Can You Combine Ashwagandha and Wellbutrin?

Ashwagandha is an herbal supplement with anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. Not much is yet known about how ashwagandha works, which makes it difficult to evaluate potential drug interactions. Wellbutrin is an antidepressant that increases dopamine and norepinephrine and is used in depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder and smoking cessation. Can ashwagandha be used for the same conditions as Wellbutrin? Can ashwagandha be taken together with Wellbutrin? 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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Ashwagandha and Wellbutrin Side Effects

Ashwagandha and Wellbutrin should not be combined due to the increased risk of side effects, such as seizures or cardiovascular events when taking Wellbutrin. However, the there isn’t yet sufficient scientific evidence to determine exactly how Ashwagandha and Wellbutrin pharmacologically interact.

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 fully define 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 syndrome [5].

How Does Wellbutrin Work?

Wellbutrin is an antidepressant brand name that contains the active substance bupropion. It is primarily prescribed to treat major depressive disorder (MDD) and prevent seasonal affective disorder (SAD) [7].

In addition to its primary uses, Wellbutrin is also sometimes used to help people quit smoking, treat episodes of depression in patients with bipolar disorder, and manage attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) [8].

Wellbutrin belongs to a group of drugs known as norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake blockers. Therefore, Wellbutrin stabilises mood by affecting the balance of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, which is different to other Antidepressants, which primarily act on serotonin [7].

In 2012, Wellbutrin was incorrectly marketed to help with weight loss and sexual dysfunction, which resulted in a fine for the manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline. Nonetheless, there is preliminary evidence that Wellbutrin could help with both weight loss and sexual dysfunction, but it is not yet approved for these purposes [9].

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What Are Ashwagandha and Wellbutrin Used For?

Ashwagandha has been used to reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep quality, and increase resilience against stress. It has also been found to improve energy, reduce fatigue, alleviate pain, and decrease inflammation [10].

In addition to these benefits, ashwagandha has been found to modestly benefit conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and symptom severity in schizophrenia, substance use disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It has also been found to improve cognitive functioning post-brain injury and in those at risk of dementia [3].

In contrast, Wellbutrin is an antidepressant with more limited therapeutic applications, primarily used for major depressive disorder and seasonal affective disorder [7]. It can also help people stop smoking by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Therefore, both ashwagandha and Wellbutrin can be used to improve mood in depression. Ashwagandha has shown subtle benefits against many conditions, whereas Wellbutrin is FDA-approved for a smaller number of specific conditions.

What are ashwagandha and Wellbutrin used for?

Both ashwagandha and Wellbutrin can be used to manage depression and preventatively for seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Can Ashwagandha Replace Wellbutrin?

Ashwagandha is a great prophylactic, meaning preventative, supplement to manage mood, anxiety and stress before your symptoms are too severe. Nonetheless, ashwagandha is unlikely to be effective enough to alleviate clinical depression or SAD.

For smoking cessation, ashwagandha may relieve some of the withdrawal symptoms, so taking ashwagandha before trying Wellbutrin may be a feasible option for some people.

Do Ashwagandha and Wellbutrin Interact?

There isn’t yet sufficient evidence to determine exactly whether Ashwagandha and Wellbutrin pharmacologically interact [11].

Bupropion, the active substance in Wellbutrin, has a well-defined and relatively dangerous toxicity profile [7]. There has been concern about the effects of Bupropion on mood from the FDA as recently as 2016. These concerns warrant caution when combining Wellbutrin with ashwagandha and similar herbal supplements.

Among the highest risk for Wellbutrin side effects are seizures. Since the pharmacological effects of ashwagandha are so diverse, it will likely interfere with excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission, further exacerbating the risk of seizures when taking Wellbutrin.

Similarly, Wellbutrin has a risk of cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and endocrine side effects, which may be exacerbated by ashwagandha.

Importantly, taking Wellbutrin and ashwagandha does not increase the risk of serotonin syndrome. This is unlike serotonergic antidepressants - Taking ashwagandha and Zoloft or ashwagandha and Lexapro, may increase the risks of serotonin syndrome.

Ashwgandha and Wellbutrin: 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, and blood sugar regulation, similarly to Wellbutrin.

Nonetheless, ashwagandha may not relieve these symptoms sufficiently, so you should consult a healthcare professional if your symptoms interfere with your daily activities.

Ashwagandha and Wellbutrin should not be combined due to the increased risk of side effects, such as seizures or cardiovascular events when taking Wellbutrin.

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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.