At first glance, you’re probably wondering what on earth this complicated name is and how the heck you pronounce it (ash-wa-gan-da), but this small and mighty evergreen plant is something that needs to be on your radar, especially for men.
There’s been a buzz around ashwagandha for a while now and it’s become every health influencer and nutritionists’ go-to supplement for stress relief. Touted as the ultimate remedy for the 21st century, the adaptogenic properties of this plant make it a must in every supplement stack.
And while it may be ‘newer’ for us in the Western world, it’s been a staple in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. The bioactive compounds in the plant have powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory activities, which can help to reduce stress and anxiety, boost testosterone levels (yep, you read that right), and possibly alleviate the symptoms of certain diseases.
Interested in what this guy is all about?
We’re diving into the world of adaptogens and breaking down everything you need to know about ashwagandha for men’s health.
What Is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is an evergreen plant native to India, North Africa, and the Middle East that also goes by the herbal name of withania somnifera, but sometimes referred to as Indian ginseng or winter cherry 1.
Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen— a plant substance that increases the body’s ability to resist the damaging effects of stress and helps to promote or restore normal physiological functioning. They often exhibit neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, antidepressant, anxiolytic, nootropic, and central nervous system–stimulating activity 2, but during times of acute or chronic stress, the anti-fatigue effect shines.
Specifically, with ashwagandha, it’s a herb that’s commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to promote “youthful vigor,” enhance muscle strength and endurance, and improve overall health and well-being. Some research also suggests it can offer health-restorative properties by counteracting chronic fatigue, weakness, impotence, sterility, nervous exhaustion, senility, and premature aging 1.
6 Benefits Of Ashwagandha For Men
We all get stressed; it’s a normal part of life. And while most stress is acute and dissipates within minutes to hours, stress that sticks around becomes chronic and can wreak havoc on nearly every function in your body.
Whether it’s physical, psychological, mental, or emotional stress, adaptogens are touted for their ability to support the body’s stress response and restore homeostasis for optimal function.
And when it comes to choosing the best adaptogen to mitigate stress and restore balance, ashwagandha consistently comes out on top.
That’s because ashwagandha contains two bioactive compounds—withaferin A and withanolide A—that mimic the function of GABA, an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter in your central nervous system to induce calmness by bringing down nervous system activity; it’s the anti-anxiety neurotransmitter 3.
Human studies have shown positive benefits on stress and anxiety with ashwagandha supplements. A 2012 study of 64 stressed individuals found that a 300mg high-concentration full-spectrum extract improved resistance towards stress as well as reduced serum cortisol levels 4. By reducing cortisol and nourishing the adrenal glands, ashwagandha can strengthen an exhausted or agitated nervous system, while also calming it.
Higher testosterone (and better hormonal balance)
Ashwagandha works in a couple of ways to support hormonal balance. Especially for men, high cortisol can be detrimental to testosterone. And if you’ve ever been stressed for a prolonged period and haven’t felt like getting into the bedroom, you’ve experienced it firsthand.
Cortisol and testosterone have an inverse relationship; when one increases, the other decreases. So, if you have chronically high cortisol, your testosterone levels are going to take a nosedive.
But like we just mentioned with stress, ashwagandha can help bring down cortisol levels by dampening HPA activity. DHEA is produced by the adrenal cortex and is influenced by the activity of the hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis, especially circulating levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) 1. By influencing HPA axis activity, ashwagandha may support elevated concentrations of both DHEA and testosterone.
These compounds, produced by Leydig cells in the testes, are influenced by gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). Studies have shown that ashwagandha upregulates the activity of GnRH, which may increase overall DHEA and testosterone 5. One study of 75 infertile men even found that 5mg ashwagandha taken daily for three months resulted in a 10-22% increase in testosterone levels 6.
Supercharges reproductive function
Along with supporting testosterone levels, which are required for male reproductive function, ashwagandha has been prized in Indian Ayurvedic tradition for improving male sexual dysfunction and infertility.
One of the contributing factors to male impotency is oxidative stress, as measured by levels of reactive oxygen species. It’s been well documented that high levels of ROS in semen induce oxidative damage to sperm and are linked to abnormal sperm parameters leading to infertility 6.
However, studies have shown that ashwagandha may counteract the formation of ROS, thus improving sperm quality and increasing fertility status.
A 2013 study on the spermatogenic activity of ashwagandha root extract in oligospermic patients found that supplementation with a full-spectrum root extract of ashwagandha (675 mg/day in three doses for 90 days) resulted in a 167% increase in sperm count, 53% increase in semen volume, and a 57% increase in sperm motility 7. They also found a significant improvement in serum hormone levels with ashwagandha treatment.
Boosts immune function
As a Rasayana (tonic) herb in Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha's powerful anti-stress and adaptogenic properties make it gold for immune function. As stress has a profound effect on immunity, supporting HPA function and the body’s stress response can mitigate impairment to immune function caused by stress and high cortisol.
Not only that, but one rodent study found that administration of ashwagandha led to increases in total WBC and bone marrow cells, suggesting that ashwagandha extract could stimulate the hemopoietic system 8. They also found an increase in circulating antibody titer and antibody-forming cells that remained well past the trial period, along with increased stimulation of the spleen and thymus. Both are involved in the production of immune cells.
To add to that, ashwagandha also improves the body's defense against pathogens and disease by improving cell-mediated immunity responses. It also possesses potent antioxidant properties that help protect against cellular damage caused by free radicals 9.
Enhances muscle mass and strength
Want to supercharge your workout sessions? Turns out that ashwagandha may be able to do that, too.
Research suggests that it could boost muscle mass, reduce body fat, and lead to significant increases in muscular strength in men. One study gave 57 young men with minimal resistance training experience 300mg of ashwagandha root extract twice daily for 8 weeks in conjunction with a resistance training program 10.
Results showed the group taking ashwagandha experienced significant increases in muscle strength on several exercises, greater muscle size, a greater decrease in body fat percentage, increased testosterone levels, as well as significantly greater reduction of exercise-induced muscle damage as indicated by stabilization of serum creatine kinase.
Other studies show similar results with increases in muscle strength and decreases in body fat percentage with ashwagandha supplementation 11.
Chronic systemic low-grade inflammation is involved in the pathology of several chronic diseases, including metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes, CVD, cancer, CKD, and autoimmunity 12.
Inflammation is a normal process induced by the immune system to protect the body against injury and infection, and once the threat has passed, the inflammatory response dissipates and the body returns to homeostasis.
However, social, psychological, environmental, or biological stress can prevent the resolution of acute inflammation, promoting a state of low-grade, non-infective systemic chronic inflammation. This is characterized by activation of immune components that are different from those occurring in an acute immune response 12.
The result? Chronic inflammation then goes on to cause mayhem throughout the body.
With that said, there are dozens of natural anti-inflammatories out there, but ashwagandha continually boasts positive results where inflammation is concerned.
Human studies of ashwagandha have found that supplementation can boost the activity of natural killer (NK) cells and T-lymphocytes, which are immune cells involved in fighting infections 13, 14.
Other research has demonstrated that it can decrease markers of inflammation, including C-reactive protein (CRP). A 2008 study found that participants taking 250mg of standardized ashwagandha extract daily experienced a 36% decrease in CRP levels, on average, compared to just a 6% decrease in the placebo group 15.
Safety And Side Effects
Studies show that high-concentration full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract is safe for consumption and well tolerated by most people with no serious adverse events 3.
However, some mild side effects have been noted with supplementation, including nasal congestion (rhinitis), constipation, cough and cold, drowsiness, and decreased appetite.
Long-term administration of ashwagandha extracts has also been found to be safe. However, it’s important to note that those allergic to herbs belonging to the Solanaceae family (nightshades) are contraindicated for treatment with this herb.
Along with most studies, we stand behind KSM-66 Ashwagandha extract as the most potent supplement out there. This extract is drawn only from the roots of the ashwagandha plant and includes no other components of the plant.
KSM-66 is standardized to a withanolide content of at least 5% and is produced by a unique extraction process without using alcohol or any synthetic solvents 3.
While we like to think that plant extracts are safer than their pharmaceutical counterparts, plants can still be toxic in large doses.
However, extensive toxicological studies have been conducted on ashwagandha and show that it’s nontoxic in a wide range of reasonable doses and that the majority of doses administered to humans are expected to be very safe. There are also no known herb-herb or herb-drug interactions 16.
With that said, the average dose eliciting positive benefits for a wide range of health conditions is anywhere from 250 mg to 500 mg daily. Several studies have administered 300 mg twice daily and achieved good results 3, 17.
It’s also important to remember that because ashwagandha is a natural plant remedy, rather than a pharmaceutical medicine, it’s generally not regulated for purity and potency, which means you want to look for brands that are certified good manufacturing practices. For us, that means only one option—KSM-66 Ashwagandha extract.
KSM-66® is the best Ashwagandha supplement on the market. It’s a full-spectrum, 100% organic certified extract standardized to 5% active withanolides produced using a unique proprietary extraction process, based on “Green Chemistry” principles without using alcohol or any other chemical solvents.
If you’re looking for full-body support in every aspect of your life, ashwagandha is it. From mitigating stress and supporting adrenal health, to increasing reproductive health, boosting immune function, and enhancing strength and muscle, this might herb does it all.
And with a high safety profile, you know it can stack with all of your favorite supplements for the most powerful and effective support you can get.
- AL Lopresti, PD Drummond, SJ Smith. A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Study Examining the Hormonal and Vitality Effects of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in Aging, Overweight Males. Am J Mens Health. 2019;13(2):1557988319835985.
- A Panossian, G Wikman. Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2010;3(1):188-224.
- M Candelario, E Cuellar, JM Reyes-Ruiz, et al. Direct evidence for GABAergic activity of Withania somnifera on mammalian ionotropic GABAA and GABAρ receptors. J Ethnopharmacol. 2015;171:264-272.
- K Chandrasekhar, J Kapoor, S Anishetty. 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. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012;34(3):255-262.
- H Kataria, M Gupta, S Lakhman, G Kaur. Withania somnifera aqueous extract facilitates the expression and release of GnRH: In vitro and in vivo study. Neurochem Int. 2015;89:111-119.
-  AA Mahdi, KK Shukla, MK Ahmad, et al. Withania somnifera Improves Semen Quality in Stress-Related Male Fertility [published online ahead of print, 2009 Sep 29]. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2009;2011:576962.
- VR Ambiye, D Langade, S Dongre, P Aptikar, M Kulkarni, A Dongre. Clinical Evaluation of the Spermatogenic Activity of the Root Extract of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in Oligospermic Males: A Pilot Study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:571420.
- L Davis, G Kuttan. Immunomodulatory activity of Withania somnifera. J Ethnopharmacol. 2000;71(1-2):193-200.
- N Singh, M Bhalla, P de Jager, M Gilca. An overview on ashwagandha: a Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2011;8(5 Suppl):208-213.
- S Wankhede, D Langade, K Joshi, SR Sinha, S Bhattacharyya. Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12:43.
- AA Raut, NN Rege, FM Tadvi, et al. Exploratory study to evaluate tolerability, safety, and activity of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in healthy volunteers. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2012;3(3):111-114.
- D Furman, J Campisi, E Verdin, et al. Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span. Nat Med. 2019;25(12):1822-1832.
- J Bhat, A Damle, PP Vaishnav, R Albers, M Joshi, G Banerjee. In vivo enhancement of natural killer cell activity through tea fortified with Ayurvedic herbs. Phytother Res. 2010;24(1):129-135.
- J Mikolai, A Erlandsen, A Murison, et al. In vivo effects of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract on the activation of lymphocytes. J Altern Complement Med. 2009;15(4):423-430.
- B Auddy, J Hazra, A Mitra, B Abedon, S Ghosal. A Standardized Withania Somnifera Extract Significantly Reduces Stress-Related Parameters in Chronically Stressed Humans: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. JANA. 2008;11(1):50-56.
- SK Kulkarni, A Dhir. Withania somnifera: an Indian ginseng. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2008;32(5):1093-1105.
- N Verma, SK Gupta, S Tiwari, AK Mishra. Safety of Ashwagandha Root Extract: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, study in Healthy Volunteers. Complement Ther Med. 2021;57:102642.