11 Proven Ashwagandha Benefits for Men
When it comes to herbs that you can't spell, ashwagandha is a healthy medicinal herb.
It's technically classified as an "adaption," which means it can help your body manage stress. But that's not all — ashwagandha has many other benefits for your body and brain.
Related - Ashwagandha for Overall Health
It can reduce your cortisol levels, lower blood sugar levels, it can help fight symptoms of anxiety and depression, and it can also boost brain function.
What is Ashwagandha?
One of the most potent herbs in Ayurveda, it is a form of alternative medicine based on Indian principles of natural healing.
Ashwagandha is Sanskrit for "smell of the horse," which is a surprisingly accurate description of the smell of this herb. It's been used for over 3,000 years to increase energy levels, improve concentration, and to relieve stress.
If you are a botanical fanatic, the botanical name is Withania somnifera. It's also known as winter cherry and Indian ginseng.
A small shrub with yellow flowers, ashwagandha is native to India and North Africa. The extracts or powder from the plant's root or leaves are used to treat many conditions. The health benefits are mostly attributed to the high concentration of withanolides, which have been shown to fight tumor growth and inflammation.
Here are 15 proven benefits of ashwagandha for men.
#1 - It Could Reduce Blood Sugar Levels
In several studies, ashwagandha has been linked to lowering blood sugar levels. One test-tube study found an increased insulin secretion and improved insulin sensitivity in muscle cells.
Several other studies confirm its ability to reduce blood sugar levels in both healthy individuals and people with diabetes. In another four-week study, people with schizophrenia were treated with ashwagandha and had an average reduction in fasting blood sugar levels of 13.5 mg/dL, compared to a 4.5 mg/dL in those who received a placebo.
Another smaller study took six participants with type 2 diabetes and had them supplement with ashwagandha for 30 days. They found it lowered fasting blood sugar levels as effectively as oral diabetes medication.
The effects on insulin secretion and sensitivity may reduce blood sugar levels.
#2 - It Can Reduce Cortisol Levels
You've probably heard of cortisol, but it is known as the "stress hormone." Your adrenal glands release cortisol in response to stress, as well as when your blood sugar levels get too low.
If cortisol levels become chronically elevated, this can lead to high blood sugar levels and increased fat storage in the abdomen. Fortunately, there are many studies that suggest ashwagandha may help reduce cortisol levels.
One study took chronically stressed adults and found those who supplemented with ashwagandha had significant reductions in cortisol, when compared to the control group. Participants taking the highest dose had a 30% reduction on average.
#3 - It Has Anti-Cancer Properties
Both animal and test-tube studies have pinned ashwagandha as helping induce apoptosis, which is the programmed death of cancer cells. It has also been found to impede the growth of new cancer cells in several ways.
Animal studies also suggest that it could help treat several types of cancer, including:
Ashwagandha is believed to generate reactive oxygen species — these are toxic to cancer cells, but not normal cells. This may also cause cancer cells to become less resistant to apoptosis.
Another study took mice with ovarian tumors and treated them with ashwagandha and found a 70-80% reduction in tumor growth. This also prevented the spread of cancer to other organs.
There are, however, no studies to confirm these results in humans yet, but the research to date is pretty encouraging.
#4 - It Could Help Reduce Symptoms of Depression
There aren't enough thorough studies to confirm this, but a few studies have suggested ashwagandha may help alleviate depression symptoms.
One controlled 60-day study took 64 stressed adults. Those who took 600mg of high-concentration ashwagandha extract per day reported a 79% reduction in severe depression. The placebo group reported a 10% increase.
One thing to note about this study is only one of the participants in the study had a history of depression. While this doesn't mean the other participants were not dealing with the same depression levels, the relevance of the results are still unclear.
There is limited research available, but it suggests that ashwagandha could help reduce depression.
#5 - It May Help Reduce Anxiety and Stress
Ashwagandha is known best for its stress relieving abilities. Researchers report that it blocks the stress pathway in the brains of rats by regulating a chemical that signals the nervous system.
Other controlled human studies also have shown its effectiveness on reducing symptoms in people with stress and anxiety disorders.
In a 60-day study, researchers took 64 people with chronic stress. The supplemental group reported a 69% average reduction in anxiety and insomnia, compared to 11% in the placebo group.
Another six-week study found 88% of the participants who took ashwagandha reported a reduction in anxiety, compared to 50% of those who took a placebo.
Both animal and human studies have suggested ashwagandha as a stress and anxiety reliever.
#6 - It Can Boost Testosterone and Increase Fertility in Men
Ashwagandha could have powerful effects on your reproductive health and testosterone levels. One study took 75 infertile men. The group treated with ashwagandha showed an increased sperm count and motility. This treatment also lead to significant increases in testosterone levels.
Researchers reported the group who took the herb had an increased antioxidant level in their blood.
Another study found men who received the herb for stress experienced higher antioxidant levels and better sperm quality. After three months of the treatment, 14% of the men's partners had become pregnant.
Ashwagandha has been suggested to increase testosterone levels and significantly boost the sperm quality and fertility in men.
#7 - It Could Increase Muscle Mass and Strength
Along with some testosterone boosting qualities, ashwagandha has been shown to improve body composition and increase strength.
One study to determine a safe and effective dosage for this herb gave healthy men 750-1,250 mg per day of pulverized ashwagandha root per day and gained muscle strength after 30 days.
Another study found the group that took this herb had significantly greater gains in muscle strength and size. It also more than doubled the reduction in body fat percentage, when compared to the placebo group.
Studies suggest ashwagandha can increase muscle mass, reduce body fat, and improve strength in men.
#8 - It Could Reduce Inflammation
Several animal studies found ashwagandha helps decrease inflammation. Studies in humans have also found it increases the activity of natural killer cells. These are immune cells that help fight infection and stay healthy.
Ashwagandha has also been shown to decrease markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein. This marker has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
Another controlled study had one group take 250 mg of standardized ashwagandha extract daily. They found a 36% decrease of C-reactive protein on average, when compared to a 6% decrease in the placebo group.
Studies suggest ashwagandha increases natural killer cell activity and decreases markers of inflammation.
#9 - It May Improve Brain Function
Ashwagandha has been suggested to improve brain function and memory. Test-tube and animal studies suggest this herb may reduce memory and brain function problems that are caused by injury or disease.
Research suggests it promotes antioxidant activity that will protect nerve cells from the harmful free radicals. One study took epileptic rats and treated them with ashwagandha. They found the rats had nearly a complete reversal of spatial memory impairment. This is likely due to the reduction in oxidative stress.
In Ayurvedic practice, ashwagandha has been traditionally used to boost memory and improve brain function. There is only a small amount of human research in this area.
Another study took men who were healthy and gave them 500 mg of standardized extract daily. They reported significant improvements in task performance and reaction time when compared to the placebo group.
Another eight-week study took 50 adults and had them take 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract twice daily. They found this significantly improved their general memory, attention, and task performance.
#10 - It May Lower Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Along with the anti-inflammatory effects of ashwagandha, it could also improve your heart health by reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Animal studies have found this herb significantly decreases these blood fats. One study in rats found this lowered total cholesterol by as much as 53% and triglycerides by almost 45%.
Human studies have been less dramatic with the results, but they did observe impressive improvements in these markers.
One 60-day study took chronically stressed adults and found the group taking the highest dosage of standardized ashwagandha extract experienced a 17% reduction in your LDL, or bad cholesterol. There was also an 11% decrease in triglycerides on average.
#11 - It May Help Your Hormonal Balance
While the thyroid may be one of the most blamed gland for someone being fat, a slowed thyroid can cause fatigue, fuzzy thinking, and other health problems.
Ashwagandha has been suggested to increase your thyroid levels. You should consult with your doctor before taking this herb if you are taking thyroid medications already.
This herb helps support adrenal fatigue, and there is some evidence that ashwagandha can be used to overcome adrenal fatigue. Stress is one reason you could have adrenal fatigue, which this herb helps with, too.
While there aren't a lot of studies out there on ashwagandha, it is recommended that you do not take it if you have liver problems. Taking too much can induce vomiting, so if you have gastrointestinal issues, consumption is not recommended.
If you have stomach ulcers, don't take ashwagandha until they are fully healed and you are cleared by your doctor.
Ashwagandha is Safe for Most People and Widely Available
Used for thousands of years in Ayurveda, studies suggest this is overall a safe supplement for most people. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take it.
Individuals with autoimmune diseases should avoid ashwagandha unless you are authorized by a doctor. This also includes people with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, lupus, and type 1 diabetes.
If you are taking thyroid medication, please talk to your doctor before you start taking ashwagandha. This could potentially increase thyroid hormone levels in some people.
Ashwagandha also decreases blood sugar and blood pressure levels — those on medication may need to adjust their dosage.
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