Ashwagandha is an incredibly powerful ancient herb also known as Withania Somnifera, Indian ginseng. It has it’s existence mainly in India, Nepal, China and Yemen. (1) It has more than 3000 year long history of therapeutic use e.g. energy improvement, stress management along with other uses.(2) However I am not taking the all those here. This article specifically to explore the ashwagandha benefits for men’s health in the area of fertility, stress reliever, performance. There are many animal studies in support to that but here we focus mainly on how it works supported by well designed human studies. Let’s start.
Ashwagandha benefits for men’s health: fertility, stress reliever, performance
The plant extract has many bio-active compounds and thereby exerts antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory activities.(3) The principal bio-active compounds of ashwagandha includes withanolides with major biochemical constituents as withaferin-A, withanolide-D and withanone. (4)
Ashwagandha in management of infertility
Two factors play important roles in infertility, oxidative stress and hormonal imbalance.
Oxidative stress and infertility
Free radical induced cell death or oxidative stress is recognized as major factor in age related and chronic health disorders. Oxidative degradation of lipid cells is considered to be a major contributing factor to infertility. Also semen from infertile men has been found to contain decreased antioxidant activity. (4)
A large systematic review and meta-analysis included 65 quality studies with region from Asia, Oceania, Europe, Africa and North/South America to examine relationship of oxidative stress and infertility. The research had included 3819 infertile as well as 2012 fertile human for study. And finally their outcome suggests that oxidative stress in seminal plasma resulting from decreased antioxidant defense are associated with male infertility.(5)Seminal plasma a complex fluid inside our body serves as a medium to carry, protect, and nourish male sex cell after ejaculation up to fertilization, and as a functional modulator of sex cell function.
Ashwagandha on oxidative stress and fertility of men
Ashwagandha reduces oxidative stress and improves the antioxidant potential of seminal plasma through antioxidant defense pathway.
Thus reduces free radical induced oxidative cell damage. And ashwagandha inhibits oxidative degradation of lipids in reproductive cells. (4)
Research found ashwagandha effectively reduced oxidative stress in seminal plasma of infertile men as well as improved level of diverse antioxidants.(6) In an another study with 3 months administration of ashwagandha in infertile men improves semen quality by reducing oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals and cell death, as well as improving essential metal ion such as copper, zinc, iron concentrations. (7)
Hormonal imbalance, infections and infertility
Hormonal imbalance is an another major reason causing infertility.(4) Chronic stress is already well documented in development of hormonal imbalance along development of many other diseases including heart disease. Testosterone, luteinizing hormone etc plays vital in role in reproductive system as well as maintaining energy level.
Adrenal gland releases stress hormone cortisol that regulates wide range of bio chemical activities throughout our body. And high corsitol level can cause numbers of health problems including negative effect on circulating testosterone concentrations. (8)
Ashwagandha on hormonal balance
As ashwagandha root has property of adaptogen, it has ability to promote homeostasis within the body, by decreasing the stress response, and normalizing the levels of cortisol, thereby alleviating infertility to some extent. Ashwagandha roots have several effects on the central nervous system, including modulation of neurotransmission as well as GABA activity. Ashwagandha prevents the stress induced cortisol-mediated decrease in testosterone level, as well as exerts an inhibitory action of prolactin on sperm production. These mechanisms normalize the male reproductive hormone levels and improve sperm parameters to enhance male fertility. Ashwagandha has been associated with normalization of sex hormone levels in infertile men who are under either psychological, physiological stress, or both, further supporting the adaptogenic qualities. (4)
Also read about top adaptogenic herbs to manage stress, fatigue and sleep.
Research findings Ashwagandha’s ability on fertility of men
A 2013 study done on 180 infertile male reported that Ashwagandha not only rebooted enzymatic activity of metabolic pathways and energy metabolism but also revitalized the reproductive harmonic balance. (9)
A 2018 published systematically reviewed and Meta analysis data published in Phytomedicine Journal demonstrated increase in sperm concentration (167%), semen volume (59%), and sperm motility (57%) in less fertile males after 90 days of ahwagandha treatment. They also reported increase of serum testosterone (17%) and luteinizing hormone (34%) levels. They found no reported adverse effects in infertile men. However the systematic data was limited to inclusion of 4 observational studies and 1 RCT. Therefore Meta Analysis of RCT was not performed.(10)
A recent 2019 RCT study on overweight men published in American Journal of Mens Health found ashwagandha extract (Shoden beads) for 8 weeks was associated with increased levels of DHEA-S and testosterone. (11) DHEA, testosterone are anti aging hormone.
Another 2018 published Systematic Review of the Available Evidence published in Biomed Research International collected data from PubMed, Scopus, Google Scholar, Cochrane Library, Science Direct, Web of Knowledge, Web of Science, and manual search of articles, grey literature, reference checking, and expert contact. And researchers finally concluded that ashwagandha enhances spermatogenesis and sperm related indices in male. (12)
In enhancing Performance
Ergogenic aids are mechanical, nutritional, pharmacological, physiological and psychological tools that athletes use to increase energy, performance and recovery. Scientists also focus on ashwagandha as an ergogenic aid.
As evaluation a randomized, prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study on 57 young men published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition concluded that ashwagandha supplementation significantly increases in muscle mass and strength. Researchers also suggest that ashwagandha supplementation may be useful in conjunction with a resistance training program.(13)
Another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled 2018 study published in the journal of Nutrients investigated 500 mg dose of an aqueous extract of Ashwagandha on recreationally active men for a period of12 weeks. They concluded ashwagandha improves upper and lower-body strength, supports a favorable distribution of body mass. They also reported that it’s well tolerance in recreationally active men over a 12-week resistance training and supplementation period. (14)
Toxicity and Safety
Extensive toxicological studies from clinical research on ashwagandha had shown it’s non-toxic property in a wide range of practical doses.(4) Ashwagandha appears as safe with oral intake. Large doses may cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and vomiting. Woman during Pregnancy and breast-feeding better should avoid it. Ashwagandha may also make immune system more active. Therefore individual with autoimmune condition should avoid it.
Ashwagandha might increase how much thyroid hormone the body produces. Therefore taking ashwagandha with thyroid hormone pills might cause too much thyroid hormone in the body. Also ashwagandha may decrease blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
Also read ashwagandha for women’s health.
You may take 300–500 mg of a root extract with meals in a day. However it needs more research to determine if higher doses can yield greater benefits. Goes well with Terminalia Arjuna for physical performance, turmeric, Milk thistle. (15) Also it goes well with ghee or clarified butter and honey as a good aphrodisiac to increase semen quantity, sperm count and mobility. (16)
Ashwagandha can reduce anxiety and stress, boost fertility and testosterone as well as performance in men. It has effective use in increasing semen quantity, sperm count and mobility as well as erectile dysfunction, low libido and premature ejaculation.(16) Although it appears as safe for most people it needs more long-term research. Therefore you should consult with your health care provider before application.
Disclaimer: Information provided here are generalized information for educational purpose only, not intended to provide one to one health consultation or replace practice of a qualified practitioner. Different people may have different health condition and may have different reaction to the same food. Hence it has been advised to consult with health care provider before application of any of above guidelines. Source and References: 1.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Withania_somnifera 2.Mohammad Hossein Mirjalili, Elisabeth Moyano, Mercedes Bonfill, Rosa M. Cusido, and Javier Palazón,Steroidal Lactones from Withania somnifera, an Ancient Plant for Novel Medicine, Molecules. 2009 Jul; 14(7): 2373–2393 3.Vijay K.BhartiJitendra K.MalikRamesh C.Gupta,Chapter 52 - Ashwagandha: Multiple Health Benefits,Nutraceuticals, Efficacy, Safety and Toxicity, 2016, Pages 717-733 4.Sengupta P, Agarwal A, Pogrebetskaya M, Roychoudhury S, Durairajanayagam D, Henkel R.,Role of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) in the management of male infertility,Reprod Biomed Online. 2018 Mar;36(3):311-326 5.Chao Huang et. al.,Is male infertility associated with increased oxidative stress in seminal plasma? A-meta analysis, Oncotarget. 2018 May 11; 9(36): 24494–24513 6.Ahmad MK, Mahdi AA, Shukla KK, Islam N, Rajender S, Madhukar D, Shankhwar SN, Ahmad S.,Withania somnifera improves semen quality by regulating reproductive hormone levels and oxidative stress in seminal plasma of infertile males,Fertil Steril. 2010 Aug;94(3):989-96. 7.Shukla KK et. al.,Withania somnifera improves semen quality by combating oxidative stress and cell death and improving essential metal concentrations, Reprod Biomed Online. 2011 May;22(5):421-7 8. Cumming DC, Quigley ME, Yen SS.,Acute suppression of circulating testosterone levels by cortisol in men,J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1983 Sep;57(3):671-3 9.Gupta A et. al.,Efficacy of Withania somnifera on seminal plasma metabolites of infertile males: a proton NMR study at 800 MHz., J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Aug 26;149(1):208-14 10.Durg S, Shivaram SB, Bavage S,Withania somnifera (Indian ginseng) in male infertility: An evidence-based systematic review and meta-analysis, Phytomedicine. 2018 Nov 15;50:247-256 11.Lopresti AL, Drummond PD, Smith S,A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo- Controlled, Crossover Study Examining the Hormonal and Vitality Effects of Ashwagandha ( Withania somnifera) in Aging, Overweight Males,Am J Mens Health. 2019 Mar-Apr;13(2) 12.Nasimi Doost Azgomi R et. at.,Effects of Withania somnifera on Reproductive System: A Systematic Review of the Available Evidence,Biomed Res Int. 2018 Jan 24;2018:4076430 13.Wankhede S, Langade D, Joshi K, Sinha SR, Bhattacharyya S.,Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial,J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015 Nov 25;12:43 14.Ziegenfuss TN, Kedia AW, Sandrock JE, Raub BJ, Kerksick CM, Lopez HL, Effects of an Aqueous Extract of Withania somnifera on Strength Training Adaptations and Recovery: The STAR Trial,Nutrients. 2018 Nov 20;10(11). pii: E1807. 15."Ashwagandha," Examine.com, published on 12 April 2014, last updated on 13 May 2019, https://examine.com/supplements/ashwagandha/ 16.M. Umadevi, R. Rajeswari, C. Sharmila Rahale, S. Selvavenkadesh, R.Pushpa, K.P.Sampath Kumar, Debjit Bhowmik,Traditional And Medicinal Uses of Withania Somnifera,THE PHARMA INNOVATION,ISSN: 2277- 7695 CODEN Code: PIHNBQ ZDB-Number: 2663038-2 IC Journal No: 7725 Vol. 1 No. 9 2012