Aerial shot of different colorful powders with a brass long handle spice spoon

Is a smoothie even worth drinking if it’s not busting stress, boosting focus, elevating energy and polishing our pores all at the same time? Not to us! We pack as many functional ingredients at as we can into each whirl of the blender. 

As interest in adaptogens and functional herbs has reached a fever pitch, we’re inviting you to retrace your steps and take a closer look at the powerful ingredients you may be spiking those drinks with. All the excitement over combining herbs for maximum effect could be eclipsed a more serious topic: adaptogen side effects.

Could you be overdoing it with your fave adaptogens? Or just using herbs that aren’t suited to your needs?  Costa Rica-born herbalist, founder of Anima Mundi and author of Healing Tonics, Adriana Ayales explains a few things we should all know about adaptogen side effects…

AshwagandhaBecause ashwagandha can have an immunosupressant effect, people with auto-immune diseases should be careful how it’s used. Particularly those with diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or lupus should not take this supplement overall as improper use might worsen symptoms. Some have had success or no side-effects by using very low doses, but it’s always best to consult a professional health practitioner.

Combining these treatments may counteract the effectiveness of immunosuppressive therapy. Ashwagandha may cause drowsiness and should not be used in conjunction with other sedative-type medications. Ashwagandha may increase thyroid hormone production and should not be used simultaneously with other thyroid hormone drugs.

AstragalusAstragalus tends to be a very friendly herb to most people, yet because of its immuno-modulating properties, it might raise a sensitivity to auto-immune disorders. Astragalus has deep immune activation, which might cause counteractions if you are taking immunosuppressant drugs.

Astragalus is considered pretty safe for many adults. The most commonly reported side effects are diarrhea, nausea and mild gastrointestinal effects. It might also affect blood-sugar levels and blood pressure and can be risky for people with certain blood-related health problems, such as blood disorders, diabetes or hypertension. It is inadvisable to take it with blood thinners, as it might lead to more bleeding. This especially applies if you are preparing for surgery or any kind of operation where blood-thinners are discouraged.

Pine PollenPine pollen is a powerful anti-viral and anti-inflammatory, to say the least! It is also commonly used as one of nature’s best testosterone replacement therapies. Testosterone is a steroid hormone. While it is present in women, it’s the male sex hormone that characterizes men.

Testosterone replacement therapy has many benefits. But unless you’re looking for a testosterone boost, there are also adverse side effects that you should look out for if you use it in higher doses than recommended. A common side-effect on a psychological level are mood swings, aggressiveness and impulsivity. On a physical level side effects may include weight gain, hair growth, oily skin or acne.

Yet just the right dose has a plethora of healing abilities, that to this day haven’t even been properly studied. If used wisely, it might just be your libido boost!

For those with tree-pollen allergies: If you have a severe histamine response to pollen and seasonal allergies, be careful with pine pollen dosage as it might trigger an allergic response. Avoid pine pollen if you experience swelling, itchiness or facial inflammation of any kind.

LicoriceLicorice is often used in formulations as a harmonizer. In Chinese medicine, for example, it’s often added because of its warming and nourishing qualities to the gut, assisting in the overall breakdown of other medicines.

If your body already runs “too hot,” licorice might not be your medicine, as it may increase your blood pressure. Refrain from using or eating licorice if you have a history of high blood pressure.

ShisandraThis miraculous “five-flavored berry” has historically been used in Chinese medicine to promote a balance between yin and yang. It’s said to help “calm the heart and quiet the spirit” by positively affecting the brain, kidneys, liver and lungs.

While it’s been used for generations safely and effectively, very few human trials have been performed using schisandra. Most studies are based on animals. The only potential side-effects discovered are that it can affect the way other medications or supplements are absorbed by the body. If you currently take prescriptions to treat any existing conditions, it’s best to talk to your doctor before beginning use.

Other studies have found that it might increase stomach acids, depending on your body type, increasing the possibility of peptic ulcers. This is highly unlikely, but if your body has a history of gastritis or extreme acidity, it’s best not to use – or consult your health care practitioner first.

Fo-Ti (He Shou Wu)He shou wu has been used for over two thousand years as a longevity herb in Asia. There is a traditional preparation of he shou wu that involves cooking it with black beans for a long period of time, usually using a proportion of ten parts he shou wu to one part black beans, until the soup has evaporated. The “prepared” roots are then dried and powdered for medicinal use. Using this root, raw or unprepared, is a strong laxative. Because it has become so popular, you must be sure you’re purchasing the “prepared” root, or you could have a gut reaction.

Potential adverse effects of this herb are mainly digestive-tract reactions, usually resulting in thin stool in cases where the herb is not tolerated, and occasional light abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

Learn more from Adriana with this list of 20 adaptogenic herbs and what they do,
and this slimming pineapple tonic.

The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.

Bottom banner image
From our friends


  1. Hi, I’m response your article about Ashwangdha, I have M.S and have been taking it for years. I personally think it’s great as it prevents me from getting colds etc. My last appointment with my consultant he was very pleased and advised me to continue with what I am doing. I take zero drugs for my illness and do everything naturally.

    • I agree. I was wondering if the author made a typo mistake, as ashwaganda is not an immunosuppressant.

      Amber fox | 05.03.2018 | Reply
  2. Annapurna Skyline Trek (The Royal Trek) is an introductory trek in Nepal and one of the shortest. This is one of the most beautiful and scenic route that has been eclipsed by other famed routes in the Annapurna region. Except for 4-5 days of leisurely walking on the trails from one community to another, this trek demands nothing more. Since this is one of the off the beaten treks in Nepal the availability of teahouses is very less and very basic.

    ritendra | 05.03.2018 | Reply
  3. Do your research dear! Ashwaghanda can actually be extremely helpful in drug-free management of RA and other autoimmune disorders. Drives me nuts when people post incomplete /misleading info.

  4. I thought licorice lowers blood pressure — Arrrrgh! Now, I’m confused. What adaptogen increases blood pressure. Mine is ridiculously low. Aloha!

    Claire Anderson Graham Kellerman | 05.03.2018 | Reply
  5. I just have to add (as there is not an “official” list via FDA or anything regarding <>! As I have done my own research, I recommend that anyone with nightshade sensitivities find out what you can and cannot get away with, as I’m sad to report back that the amazing Ashwaganda & Astragalus are in the nightshade families… They really are superb adaptogens but I took them as immunity boosters last winter and just found that after a few days all of my joints were stiffening, just like with an overabundance of any other nightshades.

    • Sorry, typos in first sentence!
      *I just have to add, as there is no “official” list via FDA or anything reagarding NIGHTSHADES!

  6. The most important take-away from this article is that we must make sure that our complementary supplements are not contra-indicated among themselves or with traditional medicines/therapies we may be using.
    Are we being mindful of serving sizes/RDAs? More isn’t better.

    Nicole | 05.04.2018 | Reply
  7. Ashwagandha is NOT an immunosuppressant, if it were it would not be an adaptogen. It is true that it is a member of the nightshade family, but most people with autoimmune issues find it helpful. There is a small group of nightshade sensitive people who will find it worsens their symptoms as mentioned by someone above, in that case it’s wise to stop right away.

    Sarah | 05.04.2018 | Reply
  8. This article is pure shit written by a know-nothing. Shit site. I won’t be back. You’re pushing disinfo and you should stop, losers.

    Maya | 05.08.2018 | Reply
  9. Interesting…I tried some adaptogen powders and then wrote about my experience on my blog. I definitely noticed some adverse side affects! Thanks for bringing this up.

    The Skinny Guru | 05.08.2018 | Reply
  10. I think the underlying theme is very important to note in this article; everyone’s body reacts differently. That’s why there is not a “one size fits all” diet, vitamin, adaptogen, etc. Everyone needs to supplement in different ways because everyone’s body is DIFFERENT. Unfortunately there is no black and white way of getting fit, relieving stress, so on and so forth. We all need different things! Navigate the gray by learning how to listen to your OWN body, doing research, and applying that research to best suit YOU!

    Nikki | 05.14.2018 | Reply
  11. Ashwagandha isn’t an immunosupressant and is used with success for people with RA, MS, and other autoimmune diseases. It does tend to reduce inflammation and pain. Pine pollen isn’t an adaptogen. This article is quite poor on the whole and would benefit from referencing and incorporating traditional knowledge from experts such as David Winston.

    chris | 09.04.2018 | Reply
  12. I was diagnosed with Stage 1, estrogen/progesterone/her2 + breast cancer 4/18. I had a double mastectomy with full reconstruction, and have completed chemo treatments (Taxol). I am taking Tamoxophin daily (5 yr regimen) and have a Herceptin treatment once/mo through mid-June ’19. I am researching the ingredients in the vitamin supplements I used prior to my diagnosis (Advocare MNS3) for amounts of plant-based estrogen contained in them, as I am to limit my estrogen intake while taking Tamoxophin. Is there research on the amounts of plant-based estrogen contained in the various Adaptogens discussed above? I didn’t see anything above, but thought it best to inquire based on my specific situation (albeit, unfortunately, a very common situation these days among women!!)

    Jennie Billhartz | 01.01.2019 | Reply
  13. Had a very negative effect from Ashwaganda… super rapid heart rate… with anxiety. Seemed to only be bad during physical exertion. I had a similar reaction to Maca root and a lesser but similar reaction to ginseng… so… not for everyone!

  14. Not for me! I have Reactive Artritis and this made me very ill within a few hours. I have tried two different combo supplements and the only similar ingredient was Ashwagagnda.

  15. I tried ashwagandha at the advice of a friend. Within a few hours of taking it (I only took half the recommended amount), I experienced heart palpitations, tightness in chest and shortness of breath. I felt like I was going to pass out. My blood pressure skyrocketed to 190/105. It was terrifying. I wound up in the ER. Who knew something so seemingly helpful could do so much harm?

  16. Because I react to nightshades, I tried rhodiola first, as it isn’t a nightshade. It kept me awake all night with just one dose taken at 5 pm. I’m now cautiously trying ashwaganda, so far no reactions. I’m trying to get my cortisol levels down.
    For the lady with the hormone positive breast cancer, you need to do research on phytoestrogens. You will have to exclude beans and soy products. Good luck

    Pamela | 08.15.2020 | Reply
  17. I have used 5 of the 6 herbs you talked about here and you are absolutely right about Ashwangdha, it always gave me a migraine, it took me a while before i realized and quit it. I switched to using Shatavari instead


    Dave ShagLonger | 03.25.2021 | Reply
  18. I also came here because I found ashwaganda was causing me to have a rapid heart rate but I thought maybe it was my imagination because it’s supposed to have the opposite effect .

  19. I heard about adaptogens and all of their reported benefits , but there always seems to be links to buy the positively reviewed apart often products , which is a red flag to me.

    I appreciate articles and comments like these.

    The whole adaptogens industry could just be a money making scheme . Is there a forum or site where I may read honest experiences that people have with these substances ?

    Thank you so much !

  20. I was shaking all over from ashwagandha and I took it for anxiety…It made me feel lightheaded and dizzy and eventually I had full blown panic attacks. Happened slowly….when I first started taking it, I had no issues with it………then my B/P kept rising…even though I was taking B/P meds… For anxiety I much prefer taking GABA…

  21. How are you know currently experiencing the same Bp. Increase insomnia and panic stricken. Does this end ???

    Mike | 08.29.2021 | Reply
  22. Well i can tell you, I had a severe reaction with ashwagandha. I had been taking it for about 6 months. I took the necessary breaks. Decided to stop for a few months. I was doing fine. One day I just thought I will open capsule and just take half. Went out for dinner. Thought I was getting flu. Shaking, sweats, in washroom for hours. Never thought it was the supplement. Months later did the same. Took half…within 2 hrs like last time, but this was different. I was so violently sick for about 7 hrs. I turned to ice, vomiting for at least 6 hrs, sweats, shaking. Ended up in a ball on the floor. Probably should have gone to hospital. Thought i was going to die. If i even put water on my lip I would vomit. Scary man! Called company about it. They told me they have no idea and it couldn’t be their product. Nice. I am a healthy women in 50’s. Take no meds. Wondering if it lowered blood sugar? I mean this was really bad. Will never touch it again.

    Rose | 01.20.2022 | Reply
  23. There are double blind controlled studies for Ashwagandha – you can find them if you look for them. Unfortunately they are small studies and the effects are self-reported. Herbs can have powerful affects and while manufacturers claim that their products are standardized one might easily question that assertation – we only have their word. I’m not promoting allopathic medicine but in some respects it’s safer. I think herbal and traditional medicine are subject to some of the same risks. I had a strong homemade herbal tea bottom out my blood pressure to the point where I couldn’t walk without bending over. For me, the best medicine involves a healthy diet, exercise and literally changing one’s life if necessary – ridding oneself of toxic relationships and negative thought habits. A generous dose of forgiveness – largely to the self, never hurts.

    KadyQ | 02.11.2022 | Reply
  24. Can we take both astragalus and ashwagandha together

    Sujatha | 04.17.2022 | Reply
  25. I have a friend who had taken traditional medicine and a diet plan from Nze Njoku Herbal Home on google to treat Arthritis and High Blood Pressure and for some years now he looks normal. From severe pain always a sick guy Now he looks so healthy and enjoying normal productive life Praise God

    Max Jerry | 06.04.2022 | Reply
  26. I came across this website by accident. Omg i was researching Ashwaganda but after reading the horrific stories from WebMD whereby there is 8 pages of reviews i would never even attempt to try this! I belive it should be taken off the market! And think it could be dangerous to many people. The side effects are horrific. What got me interested was Hey Nutrition whom i know well for selling their capsules etc on Amazon, telling you which was the best Ashwaganda to buy, only shocked to find they put their own Ashwaganda in first place! Good way of advertising i suppose! But thought it strange that a company should put their own product first, hence my researching all over the internet. It might be okay for the odd person, but the majority of people say they would never touch it again and neither would I. It took me 30 years to stop chronic panic attacks! And i wouldn’t want to go there again! Best of luck to you all trying to find possible health cures, there are many products that are very good, sadly, i don’t think this is one of them! Rosina Lock

    ROSINA LOCK | 01.27.2023 | Reply
  27. Woah there. Are you just saying this to put people down or do you have an actual reasoning process for it regarding the topic?

    Benny | 07.23.2023 | Reply

Leave A Comment