The use of ashwagandha or Indian Ginseng in traditional Ayurvedic medicine can be traced back 4000 years. This herb is known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxididant, and anti-stress properties, and is believed to enhance overall health and longevity. Ashwagandha is also thought protect against cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Studies have also demonstrated its calming effects and its role in balancing the key hormones in the body.
We often recommend ashwagandha as a stand alone supplement or as part of combination preparation to treat adrenal exhaustion, fatigue, depression, and anxiety. There is even data suggesting that ashwagandha can improve cognition in people who suffer from bipolar disorder (Randomized placebo-controlled adjunctive study of an extract of withania somnifera for cognitive dysfunction in bipolar disorder. Chengappa KN, Bowie CR, Schlicht PJ, Fleet D, Brar JS, Jindal R. J Clin Psychiatry. 2013 Nov;74(11):1076-83).
In addition, ashwagandha has been indicated as a potent sexual stimulant as it supports sexual health by enhancing blood flow and reducing tension. The effect of ashwagandha in improving sexual function and fertility in men has been established in several studies. More recently, supplementation with high concentrations of ashwagandha root extract (HCARE) was found to enhance sexual function and satisfaction in healthy women.
The study, a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled pilot, was published by BioMed Research International in 2015. Fifty participants were placed into one of two groups and followed for a period of 8 weeks. The HCARE group received 300 mg of ashwagandha twice daily and the placebo group received a placebo capsule twice daily.
Assessment of the participants’ sexual functioning was done using the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) Questionnaire and the Female Sexual Distress Scale (FSDS), and by taking into account the total number of successful sexual encounters. Results showed greater improvement in the total FSFI score among the HCARE group particularly in the arousal, lubrication, orgasm and satisfaction domains. The HCARE group also had more successful sexual encounters and reduced sexual distress compared to the placebo group.
HOW DOES ASHWAGANDHA IMPROVE SEXUAL FUNCTIONING?
There are several mechanisms that might explain the beneficial role of this ancient herb in human sexuality. For example, ashwagandha has been shown to:
- Protect the body and brain from stress-related elevations in cortisol
- Correct low testosterone
- Support anti-oxidant levels
- Boost the immune system
- Improve energy levels
- Alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression
This new data on ashwagandha and sexual functioning in women is welcome news indeed because so many of my female patients and clients suffer from sexual impairment. Moreover, one of the most frequent side effects of commonly prescribed anti-depressants is sexual dysfunction.