Ashwagandha is a popular herb that has been used for centuries in traditional Indian medicine. Many people use ashwagandha as a natural remedy for various health concerns, but can pilots take ashwagandha? This article will explore the benefits and potential risks of ashwagandha use for pilots, and discuss the related regulations and safety considerations. We will also provide references to back up our arguments and ensure a thorough understanding of this topic.
WHAT IS ASHWAGANDHA
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a small, woody shrub native to India, North Africa, and the Middle East[^1^]. It is an adaptogen, which means it can help the body adapt to stress and maintain balance[^2^]. Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 3,000 years to treat various conditions, including stress, anxiety, and fatigue[^3^].
See our very own Ashwagandha tincture.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF ASHWAGANDHA
Ashwagandha offers numerous health benefits backed by scientific research. Some of these benefits include:
- Reducing stress and anxiety: Ashwagandha has been shown to significantly reduce cortisol levels, the hormone responsible for stress response[^4^]. Several studies have also found that ashwagandha can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and stress-related disorders[^5^].
- Improving cognitive function: Research suggests that ashwagandha may enhance cognitive function, memory, and reaction time[^6^]. This could be especially important for pilots who need to maintain optimal mental performance.
- Boosting immune function: Ashwagandha has been found to improve immune function by increasing the production of white blood cells and other components of the immune system[^7^]. A healthy immune system is crucial for pilots who are exposed to various environments and potential pathogens.
- Promoting better sleep: Ashwagandha is known for its calming effects, which can help improve sleep quality[^8^]. Adequate sleep is essential for pilots to maintain alertness and cognitive function during flight.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS
While ashwagandha is generally considered safe for most people, it may cause some side effects, including:
- Diarrhea, nausea, and stomach upset[^9^]
- Drowsiness and sedation[^10^]
- Allergic reactions, such as skin rash or difficulty breathing[^11^]
It’s important to note that individual responses to ashwagandha may vary, and not everyone will experience these side effects.
ASHWAGANDHA AND PILOTS: THE CONNECTION
Pilots face unique challenges and stressors, such as long working hours, irregular sleep patterns, and high-pressure situations. These factors can negatively impact their mental and physical health. Ashwagandha’s potential benefits,
such as reducing stress and anxiety, improving cognitive function, and promoting better sleep, may seem attractive to pilots seeking a natural solution to maintain optimal performance. However, before deciding whether ashwagandha is appropriate for pilots, it’s essential to consider aviation regulations and safety considerations.
Regulations governing the use of medications and supplements by pilots vary depending on the country and the specific aviation authority overseeing the matter. For example, in the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has guidelines regarding the use of medications by pilots[^12^].
While ashwagandha is not explicitly mentioned in the FAA guidelines, it’s crucial for pilots to consult with their Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) before starting any new supplement or medication. The AME can determine whether a particular supplement or medication is compatible with the pilot’s medical certification and aviation safety requirements.
Pilots should also be aware of the regulations in other countries where they may operate, as some countries may have stricter rules regarding the use of supplements and medications.
Even if ashwagandha is allowed by aviation authorities, pilots should consider the following safety aspects:
- Potential side effects: As mentioned earlier, ashwagandha may cause side effects such as drowsiness, gastrointestinal issues, or allergic reactions. Pilots should be cautious and closely monitor their response to ashwagandha to ensure it does not negatively affect their ability to perform their duties.
- Interactions with medications: Ashwagandha may interact with certain medications, such as sedatives, blood thinners, and medications for thyroid conditions[^13^]. Pilots taking these medications should consult with their healthcare provider before using ashwagandha.
- Quality and dosage: The quality and potency of ashwagandha supplements can vary significantly between brands. Pilots should choose a reputable, high-quality product and follow the recommended dosage guidelines. Excessive intake of ashwagandha may increase the risk of side effects or adverse reactions.
ADDITIONAL SAFETY TIPS FOR PILOTS USING ASHWAGANDHA
In addition to the safety considerations mentioned earlier, pilots using ashwagandha should also follow these additional safety tips:
- Start with a low dose: When beginning to use ashwagandha, pilots should start with a low dose and gradually increase it as needed. This approach will help minimize potential side effects and allow the individual to assess their tolerance to the supplement.
- Monitor response: Pilots should closely monitor their response to ashwagandha, paying attention to any side effects or changes in their overall well-being. If any negative reactions occur, discontinue use immediately and consult a healthcare provider.
- Avoid combining with other substances: Pilots should avoid taking ashwagandha in combination with other substances, such as alcohol or recreational drugs, that may exacerbate potential side effects or interfere with cognitive function and alertness.
- Schedule a trial period: Before using ashwagandha during flight operations, pilots should schedule a trial period during which they use the supplement while not flying. This will allow them to assess their response to ashwagandha and ensure they can safely take it while performing their duties.
- Stay informed: Pilots should stay informed about the latest research and guidelines related to ashwagandha use in aviation. This will ensure they are aware of any potential risks or changes in recommendations.
By following these safety tips and consulting with healthcare professionals, pilots can minimize potential risks associated with ashwagandha use and determine whether this supplement is an appropriate choice for them.
In conclusion, while ashwagandha offers potential benefits that may be helpful for pilots, it’s essential to consider the possible side effects, aviation regulations, and safety considerations before using this supplement. Pilots should consult with their Aviation Medical Examiner and healthcare provider to determine whether ashwagandha is appropriate for their specific situation.
- Mirjalili, M. H., Moyano, E., Bonfill, M., Cusido, R. M., & Palazón, J. (2009). Steroidal lactones from Withania somnifera, an ancient plant for novel medicine. Molecules, 14(7), 2373-2393.
- Panossian, A., & Wikman, G. (2008). Pharmacology of Schisandra chinensis Bail.: An overview of Russian research and uses in medicine. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 118(2), 183-212.
- Singh, N., Bhalla, M., de Jager, P., & Gilca, M. (2011). An overview on ashwagandha: a Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicines, 8(5S).
- Chandrasekhar, K., Kapoor, J., & Anishetty, S. (2012). A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 34(3), 255.
- Pratte, M. A., Nanavati, K. B., Young, V., & Morley, C. P. (2014). An alternative treatment for anxiety: a systematic review of human trial results reported for the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 20(12), 901-908.
- Choudhary, D., Bhattacharyya, S., & Bose, S. (2017). Efficacy and safety of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) root extract in improving memory and cognitive functions. Journal of Dietary Supplements, 14(6), 599-612.
- Bani, S., Gautam, M., Sheikh, F. A., Khan, B., Satti, N. K., Suri, K. A., … & Qazi, G. N. (2006). Selective Th1 up-regulating activity of Withania somnifera aqueous extract in an experimental system using flow cytometry. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 107(1), 107-115.
- Langade, D., Kanchi, S., Salve, J., Debnath, K., & Ambegaokar, D. (2019). Efficacy and safety of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root extract in insomnia and anxiety: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Cureus, 11(9).
- Bhowmik, D., Kumar, K. P. S., Paswan, S., & Srivastava, S. (2012). Recent trends in Indian traditional herbs Withania somnifera and its health benefits. Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, 1(1), 13-20.
- Calabrese, C., & Rege, N. (2011). A systematic review of the effects of Withania somnifera on chronic stress in humans: possible relevance to sleep quality. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 15(6), e46.
- Appel, K., Rose, T., Fiebich, B., Kammler, T., Hoffmann, C., & Weiss, G. (2011). Modulation of the γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) system by Passiflora incarnata L. Phytotherapy Research, 25(6), 838-843.
- Federal Aviation Administration. (2017). Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners: Pharmaceuticals (Therapeutic Medications). Retrieved from https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/avs/offices/aam/ame/guide/pharm/
- Raut, A. A., Rege, N. N., Tadvi, F. M., Solanki, P. V., Kene, K. R., Shirolkar, S. G., … & Vaidya, A. B. (2012). Exploratory study to evaluate tolerability, safety, and activity of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in healthy volunteers. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 3(3), 111.