October 2020

COVID-19: Why Ashwagandha & Adaptogens Are Growing in Popularity

Patients are increasingly turning to traditional medicines to reduce stress and boost immune function during the pandemic. Be prepared to address questions about ashwagandha and other adaptogens as product sales in this market surge.

Adaptogens are a class of natural substances that are believed to stimulate the body’s resistance to physical, environmental, and emotional stressors. Although many plants are traditionally referred to as adaptogens, only some plants have demonstrated these effects in research.

Ashwagandha is one of these plants. Its popularity has been steadily growing for years, but it’s soared since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many ashwagandha products are promoted for boosting immunity and improving overall health. If patients ask you about ashwagandha, tell them that there’s some supportive evidence for using ashwagandha root extract to reduce stress. It may also help prevent stress-related weight gain. But when it comes to immune function or COVID-19 prevention, evidence is lacking. Also, use caution in people with thyroid disorders. Ashwagandha may stimulate the production of thyroid hormones, which could complicate the treatment of these conditions.

Astragalus is another adaptogen that’s seen a recent boost in popularity. Much like ashwagandha, astragalus is often promoted for boosting immune function. While some limited research suggests that astragalus might modify immune function, there is no good evidence to support using astragalus to prevent infectious diseases, such as COVID-19.

In addition to the lack of evidence, it’s very important that patients understand the quality issues related to the adaptogen product market. Adulteration and false advertising are ongoing problems. And supply chain issues related to the pandemic, coupled with the growing demand for these ingredients, increase quality concerns. Make sure patients understand that products available on the market aren’t necessarily monitored for quality and are vulnerable to adulteration and false advertising. Over the course of the pandemic, Amazon has removed over 6.5 million products for making false claims related to virus protection or COVID-19.

For more information about natural medicines and COVID-19, see our latest articles and resources.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2023 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.