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What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha, often called Indian Ginseng, is an herbal supplement that is made from the root extract of an evergreen plant whose scientific name is Withania Somnifera. Withania Somnifera is native to Africa, Asia, and Southern Europe. Ashwagandha Root, which comes from this plant, has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, often in a tonic form.
The History of Ashwagandha
The name, Ashwagandha, comes from the Sanskrit language. The name is made up of two words from that language that combine to mean “horse smell.” This is because the root of the plant that Ashwagandha comes from has a horse like smell. Tradition holds that Ashwagandha gives its user the strength and virility, two benefits often sought by men, of a horse.
Ayurvedic medicine is a type of alternative medicine that is actually the traditional medical system of India. The goal of Ayurvedic medicine is to align the mind, body, and spirit using a holistic approach that encompasses the entire body. The system emphasizes diet and exercise, as well as meditation and breathing, physical therapy, and herbal supplements. Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for soothing stress and anxiety as well as for its anti-inflammatory benefits against conditions such as arthritis.
And the current evidence reveals that many of these ancient Ayurvedic benefits stand up to rigorous scientific scrutiny. Ashwagandha is a versatile adaptogenic herb. Read on to learn of its unique benefits for men.
What are the Benefits of Ashwagandha for men?
Ashwagandha offers a wide range of benefits for men, particularly when it comes to sexual function and reproductive health.
- Improvements in erectile function
- Improvements in sexual desire
- Improvements in overall fertility
- Improvements in semen quality
- Improvements in sperm quality
- Improvements in sperm count
It Supports Sexual Function
Ashwagandha has been known as an aphrodisiac as far back as the advent of the Kama Sutra. (1) However, modern science has been able to shed light on exactly how it affects male sexual function. Taking Ashwagandha stimulates the production of nitric oxide in the body. (2) This leads to a dilation of the blood vessels in the male genitals causing increased blood flow. This leads to increased sexual desire and enjoyment. (3) For this reason, Ashwagandha has become a popular treatment for men experiencing erectile dysfunction. In addition to improving the quality of men’s sex lives, Ashwagandha is also beneficial in improving men’s reproductive health.
It Can Boost Male Fertility and Reproductive Health
Studies have shown that Ashwagandha can increase male fertility. (4) The supplement has an effect on the testicles that has led to increased semen quality in infertile men. Men taking the supplement have experienced improved sperm quality in the form of increased sperm count and motility. Sperm count and motility are key factors in reproductive success for men.
It Supports Healthy Hormone Levels
A key to the supplement’s effect on fertility is Ashwagandha’s impact on hormones. One of the primary reproductive hormones for men is testosterone. Use of Ashwagandha has been shown to lead to increased testosterone production. (5) Study participants who experienced an improvement in semen quality also showed an increase in testosterone levels. Ashwagandha helps increase testosterone levels by stimulating the production of the Luteinizing hormone, another reproductive hormone. (6)
Other hormones that can be managed with Ashwagandha include stress hormones and thyroid hormones.
Ashwagandha has been used for stress reduction in Ayurvedic medicine for many years, and recent studies have validated its use. Human studies have shown decreased symptoms of stress and anxiety. (7) Ashwagandha is thought to block stress signals to the nervous system, leading to reduced feelings of stress and anxiety. (8)
In addition, Ashwagandha helps regulate thyroid hormones as well. Recent studies have shown that the use of Ashwagandha may help stabilize thyroid stimulating hormones (TSH), serum thyroxine (T4), and serum triiodothyronine in those who display elevated THS levels. (9)
It Helps Build Muscle
Ashwagandha has also recently shown indications of being a tool for assisting in physical fitness. Studies have revealed that it helps increase both muscle mass and muscle strength in healthy men. (10) This is exciting news for those seeking supplements to help them meet their fitness goals. In addition to muscle mass and strength improvements, the supplement also has indications for other benefits related to fitness.
Other Ashwagandha Health Benefits
Ashwagandha also improves cortisol levels. Cortisol is a substance produced by the body that regulates the metabolic process. Cortisol levels often increase in response to stress leading to weight gain.
One of the primary uses of Ashwagandha over the years has been to affect stress levels in the body. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen. An adaptogen helps the body adapt to stressors by preventing the body’s stress response. Proper stress management has long been known to be beneficial in regulating body fat, which is affected by Cortisol.
The reduction of stress has indications for the health of a variety of systems in the body. Stress reduction can affect everything from mental health, influencing mood and depression, to regulating our sleep.
Chronic stress is a condition in which the negative effects of stress on the body are experienced for a long period of time. Chronic stress can lead to all sorts of imbalances and negative health conditions in the human body. Ashwagandha can strengthen the nervous and adrenal systems. (11) This can help bring balance to the body, leading to decreased anxiety, relief of insomnia, and improvements in mood.
Some suggest that Ashwagandha may lower blood pressure. It is well-known that a number of factors can impact blood pressure levels. And one could argue that a substance that improves stress or physical fitness leads to improved blood pressure. However, more studies are needed to prove this. (12) Still, some users have experienced decreases in blood pressure while using Ashwagandha. Be aware that using Ashwagandha use in a person with low blood pressure may result in blood pressure being too low. Use caution and consult a physician if you are taking blood pressure medications. (13)
Additional body functions that Ashwagandha may improve include: blood sugar, the immune system, nervous system, specific anxiety disorders, and general well-being.
Ashwagandha may have positive effects on blood sugar as well. The supplement may reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. However, close consultation with a physician is recommended when taking it for this purpose as Ashwagandha may interact with blood sugar medications. Close monitoring of blood sugar levels is recommended when using Ashwagandha for the purpose of affecting blood sugar or diabetes. (14)
Ashwagandha may boost the immune system by increasing the activity of the immune system. Avoid Ashwagandha if you have an auto-immune disease, as Ashwagandha since may cause an increase in the activity of the immune system. In persons with these conditions, an increase may have a negative effect on the body. (15)
Ashwagandha may benefit the nervous system. Studies have shown that Ashwagandha may regulate the signaling in the body’s nervous system. (16) This may lead to improvements in anxiety disorders for supplement users.
Stress-reducing effects, along with reproductive and sexual health benefits suggest positive implications for men’s overall well-being.
Tips on Taking Ashwagandha
- Safe for short-term use: Ashwagandha is thought to be safe in small doses for short-term use. (18)
- Take orally: Ashwagandha is taken by mouth and the recommended dose is 300 to 500 milligrams of the root extract taken with food. (19) This can be divided between meals or taken all together at breakfast. Smaller doses of 50 to 100 milligrams of Ashwagandha have been shown to be helpful in some cases for stress reduction. (20)
- Take consistently for best results: For best results, ashwagandha should be taken consistently over the desired period of use (often indicated between 6 – 8 weeks, or 60 days). (21)
- Find what works for you: Be mindful, that natural substances such as Ashwagandha may not affect each person in the same way, or results of use may vary from person to person. As with many herbal supplements, much is unknown about Ashwagandha and yet to be researched regarding safe usage. Always consult your doctor, pharmacist, or another health professional before using Ashwagandha or any other natural health supplement. (22)
Persons preparing for surgical procedures should stop taking Ashwagandha at least two weeks before any surgical procedure. (23) The effects of Ashwagandha with anesthesia and other post-op medications is unknown, and interactions are possible.
Ashwagandha may interact with other drugs. These drug categories include:
- Drugs that reduce the immune system (immunosuppressants): Because Ashwagandha is often used to boost the immune system, Ashwagandha may reduce the effectiveness of drugs that are used to reduce the immune system. (24)
- Drugs that are categorized as sedatives (Benzodiazepines): Taking Ashwagandha with these drugs may cause excessive sleepiness. (25)
- Thyroid Hormones: Because the body produces its own thyroid hormones, and Ashwagandha may increase the production of thyroid hormones, taking Ashwagandha with other medicines that increase thyroid hormone production may lead to excessive thyroid hormones in the body. (26)
There are a variety of Ashwagandha supplements and extracts on the market. Because much is unknown about Ashwagandha and in safety, always be mindful of reading labels and following the specific manufacturer’s directions for use. (27)
Large doses of Ashwagandha may cause the following side effects: (28)
- Upset stomach
- The safety of applying Ashwagandha directly to the skin is unknown. (29)
Ashwagandha has many exciting indications for possible improvement of men’s health, and science is still learning and the base of knowledge about what it can do is still growing.
- Ashwagandha has a long history of use in holistic medicine.
- Ashwagandha is known for its stress reducing properties.
- Ashwagandha may improve men’s sexual health by increasing the production of nitric oxide in the body.
- Ashwagandha may have positive effects on men’s reproductive health.
- Ashwagandha has implications for benefits in many areas of health.