Ashwagandha’s use in medicine dates back pretty much as far as records go – we can date it back to at least 3000 years ago. Today we’ll be asking the question – does ashwagandha increase testosterone in women?
A staple of traditional Indian medicine, ashwagandha (aka ‘Indian ginseng’ or ‘Indian winter cherry’) is known as a great healing compound for a great many ailments. In Ayurveda, it is considered a Rasayana. This means that it is known for aiding longevity and long-lasting health.
Modern research has borne this out to a great extent. It has shown ashwagandha to be a potent adaptogen, able to diminish the effects of stress and anxiety, able to improve immune function and sexual health, and to improve and optimize testosterone levels.
You will therefore often find it in testosterone boosters. These will be largely aimed at men, who typically produce far more testosterone, and benefit from it more profoundly, than women.
However, ashwagandha can grant a great many health benefits to women, too. Many of these are separate from testosterone, but not all are. So, the question arises, can ashwagandha boost testosterone levels in women, and, if so, is this a good thing?
Can ashwagandha increase testosterone levels in women?
Plenty of women might hesitate to supplement with ashwagandha. Though it has plenty of beneficial qualities outside of its ability to help in optimizing testosterone output, it may still seem unattractive. The fear is that it will bring about masculinizing effects – images of body and facial hair growth, deep voices, and other such overtly masculine traits are potentially off-putting.
However, realistically these fears are largely baseless.
Ashwagandha is not a ‘testosterone booster’; rather, as above, it’s an adaptogen. This means that it will have different effects on different people.
As sex is one of the biggest differences between people, this means quite profound differences in ashwagandha’s role for men and women.
It will largely affect your endocrine system – the system that regulates hormone creation. Realistically, it will balance your hormones. In men, this often means increasing levels of testosterone, especially where they are depleted. In women, this will mean better regulation of oestrogen levels.
Ashwagandha is also an abundant source of phytochemicals. These are plant-based compounds, and they are responsible for a lot of ashwagandha’s benefits. They underpin its healing properties, in short. In simple terms, they will improve your overall wellbeing.
They won’t spike a woman’s testosterone levels, but they will do an awful lot of good.
What Ashwagandha Can Do For You
Ashwagandha is generally beneficial for everyone, for a wide variety of reasons. Some of these are universal. Others are specific to women. They are all worth paying attention to.
Firstly, ashwagandha can relieve the symptoms of menopause, making them perfect for any woman in the 40-60 age range, allowing for outliers.
In fact, menopause symptoms can occur outside the onset of menopause itself. These can include hot flashes and night sweats, irregular weight and weight gains, irregular menstrual cycles, and vaginal dryness.
In balancing hormonal output by improving endocrinal health, ashwagandha can help here. It can keep oestrogen levels normalized. It can also reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which will aid in balancing mood and overall health, and can improve blood circulation.
In reducing cortisol levels, ashwagandha represents a great stress reliever.
Most of us could do with this in our daily lives. Women are about twice as prone to anxiety as men, according to the scientific literature, making the need to reduce cortisol that much more pressing for them.
Ashwagandha mimics the effects of GABA, a neurotransmitter. GABA’s role is to block nerve cells impulses within the brain. Low levels are associated with anxiety and stress; high levels are associated with calm. By mimicking GABA, ashwagandha has been shown to be able to reduce cortisol levels by as much as 30%. In doing so, anxiety and stress will lower, and mood will improve, as will overall perceptions of wellbeing.
This endocrinal effect will also help thyroid health. Hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid) is pretty common, especially as we age. Even thyroid output that is low without being medically problematic can still be a challenge. Either can lead to weight gains, lethargy and fatigue, muscular weakness, hair loss, constipation, and irregular menstrual cycles.
In helping to balance function within the thyroid gland, ashwagandha can help you to secrete more of the thyroid hormone, reversing these issues.
It can also improve sexual function in both men and women. Inhibited libidos, difficulty in achieving orgasm, reduced arousal levels, and vaginal dryness are all common symptoms. Ashwagandha can lead to improved lubrication, satisfaction and arousal, with better, more intense orgasms.
There are also some very worthwhile external, physical benefits to be gained from including ashwagandha in your supplement regime.
Firstly, it can promote healthy skin. As an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antibacterial compound, it can improve skin health a great deal.
Its antioxidant properties can ward against oxidative stress from free radicals, which is responsible for much of the aging process. As an anti-inflammatory, it can lead to a smoother, healthier looking complexion. Its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties will help see off acne and other skin infections.
You can take it as a supplement or even use ashwagandha topically to experience these benefits.
These same properties also make it great for your hair. In helping your skin, it will keep your scalp healthy. Ashwagandha also contains the amino acid tyrosine, which is known for stimulating melanin production. Melanin is what gives your hair its color, so it is theorized that ashwagandha can help in preventing premature greying.
It also stimulates the androgen hormone DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), which promotes healthy hair growth. For women, this can be particularly effective in combatting postnatal hair loss.
Finally, ashwagandha can lead to improved sleep quality. Modern life is ruinous to our sleep patterns. An over reliance on caffeine, busy work, home and social schedules, bombardment by social media and advertising, and a hundred other things raise our stress levels and diminish our ability to get proper sleep.
Ashwagandha has been used for millennia as an aid to healthy sleep. It has been shown in modern studies to aid insomnia patients in improving sleep quality and efficiency, whilst decreasing anxiety.
What To Watch Out For With Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is safe for most people, with few, if any, noted side effects. As we have seen, women will not develop masculine characteristics by taking it.
This being said, there are a few things to be careful about. Though it is natural, safe, and pretty innocuous for most of us, you should seek medical supervision when taking it if any of the following apply:
- You are suffering with some form of autoimmune condition, as ashwagandha’s immune boosting properties come from increasing white blood cell count. This can be of concern if you are already taking medicine to improve your white blood cell count, or if you suffer with an overactive immune system.
- You are pregnant or breastfeeding, as studies on ashwagandha’s safety and effects are inconclusive on both groups. Unless your doctor is sure you are OK to take it, you might want to skip ashwagandha until your child is weened.
- You have low blood pressure (hypotension) or low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia). One of the main benefits of ashwagandha is that it can lower both. This is healthy and good for most people but can be of concern if you are already on the low side for either.
The Bottom Line
As we have seen, ashwagandha really is as good as its hype, if not a bit better. It can bring numerous health benefits to anyone, including a few of specific use to women.
You should take it if you think it can help.
It will not raise your testosterone levels. It will not cause you to develop masculine characteristics, will not erode your womanhood or femininity, and will only benefit your overall health and wellbeing.
Written by Kate Harrison
Kate is one of our nutrition experts at PathMed and is also one of our in-house writers. There is little that gets past Kate when it comes to nutrition and she has a wealth of experience when it comes to fat loss and supplementation around losing weight. She is thorough in her research and is a real advocate for living a healthy lifestyle.