The Herbal Supplement Blows Up On TikTok—Without Much Medical Research Support


Ashwagandha is the latest viral health trend on TikTok, where vidoes of users praising the herbal supplement’s stress relieving effects are finding huge audiences—though others say it’s left them emotionally blunted and feeling depressed, and the scientific support for any health benefit remains scant.

Key Facts

Some research suggests ashwagandha—an herbal supplement long used in Indian medicine—may reduce anxiety and boost physical performance (including helping with muscle fatigue, recovery and sleep quality), though the effects of long-term use are unknown and taking large doses may cause an upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting, or in rare cases, liver problems.

The ashwagandha herbal supplement is TikTok’s latest health craze, sparked by users boasting its potential stress relieving and physical fitness performance benefits.

Ashwagandha videos are racking up huge numbers on the platform: The hashtag #ashwagandha has more than 675 million views (and misspelled versions are earning plenty of views too, like #ashwaganda, which has 41 million views).

TikTok users are sharing their ashwagandha experiences, and plenty swear by it: One user listed the benefits she’s noticed in a video (with 51,000 likes and more than 400,000 views), including falling asleep faster, having fewer anxious thoughts and feeling more relaxed.

Another user said he took ashwagandha every day for one year, and the first effect he noticed was sharpened focus and memory, which he said made it easier for him to complete tasks and work out (his video earned more than 140,000 likes and 1.3 million views).

Other users touted exercise benefits, including one whose video (with 117,000 likes and 1 million views) said ashwagandha “calms you down while making you stronger.”

Not all ashwagandha experiences were positive, though: One user whose TikTok bio states he is a doctor said he took 400 milligram doses of ashwagandha twice a day for 30 days, and by the second week, started feeling depression which worsened until he stopped (his video garnered 172,000 likes and 3.5 million views).

Ashwagandha hasn’t worked for everyone, including one user who posted a video captioned, “me after taking ashwagandha for a week,” in which she drops a bottle of ashwagandha to the floor and kicks it away in slow motion (her video garnered 882,000 likes and 6.5 million views).

Numerous users claimed ashwagandha numbed their emotions, an effect some said they wanted (one user claimed he takes ashwagandha so he doesn’t “feel anything anymore” in a video with 45,000 likes and 242,000 views), while others compared it to feeling empty and depressed (one user says his mind won’t let him feel emotions in a video with 145,000 likes and 1.3 million views).

Key Background

Ashwagandha comes from an evergreen shrub widely harvested in India, as well as in parts of the Middle East and Africa. It has been used in Indian medicine for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments like rheumatism, emaciation, debility from old age and insomnia, and also to increase sex drive. Contemporary interest in ashwagandha often touts its potential to relieve stress and improve sleep quality. Amala Soumyanath, director of the BENFRA Botanical Dietary Supplements Research Center at Oregon Health & Science University, told Buzzfeed News that more research is needed on the impacts of ashwagandha, but the studies that have already been conducted suggest “ashwagandha can improve sleep and reduce stress, anxiety and depression.” Potential risks of ashwagandha can include digestive system irritation and liver damage, and it is not recommended for use by pregnant women. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center said people with hormone-sensitive prostate cancer should avoid ashwagandha since it can potentially raise testosterone levels.


In several TikTok videos, users compared their emotional state on ashwagandha to that of Nate Jacobs, a character from HBO’s Euphoria. On the show, Jacobs was portrayed as emotionally detached, which caused strained relationships with other characters and occasional violent outbursts, and the clip some TikTok users used shows Jacobs pushing past a girl who likes him with a deadpan expression.


Despite TikTok users claiming to feel a lack of emotion while taking ashwagandha, California pharmacist Ariana Medizade, who is a medical advisory liaison for a company that sells supplements, told Buzzfeed News it is uncommon for people to feel emotionally blunted while taking proper doses of ashwagandha. Soumyanath also told Buzzfeed News “none of the clinical human studies specifically reported a blunting of all emotions.”

Further Reading

TikTokers Say Ashwagandha Makes Them Feel Emotionally Blunted (Buzzfeed News)

Is Ashwagandha really the magic supplement TikTokers claim it to be? (Mic)