Have you heard of ashwagandha? This incredibly useful medicinal herb is what’s known as an “adaptogen,” which means it can help restore balance throughout your body while minimizing the impact of outside stressors. The adaptogenic benefits of ashwagandha can improve your health in a multitude of ways, and studies show ashwagandha benefits for men are especially miraculous.
What Is Ashwagandha?
So, what is ashwagandha, exactly? The Sanskrit word “ashwagandha” translates (approximately) to “smell of the horse.” This healing herb earned this name both for its potent aroma as well as for its impressive ability to imbue those who ingest it with the vigor of a horse. Also called Indian ginseng and winter cherry, the ashwagandha plant (botanical name: Withania somnifera) is a small shrub with petite, bright red berries that is native to India and swathes of North Africa.
The ashwagandha root has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It’s classified as a Rasayana, meaning it promotes a viral, youthful physical and mental state. Ashwagandha is one of the absolute most important herbs in Ayurveda. Records show that for over 3,000 years, ashwagandha has been used to boost energy levels, enhance physical performance, improve concentration, and more.
Modern science concurs, and researchers attribute health benefits such as anti-inflammatory effects, tumor inhibition, and brain function improvement to ashwagandha's plentiful concentration of withanolides, a group of naturally occurring steroids.
Why Ashwagandha Benefits for Men Are Especially Exciting
When it comes to ashwagandha benefits, several of the most impressive are specifically for men. In fact, if you’re looking for natural ways to enhance male fertility or to increase stamina and endurance, you’d be hard pressed to find a better option than ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha Enhances Male Reproductive Health
While this adaptogenic herb has a reputation as an aphrodisiac that can benefit sexual function, a 2011 study showed that it did no better than a placebo at correcting erectile dysfunction. The effects of ashwagandha on fertility, however, have proven results in human studies.
Ashwagandha’s ability to enhance male reproductive health appears to stem from its powerful influence on stress levels, semen quality, sperm vitality, and testosterone levels.
One of the earlier studies on the link between ashwagandha and male reproductive health was published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2009. The authors were interested in ashwagandha because stress has been identified as a factor that can cause male infertility, and ashwagandha is known for its stress-combating properties. Study participants, who included both fertile and infertile men, took 5 grams of powdered ashwagandha root daily for 3 months. At the study’s conclusion, the researchers found that ashwagandha successfully decreased stress, improved antioxidant levels, and raised overall semen quality. In fact, 14% of participants had successfully impregnated their partners by the end of the study!
Findings published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2013 provided even more conclusive evidence that ashwagandha is a powerful male fertility aid. Data on the effects of 3 months of ashwagandha supplementation from the 180 infertile participants showed that it can improve sperm quality by increasing sperm count, concentration, and motility, three key markers of male fertility.
Plus, a study published in Fertility and Sterility that examined how ashwagandha influences semen profiles, oxidative biomarkers, and reproductive hormone levels in infertile men showed ashwagandha also boosts testosterone levels. The study enrolled 70 healthy, fertile men and 75 men undergoing infertility screening. Tests revealed that ashwagandha effectively reduced oxidative stress, lowered cortisol levels, and improved semen quality, and brought about significant increases in testosterone levels.
Ashwagandha Increases Strength and Endurance
High-quality research has shown that ashwagandha benefits for men include improving body composition as well as amping up muscular strength.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine looked at how ashwagandha extract affects muscle activity, exercise tolerance, and lean body weight and body fat percentages. Researchers analyzed hand-grip strength, quadriceps strength, and back extensor force as well as endurance while cycling. They found that 30 days of ashwagandha supplementation decreased body fat and increased muscle strength.
A separate study published in the International Journal of Ayurveda Research found that ashwagandha can improve exercise performance, specifically, velocity, power, and VO2 max. The authors concluded that it could be a useful way to overcome any feeling of generalized weakness as well as to increase your speed, coordination, and lower body strength.
Perhaps the most exciting results came from an 8-week study published in the International Society of Sports Nutrition that investigated how ashwagandha impacts muscle strength, muscle mass, body composition, and muscle recovery. The researchers used the 1-RM load for the bench press and leg extension exercises to gauge muscle strength and serum levels to measure recovery. Compared to the control group, the subjects given ashwagandha supplements showed seriously impressive gains in muscular strength and size, particularly through their arms and chests. Ashwagandha also more than doubled the reduction in body fat percentages and significantly shortened recovery time.
Are There Ashwagandha Side Effects?
Data shows that ashwagandha is safe for most people to take. For individuals with autoimmune diseases, it’s important to consult a medical professional before taking ashwagandha. Anyone taking medication for thyroid conditions should also check in with their prescribing practitioner, since ashwagandha can sometimes increase thyroid hormone levels. And since ashwagandha may also decrease blood sugar and blood pressure levels, you may need to adjust your dosages for any medications that also impact those.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s always wise to speak with a doctor before adding a powerful supplement to your wellness arsenal.
An Adaptogen for All
We've focused on ashwagandha benefits for men, but this botanical is truly an adaptogen for everyone's well-being. Chronic stress, which damages the immune system and launches a systemic inflammatory attack on the body, is the culprit behind most modern diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. By lowering stress hormones, ayurvedic herbs such as ashwagandha root extract protect the adrenal glands and nervous system from exhaustion, and keep us powered up with energy that benefits the entire body. This is one traditional remedy that will keep standing up to the test of time.