Withania somnifera, more commonly known as ashwagandha is one of the most popular medicinal plants used in Ayurvedic formulations. It has been in use since ancient times and it’s well-known for its wide-ranging benefits.
At present, ashwagandha is also used in many dietary supplements for its rejuvenating and restorative properties. It’s also considered as an adaptogen because it’s a great tonic for relieving stress. But did you know that ashwagandha can also help improve your sexual health?
#1 Reduced Stress For Improved Libido
If you’ve ever experienced being so stressed that you lost interest in sex, then you know firsthand that stress can significantly reduce your libido. Not only that, stress is also a contributing factor to many sexual dysfunctions such as erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and delayed ejaculation.
What’s great about ashwagandha is that being an adaptogen, it greatly helps in lowering your stress levels. Traditionally, ashwagandha is considered as a rasayana plant, meaning it has rejuvenating properties. Among the various beneficial phytochemicals the plant contains, withanolides are the ones considered as the responsible agents for ashwagandha’s therapeutic properties.
In one study involving 64 adults complaining of stress, ashwagandha treatment was found to be effective in reducing anxiety, insomnia, and stress. Furthermore, the participants who were treated with ashwagandha extract showed significantly lower levels of cortisol.
Cortisol is considered as a biomarker of stress because the body produces it in high concentration during acute stress. However, when the level of stress decreases, the body also naturally decreases its production of stress.
#2 Testosterone-Boosting Properties
Ashwagandha helps boost the production of testosterone in the body which is why it’s also popularly used in athletic performance supplements. In sports nutrition, ashwagandha is also known to help improve muscle growth and hasten recovery after exercise.
In many studies wherein the effects of ashwagandha on male fertility and sexual health were investigated, ashwagandha was found to help improve the levels of sex hormones.
For instance, in one study involving seventy-five men who were undergoing infertility screening, treatment with ashwagandha resulted in increased serum testosterone and luteinizing hormone levels.
The testosterone-boosting properties of ashwagandha are even more evident in animal models. In several animal studies, treatment with ashwagandha resulted in increased serum testosterone levels.
#3 Improved Sperm Parameters
In the study cited above, the seventy-five men who were treated with ashwagandha showed improved sperm count and motility after the treatment. Moreover, their seminal plasma levels of vitamins A, C, and also increased. These three vitamins act as antioxidants in the seminal fluid, protecting the sperm cells from oxidative stress. They also prevent the abnormal development of the sperm cells so sperm morphology also improves.
There have been many studies regarding the spermatogenic and aphrodisiac properties of ashwagandha. In mice, for example, ashwagandha is known to decrease mounting latency. This means that it took a shorter period of time for male mice treated with ashwagandha to mount their female counterparts as compared to mice that did not receive the treatment.
Ashwagandha has also been shown to increase daily sperm production in mice. Moreover, because ashwagandha also helps increase the concentration of antioxidants in the testes and seminal fluid, the sperm cells are protected from oxidative stress and are therefore healthier.
#4 Improved Sexual Function
Ashwagandha is one of the Ayurvedic herbs that are popularly known to treat erectile dysfunction. The truth is that ashwagandha does not only help improve male sexual health, it also benefits women as well.
In a pilot study wherein the effects of ashwagandha on the sexual function of women were investigated, women who were treated with ashwagandha root extracts showed improved scores in arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and sexual satisfaction. Women who were given the treatment also reported higher numbers of successful sexual encounters as compared to women who did not receive any ashwagandha treatment.
Traditional Uses Of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is known to have multiple uses in traditional medicine, thanks to its various health properties. Its species name somnifera means to sleep in Latin, which is a reference to the plant’s sedative properties. One common traditional use of ashwagandha is for the treatment of thyroid disorders.
Ashwagandha roots are used to prepare herbal formulations that help boost the immune, nervous, and musculoskeletal systems. Extracts made with ashwagandha are known to treat mental illness, improve libido, help tone the muscles, as well as improve stamina and strength.
Recent studies on the therapeutic properties of ashwagandha focused on its oncological, neuroprotective, and immunological uses. For its neuroprotective properties, ashwagandha is associated with improved memory and cognitive functions.
A recent study investigated the efficacy of ashwagandha in improving cognitive functions as well as memory in adult participants with mild cognitive impairment. After only two months of treatment, those who were treated with ashwagandha showed improvements in logical memory and verbal paired associates. The participants also showed improvements in remembering faces and family pictures.
With regard to their cognitive functions, the participants exhibited significant improvement in sustained attention and executive function. The information-processing speed of participants treated with ashwagandha was also better compared to those who did not receive the treatment.
Aside from its positive effects on cognitive function and memory, ashwagandha is also considered to have neuroprotective effects. One study indicated that ashwagandha could be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. The disease not only affects memory, it also impairs cognitive functions. Moreover, Alzheimer’s disease is often accompanied by stress, depression, and anxiety.
The study showed that ashwagandha can help neutralize the damage to the neurons caused by beta-amyloid, the compound that causes plaque to form in the brain which results in neural degeneration. Moreover, the results of the study showed that ashwagandha may be helpful in neutralizing the degeneration of brain cells caused by HIV infection.
Other health benefits associated with ashwagandha include improved cardiovascular health, better blood sugar balance, and improved quality of sleep. Moreover, ashwagandha is also used as a treatment for joint pains.
The root extract of ashwagandha is known to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties due to its withanolide glycosides content. When the root extract of ashwagandha was tested on patients experiencing pain and discomfort in their knee joints, the results of the study showed that ashwagandha significantly improved the patients’ condition after only four weeks of treatment.