Ashwagandha or Withania Somnifera is an ancient herb with multiple usages. It basically focuses on men’s health. However it also have some beneficial effects for women’s health. If you search in internet you will find some. But question is how much weight-age do it has? Going through the article you will know about ashwagandha and women’s health and other concern like safety matters what you need to know.
Previous article for other information about Ashwagandha and men’s health
Ashwagandha and women’s health: what you need to know?
Helps to reduce stress and anxiety
Chronic stress is well documented in development of many diseases in modern days. Some common health problems related to stress includes(1)
Heart disease, high blood pressure
Gastrointestinal problems, indigestion,
Adaptogen an unique natural substance from plant source that help body to adapt stress. In other words rather a specific action adaptogens respond to stressor and help your body normalizing functions. Having adaptogenic property ashwagandha helps to balance your stress response. Study also reported ashwagandha may help to reduce stress hormone cortisol. (2,3)
A double-blinded, randomized controlled trial concluded Ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.(4) Other studies including RCT concluded that Ashwagandha intervention resulted in greater score improvements (significantly in most cases) than placebo in outcomes on anxiety or stress scales.(5, 6) Ashwagandha roots also have positive effects on the central nervous system like modulation of neurotransmission as well as GABA activity. Which in turn help to calm down, relax and balanced.(7) Calming effect of ashwagandha helps to improve in over all health. Remember adaptogen can help you to manage stress but in long term you should address to root cause of stress.
In Hypothyroidism or under-active thyroid the thyroid gland of the endocrine system does not produce enough thyroid hormone. In animal studies ashhwagandha shows potential to stimulate thyroid function by increasing thyroid hormone.(8,9) A Double-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial concluded ashwagandha root may be beneficial for normalizing thyroid hormone in subclinical hypothyroid patients. Researcher found 8 week intake of ashwagandha at 600 mg daily improved blood thyroid hormone compared to placebo.(10) In an another study ashwagandha increases thyroid function by increasing thyroid hormone T4 in patients with bipolar disorder. (11) Ashwagandha stimulates thyroid hormone, therefore it appears as preventive measure for hypothyroid or under active thyroid gland. Hence individual with hyper active thyroid gland should avoid ashwagandha.
Improve libido –reproductive health
Ashwagandha increases serum testosterone level in men. Similarly Ashwagandha may increase testosterone in women and offset androgen deficiency syndrome.(12) In study found increase of serum testosterone (17%) as well as luteinizing hormone (34%) levels in men with administration of ashwagandha for 12 weeks.(13) Luteinising hormone regulates the function of the testes in men and ovaries in women. It stimulate the ovarian follicles in the ovary to produce the female sex hormone, oestradiol. (14) Although testosterone or androgen appears like male hormone but don’t let the name fool you. Women also have androgen hormone but in varying or lesser amount about one tenth to one twentieth of the amount produced by the male body. The predominant and most active androgen is testosterone. Androgens contribute to growth and reproduction in both men as well as women. (15)
Stress plays a major role in regulating the sensitive reproductive hormones that impact fertility, libido, and healthy menstruation.(16) We have already discussed the same. One way ashwagandha helps to manage stress and quality of life.
One randomized, double blind, and placebo-controlled pilot study on 50 women found ashwagandha had improved Female Sexual Function Index such as sexual desire, arousal, satisfaction and lubrication.(17) Another 2018 published Systematic Review concluded that ashwagandha enhances sexual behaviors in female.(18)
Mounting evidence from cell culture and animal studies suggest that WS or ashwagandha possesses anti-tumorigenic properties. Researchers found not only root extract but also leaf of ashwagandha possesses cancer protecting properties. They found bio-active compound of ashwagandha is protective against numbers of cancer including prostate and breasts cancer. And additionally ashwagandha more specifically withanolide a bio active compound of ashwagandha has the liver protecting effect.(19) In numbers of animal studies ashwagandha root extract significantly reduced the rate of cell division in estrogen-receptor positive breast cancers. (20,21,22) However we need more rigorous human study.
In test tube ashwagandha leaf increased insulin secretion in pancreatic beta cells and improved insulin sensitivity.(23) A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study on both men and women reported ashwagandha root improved fasting blood glucose.(2) Some other human studies also reported blood sugar lowering effects of ashwagandha in both healthy as well as diabetics. (24,25)
Dosage and Precaution
Although ashwagandha appears as safe for human consumption due to it’s non-toxic property large doses may cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and vomiting. It may also lower blood pressure level. Pregnant, breastfeeding women disease should avoid it. Also ashwagandha might cause the immune system to become more active. So it may increases the symptoms of auto-immune diseases. Therefore people with auto-immune condition better should avoid ashwagandha. (26)
Common dosage of root is 300–500 mg with meals in a day.
Although we have numbers of quality study for the case of men,we don’t have large data of ashwagandha for women. Therefore it is better to use in a cautious way.
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://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/features/10-fixable- stress-related-health-problems#1 2.https://blog.priceplow.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/withania_review.pdf 3. Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S., A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high- concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults, Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul;34(3):255-62 4. K. Chandrasekhar, Jyoti Kapoor, and Sridhar Anishetty, A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults, Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul-Sep; 34(3): 255–262 5.Pratte MA, Nanavati KB, Young V, Morley CP, An alternative treatment for anxiety: a systematic review of human trial results reported for the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Dec;20(12):901-8 6. Cooley K, Szczurko O, Perri D, Mills EJ, Bernhardt B, Zhou Q, Seely D., Naturopathic care for anxiety: a randomized controlled trial ISRCTN78958974 PLoS One. 2009 Aug 31;4(8):e6628. 7.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 8.Panda S, Kar A.,Withania somnifera and Bauhinia purpurea in the regulation of circulating thyroid hormone concentrations in female mice, J Ethnopharmacol. 1999 Nov 1;67(2):233-9 9. Jatwa R, Kar A., Amelioration of metformin-induced hypothyroidism by Withania somnifera and Bauhinia purpurea extracts in Type 2 diabetic mice, Phytother Res. 2009 Aug;23(8):1140-5 10.Sharma AK, Basu I, Singh S.,Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Subclinical Hypothyroid Patients: A Double-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial,J Altern Complement Med. 2018 Mar;24(3):243-248 11. Jessica M. Gannon, Paige E. Forrest, and K. N. Roy Chengappa, Subtle changes in thyroid indices during a placebo-controlled study of an extract of Withania somnifera in persons with bipolar disorder, J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2014 Oct-Dec; 5(4): 241–245 12. Swati Dongre, Deepak Langade, and Sauvik Bhattacharyya, Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Improving Sexual Function in Women: A Pilot Study, Biomed Res Int. 2015; 2015: 284154. 13. Vijay R. Ambiye, Deepak Langade, Swati Dongre, Pradnya Aptikar, Madhura Kulkarni, and Atul Dongre, Clinical Evaluation of the Spermatogenic Activity of the Root Extract of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in Oligospermic Males: A Pilot Study, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 571420 14. http://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/luteinising-hormone/ 15.https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/andro gen-deficiency-in-women 16. Wasser SK, et al., Psychosocial stress as a cause of infertility, Fertil Steril. 1993 Mar;59(3):685-9. 17. Swati Dongre, Deepak Langade, and Sauvik Bhattacharyya, Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Improving Sexual Function in Women: A Pilot Study, Biomed Res Int. 2015; 2015: 284154 18.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 19.Dushani L. Palliyaguru, Shivendra V. Singh, and Thomas W. Kensler, Withania somnifera: from prevention to treatment of cancer, Mol Nutr Food Res. 2016 Jun; 60(6): 1342–1353. 20.KAMEL F. KHAZAL, TEMESGEN SAMUEL, DONALD L. HILL,and CLINTON J. GRUBBS, Effect of an Extract of Withania somnifera Root on Estrogen Receptor- positive Mammary Carcinomas, Anticancer Res. 2013 Apr; 33(4): 1519–1523. 21. Khazal KF, Hill DL, Grubbs CJ, Effect of Withania somnifera root extract on spontaneous estrogen receptor-negative mammary cancer in MMTV/Neu mice, Anticancer Res. 2014 Nov;34(11):6327-32 22. Khazal KF, Samuel T, Hill DL, Grubbs CJ. Effect of an extract of Withania somnifera root on estrogen receptor-positive mammary carcinomas, Anticancer Res. 2013 Apr;33(4):1519-23. 23.Gorelick J, Rosenberg R, Smotrich A, Hanuš L, Bernstein N., Hypoglycemic activity of withanolides and elicitated Withania somnifera, Phytochemistry. 2015 Aug;116:283-289 24. Raut AA, Rege NN, Tadvi FM, Solanki PV, Kene KR, Shirolkar SG, Pandey SN, Vaidya RA, Vaidya AB.,Exploratory study to evaluate tolerability, safety, and activity of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in healthy volunteers, J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2012 Jul;3(3):111-4. 25. Andallu B, Radhika B.,Hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic effect of winter cherry (Withania somnifera, Dunal) root, Indian J Exp Biol. 2000 Jun;38(6):607-9 26.https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-953/ashwagandha