Ashwagandha has been around for thousands of years, but only recently has it been recognized by modern science for its profound healing properties. This article will explore what ashwagandha is, why it’s such a powerful healing supplement, why ashwagandha for men is so important, and how men everywhere can benefit from supplementing it into their diet.
What is ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha, also known as withania somnifera or Indian ginseng, is a shrub native to India, North Africa, and parts of Asia. Only in recent years has it been appropriately recognized as a powerful stress-buster, sleep aid, and performance enhancer all in one. For thousands of years, it was a staple ingredient in a traditional form of traditional Indian medicine known as Ayurveda.
Ayurvedic medicine is an ancient medical system that views illness and disease as imbalances in the body and aims to restore the necessary balance through dietary and lifestyle changes, natural herbal remedies, and breathwork.
Nowadays, you might dismiss such an ancient medical practice as irrelevant since we live in such a medically and technologically advanced age. However, we still have the same brain, body, and nervous systems as we did back then, so what worked for the Ayurvedics can work for us.
Moreover, many modern medicines are based on chemical amounts that already exist in plants, herbs, and other natural, organic substances. If you’re still not convinced, understand that meditation and yoga are also core aspects of Ayurvedic medicine, and it’s hard to read or watch any self-help, personal development, and wellness content today that doesn’t tout the healing benefits of yoga and meditation.
Herbal supplements like Ashwagandha, as well as exercises such as yoga and tai chi, or mind-body practices such as meditation, are all aspects of an emerging area of modern medicine – complementary and alternative medicine, or CAMs.
CAMs are approaches to health and recovery that involve an individual’s lifestyle, habits, and unique needs and view the person as a whole system, rather than just a set of symptoms to be fixed with a pill or surgery.
Benefits of ashwagandha
The benefits of ashwagandha are not gender-exclusive. Both men and women can reap significant benefits from supplementing ashwagandha into their diet. Still, some benefits may spark men’s interest. First, let’s look at the overall health benefits of ashwagandha and then discuss how ashwagandha benefits men in particular.
Research is ongoing into the longer-term effects of ashwagandha, but the existing research looks promising. According to several studies, some of the most notable healing properties of ashwagandha include:
- Reduces stress and anxiety, greater stress tolerance
- Strengthens the immune system
- Induces sleep and improves sleep efficiency
- Reduces the severity of depression symptoms
- Increases cognitive function (attention, memory)
How does ashwagandha reduce stress?
One of the ashwagandha’s primary benefits is its ability to reduce chronic stress. It does so by lowering cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is one of several stress-related hormones that gets released by the adrenal glands into the bloodstream during an experience of heightened stress. Those who experience chronic stress can benefit significantly from ashwagandha extract, such as those who struggle with an anxiety disorder or who have a low-stress tolerance.
Ashwagandha has such a powerful effect on stress because it’s an adaptogen – a plant-based substance that counters the body’s stress response and promotes parasympathetic nervous systems (PSNS) activation. The PSNS is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Regarding stress and anxiety, the SNS is like our body’s accelerator, while the PSNS is the brake pedal.
A 2008 double-blind placebo-controlled study found that ashwagandha extract helped chronically stressed adults achieve up to a 30 percent reduction in stress levels compared to the control group. This natural remedy is also a powerful sleep aid. In one study, patients with insomnia were administered a daily dose of ashwagandha extract over eight weeks and reported a significant 72 percent increase in sleep quality compared to the control group.
Health Benefits of ashwagandha for men
While both men and women can benefit from ashwagandha’s effects, particularly its; stress-busting potential and sleep-inducing properties, some of its benefits may appeal more to men, especially those looking to build muscle mass or call in support for their sexual wellness. Its hormonal and vitality effects make it a popular choice for men looking to boost their physical and mental performance in all areas of their life.
1. Ashwagandha for men’s sexual wellness
Studies are ongoing, and evidence isn’t entirely clear just yet, but researchers speculate that ashwagandha may boost male fertility and help men with erectile dysfunction.
According to research, around 30 million adult men in the US experience erectile dysfunction at some point in their lives. Erectile dysfunction (ED) has consistently been linked to higher rates of depression and anxiety in men, so many opt for medical intervention. There are many medications available to promote better erectile function, but many of these medications come with undesirable side effects. As such, more and more affected men are looking for natural remedies to promote their reproductive health.
Ashwagandha root extract is found to boost testosterone levels in the body, which may explain why it promotes reproductive health. In one study, participants with ED in the trial group were given ashwagandha powder for just over eight weeks. While one of the participants achieved complete remission for ED, a number of them experienced significant to moderate improvements in erectile function.
2. Ashwagandha and men’s mental health
Ashwagandha interacts with neural (brain) receptors, primarily those involved with serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Serotonin and GABA are highly associated with mood and our sense of wellbeing. A lack of deficiency in either of these mood-regulating neurotransmitters has consistently been linked to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Research suggests that around 14 percent of the 40 million people in the US who struggle with anxiety disorders are male adults. According to a 2013 study in JAMA psychiatry, around 30-31 percent of men have experienced a period of depression at least once in their life.
While treatment for anxiety and depression requires a multi-pronged approach that considers one’s lifestyle, medical history and involves a combination of psychotherapy and pharmacological intervention if necessary, dietary supplementation with ashwagandha can elicit significant improvements in symptoms.
Ashwagandha has been observed to improve function and communication in the neuroreceptors associated with setting and GABA, thus making it a potential means of relief from depression and anxiety symptoms.
Moreover, ashwagandha boasts significant anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects due to its ability to moderate cortisol release and promotes PSNS activation. The reduced severity of stress and anxiety symptoms offered by ashwagandha gives anxious and stressed men a chance to take a break from their symptoms and experience a significant increase in perceived wellness.
3. Ashwagandha, strength, and performance
In the ayurvedic tradition, ashwagandha is considered ‘Rasayana,’ a Sanskrit term that loosely translates to ‘life essence.’ Rasayana then refers to substances and herbs that are believed to lengthen one’s lifespan and improve quality of life.
A popular use of ashwagandha supplements is in sports performance. Researchers gave ashwagandha supplements to a trial group in one study involving male weightlifters. The study examined strength and performance in bench presses and leg extensions.
Participants in the trial group experienced major improvements in both muscle strength and size compared to the control group. The trial group also showed a reduced percentage of body fat and recovered more quickly post-workout than the control group.
Ashwagandha is also known to improve sleep quality and efficiency, two factors that play a significant role in physical health and wellbeing and muscle growth and repair. It also boosts levels of testosterone – the male growth hormone – in the body by reducing cortisol.
Testosterone and cortisol are known to have a negative reciprocal relationship, i.e., when one is high, the other is typically low. As such, ashwagandha’s ability to reduce cortisol levels in the body means it also supports healthy and adequate production and release of testosterone.
4. Ashwagandha for improved mental performance
Research on ashwagandha cognitive-boosting is ongoing, so there is limited evidence to support claims that it boosts cognitive performance. Still, there is some evidence, and it’s promising. One study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements found that ashwagandha root in the form of the KSM66 Ashwagandha supplement helped trial group participants boost their attention, information processing speed, and working memory. Several earlier studies indicate that ashwagandha may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties that contribute to its ability to improve brain function.
Is ashwagandha safe?
While ashwagandha is relatively safe, it does pose a health risk to certain individuals. If you have diabetes, then it may be best to avoid ashwagandha. Due to its calming, anxiolytic effects, ashwagandha can lower blood pressure and reduce blood sugar. If you have diabetes, you may already be taking medication that reduces your blood sugar levels, so combining those with ashwagandha may cause your blood sugar levels to drop too low.
It’s also wise to avoid ashwagandha if you have thyroid issues. Ashwagandha has been found to increase thyroid activity, so those with hyperthyroidism or related issues should avoid it.
In general, it’s wise to speak to your doctor about any supplement you wish to take. Most are safe, but some can interact negatively with other medications or exacerbate underlying conditions.
Ashwagandha is a popular area of research in complementary and alternative medicine, and while studies are ongoing regarding its efficacy and long-term safety, the evidence that does exist suggests that ashwagandha is both safe and effective in reducing anxiety and stress, improving immune system strength, and aiding sleep.
Men in search of supplementation to boost their wellbeing, improve cognition, boost reproductive health, and gain muscle mass and strength may benefit from taking an ashwagandha supplement at least 250mg per day over 8 to 12 weeks at a time.
Though supplements are becoming an increasingly popular means of boosting one’s nutrient intake and optimizing health, it’s important to remember that supplementation is not intended to replace a varied and balanced diet, rich in all of the essential nutrients and amino acids.
Ashwagandha and other herbal supplements do indeed contain unique chemical compounds that are not found elsewhere in the diet. However, to achieve optimal mental, physical, emotional, and sexual performance, a holistic approach is required in which supplements are an addition to one’s approach to health and not a replacement.
What is the best ashwagandha dosage for testosterone?
Testosterone, commonly referred to as the ‘male hormone,’ is heavily involved in producing and maintaining muscle mass and strength. Bodybuilders or those who simply wish to gain muscle mass can benefit from increasing their testosterone levels.
In one placebo-controlled study, the experimental group was given 500 mg of ashwagandha per day for 8 weeks and noticed around a 1 percent increase in strength compared to the placebo group.
In another study, male participants were administered 600 mg of ashwagandha extract every day for 8 weeks. They achieved around 1.5 times increase in strength and around 2 times increase in muscle size compared to the placebo group.
How much ashwagandha per day?
The exact dosage of ashwagandha that you will need per day will depend on your unique needs and whether or not you’re taking other medication or have a medical condition. Still, most ashwagandha benefits, such as reduced stress and anxiety, improved cognitive function, and higher quality sleep, can be achieved by taking around 500-600 mg per day for at least one month.
You can take ashwagandha every day, but for a healthy adult, the duration of supplementation is recommended at around 3 months. After 3 months, experts recommend tapering out your usage.
Is ashwagandha good for men?
Ashwagandha is good for both men and women. Its ability to boost mental performance, induce high-quality sleep, reduce stress, and improve one’s overall sense of wellbeing makes it a wise option for anyone looking to supplement their diet and optimize their health. Men, in particular, may be interested in ashwagandha for its reproductive health benefits and testosterone levels-boosting abilities.
Ashwagandha side effects men
Ashwagandha is relatively safe and has been found to have little to no side effects when taken in small doses and within the recommended dosage. However, taking higher doses has been linked to feelings of drowsiness and may cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Ashwagandha’s side effects are minimal in healthy adults, but those with pre-existing health conditions should consult a doctor or other medical professional before adding this supplement to their diet. Ashwagandha can lower blood sugar levels, so it can be dangerous for those with diabetes. It also boosts thyroid activity, meaning those with hyperthyroidism or other thyroid issues should be cautious.