Ashwagandha has been used for centuries for everything from mental clarity to reproductive health. However, researchers have really only started to explore its potential applications over the last decade.
Here, we’ll explore some of the potential benefits of ashwagandha for men and women according to research as well as how much ashwagandha per day you should take and when to take it.
What Is Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha, also known as “Winter cherry” or “Indian Ginseng,” is a herb that grows mainly in India, the Middle East, and certain parts of Africa. It has been utilized for centuries to relieve stress, increase energy levels, and improve mental acuity.
Although it is most prominently used in Ayurveda, an alternative medicine system widely practiced throughout India and Nepal, ashwagandha has become a popular supplement across the world in recent years. However, despite this popularity, more research is needed to confirm many of the benefits touted by supporters.
The root of ashwagandha is characterized by the strong horselike smell it gives off. In fact, the name ashwagandha is actually just a combination of the Sanskrit words for “horse” and “smell”.
What does ashwagandha do?
Some research has shown that ashwagandha does a number of positive things for the body that promote overall health and wellness. This includes enhancing brain, nervous system, and reproductive function as well as improving energy levels and mitochondrial health.
However, despite these seemingly overwhelming positive benefits, you should still exercise caution when taking this supplement. Little is known about the long-term effects of ashwagandha and large doses may cause side effects in the short term.
Furthermore, ashwagandha may interact with some medications such as sedatives and those used to lower blood pressure.
What Are The Benefits Of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha has a number of potential health benefits for both men and women. Some of these health benefits may include:
- Increased cognitive function
- Boosted cardiorespiratory endurance
- Enhanced sleep quality
- Decreased inflammation
- Improved blood sugar management
However, it is likely most well known for its potential impact on stress, anxiety, and depression.
Research looking at ashwagandha supplementation have observed that it may be beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety. Additionally, other studies have found that high concentration of root extract may “safely and effectively improve an individual’s resistance towards stress”.
This is one reason why it is classified as an adaptogen or a herb that neutralizes the effects of stress on the body. Adaptogens are thought to reduce feelings of stress by boosting the body’s resilience to it. One potential way ashwagandha may do this is by affecting levels of cortisol – the hormone your body releases when stressed.
Yet, there is still limited evidence on the herb’s long-term safety. As a result, more research is needed to confirm these benefits and whether or not this supplement is safe to use long term.
Ashwagandha Benefits For Men
Some studies have shown that ashwagandha benefits for men may include:
- Increased Testosterone
- Increased Sperm Count
- Greater Muscle Size & Strength
- Decreased Infertility
An 8 week study of men participating in a resistance training program observed that supplementation significantly increased muscle size, strength, and testosterone while decreasing body fat percentage.
Another study looking specifically at men with low sperm count saw an increase of 167% after 90 days of supplementing with 675 mg a day of ashwagandha. Furthermore, additional research found a decrease in infertility amongst male subjects.
Ashwagandha Benefits For Women
Specific ashwagandha benefits for women may include improved sexual function and relief of mild to moderate climacteric symptoms.
One study looking at perimenopause women found that 300mg taken twice daily was effective in reducing mild to moderate climacteric symptoms. In addition, another study found that supplementation was effective in the treatment of female dysfunction.
However, more research is needed as each of these studies was relatively small in terms of sample size.
Does ashwagandha increase testosterone?
Ashwagandha does appear to increase testosterone in men. In a meta-analysis of 32 studies, researchers found that supplementation has a positive effect on testosterone concentration in men. In addition, of the 32 studies reviewed, 9 of these showed statistically significant increases with the majority judged as having a low risk of bias.
Another meta-analysis looking at sports performance found that ashwagandha supplementation was effective for “improving variables related to strength/power, cardiorespiratory fitness and fatigue/recovery in healthy men and women.” Yet, some research has observed that this effect may not be the same in women as it is in men.
Ultimately, more research needs to be done to determine the safety, dosage, and size of the effect on testosterone however it seems that ashwagandha does increase testosterone.
Does ashwagandha increase height?
There is no evidence that ashwagandha increases height. Yet, some research has shown that it may improve a number of physical attributes such as muscle strength, size, serum testosterone levels, and endurance.
Although these traits do not directly contribute to height, testosterone in particular does stimulate the production of HGH and IGF-1 – both factors that can lead to an increase in height during puberty. More research will be needed to determine any relationship between supplementation and height.
How Much Ashwagandha Per Day Should You Take
If you are considering supplementation, you should try to take around 600mg of ashwagandha per day. This is where most studies saw the maximum benefit with minimal reported side effects. To maximize effectiveness, you can divide this into a morning and nightly dose of 300mg.
In addition, some research suggests that higher doses may be preferred for highly trained individuals or athletes (~500mg per day). In fact, a dose of up to 1000mg per day may be safe depending on a number of factors.
However, please note that there is relatively little research looking at the long term health effects of this supplement. You should always talk with your doctor before starting this or any new supplement.
How long does ashwagandha take to work?
It may take a couple of months for ashwagandha to work and reach its maximum benefit.
In fact, most studies that found positive benefits with supplementation did so over a period of almost 3 months of consistent usage. However, some research indicates that it may begin working in as little as two weeks.
Furthermore, anecdotal evidence indicates that some benefits may occur in just a few days although more research is needed to confirm this.
When to take ashwagandha
Ashwagandha can be taken at any time of the day. In fact, many people opt to split the normal 600mg dosage into both morning and nightly doses of 300mg.
However, it is important to stay consistent as taking your supplement at the same time each day will help to improve adherence. This is especially important with ashwagandha as it seems that consistent usage over a period of about 3 months is needed to reach the maximal benefit.
Ashwagandha Side Effects
Ashwagandha seems to be relatively well tolerated at reasonable doses in the short term. However, some side effects, especially at higher doses, may include:
- An upset stomach
In addition, this supplement may interact poorly with some medications so it is important to talk with your doctor before you start taking it.
Can ashwagandha cause acne?
Acne is not a known side effect of ashwagandha. However, in some cases, it may cause a skin rash although this was reported as a less common side effect in a review of clinical trials. Alternatively, this supplement is a powerful antioxidant and agent against stress. Therefore, it may actually help some individuals avoid stress-related acne and skin rashes.
Does ashwagandha cause hair loss?
Ashwagandha is not known to cause hair loss. In fact, it might have the opposite effect due to its impact on lowering cortisol.
Research shows that chronic stress and high levels of cortisol can lead to hair loss. Therefore, supplementation could potentially slow or even prevent stress-related hair loss as a result of its effect on cortisol and the overall stress response of the body. However, more research is needed to determine this impact on hair loss and the overall safety of long term use.
Is ashwagandha safe during pregnancy?
Ashwagandha is not safe to take during pregnancy as it may cause miscarriage.
If you are pregnant, nursing, or planning to become pregnant, stop taking this supplement and talk to your doctor. Your doctor will be able to recommend a safer alternative to use during your pregnancy.
In general, you should always talk with your doctor about any supplements or medications you are taking if you become or planning on becoming pregnant.
Is Ashwagandha Safe
Ashwagandha seems to be generally safe and tolerable. In most studies looking at the effect of supplementation, subjects reported experiencing little to no adverse effects.
However, it is important to note that many of these studies have only looked at the short term effects of this supplement. In other words, the long-term health impact is still largely unknown and more research will be needed.
Furthermore, ashwagandha may negatively interact with some medications such as certain sedatives and blood pressure medication. It should also be avoided in persons who are or plan to become pregnant as there is some evidence it may cause miscarriage.
Do not start taking this supplement without first speaking with a qualified healthcare professional.
Is Ashwagandha Good For You
Ashwagandha may be good for you if your are struggling with anxiety or depression as well as if you are trying to boost muscle strength and endurance. However, it isn’t right for everyone especially those who are pregnant or taking certain medications.
If you are considering taking ashwagandha as a supplement, talk with your doctor. They will be able to evaluate whether it is right for you and help you explore other options that may be more appropriate for your individual situation.