If you are trying to optimize your health, you have likely come across terms like “superfoods“ and “adaptogens.“
Superfoods and adaptogens are thought to be natural compounds or foods that can provide significant health benefits, ranging from increasing longevity and optimizing hormones to reducing the risk of certain diseases and supporting weight loss.
Ashwagandha has gained traction in natural health and natural medicine practices over the past several years, with various touted benefits of ashwagandha ranging from increasing testosterone to reducing stress.
In this health guide, we will discuss what ashwagandha is and what it does in the body, its benefits and side effects, the effect of ashwagandha and testosterone on sex drive, and other important information about ashwagandha safety and usage.
We will cover:
- What Is Ashwagandha?
- What Does Ashwagandha Do In the Body?
- Ashwagandha and Testosterone: Does Ashwagandha Boost Testosterone Levels?
- How Does Ashwagandha Increase Testosterone Levels?
- How Much Ashwagandha Per Day Should I Take?
Let’s get started!
What Is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha (scientific name: Withania somnifera) is a natural, evergreen shrub native to regions in the Middle East, Africa, and India.
Ashwagandha uses have skyrocketed in recent years in various natural supplements in the “Western world.”
However, according to the Cleveland Clinic, ashwagandha has actually been integrated into traditional Ayurvedic medicine for centuries for just about every ailment under the sun.
Given its prominence in Ayurvedic medicinal and nutritional therapies, its place of origin, and its botanical similarities to other herbs and shrubs, ashwagandha may also go by the names “Indian winter cherry“ and “Indian ginseng.“
What Does Ashwagandha Do In the Body?
So, what is ashwagandha for? What can ashwagandha do in the body?The ashwagandha effects on the human body are thought to be fairly wide-reaching.
In fact, in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha uses span the gamut from improving digestion to increasing muscle mass.
Some herbal medicine practitioners consider ashwagandha to be a cure-all or “Swiss Army knife” of herbal remedies, meaning that the ashwagandha effects and uses of ashwagandha for health conditions seem to touch upon most systems of the body.
Most of the purported benefits of ashwagandha are thought to be due to the high concentration of a steroidal lactone known as withanolides.
These are powerful compounds that have been found to confer anti-cancer properties, such as inhibiting tumor growth and suppressing inflammation.
Even in the absence of these anti-cancer benefits, the fact that ashwagandha seems to confer anti-inflammatory benefits is one of the main reasons why ashwagandha supplements have such a wide range of uses and can be helpful for many health conditions.
Chronic, low-grade inflammation underlies many health conditions, such as heart disease, hypertension, obesity, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, PCOS, type 2 diabetes, rheumatological conditions like arthritis, acne and psoriasis, and certain cancers.
That said, while ashwagandha’s anti-inflammatory benefits are fairly well documented, the primary ashwagandha use is for reducing stress and anxiety.
Taking ashwagandha for stress reduction has become a popular practice outside of Ayurvedic medicine, which is why ashwagandha is now found in adaptogenic supplements, mushroom coffee, nootropic supplements, and natural stress-reducing supplements.
So, is Ashwagandha an adaptogen? A common question is: is ashwagandha an adaptogen? Furthermore, what is an adaptogen?
Yes, ashwagandha is considered to be an adaptogen, which is essentially a term that refers to an herbal supplement or compound that is thought to combat the effects of stress in the body or reduce physical and/or psychological stress symptoms.
Adaptogen uses have increased significantly over the past several years as the deleterious effects of chronic stress are becoming more broadly understood, and the awareness of how certain adaptogens like ashwagandha affect stress levels increases.
Ashwagandha and Testosterone: Does Ashwagandha Boost Testosterone Levels?
Aside from the association of ashwagandha and stress, the effects of ashwagandha on testosterone have also been one of the primary research areas and uses of ashwagandha.
After all, evidence suggests that our testosterone levels decrease by about 1 to 2% per year after age 30.
Plus, certain chronic diseases, medications, and obesity can impede testosterone production and may decrease testosterone levels faster than would be expected with aging.
The good news is that while some herbal remedies for low testosterone and natural supplements to boost testosterone have poor efficacy or safety risks, evidence suggests that ashwagandha may increase testosterone levels.
A study involving overweight middle-aged and older men (ages 40-70 years old) found that ashwagandha supplements using ashwagandha extract increased testosterone levels by 15% and increased DHEA levels by 18% over eight weeks.
DHEA is another hormone that produces numerous hormones in the body and also serves as a precursor to testosterone and other androgen hormones.
It found that the participants who took the ashwagandha supplements while strength training saw a significant increase in muscle mass, muscle strength, and muscle recovery after workouts.
Additionally, ashwagandha supplements lead to a fivefold increase in testosterone levels compared to the placebo group.
This is encouraging evidence for the benefits of ashwagandha for muscle growth as well as the benefits of ashwagandha for boosting testosterone levels.
Tangentially related to the ashwagandha and testosterone benefits, some studies have found that ashwagandha supplements may help decrease infertility issues in men.
Not all male infertility issues stem from low testosterone, though the ashwagandha infertility effects may be especially beneficial for men who have low testosterone coupled with stress-related infertility.
How Does Ashwagandha Increase Testosterone Levels?
Although there’s a fair amount of evidence suggesting that ashwagandha can increase testosterone levels and potentially boost testosterone production, the exact mechanism by which it increases testosterone has not yet been fully elucidated by researchers.
There are several prevailing theories that may help explain how ashwagandha and testosterone levels are positively associated.
For one, as mentioned, ashwagandha contains potent compounds that have anti-inflammatory benefits.
Chronic inflammation can impede natural testosterone production and expedite cellular aging.
Because a positive ashwagandha effect is that it decreases some of this inflammation and promotes cell health, natural testosterone production may increase.
In addition, the rate of age-related testosterone decreases in older men may slow down, meaning that older men are able to preserve higher levels of testosterone by taking ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha also displays strong antioxidant qualities.
Antioxidants are compounds that fight free radicals, which are reactive oxygen species that cause oxidative damage in the body.
Left unchecked, high levels of free radicals in the body can cause oxidative damage to the testes and compromise testosterone production.
Additionally, studies suggest that ashwagandha can increase the production of luteinizing hormone, which, in turn, supports the reproductive system and helps produce reproductive hormones such as testosterone.
Finally, by helping reduce stress levels, ashwagandha can help maintain physical and psychological health to promote natural testosterone production, male libido, energy to work out and follow a nutritious diet (both of which boost testosterone naturally), and optimize overall health.
After all, the effects of chronic stress are far-reaching, and reducing stress can promote better wellness in all areas of your life.
How Much Ashwagandha Per Day Should I Take?
Ashwagandha supplements may be sold by natural health stores or online through pharmacies that sell herbal supplements.
Ashwagandha can be found in capsule form, powders, gummies, teas, or drinkable liquids.
Ashwagandha is also frequently added to other adaptogen supplements alongside other adaptogenic herbs like medicinal mushrooms, depending on the intended purpose of the ashwagandha supplement.
Because ashwagandha is an herbal compound, ashwagandha dosages for specific conditions are not well-established nor well-regulated by the FDA or other government agencies.
Some studies have tested ashwagandha supplement dosages up to 5 grams per day with no demonstrated side effects, though liver toxicity has been reported in some cases.
Fortunately, ashwagandha side effects seem rare and mild in terms of what has been reported thus far, and ashwagandha has been used for hundreds, if not thousands, of years for various purposes.
That said, if you have underlying health conditions or take any type of medication or supplement, you should speak with your healthcare provider before taking ashwagandha supplements.
There may be drug interactions with ashwagandha or contraindications of taking ashwagandha under various conditions.
To learn more about supplements that may help boost testosterone naturally, check out our guide to the benefits of Tongkat Ali here.