Ashwagandha Review: A Natural Testosterone Booster?

ashwagandha testosterone

Ashwagandha is known around the world as the king herb of Ayurveda. It’s been used in traditional Indian medicine for over 2,500 years.

Only recently though, it’s become popular worldwide due to a burst of scientific studies proving its benefits.

Ashwagandha extract is the preferred form of ashwagandha. It’s extracted from the herb’s roots. Many people use it due to its high potency.

As an adaptogen, ashwagandha extract helps to calm the mind and nervous system. People commonly use ashwagandha to treat stress, anxiety, and insomnia.

However, new research suggests there’s a lot more this herb can offer. Ashwagandha’s benefits include neuroprotection, libido & fertility improvement, athletic performance increase, and cognitive boost – just to name a few.

But what about testosterone? Can ashwagandha extract actually boost your testosterone levels enough for you to feel the difference?

In order to find the answer, we have to look at what the science says – let’s dive right into it!

What Is Ashwagandha and Where Does it Come From?

Ashwagandha is a small, short shrub native to dry regions in India. It’s a part of the nightshade family called Solanaceae.

Ashwagandha has small flowers that are olive-green in color and produces red, cherry-like fruits.

That’s why it’s often called Winter Cherry. Another name for Ashwagandha is Withania somnifera, or Indian Ginseng.

The Legend of Ashwagandha

As legend has it, when you ingest ashwagandha, you gain the strength and vitality of a horse. In fact, the word ashwagandha literally means “smell of a horse.” 

That’s because of the herb’s root, which is said to smell like a horse when freshly picked. [1]

Active Components of the Herb

Ashwagandha’s smell aside, it really is an interesting herb. Its main benefits come from the roots and leaves, which contain the active component of the herb – withanolides.

These are a group of steroidal lactones which, when ingested, produce numerous benefits for our health. More on that later…

What is Ashwagandha Extract Used For?

As I mentioned before, Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years. The extract of Ashwagandha root is an excellent home remedy for various health conditions. It promotes both physical, and mental health. [2, 3]

In Ayurveda, Ashwagandha falls in the rasayana category. This means that it helps your body fight off sickness and flu by boosting the immune system. Along with slowing down the aging process. [4, 5, 6]

One of the ashwagandha’s key benefits is its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It helps fight off pathogens, free radicals, and even cancer cells in the body. [7, 8]

Types of Ashwagandha Extract

Remember steroidal lactones I mentioned earlier? And how they are one of the key compounds in ashwagandha?

Well, these steroidal lactones, including withanolides, are beneficial for our health. That’s why almost all ashwagandha extracts are standardized to withanolides.

The strength of each extract depends on its withanolide content – which can range anywhere from 1-10 percent.

Ultimately, there are three types of ashwagandha extract: standardized root extract, Sensoril (patented extract), and KSM-66 (patented extract).

The Difference Between Extracts

While all of the extracts generally offer similar benefits, such as stress reduction, sleep improvement, and improved libido, each one has its own additional effects.

The patented Sensoril extract is standardized to 10% withanolides. This is the most potent extract you’ll find. It offers strong and calming effects, which is beneficial if you’re under extreme stress, or can’t fall asleep no matter what. [14,15]

KSM-66, on the other hand, offer slightly different effects. It’s standardized to 5% withanolides, which is just how nature intended – containing the natural ratio of the root’s compounds. It’s what most people use.

The thought behind KSM-66 was to not just pack as many withanolides as possible, but to get them in ratios in how they occur in nature.

This all means that KSM-66 won’t have as powerful and sedating effects as Sensoril, but will instead provide more of energizing effects while still providing you with all of the ashwagandha’s standard benefits. Such as stress reduction, improved vitality, and an immune system boost. [416]

Standardized root extract stands somewhere in between the KSM-66 and Sensoril. It offers the same effects as both of these extracts, but it’s milder and more gentle. It’s typically standardized to 2.5% withanolides.

People often report that they need to take more of the standardized root extract to get the same effect as the other two extracts.

Bear in mind though, that the effects of each specific extract haven’t been studied in-depth yet. Most of this is anecdotal evidence from users. Your experience might be different.

Be sure to experiment with each extract to see which gives you the desired effects.

Recap – Ashwagandha Extracts

  • Okay, just to recap. Here’s what you can expect from each of Ashwagandha’s three extracts:
    • Sensoril – strong and sedative, has the highest withanolide content (10%)
    • KSM-66 – contains a balanced ratio of withanolides (5%) just like they occur in nature, it’s stimulating and energizing while still providing anti-stress effects.
    • Standardized root extract (2.5% withanolides) – the mildest form of extract, you need to take more to get the same effects as the other two extracts.

Can Ashwagandha Extract Improve Your Testosterone Levels?

Okay, onto the part we’ve all been waiting for. Is ashwagandha reliable for boosting your T-levels?

According to the science, yes it is! Ashwagandha extract supplementation is shown to have notable benefits on testosterone and reproductive organs. [10, 11, 12, 13]

There was one study where they gave ashwagandha to a group of males who suffered from low fertility or infertility.

After a period of supplementation, this group of men saw a major improvement in their sperm quality, along with a boost in testosterone levels in the range of 14-40 percent. [13]

In another study, a group of infertile men who were under extreme stress started to supplement with ashwagandha.

After only 90 days, they experienced a great improvement in antioxidant levels. Their sperm quality also greatly improved – 14% of their partners were able to get pregnant by the end of the study. [10]

Does Ashwagandha Raise T-Levels in Healthy Men and Athletes?

Okay, these studies are all great, but they only show the effectiveness on ashwagandha on infertile men, or those who were under extreme stress.

But what about your average Joe? Can ashwagandha extract benefit you if you’re a relatively healthy male who doesn’t suffer from fertility problems?

Science has an answer for that too!

In a recent study, they gave an ashwagandha extract to a group of healthy men who followed a strength training program. By the end of the study, their testosterone levels increased by 15%. Furthermore, their strength and muscle recovery also improved. [12]

To wrap this up: Yes, ashwagandha is a natural and safe testosterone booster.

While there’s certainly a need for more studies to further prove the effects of this herb. There’s no denying the impact it can have on male hormones and reproductive health.

Other Core Benefits of Ashwagandha Extract

Increases Strength and Muscle Mass

As I briefly mentioned at the beginning of the article, ashwagandha also improves body composition. Not only that, but it also improves strength in both regular men and athletes.

In one study, healthy males who took 750-1,250 milligrams of ashwagandha extract saw an increase in muscle strength after 30 days. [24]

Another study proved this too. A group of men saw an increase in muscle size and strength, along with a reduction in body fat percentage after supplementing with ashwagandha for a period of time. [12]

Helps With Fat Loss

Among the myriad of its benefits, ashwagandha also helps to improve fat loss. It does this by increasing insulin sensitivity and reducing blood sugar levels – helping you store less fat. [27]

One study discovered that people who supplemented ashwagandha extract improved insulin sensitivity in their muscles. Ashwagandha also increased insulin secretion among the participants of the study group. [22]

There are also numerous studies proving its benefits on blood sugar levels. Ashwagandha helps to reduce blood sugar in both diabetic and non-diabetic people.

In one study with schizophrenic individuals, ashwagandha supplementation helped them reduce their fasting blood sugar levels by 13.5 mg per deciliter. [23, 24, 25, 26]

Pretty impressive, right? But that isn’t even the best part…

In another study, they did the same with six people who had type 2 diabetes – giving them ashwagandha extract. The study results showed that ashwagandha was just as effective as diabetes tablets for reducing blood sugar levels! And the best of all – it didn’t produce any side effects.

Protects the Brain and Enhances Memory

The stress we experience in our everyday lives can have a detrimental impact on our brain. In fact, studies suggest that chronic stress leads to changes in our very brain structure. This leads to a number of side effects, such as memory loss, premature cognitive decline, mood disorders, etc. [17]

But Ashwagandha can help. It’s shown to promote healthy brain function by protecting the nervous system. Specifically, the active components of ashwagandha extract help protect the neurons from degeneration, and thus, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. [18]

And how does it do that, you ask? Well, ashwagandha extract contains powerful antioxidants which protect your cells from free radicals. And as we know, free radicals are the main culprit of cell damage and death. [19]

Again, it all comes down to withanolides in ashwagandha. These naturally occurring steroids are responsible for most of the herb’s benefits, including cognitive protection and memory boost.

In one study, they injected mice with withanolides. They found that these natural steroids promoted cell growth and reduced the chance of developing Alzheimer’s. [18, 20]

Another study found that ashwagandha extract supplementation immediately improved the memory in people who suffered from a mild form of cognitive impairment. Moreover, their information processing speed improved, and so did their attention, focus, and other mental functions. [21]

Helps Kill Cancer Cells

Ashwagandha can help fight cancer.

Research says it helps promote apoptosis, which is the process of cell death. Ashwagandha specifically targets cancer cells with this process, leaving healthy cells intact. It also works to prevent the growth of new cancer cells, and does so in a number of ways. [28]

First off, it helps produce reactive oxygen species. These are deadly to cancer cells but not healthy cells. Furthermore, ashwagandha reduces the resistance of cancer cells to apoptosis, which further increases herb’s effectiveness. [29]

Ashwagandha extract specializes in fighting several types of cancer. These include:

In one study, mice were given ashwagandha to treat ovarian tumors. Study results reported a 70-80% reduction in cancer growth. What’s more, ashwagandha treatment helped prevent the spread of ovarian cancer to other organs.

Unfortunately, there are no studies that confirm this same study in humans. But current research looks promising.

Reduces Stress, Anxiety, and Cortisol Levels

We all know stress. It’s all around us. Unfortunately, for a lot of us, this stress becomes chronic and starts affecting our health. Resulting in a variety of health conditions, from high blood pressure to increased fat around your belly.

The main culprit of stress is a hormone called cortisol. Nature equipped our bodies with cortisol for a good reason – it helps us stay focused, alert, and energized in stressful and dangerous situations. It also helps to raise blood sugar levels when they get too low.

Chronic stress, however, is when things go south. When your body is constantly flooded with cortisol, it starts to go into overdrive. This leads to excess fat storage, cardiovascular problems, etc.

Luckily, ashwagandha can help with this too. Research shows us that ashwagandha extract can effectively reduce cortisol – up to 30 percent!

This was proved by a study which gave ashwagandha extract to adults who suffered from chronic stress. Those who took the most potent form of ashwagandha extract saw the highest reduction in cortisol levels, averaging 30% in reduction. [25, 10, 35]

Not only that, but ashwagandha is also effective in treating anxiety disorders. In a 2-month study with chronically stressed people, those who supplemented ashwagandha extract reported a massive reduction in anxiety and insomnia, 69% on average. Those who supplemented with a placebo reported only 11% improvement on average. [35]

In another study, which lasted for six weeks, individuals who ingested ashwagandha reported an 88% reduction in anxiety on average. In contrast to 50% in those who took a placebo pill. [36]

Strengthens Your Immune System

We all know how detrimental stress and anxiety can be to our immune system. Because ashwagandha reduces stress hormones and anxiety, it also effectively boosts your immune system.

Laboratory studies suggest that ashwagandha extract increases immunoglobulin levels. This helps strengthen the body’s defences.

Ashwagandha also suppresses inflammation by reducing the production of pro-inflammatory compounds.

When the immune system is in danger, ashwagandha downregulates it, which can be extremely useful in treating some inflammatory conditions. [37, 38]

Other Notable Benefits

Other benefits of ashwagandha extract include:

  • Helps relieve adrenal fatigue
  • Supports a healthy thyroid
  • Reduces depression
  • Lowers bad cholesterol

Stacking Ashwagandha With Other Supplements

Ashwagandha alone is a powerful supplement. But when stacked with other ingredients, it can provide a plenty of additional benefits.

Since we’re all about boosting testosterone naturally, here are the ingredients that synergize well with ashwagandha in raising T-levels:

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is called a hormone, because of its ability to influence testosterone. In fact, a lack of vitamin D is shown to cause low testosterone. [39]

Numerous studies show us that vitamin D supplementation leads to increased T-levels. One such study found that 3,332 IU of D3 daily raised men’s testosterone levels by 20%! [40]

Now imagine combining it with ashwagandha. It could lead to some serious testosterone boost.

D-Aspartic Acid

D-Aspartic acid is a naturally-occurring amino acid. It’s shown to boost low testosterone levels in men.

How does it do that? Well, it works to promote luteinizing hormone production. And as you may know, luteinizing hormone is the one responsible for signaling the testes to spurt out more testosterone. [41]

Combined with ashwagandha extract, this can lead to even greater testosterone gains.

Fenugreek

Fenugreek has long been touted as one of the best libido enhancers out there. But there’s much more it can do.

Some studies suggest that fenugreek helps prevent the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. This is due to its anti-aromatase properties.

One study tested 30 college students over a 2-month period. All students did strength training four times per week. However, only half of them received 500mg of fenugreek extract.

In those who took fenugreek, their total and free testosterone levels increased. On the other hand, those who trained without any fenugreek supplementation actually experienced a reduction in T-levels. [42]

Zinc

Zinc is one of the essential dietary minerals. Your body can’t make it on your own. Instead, your have to get it either through diet or supplementation.

Much like with vitamin D, zinc deficiency leads to low testosterone levels. One recent study proved this when they restricted zinc intake to a group of healthy men. They found that this restriction lowered their T-levels significantly.  [43]

Stinging Nettle

Stinging nettle root helps to block Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin (SHBG). This helps increase the production of testosterone in men. [45]

This plant is also an aromatase inhibitor, which means it prevents testosterone from converting to estrogen (female hormone). [44]

BioPerine

By itself, BioPerine (piperine) doesn’t have any T-boosting properties.

But when combined with T-boosting ingredients, it increases their absorption rate and effectiveness.

So while it might not affect testosterone directly, BioPerine boosts the transportation of other ingredients throughout the body – in this case, ashwagandha extract. [46]

Other Ingredients That Synergize Well With Ashwagandha’s

  • Oyster Extract
  • Asian Panax Ginseng
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin K2
  • Vitamin B6
  • Boron
  • Luteolin
  • Mucuna Pruriens

Dosage Guide

As with every supplement, you should start low with ashwagandha extract. Especially if you’ve never tried it before.

I suggest starting with 250 milligrams per day. After this, slowly work your way up to 500 milligrams. If you don’t notice any side effects, which you shouldn’t (because ashwagandha is tested for safety at much higher dosages), you can up the dosage even further to experience full benefits.

Studies show that the highest optimal, and safe dosage for ashwagandha is between 750-1,250 milligrams. This dose is perfect for most individuals, ensuring improved sleep, reduced stress, and also increased testosterone and strength gains. [47]

Find what works best for you and then go from there. It’s always a good idea to consult with your healthcare practitioner before taking any supplement. Especially if you’re on medication.

Ashwagandha’s Nutritional Value

Ashwagandha’s nutritional profile is extremely rich. It’s full of flavonoids and antioxidants which help fight off free radicals. It also contains glutathione, the most powerful antioxidant known to man.

Ashwagandha also contains amino acids such as tryptophan. Along with sterols and neurotransmitters.

Side Effects

As I previously explained, one of the ashwagandha’s main compounds are withanolides. These include withaferin A, withanone, and withanolide A.

There are certain parts of ashwagandha herb that contain more of these compounds than others. Which means not every extract will give you the same effects – as we’ve already discussed.

Leaf typically has higher levels of withaferin A. This is good for some people, but it can cause upset stomach and diarrhea in others.

That’s why most people prefer using the ashwagandha root extract, which is perfectly safe in the right dosages.

That said, ashwagandha isn’t safe for these groups of people:

  • Anyone who might experience side effects from taking the herb, regardless of the dose
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • People on high blood pressure medications
  • People who have an autoimmune disease

In fact, if you’re taking any kind of medication, be sure to talk with your doctor before ingesting ashwagandha. You should always practice caution with any ingredient before taking it!

You should also stop taking ashwagandha 2 weeks prior to any surgery. In order to make sure the herb doesn’t counteract anything during the procedure. [48]

Conclusion

Ashwagandha is an amazing herb. It’s been used in Indian alternative medicine for thousands of years, but only now it’s becoming popular worldwide. Due to emerging studies supporting its benefits.

Ashwagandha extract is a potent form of ashwagandha. It comes from its roots or leaves. You need to take less of ashwagandha extract to get the same effect of the whole-spectrum ashwagandha powder.

The herb’s benefits include:

  • Anxiety and stress reduction
  • Fights cancer
  • Reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
  • Boosts testosterone
  • Improves strength and muscle mass

There’s a reason why people say ashwagandha gives you ‘the strength of a horse,’ and it’s not just because of its smell. In addition to boosting testosterone, it helps to increase overall strength and muscle mass in men.

For most people, ashwagandha extract is a safe and effective way of improving your vitality, cognitive function, and overall quality of life.

References

[1] An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda.

[2] 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.

[3] Ayurvedic medicinal plants for Alzheimer’s disease: a review.

[4] Studies on the immunomodulatory effects of Ashwagandha.

[5] Withania somnifera root extract extends lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans

[6] Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial.

[7] Anxiolytic-antidepressant activity of Withania somnifera glycowithanolides: an experimental study.

[8] Antioxidant activity and apoptotic induction as mechanisms of action of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) against a hepatocellular carcinoma cell line.

[10] Withania somnifera Improves Semen Quality in Stress-Related Male Fertility.

[11] Efficacy of Withania somnifera on seminal plasma metabolites of infertile males: a proton NMR study at 800 MHz.

[12] Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial.

[13] Withania somnifera improves semen quality by regulating reproductive hormone levels and oxidative stress in seminal plasma of infertile males.

[14] Triethylene glycol, an active component of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) leaves, is responsible for sleep induction.

[15] Effect of Withania somnifera on Sleep-Wake Cycle in Sleep-Disturbed Rats: Possible GABAergic Mechanism.

[16] Effects of eight-week supplementation of Ashwagandha on cardiorespiratory endurance in elite Indian cyclists.

[17] The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain–body communication.

[18] Withania somnifera reverses Alzheimer’s disease pathology by enhancing low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein in liver.

[19] Free radicals in the regulation of damage and cell death – basic mechanisms and prevention.

[20] Withania somnifera reverses Alzheimer’s disease pathology by enhancing low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein in liver.

[21] Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Functions.

[22] Hypoglycemic activity of withanolides and elicitated Withania somnifera.

[23] Effects of Withania somnifera in patients of schizophrenia: A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled pilot trial study.

[24] Exploratory study to evaluate tolerability, safety, and activity of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in healthy volunteers.

References Continued

[26] Hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic effect of winter cherry (Withania somnifera, Dunal) root.

[27] Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment With Ashwagandha Root Extract.

[28] Molecular targets and mechanisms of cancer prevention and treatment by withaferin a, a naturally occurring steroidal lactone.

[29] Withaferin A Induces Cell Death Selectively in Androgen-Independent Prostate Cancer Cells but not in normal Fibroblast Cells.

[30] Stabilization of membrane bound enzyme profiles and lipid peroxidation by Withania somnifera along with paclitaxel on benzo(a)pyrene induced experimental lung cancer.

[31] AshwaMAX and Withaferin A inhibits gliomas in cellular and murine orthotopic models.

[32] Withaferin an alone and in combination with cisplatin suppresses growth and metastasis of ovarian cancer by targeting putative cancer stem cells.

[33] Effect of Withania somnifera root extract on spontaneous estrogen receptor-negative mammary cancer in MMTV/Neu mice.

[34] Immunomodulatory effects of Withania somnifera on azoxymethane induced experimental colon cancer in mice.

[35] 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.

[36] A double-blind, placebo-controlled evaluation of the anxiolytic efficacy ff an ethanolic extract of withania somnifera.

[37] A comparison of the immunostimulatory effects of the medicinal herbs Echinacea, Ashwagandha and Brahmi.

[38] Effect of a Novel Ashwagandha-based Herbomineral Formulation on Pro-inflammatory Cytokines Expression in Mouse Splenocyte Cells: A Potential Immunomodulator.

[39] Association of vitamin D status with serum androgen levels in men.

[40] Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men.

[41] The role and molecular mechanism of D-aspartic acid in the release and synthesis of LH and testosterone in humans and rats.

[42] Effects of a purported aromatase and 5α-reductase inhibitor on hormone profiles in college-age men.

[43] Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults.

[44] Aromatase inhibitors from Urtica dioica roots.

[45] The effect of extracts of the roots of the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) on the interaction of SHBG with its receptor on human prostatic membranes.

[46] Bioavailability enhancers of herbal origin: An overview.

[47] Exploratory study to evaluate tolerability, safety, and activity of Ashwagandha(Withania somnifera) in healthy volunteers.

[48] Ashwagandha review by WebMD.

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