The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has opened a public consultation on the safety of ashwagandha food supplements.

Ashwagandha (also known as Withania somnifera) is an herb used in traditional remedies. The popularity of ashwagandha in food supplements has increased over recent years, and has been the subject of media claims about benefits like stress and anxiety relief, and improving sleep and focus.

In the UK, at present, there are no safe levels established or set limits for the use of ashwagandha in food supplements. Some risk assessments have shown an association between ashwagandha and effects on thyroid hormone levels; and scientific literature reports possible thyroid toxicity, hypoglycaemic effects, and potential liver toxicity. 

FSA is issuing the current call for evidence to support its charge to conduct a risk assessment for ashwagandha, as requested by the Committee on Toxicity. FSA aims to determine whether a safe level of ashwagandha for use in food supplements can be established, while also assessing the risks associated with consuming food supplements containing ashwagandha.

The consultation is open through September 2, 2024.