Can You Combine Ashwagandha and Prozac?

Ashwagandha is an herbal supplement that can reduce inflammation and improve sympathetic tone. Not much is yet known about how it works, which makes it difficult to evaluate potential drug interactions. Since Ashwagandha can have antidepressant and anxiolytic properties, it is natural to ask whether you can take ashwagandha when taking Prozac, a common antidepressant. What does the science say about combining ashwagandha and Prozac? The evidence will be discussed in this article.
Klara Hatinova

Klara Hatinova

Klara is postgraduate researcher in experimental psychology at the
University of Oxford.

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Do Ashwagandha and Prozac Interact?

There isn’t yet sufficient evidence to determine exactly whether Ashwagandha and Prozac pharmacologically interact. However, Ashwagandha can interact with antidepressant drugs very similar to Prozac. While Ashwagandha is a natural supplement known for its stress-relieving properties, it's crucial to consult a healthcare professional before combining it with Prozac, a prescribed antidepressant. Although Ashwagandha has potential benefits, it should not be used as a replacement for Prozac without professional medical advice.

How Does Ashwagandha Work?

Ashwagandha is a popular herb typically used in Ayurvedic medicine. It contains Withaferin A as the main pharmacological compound and 35 other unique chemicals, making it difficult to establish a pharmacological profile for ashwagandha.

What is clear is that ashwagandha has widespread benefits for human health [1]. Scientifically known as Withania somnifera, ashwagandha can modulate the body's stress response through its adaptogenic properties. These effects attract the attention of the health-conscious community as a supplement to help balance stress hormone levels and reduce anxiety [2, 3].

Ashwagandha can modulate neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and GABA, contributing to improved mood and relaxation. This modulation of neurotransmitters can have a positive impact on mental health symptoms such as anxiety, low mood, stress, sleep and Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) [4, 5, 6].

Ashwagandha reduces inflammation, modulates the immune system and has antioxidant properties that improve health across a spectrum of systems. For example, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties can protect against neurodegenerative conditions, cancer and Polycystic ovarian syndrom (PCOS) [5].

How Does Prozac Work?

Prozac, named fluoxetine, was first discovered in the 1970s by Eli Lilly and was first marketed and approved in 1987 [7].

Prozac is a broad-acting antidepressant used to treat not only depression but also anxiety, bulimia nervosa, panic attacks and binge eating disorder, among others [8].

Novel antidepressants improve mood by increasing serotonin levels, a critical regulator of mood, appetite, and alertness, throughout your brain. Prozac, as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), achieves this by blocking serotonin's reuptake (re-absorption) and increasing the amount of free serotonin in the brain. Due to the role of serotonin in the brain, increasing serotonin can improve mood and reduce anxiety [9].

It's worth noting that Prozac doesn't cure depression, but it can help manage the symptoms.

Prozac

Prozac, also known as fluoxetine, is a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor antidepressant.

What are Ashwagandha and Prozac Used for?

Prozac is a synthetic prescription SSRI that the FDA approves for the treatment of depression and anxiety. Off-label Prozac is also used for OCD, panic disorder, premenstrual dysphoria and vasomotor symptoms of menopause [8].

Ashwagandha has been an essential herb in Ayurveda, a form of traditional Indian medicine, for thousands of years. Ashwagandha has primarily been used to reduce stress and anxiety, improve energy, reduce fatigue, ease pain, and decrease inflammation [5].

Nonetheless, as an herbal supplement, the FDA does not regulate Ashwagandha, and its therapeutic profile and side effects have not been studied in a controlled and systematic way [10].

Despite not being FDA-approved, Ashwagandha can improve mood and moderate anxiety, similar to the effects of Prozac [11]. Ashwagandha improves sleep and brain function, which are common symptoms of depression. It can also improve blood sugar regulation, which can be beneficial in eating disorders such as bulimia or binge eating disorder [12].

There is preliminary evidence that ashwagandha can be beneficial in managing symptoms of OCD for which Prozac remains the first-line antidepressant drug [13].

Can Ashwagandha Replace Prozac?

Ashwagandha is unlikely to be as effective as Prozac in improving mood and treating symptoms of psychiatric diagnosis. You should consult a healthcare professional if you feel like you may have depression and not self-medicate with ashwagandha.

Despite this, ashwagandha may be an excellent supplement to take preventatively to support your mental health before you notice symptoms of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders or OCD.

Do Ashwagandha and Prozac Interact?

There isn’t yet sufficient evidence to determine exactly whether Ashwagandha and Prozac pharmacologically interact [14]. However, based on the available information, Ashwagandha can interact with antidepressant drugs very similar to Prozac [15].

The present study, the only scientific study to examine interactions between ashwagandha and SSRIs, did not specifically report any adverse side effects from taking ashwagandha and Prozac [15]. This means that the combination of ashwagandha and Prozac is safer than ashwagandha and Zoloft or ashwagandha and Lexapro.

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The most significant risk when combining Prozac with other drugs, especially those that affect serotonin, is Serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome occurs when there is too much serotonin in the brain. As the therapeutic actions of Ashwagandha are not fully clear, there is a small risk that ashwagandha and Prozac taken concurrently increase the risks of serotonin syndrome.

Ashwagandha and Prozac: A Summary

To summarise, there is good evidence to support the stress-relieving benefits of ashwagandha and even preliminary evidence to indicate it can be used for depression, anxiety, panic attacks and blood sugar regulation in eating disorders.

Ashwagandha should only be used as a supplement alongside a balanced lifestyle, but it can confer some mental health prevention, even if not significant, symptom relief. There is insufficient evidence to advise for or against combining ashwagandha and Prozac, indicating that you can take Prozac and ashwagandha together but keep an eye out for any unusual symptoms. It's always a good idea to consult a healthcare professional before combining Ashwagandha with Prozac.

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Klara Hatinova

Klara Hatinova

Klara is a postgraduate researcher in experimental psychology at the University of Oxford. She has worked across a spectrum of hot topics in neuroscience, including her current project measuring reinforcement learning strategies in Parkinson’s disease. Previously, she studied the efficacy of psilocybin as a therapy for critical mental health conditions and examined molecular circadian rhythms of migraine disorders. She completed her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at the University of Glasgow and participated in a year abroad at the University of California, where she worked on a clinical trial for spinal cord injury.