Astonishing ashwagandha…

Stefano and I went to have our blood tests on Saturday. His were merely part of a routine check-up…mine were the usual myeloma ones, with a few extra tests thrown in, as you will see.

Through Sherlock (I thanked her privately but this deserves a huge public note of thanks, grazie, carissima!), I discovered that you can call and make an appointment to have your tests done at a hospital that is about a ten-minute drive from our house. If you make an appointment for 8 AM, you are done by 8:10 AM, more or less. Wow. You have no idea how thrilling this is. My life is about to change…no more endless hours spent in the vast waiting halls of Careggi university hospital, which, at this time of year, is very likely packed to the brim with flu-infested coughing and sneezing people. Yaaay! But I digress…

The point of today’s post. For three weeks in September I tested ashwagandha, or Withania somnifera, a medicinal plant used as far back as ancient Egypt (!) and, in more recent years, found to have anti-myeloma activities (see my page on “Ashwagandha” or my June 15 2007 post). I took it separately from curcumin, just to be cautious. And I took the recommended dose on the bottle. No more, no less.

So these were my ashwagandha tests. I really hope that even the low dose I took had a positive effect on my MM markers. Fingers tightly crossed!

But I wanted to mention a couple of rather odd things that happened during the ashwagandha period…not necessarily bad things, but certainly out of the ordinary. As follows.

1.  I felt more tired than usual. I mean, REALLY TIRED. Whenever possible (not at work, i.e.!), I would fall into a deep sleep, especially after lunch…and it would take a colossal effort on my part to wake up in mid or late afternoon. This didn’t make any sense. 

Ashwagandha, you see, is supposed to give you energy. It translates into something like “the vitality of a horse.” A horse?! Hah. In my case, the translation should be: “the vitality of a sloth.”

I went online and read somewhere (a forum, I think) that ashwagandha can make some folks tired. Okay, no problem. Mental note: next time (for I am sure I will try ashwagandha again, even if my tests don’t turn out as fabbbbulous as I hope), take it before going to sleep.

2. Now for a more, er…private topic. Not an easy one for prudish little moi. But for the sake of science, I will set aside my modesty for just a second. Here goes.

I stopped having my menstrual period quite a few months ago: in January 2009, to be precise. After ascertaining that I was not pregnant (a relief for many reasons, mainly my condition of having SMM, but also my age, 47 at the time; I am now 48), I simply decided that I had hit menopause. No big deal. You see, I have always belonged to the “hate-my-period-with-a-passion” category of women, so “losing” my period was almost cause for a champagne/chocolate truffle celebration. No, I never experienced unbearably painful menstrual cramps, I never became moody or irritable (as far as I know…), nothing like that…I just have always hated getting my period. Period.

I made an appointment to see a gynaecologist who checked me out thoroughly last spring, including an ultrasound. Tutto bene, she told me (=everything is just dandy). She agreed that I might have entered menopause but didn’t exclude that I might have a period at some indefinite point in the future. She prescribed specific menopause tests, which I had on Saturday, in fact.

Well…about two and a half weeks after beginning ashwagandha, aunt Flo (=euphemism!) popped in to visit me for about a week. An unwelcome visit, to say the least. Uffa!

I remembered reading that ashwagandha was used as some sort of sexual tonic in Ayurvedic medicine. I had a look online, where I found that ashwagandha is still traditionally used to treat loss of libido in men and, tadaaa!, sterility in women. Does that imply that it has the ability to start up a menstrual period again? No idea.

In spite of my uncertainty about the ashwagandha-period link, I decided to publish this post because I found something that might be of interest to those taking doxorubicin, which, at high doses, is known to damage the heart. Tests carried out on rats show that ashwagandha may play a role in the protection against cardiotoxicity and thus might be a useful adjuvant therapy where doxorubicin is the cancer-treating drug, see: 

In fact, ashwagandha has some remarkable properties, more than I had realized, to be honest…just go to PubMed ( and type in “ashwagandha” together with whatever you want to look up, e.g. “diabetes” “stress” “anxiety” “Parkinson’s disease” “cystic fibrosis” “arthritis” or “glioblastoma.” Oh, and osteoporosis, see this 2006 study, e.g.:

And finally, here is a link to read an extremely interesting 2006 review of ashwagandha, including references to, and details of!, scientific studies: (those doing radiotherapy or chemotherapy, e.g. cyclophosphamide and paclitaxel, should have a look at the “Chemotherapy Interactions” section). Good stuff!


  1. Ashwagandha sounds like something worth trying. I wish I’d heard about it before my Doxil stint. After more than 3 years of amenorrhea (probably menopause) myself after a high dose of cytoxan, I would hate to have the side effect you described.

  2. Say, Margaret, are you taking a capsule or liquid? What strength do you use? I am willing to try anything. I have taken curcumin since I read about it on your blog. I have remained stable, but would sure like to see that m spike take a plunge.

  3. For the record, after taking ashwagandha for several weeks: I have been having ~23 day cycles for months. I am 47. It is day 30 and still no “Aunt Flo” — and a negative pregnancy test! (Guess it can have the reverse effect, too!)

    1. Since taking ashwaganda a month, My period has been relayed two weeks and I am still waiting the flo. Hum….

  4. Ughhhhhhh the joys of no period has been dashed on me also. I had surgery 9 months ago. Total vaginal walls removed due to polyps. No period for years well 2days ago I get a red visit. My dr was just as surprised as I am. Researching we concluded it is this herbal supplement I’m taking that maybe causing it and reading here I believe it is.

  5. I am about to try a new product called Turmeric 3D ,I have just finished 8 months of chemo taking dex and velcade once a week I decided to leave out cyclophasphamide as I was taking 8 gram of doctors best curcumin a day , canabis oil and a number of other supplements including ashwagandha my treatment went well not a lots of side affects my paraproten came down to 4 from 54 .wanting to keep numbers where they are I have found this Turmeric 3D it has fermented ,ashwagandha, vitamin D3 ,turmeric ,and turkey tail mushroom apparently fermented so easy absorbed so Im about to try this along with IP6 so will post back when I get my next bloods in about two months

  6. You mentioned you were taking a low dose of Ashwagandha – I’ve been looking for one, which brand did you use?


  7. I am 56 and have been getting ,a light period, every 28 days or so since starting ashwanganda, 250 mg. usually every other day. Himalya brand. I began menopause at 53.
    I was, at first, concerned, but the consistency, MILD cramping, cyclic nature tells me that this is actually menstrual. There definetely must be some aspects to ashwanganda that bring hormones into balance.

  8. Thank you so much for this post!! I stopped having my period over a year ago and both my doctor and I were convinced I was officially done with Menopause (whoo-hoo!). Took ashwagandha for 2 weeks and BAM! my period started. I was shocked. All the symptoms too – miserable cramps, headache, etc. I was slowly ramping up from 340 mg to 1000 mg per day (which is a “typical dose” according to the bottle). I got mine at Whole Foods (their brand, $10). I’m taking a break from it and see if my body goes back to normal. Maybe I’ll stick to 1 a day – it was helping reduce inflammation in my joints. BTW, I’m turning 50 in 2 months.

  9. I am a female, still having periods but definitely peri-menopausal, and 2 years ago I tried Ashwagandha (for health issues other than what Margaret’s blog is about), and it did a number on my hormones — it caused me to have unwanted facial hair growth. After taking the ashwagandha for not very long, my facial pores started to change and get larger, the skin surface roughened and reddened, the facial hair started to grow out faster, and it was stiffer and thicker and darker. Not just on the mustache area above the lip, but all over the chin, sides of cheeks, sides of nose, temples, and between eyebrows. Not just a few longer hairs sprouting on the chin, which many women develop when they are near to menopause, but hundreds of hairs across many inches of my face – just like a man’s beard.
    When I stopped taking the ashwagandha, this died down to an extent, but my facial hair has *never* gone back to normal, it still grows faster than the rest of my hair, it’s still a little thicker and stiffer than the hair in other areas, and the underlying skin in the affected areas of my face remains rough and reddish (so much so that I can’t wear liquid makeup foundation anymore, because it looks terrible — like spreading it on a piece of sandpaper would look).
    And because of that priming a couple of years ago, my facial skin has a hair-trigger (no pun intended!) response now — I find that some other supplements and medications can make the unwanted facial hair growth and enlarged pores and angry skin start right back up again, in a matter of days. So I have to be careful about my supplements and test very low doses when I add something, or when I have to change to a different brand/formulation – even small amounts of certain “benign” vitamins and minerals can fuel the facial hair growth for me now.
    Therefore, I can attest that ashwagandha does seem to affect the hormones, especially androgenic ones, and quite probably it boosts libido and vitality when taken long enough, but for females, it may have unwanted side effects.

  10. I began taking ashwagandha 45 days ago and have had my period every other week. Not full on flow but still a nuisance that last for a week at a time. Taking this for my thyroid but I’m about to be 48 and was looking forward to this coming to an end. After reading the above comments, I think I may stop taking it to see if my cycle straightens out. Before taking this herb I was like clockwork every 27 days.

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