Before modern medicine, ancient medical systems cared for the population with natural remedies. The ancient healing practice known as Ayurvedic medicine is renowned for its use of plant-based substances in healing and recovery.
One such substance is ashwagandha, also known as Indian Ginseng and Withania Somnifera. Ashwagandha is a staple part of the ayurvedic approach and is emerging in popularity in recent years as more and more people are finding out about its profound healing properties. Read about the benefits of Ashwagandha for women.
Some might rationalize that medicine today far outperforms the natural remedies used in ancient civilizations. Our technology is indeed far more advanced, and we get a far more accurate diagnosis of conditions, but the Ayurvedics and other ancient healers knew what they were doing.
Consistent research shows just how powerful ayurvedic medicines such as natural herbal remedies, breathwork, and connecting with nature boost our physical and mental health and can help us recover from a broad range of issues.
What is ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is a shrub found in India, the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Asia. The technical term for the plant is Withania somnifera, and it survives in dry terrain and at high altitudes.
As a medicine, ashwagandha is classified as a CAM – complementary and alternative medicine. It won’t necessarily cure a disease or be a suitable replacement for targeted medication. It’s a herbal supplement, which means it can support you and your body and help you on your path to achieving optimal health.
So, what exactly does ashwagandha do?
What does ashwagandha do?
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen. Adaptogens are plant-based substances that help the body handle and reduce stress. As such, many people use ashwagandha extract to help them overcome feelings of stress and anxiety. Adaptogens have positive healing effects on the entire bodily system since they promote rest and calmness.
While research continues into ashwagandha, its efficacy, and its long-term effects, the research that currently exists looks promising for this ancient ayurvedic medicine. Thanks to its stress-busting properties, it can lead to a domino effect of positive, health-oriented changes within the body. Several research studies over the past decade report that the health benefits of ashwagandha include:
- Anxiety relief, chronic stress relief
- Greater sleep quality and efficiency
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Stronger immune system
- May offer relief from depression symptoms
- Increased fertility in men
- Improved hormone balance and function
- Improved cognitive function (memory, attention)
Some of the health benefits of ashwagandha have stronger evidence than others. The most substantial evidence that exists is that which highlights ashwagandha’s stress-reducing properties. As mentioned earlier, this herb is an adaptogen, which helps the brain and body lower the circulating levels of the stress hormone cortisol. With less cortisol racing around the body, we have a chance to enter the parasympathetic nervous system, the PSNS, and get some high-quality rest.
With less stress, we experience less inflammation. Since inflammation is one of the leading causes and symptoms of illness and disease, using ashwagandha for reduced stress also may prevent the onset of other health issues.
Is ashwagandha good for women?
Ashwagandha is good for (almost) everyone. Both women and men can benefit from adding ashwagandha supplements to their diet. Still, some benefits apply to women that make ashwagandha a highly appealing substance. We already know that ashwagandha reduces stress and anxiety, promotes high-quality sleep, and boosts testosterone and fertility in men, but what can it do for you as a woman?
1. Reduced stress
Regardless of gender, most if not all of us can benefit from reduced stress. We live in a busy world that focuses heavily on productivity, so we rarely give ourselves adequate time and space to truly rest. Further, many of us don’t follow a varied and balanced enough diet to naturally boost our stress tolerance and emotional resilience through diet alone. This is reflected in the mass coverage of stress-busting techniques, supplements, and ‘life hacks’ available online and all over the media. It’s not just product hype – the popularity of stress-reduction methods reflects just how common and problematic stress and poor stress tolerance is to the modern individual.
Without proper stress management techniques, we face a range of health issues, from mental health problems like anxiety and depression, behavioral health issues such as eating disorders and substance abuse, or physical health issues like inflammation and hormonal imbalance.
Stress and eating disorders
In women, excess, prolonged, or chronic stress has a range of detrimental health effects. According to research, women, in particular, are at risk of overeating due to stress. Overeating can then lead to more significant stress, especially when the food of choice is highly processed. Undereating is another stress coping mechanism women tend to be at risk of.
Both overeating and undereating are symptoms of eating disorders, which can be exacerbated and cause an increased experience of stress, along with other unhealthy coping mechanisms like purging, social withdrawal, and deterioration of one’s mental health. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, around 10 million women in the U.S struggle with some type of eating disorder.
Ashwagandha’s stress-reducing properties help the mind and body enter a more calm state. From this place, it’s become much easier to take control of your behavior and opt for healthier coping mechanisms to deal with your feelings.
Stress and the menstrual cycle
Unhealthy amounts of stress also impact the menstrual cycle. A regular cycle is a sign of good health, but extra-stressed women can suffer from an imbalance of hormones, disrupting the cycle and making it unpredictable.
Prolonged stress may even cause you to miss a period, which can lead to confusion and more stress. Ashwagandha reduces cortisol, which is the culprit hormone for irregular periods and other stress-related issues.
2. Increased libido
Many people struggle with a healthy libido, either through occasional difficulty with getting and staying aroused or more frequent and frustrating sexual dysfunction. If that resonates with you, you’re not alone – 1 in 8 women struggle with stress-related sexual dysfunction every year. This is a concern for both men and women equally and partly contributes to a recent surge in interest in ashwagandha supplementation.
Excess stress wears away our libido and all other enjoyable and affirming aspects of life and health. ‘Chronic stress, experienced often in modern life, may lead to sexual dysfunction in females’ explains researchers Swati Dongre and colleagues.
As well as its many other benefits, ashwagandha has long been used as an aphrodisiac. Modern studies have found that women who supplement with ashwagandha can enjoy increased libido. This study published in BioMed Research International reports that ‘ashwagandha root extract may improve sexual function in women.’
According to the study, in which female participants were administered an ashwagandha root extract and were compared with a placebo group, ‘significant improvement was observed in the number of successful sexual encounters in the group who received ashwagandha.
3. Improved hormone balance
Hormonal imbalances in women play a key role in female infertility. Progesterone, in particular, has consistently been linked to difficulties with getting pregnant. The adaptogen ashwagandha works in the body by assessing what hormones are out of balance and working to restore them.
Ultimately, ashwagandha will optimize your progesterone levels, which has a positive knock-on effect on your reproductive system and as well as your entire body. Ashwagandha is a popular supplement of choice for menopausal women as it can combat the physical and mental stress and strain of this time of significant change in a woman’s life.
4. Hair and skin health
Elevated levels of cortisol in the bloodstream speed up the aging process. It breaks down the structural integrity of the skin, which increases the likelihood of developing wrinkles sooner.
While both men and women may want to slow down the aging process, there are a plethora of beauty products out there that target women specifically that claim to slow down aging and protect the skin, which indicates a high supply and demand for such health products.
Ashwagandha is a safe, effective, and natural alternative to creams and serums and works on slowing down the aging process from the inside out.
5. Improved mental health
Anything you do to reduce stress (as long as it’s healthy and adaptive) will positively impact your mental health. Such is the reason why any good health practitioner would recommend regular exercise and a nutritious diet to anyone struggling with their mental health.
Ashwagandha’s stress-busting potential means it’s a helpful tool to reduce your stress levels and give your mind and body some much-needed rest. While mental health issues are not gender-exclusive, statistics show that women are twice as likely as men to experience depression and anxiety. By supplementing your diet with ashwagandha, you can reduce your risk of developing or exacerbating mental health symptoms and disorders.
When to take ashwagandha for women
There’s no right or wrong time to take an ashwagandha supplement. Generally, people use ashwagandha for its stress-busting and sleep-inducing qualities, in which case it makes sense to take it at night, around 30 minutes before you go to bed.
Sleep is a function of the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS). Ashwagandha’s stress-reduction means it helps the body come out of sympathetic nervous system activation (stress, fight/flight) and into PSNS (Rest and digestion). You may already know firsthand that falling and staying asleep is close to impossible if you feel stressed. By taking ashwagandha close to bedtime, you help your body prepare for some deep, quality rest.
You can take ashwagandha in the morning, or any time of day for that matter, if you so wish. If you do decide to take in the morning, try to wait until you’ve had breakfast. One of ashwagandha’s few side effects is that it can cause some stomach discomfort and nausea if taken on an empty stomach.
Ashwagandha while breastfeeding
Ongoing research into the safety and long-term efficacy of ashwagandha suggests it’s safe and effective for most people. However, some people may need to avoid it during certain times of their life.
If you’re breastfeeding, then it’s best not to take any ashwagandha supplement or take a break from use if you already use it. You might be tempted to reach for anything that can calm your stress and boost your sleep, given that you’ve got a new baby in the home and you’re probably not sleeping as well as you could be. Still, while ashwagandha can promote high-quality sleep, it has some side effects that counter its benefits for postpartum women.
The research and evidence on ashwagandha’s side effects are still unclear, but higher doses of ashwagandha can have undesirable side effects like diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and drowsiness. Ultimately, the biggest risk associated with taking ashwagandha while breastfeeding is that there hasn’t been enough solid evidence to prove that it’s safe.
As a mother, you’ll naturally want to prioritize your baby’s safety, so it may be best to avoid this herbal remedy for a while. This article is not a substitute for medical advice, so please consult a doctor or other medical professional who knows your medical history.
The ayurvedic medical tradition focuses on targeting illness and disease, which includes chronic stress, and reflects an imbalance within the body. As such, it applies herbal remedies, breathwork, meditation, and self-understanding as modes of restoring that inner physical and emotional balance and improving one’s quality of life as a result,
More and more of us have begun to seek alternative medicine as we learn more about the unwanted and sometimes debilitating symptoms of congestion medicines. Prescription pain relievers have led to a global pandemic of misuse and addiction and highlight just how important it is to take a more holistic approach to our health and well-being.
Ashwagandha supplements have been proven to reduce stress, improve sleep, and optimize health, so if these are things you struggle with, ashwagandha may be exactly what you’re looking for.
On a final note, be mindful of why you’re using ashwagandha or any other supplement. If you want to reduce stress, let it be because you see that too much stress is toxic for your health and that supplementation will be a means of calming yourself down enough to get some mental clarity and support your mind and body as you venture into other health-oriented stress reduction techniques such as conscious breathing, yoga, and another nourishing exercise, and mindful living.
To quote Acharya Shunya, author of Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom:
“A well-lived day is medicine unto itself.”
Ashwagandha for women FAQS
Does ashwagandha increase testosterone in females?
Ashwagandha is known to boost testosterone in men, but don’t let that deter you. Some women fear that the testosterone-boosting effects of ashwagandha may have undesirable consequences, but there is nothing to fear.
Ashwagandha adapts to the body’s needs. That’s why it’s called an adaptogen. It works on the body’s endocrine (hormone) system to fix the body’s hormonal imbalances in the body. As such, it can help you boost estrogen levels without necessarily giving you extra testosterone.
How long does it take for ashwagandha to work?
Consistency is essential when it comes to dietary changes and other health-oriented lifestyle practices. Ashwagandha supplements, or any supplement for that matter, should never wholly replace a varied and balanced nutrient-rich diet. It should be used in addition to a healthy diet to optimize your overall health, sense of well-being, stress management, and cognitive function.
Research suggests that ashwagandha’s greatest benefits, such as physical and mental stress-reduction, sleep induction, and hormonal balance, begin to take effect after around two weeks of supplementation. It’s recommended that one take ashwagandha for a maximum of three months at a time, after which beak is recommended.
To get the most out of this rejuvenating herbal drug, take around 600 mg per day, in the form of two 300 mg doses, either as ashwagandha powder in tea or its capsule form.
Ashwagandha empty stomach
There is no perfect time to take ashwagandha, but many people add it to their night-time routine, consuming a supplement around 30 minutes before bed. You can take it in the morning if you like, but some people report mild stomach discomfort when they take it on an empty stomach.
You might want to add your ashwagandha supplement to your supplement routine in the morning, along with other vitamins and minerals, so if you do, it’s best to eat some breakfast. First, Food kick starts your digestion and helps your body process and digest the ashwagandha more effectively. If you’re not a big fan of breakfast, feel free to add some ashwagandha to a smoothie or healthy drink like herbal tea.