagandha for kids?
Ashwagandha shouldn’t be used for kids. The impact of the herb on children’s brain function, development, and emotions has not been sufficiently researched.
Can ashwagandha change your hormones?
Some sources state that ashwagandha increases the production of reproductive hormones, such as luteinizing hormone. Luteinizing hormone is involved with the production of testosterone, and hence men use the herb in an attempt to boost testosterone. Additionally, ashwagandha is thought to lower cortisol, a stress hormone.
Eur J Molec Clinical Med. 2023 Jan; 10(1): 3929–3938.