The supplements industry is flooded with products that promise to increase your libido while skyrocketting your testosterone. There’s a good chance you might come across snake oil sales men peddling the latest solution in your email inbox.
And today’s spotlight is on Ashwagandha, which is said to be the most powerful herb in Ayurvedic healing. The plant is also known as Withania somnifera, Indian Ginseng, Poison Gooseberry, winter cherry. It has been used as a herb in Ayurvedic medicine for over 6000 years to treat a wide variety of conditions.
Of late Ashwagandha is heavily advertised as the promising supplement with male-enhancing properties. Alas, our findings show that this herb may not be the magic pill you are looking for.
Read on as we take a closer look on Ashwagandha and break down the related research for you:
Ashwagandha and testosterone
Ashwagandha is purported to be a testosterone booster.
There are, in fact, few studies conducted to study the effects of Ashwagandha supplementations on testosterone level:
One study conducted by Centre of Biomedical Magnetic Resonance in India tested Ashwagandha in 180 infertile male patients. The men were given 5 g of Ashwagandha per day for a period of 3 months. After 3 months, the subjects experienced improvement in their testosterone levels, sperm count, and sperm quality.
Another clinical study in 57 young male subjects concluded that daily supplementation of 600 mg Ashwagandha significantly increases testosterone level, muscle mass and strength in conjunction with a resistance training program.
In a 2009 study, 60 infertile men with normal sperm morphology were given 5g of Ashwagandha powder daily for 3 months. The treatment was able to increase testosterone and reduce cortisol.
In a human study with 75 infertile subjects, it’s observed that treatment with Ashwagandha improved sperm count and mobility. Testosterone and Luteinizing hormone were also increased.
The preliminary studies suggest that Ashwagandha can boost testosterone level and improve sperm quality in infertile men. As well, Ashwagandha appears to increase testosterone in untrained men undergoing strength training.
That said, there’s no evidence to suggest that Ashwagandha supplementation can deliver similar benefits to otherwise healthy men and well-trained men.
Ashwagandha and erection
One human study has been conducted in 95 patients to evaluate the efficacy of Ashwagandha in the management of psychogenic erectile dysfunction (i.e.: lack of erections caused by phychological or interpersonal factors).
The trial group was given a total dose of 2 g Ashwagandha tablets per day for 60 days. Although improvement was observed, there was no significant difference found between trial group and placebo group.
The study concluded that Ashwagandha was not an effective treatment for psychogenic erectile dysfunction.
Ashwagandha and libido
Ashwagandha is often touted as a powerful aphrodisiac.
Despite the claim, a rat study conducted by University of Ruhuna in Sri Lanka found that Ashwagandha caused reduction in libido, sexual performance, sexual vigour, and penile erectile dysfunction.
In another study, Ashwagandha demonstrated antifertility activity in male rats.
A study conducted by Calcutta University shows different results. The study examined the adaptogenic activity of Ashwagandha using rat model of chronic stress. It was found that stress-related responses (including increase in plasma corticosterone levels, gastric ulcerations, male sexual dysfunction and mental depression ) of rats exposed to foot shocks were reduced by Ashwagandha supplementation.
Bottom line: these studies are rat based with conflicting results. There’s inconclusive evidence regarding the efficacy of Ashwagandha in boosting libido in human.
Ashwagandha: other health benefits
Ashwagandha is also a well known Adaptogen (i.e. substance that helps your body to manage stress).
Other clinical studies found that Ashwagandha may reduce blood sugar levels, improve brain function and memory, decrease inflammation.
Ashwagandha side effects
The long-term use of Ashwagandha roots was found to be safe in animal studies [Reference 1], though the related human studies are limited.
Ashwagandha might raise thyroid hormone levels, as noted by one human case study . If you are a thyroid patient, you will want to approach this herb with extra caution.
Another case study showed a burning/itching sensation on a patient’s penis as a result of 5g oral ingestion daily for 10 days.
Additionally, high doses of Ashwagandha may cause sedation, possible life-threatening respiratory depression, decrease in blood pressure, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain. [Reference 2]
Ashwagandha supplements: KSM-66 & Sensoril
There are two types of Ashwagandha formula:
KSM-66: derived from root extract standardized to 5% Withanolides (i.e. the active component of Ashwagandha). According to the manufacturer of KSM-66, the ashwagandha extract is conceptualized primarily as a root extract for maximum clinical effectiveness.
Anecdotally speaking, KSM-66 is stimulating and energizing. It’s commonly used in sports nutrition to boost performance and improve fitness.
Sensoril: derived from leaves and roots standardized to 8 to 10% Withanolides. In a clinical study , Sensoril has shown to improve the cognitive and psychomotor performance in healthy human participants. As well, Sensoril has been found to be sedating and relaxing. It helps to promote restful sleep and stress reduction.
The thing is: you’d be hard pressed to find good Ashwagandha supplement. “Many ashwagandha supplements don’t deliver their labeled amounts (or a reasonable dose) of expected ashwagandha compounds, called withanolides, ” notes Consumerlab.com .
Ashwagandha is classified as a powerful adaptogen and as a general tonic. It has been demonstrated to promote stress relief in human research.
However, studies have not confirmed the effectiveness of Ashwagandha as testosterone booster and libido enhancer.
In addition, further research is needed to access the long term safety of Ashwagandha supplementation.
Did You Know?
Contrary to what the commercials claim, the vast majority of the testosterone/libido pills do little to boost your testosterone to a significant level.
#1. Sharma S, Dahanukar SA, Karandikar SM. Effects of long-term administration of the roots of ashwagandha and shatavari in rats. Indian Drugs. 1985;29:133–9
#2. Natural Standard Herb & Supplement Guide: An evidence-based reference by Catherine E. Ulbricht