Stress, anxiety, low hormone levels, and decreased immunity are among today’s most pressing health concerns. If you’re like many people, you probably have looked for ways to remedy your concerns naturally. Ashwagandha is an ancient herb that has been around for more nearly 6,000 years, playing a prominent role in Indian Ayurvedic medicine, which promotes natural healing.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, meaning that it can help manage stress in the human body. Adaptogens are a class of herbs that help to normalize the physiological processes of the body that help alleviate physical, mental, or emotional stress. Because of this capability along with the herb’s numerous other abilities, Ayurvedic medicine has long used it to increase energy levels and improve concentration. Historically, the herb was used to treat the following conditions:
Ayurvedic medicine is also used as a Rasayana to help improve longevity. The root of Ashwagandha is regarded as tonic, aphrodisiac, diuretic, anthelmintic, astringent, thermogenic, and stimulant.
In Sanskrit, Ashwagandha is called “smell of the horse” which refers to its somewhat unpleasant aroma and taste as well as its ability to increase strength. The herb is derived from a small, yellow-flowered shrub native to India and North Africa, with the plant’s roots or leaves turned into extracts and powders.
Ashwagandha has found renewed popularity outside of Ayurvedic medicine because of its myriad health benefits proven by controlled medical studies showing that its high concentration of withanolides can fight inflammation and tumor growth. The herb has many properties that are particularly beneficial for men, so it deserves consideration for inclusion as a supplement in your health regimen.
Sexual Benefits of Ashwagandha
One of Ashwagandha’s most ancient uses is as an aphrodisiac. Even the Kama Sutra talks about using it to increase the male sex drive. If you have tried Viagra or related drugs with little to no success, your sex life could improve with this herb. Here’s how it works on your libido.
Although stress reduction benefits women as well as men, stress affects men in different ways. Stress levels are particularly high for millennial men with increased workloads and little time to spend with their significant others to maintain their relationships. The struggle to perform is real. Taking an Ashwagandha supplement can significantly reduce the stress associated with sexual performance.
When you are stressed, your blood pressure increases. High blood pressure reduces the flow of blood to all of your arteries, including those in the penis and the general genital area. When blood flow here is restricted, you can have a difficult time achieving or maintaining an erection.
The herb’s adaptogenic properties are also responsible for reducing cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is a stress hormone produced in the adrenal gland the invokes the body’s fight or flight response. A study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine indicated that subjects who received the KSM-66 Ashwagandha supplement for 60 days had a 27 percent reduction in stress cortisol levels. Participants also stated that they felt less stress while taking the herbal supplement. Taking the supplement can lead to an improvement in your sex life through reduced stress and cortisol levels.
What About My Libido?
Why does Ashwagandha work as an aphrodisiac? The answer is quite simple. The herb stimulates nitric acid production in your body. This allows your blood vessels to dilate, including those that carry blood to your genitals. That function increases sexual desire and satisfaction. That’s why some professionals suggest the herb as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. Along with increasing your libido, Ashwagandha supplements can help you last longer in bed, maybe even twice as long as usual. Ther herb’s anti-inflammatory and
It’s a Testosterone Booster
One of the unfortunate facts of aging is that as men get older, their testosterone levels decrease significantly. That drop starts at age 30. Current research shows that total testosterone levels decrease 1.6% per year while free and bioavailable levels fall by 2%–3% per year. That drop results in the loss of hair, muscle mass, and endurance in bed.
With the increase in libido, it’s only natural that the herb would help sperm counts too. Ashwagandha helps by increasing serum levels of the luteinizing hormone in the pituitary gland that helps produce testosterone. It also alters the natural balance of men’s sexual hormones
It increases the serum levels of the luteinizing hormone and testosterone and revitalizes the natural balance of sex hormones in men. Several studies published by the U.S. Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health show that Ashwagandha led to increases in sperm counts and motility as well as a significant increase in testosterone levels, making it a possible treatment for infertility in men.
May Increase Muscle Mass and Strength
Supplementing with Ashwagandha may not make you ripped, but research shows that taking it can lead to improved body composition and an increase in strength. A 2013 study showed that men who took between 750 mg and 1,250 mg of pulverized Ashwagandha daily gain muscle strength after one month. Other studies also indicated that the herb could have a positive effect on reducing body fat percentage.
A 2010 study that studied Ashwagandha’s effects on exercise performance indicated that the herb increased velocity, power, and maximal oxygen uptake while lowering resting systolic blood pressure. It also appears to enhance performance by increasing muscle mass and strength when used in conjunction with resistance training. Study participants had a more significant strength increase when performing bench presses and leg extensions, along with a more substantial increase in muscle size in the arms and chest. Thus, supplementation can help you with generalized muscle weakness, along with improving limb strength and neuromuscular coordination. These studies also showed some evidence that exercise-induced muscle damage may also be reduced when taking the herb.
There is even some evidence that Ashwagandha may help you with sports performance too. One study conducted on rats showed that the animals had more endurance when swimming after taking the herb.
Going Beyond Sex and Strength Benefits for Men
While men may be most concerned with their strength and sexual performance, taking Ashwagandha has other benefits that mainly affect male bodies. Men are more prone to some health problems, including cardiovascular issues, at a younger age than women, so if you have some risk factors, you may want to consult your doctor about taking the supplement to get the following benefits.
May Lower Cholesterol and Triglycerides
High cholesterol and bad triglyceride levels play a significant role in heart disease. Animal studies on Ashwagandha show that it lowered cholesterol and triglycerides by 53 percent and 45 percent, respectively. Studies on humans have produced less dramatic results but still showed improvements. A study on chronically stressed adults, who often show more cardiovascular problems, indicated that one group taking the highest dosage of the herb had an average 17 percent decrease in LDL cholesterol and an 11 percent decrease in triglycerides.
Effects on Diabetes
Type II diabetes can be difficult to control in some individuals. Related cardiovascular complications can develop in individuals with uncontrolled Type II diabetes. Several scientific studies have shown a positive correlation between taking Ashwagandha and a reduction in blood sugar levels in diabetes patients as well as one study that indicated a reduction in healthy adults. A study published in 2009 in the Journal of Pharmacy Research, Vol 2  indicated that the herb reduced hyperglycemia as well as insulin resistance.
Benefits of Ashwagandha for the General Population
The herb’s adaptogenic and anti-inflammatory properties also benefit the population as a whole. From reducing anxiety and depression to fighting cancer to anti-aging properties, Ashwagandha seems to have something for everyone.
Reduce Your Anxiety and Depression
Ashwagandha is perhaps best known for its ability to reduce stress. Anxiety often goes hand-in-hand with stress, so it’s no wonder that it works well in reducing symptoms of the disorder. While some people can handle acute stress, others cannot, and some of those individuals may end up dealing with anxiety too. The human body is unable to deal well with chronic stress and leads to a depletion of vitamins and minerals. Cortisol levels are a good indicator of just how stressed someone is. Chronic stress initiates a barrage of responses that include increases in heart rate and blood pressure, changes in glucose levels, and an increase in cortisol and other hormones that can affect anxiety.
As noted earlier, the herb is quite effective in reducing stress and cortisol levels, which leads to a reduction in anxiety. Ashwagandha appears to be particularly useful in calming individuals affected by agoraphobia, the fear of being in open crowded places. The Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine in a 2012 study of 64 randomized volunteers taking 300 mg of a concentrated extract significantly reduced cortisol levels and anxiety in participants.
Depression can sometimes, but not always, emanate from stress and anxiety. Although it hasn’t been thoroughly studied yet, several studies suggest Ashwagandha can help alleviate depression. Again, it seems to be the reduction of cortisol levels that may be responsible. At this point, the evidence for reducing depression is primarily anecdotal, so more study is needed.
Another area of extreme interest is the herb’s ability to fight some cancers. The herb could be useful as an addendum to chemotherapy treatments. Preliminary studies indicate that a compound called withaferin within the herb helps induce apoptosis, the programmed death of cancer cells because the roots of the plant appear to hinder cellular growth and attachment. Because of this, some medical professionals support using Ashwagandha to supplement because it is believed to promote the formation of reactive oxygen specifies (ROS) inside cancer cells, which disrupts their ability to reproduce.
It may also help fight several types of cancer, such as breast, lung, colon, brain, and ovarian cancer. Animal studies have indicated that the herb may be responsible for a 70 to 80 percent reduction in tumor growth, although more studies are needed in humans. Studies also suggest that the herb may inhibit undesirable side effects from treatment.
Reduction in Inflammation
One of the problems that lead to a breakdown of our bodies against disease is the presence of inflammation, which also can play a part in insulation resistance and a myriad of other problems inside the body. One study indicates that the herb can increase the production of the body’s natural killer cells. It also seems to reduce the presence of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is an inflammatory response present in heart disease. Taking Ashwagandha extract may help you augment killer cell activity and increase immune response in inflammatory areas.
Improvement in Brain Function
Research indicates that Ashwagandha may mitigate memory and brain function problems caused by diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and even Alzheimer’s diseases. It has been used traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to boost memory, yet only a small amount of modern research has been performed to back up this assertion. One proven theory is that it appears to promote the development of antioxidants that protect nerve cells from free radicals. Early research shows that it can reverse neuritic atrophy and synaptic loss significantly and may promote the formation of new dendrites within the brain. Many of the diseases mentioned above exhibit characterized damage to the brain and other nervous tissues. Compounds with Ashwagandha appear to have powerful antioxidants that increase the amounts of three enzymes superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase. This ability may help protect nerve cells from nerve cells and oxidative damage.
The herb’s active components, sitoindosides VII-X and withaferin A have been tested for antioxidant activity of the brain’s major free-radical scavenging enzymes. When these enzymes are low, toxic accumulation of free radicals can result, leading to degeneration in the brain. Daily supplements of Ashwagandha seem to increase levels of these critical enzymes, which indicates that the herb’s active components may have an antioxidant effect on the brain.
In one study, 500 mg of Ashwagandha extract taken daily by healthy men resulted in significant improvements in reaction time and task performance, while another eight-week study showed that taking 300 mg twice daily improved general memory, attention span, and task performance. Thus, the herb may also have the ability to improve overall cognitive function through the regeneration of neurons and reconstruction of synapses.