Ashwagandha, also known as winter cherry or Indian ginseng, is used worldwide for medicinal purposes and can benefit our health and sense of well being dramatically. In the medical terms – this herb works as an adaptogen. Adaptogenic herbs bring the body into balance, or homeostasis and this one is especially beneficial for men.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that the intake of ashwagandha helps in reducing stress and anxiety and improves mental functions. Some other symptoms to look for when considering this ancient herb are insomnia, hyperactivity, low sexual drive, low mental or physical energy, depletion, nervousness, worry and depression. There are many more ashwagandha’s benefits for men and I will reveal them in details below.
Ashwagandha is effective for hair loss, because of its ability to lower cortisol. Lower cortisol means decreased corticosteroid levels (excessive corticosteroid levels are associated with hair loss). Also, in one study 50-60-year-old men were given 3g of ashwagandha powder every day for a whole year, which helped to maintain their hair melanin levels high. Melanin is a pigment, responsible for the color of your hair. So, ashwagandha also helps prevent balding.
Ashwagandha powder is often used in shampoos, because it is believed to get rid of dandruff and improve scalp circulation, leading to better hair growth. Being a powerful antioxidant, it destroys free radicals, which are known for damaging hair follicles. This helps not only for your hair, but your skin and nails will look healthier and younger too.
In the video below, Dr. Josh Axe talks about how good adaptogenic herbs are at stopping and reversing hair loss (skip to 1:35 where he starts talking about ashwagandha and rhodiola).
Muscle Strength, Size, Recovery and Stamina
Ashwagandha is called an ergogenic aid. An ergogenic aid is anything that increases physical performance. Ashwagandha has been tested in elite cyclists, they consumed 0.5g three times per day and 8 weeks later there was 12.5% increase in VO2 max (maximum rate of oxygen consumption). There was one study with sedentary people and it was noted that ashwagandha causes lean mass increase and fat mass reduction on the subjects.
We don’t really know the mechanisms underlying the above. It seems to benefit cardiopulmonary health (ie. how much your heart can work during exercise) and seems to improve motor neuron recruitment, but why is currently unknown. So, you can expect some general improvement in your workouts, like enhanced stamina, better strength levels and faster muscle recovery. Just don’t expect it to be something like Jack3d or Craze.
Ashwagandha, which in Sanskrit language means “horse’s smell”, has been used for thousands of years to treat hypogonadism, low libido, and male infertility. It’s androgenic effects on fertility, libido and testosterone levels has been shown in several human studies. 5 grams of ashwagandha root powder daily for 12 weeks increased testosterone and LH (luteinizing hormone) also decreasing prolactin and FHS (follicle stimulating hormone) in a study with infertile men. But please note, studies done on ashwagandha demonstrated beneficial effects on the testosterone levels of infertile men and, in a separate study, stressed men. It didn’t seem to affect healthy males’ testosterone. That’s why this herb is called adaptogen.
Azoospermia (Low Sperm Count)
Ashwagandha improves the sperm count as well as quality of the sperms including their movement as well as shape. The study was conducted over two years involving 120 men between 25 and 38 years. They were given a single dose of ashwagandha root powder for three months. The treatment reduced stress, improved anti-oxidants’ level, and overall semen quality.
In numerous mammal tests, ashwagandha has been shown to increase the size and weight of testicles including the seminiferous tubules in which sperm is synthesized and increase the production of sperm. To increase fertility, ashwagandha often is used synergistically with another ayurvedic herb called Shatavari.
As documented in Ayurveda, early ejaculation is a result of vata being aggravated. Herbs like brahmi, shatavari and ashwagandha help to balance vata dosha. Vata, a mixture of Ether and Air, is the principle of movement. It’s the energizing force for everything in body and mind, which is reflected in the circulation of blood, lymph and every impulse of the nervous system. When males’ vata is elevated, sex can’t be sustained and pre-ejaculation frequently occurs. Anxiety and fear also contribute to the PE disorder.
Ashwagandha allows the blood to flow more freely during sexual arousal by relaxing the body. It is commonly used in combination with shilajit in male tonic formulas. Improved mental and physical health helps the men reduce the problem of PE.
In addition to uncontrollable ejaculation, ashwagandha herb can also treat other sexual disorders like erectile dysfunction and impotence too. Improved quality and quantity of semen is also beneficial.
As you see, ashwagandha benefits for men are endless. It promotes good functioning of the urogenital system and strengthens the kidneys and bladder. It is also a weak diuretic. It assists in proper excretion of the urine thereby maintaining your excretory tract clean and disease free. Hence, it is beneficial in conditions like reoccurring bladder infection (UTI) and kidney stones. According to ayurvedic herbalists, to protect the prostate and promote comfortable urination, you should drink 1 – 3 cups of ashwagandha and gokshura tea daily (1/2 teaspoon of each herb).
The herb has proven to work as a cyclooxygenase inhibitor that reduces pain and inflammation without the side effects such as immune system depression that some other drugs cause. The steroidal lactones withanolides in ashwagandha extract are considered to possess anti-inflammatory effects. The reduction observed in CRP (C-reactive protein) during the period of 8 weeks has been announced to reach 36.6% with standard 250mg oral dose of ashwagandha supplementation. CRP is a systemic marker of inflammation. This means that ashwagandha is capable of helping for a bunch of inflammatory disorders: back pain, atherosclerosis, vasculitis, ischaemic heart disease, arthritis, various allergies and many more.
Cognitive Benefits and Neurogenesis
Ashwagandha aids in improving factors related to cognition and memory. Its bioactive constituents promote mental clarity, improved memory formation and concentration. In nootropic supplement communities, ashwagandha is considered a decent nootropic. Ashwagandha appears to be an AChE inhibitor. Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) is an enzyme that degrades the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is a facilitator of memory formation. Acetylcholine is the most abundant and essential neurotransmitter in the brain that is responsible for numerous functions, many related to cognition and memory.
Ashwagandha can help boost DHEA levels in the human body. Higher DHEA levels have been associated with better cognitive function. Research has revealed its promise as being a solution for dementia in humans. But it’s still ahead of time to tell whether or not this will end up another Alzheimer’s therapy someday.
Stress, Anxiety, Depression
Research has discovered that ashwagandha improves ability to resist stress, by reducing stress hormone cortisol production in adrenal glands. Usually, men with high anxiety have elevated cortisol levels. High cortisol levels exhaust adrenal glands and this can lead to a condition known ad adrenal fatigue. Recent studies have proven ashwagandha is much more than a stress reliever, it also helps to protect the brain from degeneration and improves symptoms of alzheimer’s, depression, low mood and anxiety. In fact, in a recent study, its results were similar to common prescription drugs like lorazepam and imipramine without the side effects.
By promoting healthy and well-balanced emotional state, Ashwagandha minimizes the severity of acute anxiety attacks when they occur, or stops them completely if the supplement is taken in advance in larger dosages.
Insomnia is a really frustrating and often debilitating condition. According to Ayurveda, insomnia is an indication of nervous distress that stems out from vata emotions such as nervousness, hypersensitivity, worry and anxiety. Original recipe to treat insomnia in Ayurveda is to take 5 grams (about 1 heaping teaspoon) of ashwagandha powder (not extract) with warm water or milk, sweetened with honey or sugar before bedtime.
This herb has also been found to directly improve sleep in animal models; it appears to do so by increasing GABAergic activity. For a synergistic effect, combine ashwagandha with valerian, passionflower (this one is really potent too) and lemon balm.
Dyspepsia or indigestion usually occurs when the digestive enzymes and acids are not properly secreted which slows digestive process and causes indigestion. Remember that over 90% immune receptors are found in the digestive tract, so mucous will not only slow digestion and inhibit energy, but it will also reduce immune function.
Ashwagandha increases jathara agni (digestive fire) and appetite, improves nutrient absorption, stimulate bowel movements and also works efficiently in deworming of body. Better digestion can be observed indirectly through improved health of hair. If you are interested in ayurveda, in the short video below, Mike Dhaliwal explains how ashwagandha influences our body doshas.
Personally I think that ayurveda and modern science can go hand in hand and complement each other. I like to check scientific facts first and then compare information with ancient texts (ayurveda or traditional chinese medicine), what they tell about that herb.
The strong anti-arthritic qualities of ashwagandha are getting widely recognized and documented by science. Its’ naturally occurring steroidal content is a lot higher compared to hydrocortisone or prednisolone. Steroidal lactones Withaferin A, Withanone and Withanolide A are responsible for anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, analgesic and antitumoral properties. Withaferin A is also a potent inhibitor of angiogenesis – development of new blood vessels – which is closely linked with the progression of rheumatoid arthritis.
The latest study publicized in 2015 was performed to evaluate the effects of ashwagandha on rheumatism. The research was done on 86 patients struggling with joint pain who were given ashwagandha for 21 days. The outcome was positive having noticeable reduction in joint pain and inflammation being reported. Scientists concluded that the herb may be included in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
Anyone who has compromised immune system is susceptible to this disease. Asthma is caused by a constriction of smooth muscles that line the very small airways of the lungs. This leads to a shortness of breath. Ashwagandha is used for treatment as it helps in relaxing airway smooth muscles and reducing inflammatory condition in the bronchi. This effect is the same as that of conventional hydrocortisone treatment for asthma.
To alleviate asthma symptoms, ayurvedic doctors recommend taking a combination of ashwagandha, neem, turmeric and tulsi.
Diabetes and High Blood Sugar
Ashwagandha helps in both types of diabetes: reduces inflammation related to type I diabetes and significantly reduces oxidative stress related to type 2 diabetes.
Withanolide called coagulanolide has been found beneficial in hyperglycemic conditions – it improves insulin sensitivity and stimulates hepatic glucose metabolizing enzymes. In 2009, a clinical trial was published, which demonstrated that a combo of ashwagandha and shilajit significantly reduced fasting blood sugar in diabetic patients and increased glucose tolerance. Participants were taking 500mg of ashwagandha and 500mg of shilajit twice a day for 4 weeks. This combination is very beneficial for men and is also often used in herbal male formulas to boost testosterone and libido.
Both rodent and human studies confirm, that ashwagandha can reduce Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL), also known as the “bad” cholesterol and decrease triglycerides (body fat, which makes blood thicker and stickier). After 30 days of supplementation, a 10% reduction in LDL cholesterol and 12% reduction in triglycerides can be achieved. Please note, that lowering of bad cholesterol has been also confirmed in otherwise healthy men and women who did not have elevated LDL cholesterol at baseline. Healthy individuals’ triglycerides remain unaffected.
My Own Experience With This Herb
If you did read a whole article, you might think this must be a miracle herb. Well, there must be a reason, why it is used in India for thousands of years and Ayurveda classify it as rasayana – tonic herb, which rejuvenate the whole body. I found this herb when looking for natural remedies for my social anxiety. I become very nervous, quiet and sweaty during social situations. Otherwise, I’m a healthy 28-year-old male.
I have tried taking whole root (powdered) and a more potent patented extract, called Sensoril (standardized to 10% withanolides). I was taking about 3g of powder every day during last summer (I bought a 500g bag and still did not managed to finish it…) in my smoothies, because the taste is not very pleasant on its’ own and to tell the truth, I did not feel much different. Maybe it was bad quality ashwagandha, I don’t know, I bought it from ebay.
But I have a pretty different experience with Sensoril extract. As with any herb, it takes time to spot any effects. After about 4-5 weeks of daily usage (one 250mg cap in the morning), I noticed the ability to be more comfortable around strangers. And If there is a big social event upcoming, I take 5x250mg caps of ashwagandha extract a few hours before the event, and I become unbelievably calm and relaxed without any sleepiness or sluggishness. I am so happy I found this herb !!! But this is a really huge dose and you shouldn’t try this much for the first time – sensitive people report, that even one 250mg capsule can make them drowsy.
I really recommend you to try ashwagandha for a month or two, to decide on your own if it helps with your health problems. Just be sure to get a standardized extract, there are only 2 good ones: KSM-66 or Sensoril. Both extracts are well researched and backed up by science. Here you can read some unbiased reviews I collected over the Reddit, Amazon and other sites. If you have any positive or negative experiences with ashwagandha, please share them in comments.