2 Ways Ashwagandha Can Cause Acne

Ashwagandha can cause hormonal acne breakouts in some people depending on their hormone levels (specifically testosterone and thyroid hormone production). Although ashwagandha will not directly trigger acne breakouts, its ability to alter hormone levels means it could be part of the reason for your skin flare ups. 

In this article, we will review how ashwagandha can trigger acne breakouts, how to determine if ashwagandha is specifically worsening your acne, the health and skin benefits of using ashwagandha, and other potential side effects to look out for. 

As an Ayurvedic medicine humans have been using Ashwagandha as a medical treatment for over 3,000 years to treat affiliations like anxiety, depression, weight loss, hormonal imbalance, arthritis, and fatigue, which I explain in detail in the Unmasking Acne Resource Kit. However, just because someone takes an herbal supplement for a medical condition does not mean it actually works or there is any scientific evidence to back up anecdotal claims.

1. Ashwagandha can raise testosterone levels

Raised testosterone levels can lead to an increase of sebaceous oil production on the skin, which makes it more likely for your pores to clog. There have been studies that show ashwagandha increases luteinizing hormone levels which helps to increase overall testosterone levels. If you are dealing with low testosterone levels, it is unlikely that supplementing with small amounts of ashwagandha will cause an overproduction of testosterone. Ashwagandha is frequently taken for people who are dealing with prolonged periods of stress, anxiety and poor sleep. All three of these issues interfere with testosterone production (especially in men), so it is likely that anyone supplementing with ashwagandha has too much testosterone. 

2. Ashwagandha can alter thyroid hormone production

Several studies have shown ashwagandha’s ability to increase thyroid production, specifically thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4). This can be extremely beneficial for people with an underactive thyroid which can lead to fatigue, cold sensitivity, and even depression. However, for anyone with normal to high thyroid function supplementing with ashwagandha could cause hyperthyroidism, which can potentially trigger acne breakouts. Ultimately, both too much or too little thyroid production can trigger acne breakouts, so it’s best to try and stay in a normal, healthy range.

How to tell if your acne is caused by ashwagandha?

Typically, if you start taking ashwagandha and notice that your skin is getting worse, it’s probably due to the herb. However, since everyone reacts differently, there isn’t a surefire way of knowing for sure without consulting with your doctor. 

If you are considering supplementing with ashwagandha our team highly recommends meeting with a doctor to discuss your current hormone levels, medications, and other supplements you are currently taking. 

Suppose you notice that your skin is not getting any better while taking ashwagandha and may be worsening. 

While many supplements like green tea or fish oil can help reduce acne breakouts, ashwagandha might not be one of them. Most likely, they will make a new supplementation plan based on what has been working for you and try an alternative medication if necessary.

Are there any ways that ashwagandha can help reduce acne breakouts?

Yes, there are some instances in which ashwagandha can help alleviate the symptoms of acne, specifically by managing your blood sugar levels. There is some research that suggests ashwagandha can help lower blood sugar, which will minimize IGF-1 spikes when you eat foods high in sugar. Many people do not realize that diet is one of the most important factors in determining skin health, especially for skin clarity. If your acne breakouts are largely driven by inflammation due to IGF-1 spike, ashwagandha can help regulate your blood sugar and minimize inflammation.

Should I stop taking Ashwagandha Because of Acne Symptoms?

If you notice your skin worses after you begin taking ashwagandha, it’s worth talking to your dermatologist about ordering a testosterone and thyroid function test to see if your levels have elevated due to ashwagandha intake. 

What is ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is an herb that comes from the Ayurvedic tradition in India. It has been used for thousands of years to treat many conditions, including stress, depression, arthritis, hormone levels, and even cancer! 

Ashwagandha means “the smell of horse” because it was believed that ingesting this plant gave you the strength and vitality like a horse. 

Because of its potent antioxidant properties, ashwagandha can be taken as a supplement or naturopathic medicine to help with many disease processes. 

Currently, studies are being conducted on these potential benefits, but outside of the hormonal changes it is difficult to say if anything is conclusive yet.

What are the primary health benefits of ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha literally has hundreds of purported health benefits ranging from improved sleep to fighting cancer. However, there is not nearly enough research done to substantiate the majority of these claims. Below we have a list of the most popular reasons people will supplement with ashwagandha:

  • Improved Sleep: Insomnia and lack of restful sleep is a common health concern that lead many people to begin supplementing with ashwagandha. This may be because insomnia is a side effect of low testosterone which ashwagandha has been shown to help improve.
  • Improved Energy: Similar to sleep, higher testosterone leads to better recovery and more strength on average. This is why many bodybuilders and athletes like to supplement with ashwagandha. 
  • Male Fertility Enhancement: Several research studies have shown that ashwagandha improves sperm quality, including sperm count, motility, and semen volume. This is largely in part to its ability to increase testosterone and stimulate thyroid production.
  • Cardiovascular Health: Early studies have shown that ashwagandha can help reduce both cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

What are the potential side effects of ashwagandha?

Although there are many purported benefits of ashwagandha use there are also lots of anecdotal reports of potential side effects. What is certain is that altering your hormonal levels can cause drastic changes all throughout your body, so it is imperative to discuss ashwagandha use with your doctor before you begin a supplementation protocol. Below is an overview of the most common side effects associated with ashwagandha use including acne, drowsiness, allergic reactions (hives, itchiness, shortness of breath), diarrhea, and low blood sugar.

Wrapping up

Ashwagandha is a potent medical herb whose full chemical properties are not completely understood yet. What is certain, is that ashwagandha can alter your hormone levels which can lead to almost unlimited benefits and risks depending on the individual and their dosage size. When it comes to supplementation and acne, less is usually better long term. If you are curious about what supplements could potentially benefit acne breakouts take a look at our acne supplement guide.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does ashwagandha cause weight gain?

There isn’t much evidence right now about whether ashwagandha causes weight gain. It’s best to talk with your doctor before taking any supplement or medication that could cause changes in body weight. In general, though, most supplements out there claim they will help you lose weight if taken regularly, so it might be worth talking to them first!

Is ashwagandha good for females?

Since most studies on ashwagandha have been conducted using male test subjects, it’s difficult to say whether or not this supplement works for women. There is no significant difference between female and male mice in terms of their weight loss, but since the sample sizes were small, it cannot be confident what will happen with larger groups of people.

What are some other supplements which may cause acne?

One supplement which has been shown to cause acne in specific individuals is tea tree oil. This can be found in many different topical creams and ointments, especially those claiming to treat or prevent acne. Additionally, supplements like green tea and fish oil might cause problems in some people, so it’s best to talk with your doctor first if you’re looking to take one of these.

Does ashwagandha dry skin?

While there isn’t much evidence to say whether or not ashwagandha causes dry skin, it does appear that this supplement might help with some of the problems associated with having too much sebum production. In general, though, most dermatologists recommend steering clear from any sort of supplement if you are looking to treat your existing acne.

Originally Published: August 20, 2023

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sam wood is GoodGlow's Chief Editor
Analyzed by Sam Wood

Hi, I’m Sam Wood, the chief editor, lead acne expert, and health coach at GoodGlow, as well as a best-selling author for one of the top acne books on Amazon. I struggled with acne for over 10 years, and began studying the effects of diet on skin quality while pursuing a degree in Nutrition Sciences at the University of Missouri. After shifting from mainstream skincare trends to in-depth research in medical journals, I experienced significant personal success in managing my acne. This inspired me to start GoodGlow, where I simplify complex scientific findings into easy-to-understand advice. With over 10 years in the field, I’ve helped more than 2,500 people achieve clearer skin through natural, holistic methods, and I’m dedicated to personally assisting those seeking guidance on their acne journey.

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