Ashwagandha, scientifically Withania somnifera, is a plant species that is perhaps best known for its use as a herbal remedy in Ayuverdic medicine.
It is commonly sold in supplemental form, where it occupies 3 of the top 100 selling supplement spots on Amazon Canada.
My regular readers will recall that I’ve actually already written on some of the potential evidence-based benefits of Ashwagandha supplementation.
- Reductions in cortisol levels (the stress hormone)
- Reduction in perceived stress/anxiety levels (evidence is strongest for this effect)
- Improved sleep quality
- Improved athletic performance ( strength/endurance)
I encourage anyone curious about Ashwagandha’s role in these areas to give that piece a read.
Today, however, we turn our attention to Ashwagandha’s role in men’s sexual health including relevant themes under this umbrella.
Let’s also acknowledge the fact that many of the benefits noted above, given their relevance to quality of life and mental health, also have significant potential to contribute indirectly to improved sexual health.
With that being said, let’s see what else Ashwagandha may have to offer to men’s seuxal health.
Ashwagandha May Increase Male Testosterone Levels
In a 2022 randomized controlled trial published in Health Reports, men with low sexual desire who took 600 mg of Ashwagandha daily over an 8 week period ( 300 mg 2x per day) experienced around a ~15% increase in testosterone levels.
If you’d like to learn more about how foods/supplements interact with testosterone levels – please read my blog post on the subject.
Despite a deluge of products promising a “testosterone boosting” effect, the only other herbal supplement that is supported by any level of meaningful human evidence to increase testosterone levels is fenugreek.
Ashwagandha May Improve Male Sperm Health
I recently wrote a comprehensive article on how men can leverage nutrition and strategic supplementation to improve their sperm health and potentially improve their fertility as a result.
Ashwagandha was briefly mentioned in that piece, but I’d like to explore it further here.
In 2013, a pilot study was published to explore the effects of 675 mg daily Ashwagandha supplementation over a 90 day period ( similar dosage, duration to study above) in men with low sperm counts.
They found that Ashwagandha supplementation increased sperm count significantly while also improving other parameters of sperm health such as motility ( aka mobility – think “swimming”).
Ashwagandha May Improve Male Sexual Desire
When men with a low baseline sexual desire were provided 600 mg of Ashwandha daily over an 8 week period, they reported a significant increase in subjective sexual well being as measured by the DISF-M questionnaire which measures various aspects of sexual health including sex drive, orgasm, arousal and overall quality of the experience.
DISF-M, for those curious, stands for: the derogatis interview for sexual functioning-male.
Does It Work For Women Too?
It just might.
A recently published experimental study out of the Cureus journal found that Ashwagandha supplementation at the same levels/durations discussed above ( 600mg per day over 8 weeks) significantly improved self-reported sexual functioning in women who had baseline low sexual desire.
Sexual functioning in this study was measured by the FSFI scale ( Female Sexual Function Index) which takes into consideration desire, arousal,lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction and pain.
Recent evidence has also demonstrated to be safe and effective to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life in perimenopausal women as well.
Final Thoughts, Conservative Optimism
I’ll be the first to admit that Ashwagandha, from the supplemental perspective, is a breath of fresh air because several human studies of acceptable quality are published on its effects.
This is not the case for many popular supplements, but even so we have to acknowledge the overall quantity and robustness of available data is still relatively low and thus interpret the potential benefits of Ashwangandha supplementation with caution.
Even if it does offer real promise to improve areas of mental, physical and sexual health that are incredibly relevant to quality of life.
I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for new and better evidence and will report back to you as it comes.
Andy De Santis RD MPH