Ashwagandha: An Ayurvedic Treatment for OCD, Anxiety, & Stress

Last Updated on April 18, 2024 by Lindsay Delk, RDN

Do you suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder? If so, you are not alone. OCD is a common mental health condition that affects thousands of people each year. While there is no cure for OCD, there are treatments that can help lessen the symptoms. One of those is ashwagandha, an ayurvedic treatment for OCD that has been used for centuries in India.

If you suffer from OCD, you know how difficult it can be to manage the condition. There are many treatments available for OCD, but you may find that traditional treatments don’t work well for you or cause unwanted side effects. Ashwagandha has been shown to be effective as an ayurvedic medicine for OCD, anxiety, and stress.

This post was written by Lindsay Delk, RDN. It is for informational purposes and is not intended to replace medical advice or instructions given by your healthcare provider. 

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Scrabble tiles spelling OCD on a light blue background

What Is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by unwanted intrusive thoughts called obsessions and repetitive behaviors or rituals called compulsions.

These obsessive thoughts or behaviors make it hard for you to focus on anything else. To get rid of these thoughts, people with OCD often perform compulsions, which are actions that you do over and over again. Compulsions can be anything from checking to make sure the door is locked to washing your hands a hundred times.

OCD can make it hard for you to go about your day-to-day life. For example, someone with OCD might spend hours every day washing their hands, even if they don’t have dirt or germs on them. Or they might avoid social situations because they’re worried about doing something wrong.

OCD can cause significant distress and lead to problems in relationships, work, and school. You sometimes feel ashamed and embarrassed about your condition and may keep it a secret.

Causes & Symptoms of OCD

There is no one specific cause of OCD, but there are certain factors that may contribute to its development. Some of these factors include:

  • Genetic vulnerability
  • Environmental factors or triggers
  • Psychological factors

OCD can be caused by a combination of different factors, and each person’s experience with OCD will be different. However, some of the most common causes of OCD include stress, anxiety, and trauma.

The symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder can vary from person to person, but generally include obsessions about dirt and germs, fear of harming yourself or others, intrusive sexual thoughts, the need for symmetry or order, or excessive doubt.

Compulsions can include washing hands excessively, checking things repeatedly, arranging objects in certain ways, counting, cleaning, or praying with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away. 

The letters "OCD" among other scattered letters

What Is Ayurveda & Ayurvedic Treatment for OCD?

Ayurveda is one of the oldest forms of medicine in the world. It is an ancient Indian system of medicine and is still practiced today. Ayurveda practitioners use herbal medicines, aromatherapy, meditation and breathing, and dietary therapy to promote health.

Ayurveda is not just a system of medicine but a way of life. It teaches that the key to good health is balance—in your diet, your lifestyle, and your relationships.

Ayurveda for OCD may include guided meditation, breathing exercises, changes to your diet, and adding Ayurvedic medicine for OCD, such as ashwagandha, to your daily routine.

What Is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is a plant that has been used in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. The root of the ashwagandha plant is thought to have medicinal properties and is often made into powder, capsules, or tea. This is the ashwagandha supplement I take.

Ashwaganda is an ayurvedic medication for OCD and is also considered an adaptogen. Adaptogens are herbal supplements that help your body adapt to stress. They help your body resist the physical, emotional, and environmental stressors of everyday life.

Is ashwagandha safe? Ashwagandha is generally considered safe for most people, but it can cause adverse effects when taken in large doses. If you’re thinking of taking ashwagandha, talk to your healthcare provider first to make sure it’s right for you and to get their professional medical advice.

Ashwagandha plant: an ayurvedic treatment for OCD

Ashwagandha as an Ayurvedic Treatment for OCD, Anxiety, & Stress

Some people believe that ashwagandha can help improve your mental and physical health by reducing stress and anxiety levels, improving sleep quality, boosting energy levels, and reducing inflammation. But is this true? What does the research say?

  • A recent review study and several other studies have found that ashwagandha is effective in the management of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • A study published in 2016 found that ashwagandha may be an effective complementary therapy to standard OCD treatment and may improve the severity of symptoms in afflicted patients.

Ashwagandha may be able to reduce OCD symptoms in people who have not responded to conventional treatment. It may help to improve OCD symptoms by reducing stress and anxiety.

  • Another small study gave participants either 250 mg/day of ashwagandha, 600 mg/day of ashwagandha, or a placebo for 8 weeks. The study found that those who took the ashwagandha supplements experienced significant improvements in sleep quality, reduced stress levels, and a decrease in cortisol levels.

Stress, anxiety, and sleep are all linked together. Better sleep helps to reduce stress and anxiety whereas poor sleep may increase anxiety and stress.

The most effective dosage in this study was 600 mg/day. The participants that received 600 mg/day of ashwagandha for 8 weeks showed a statistically significant reduction in stress and anxiety and statistically significant improvement in sleep quality.

A patient and therapist in a therapy session

Other Treatment for OCD

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for OCD as the disorder can be quite different from person to person. However, some common treatments include therapy, medication, and self-care.


Healthcare providers often recommend therapy as it can help people learn how to manage their OCD symptoms. There are many different types of therapy that can be used to treat OCD. Some common ones include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure and response prevention (ERP), and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

CBT helps you learn how to change your thoughts and behaviors related to OCD. ERP involves gradually exposing yourself to the things that trigger your OCD symptoms while learning how to manage the anxiety that comes with it. ACT focuses on helping you accept your OCD symptoms and learn how to live with them in a more mindful way.


For medication, doctors often prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety prescription drugs, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Research shows that these can also help to reduce the symptoms of OCD.


Self-care can be important too as it can help you stay healthy and well-balanced while you are dealing with OCD. Self-care such as getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and meditation or breathing exercises can all be helpful.

If you or someone you know is struggling with OCD, there is help available. Remember, you are not alone in this—many people have OCD and are successfully managing it with treatment.

Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional to find out what treatment options might be right for you. You can work with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) on dietary changes and using supplements, such as ashwagandha.

No matter what treatment or combination of treatments you choose, know that recovery from OCD is possible. With the right help, you can learn how to manage your symptoms and live a full and happy life. Sign up for my email newsletter to learn about other ways to cope with OCD, anxiety, and stress.

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