Ashwagandha is a particularly powerful adaptogenic herb with a long history in Ayurvedic medicine. This function makes the herb extremely relevant for coping with stress and promoting health as a consequence.
At the same time, ashwagandha is often promoted as a way to improve male sexual health – partly through the relationship between ashwagandha and testosterone.
But, how accurate are these claims and can ashwagandha supplements increase testosterone levels?
Current Ashwagandha Research
There have been many studies looking at the impacts of ashwagandha supplementation, including both human and animal studies. But, some particularly interesting research was published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
This study looked at ashwagandha supplementation across an 8-week period, using males ranging from 18 to 50 years of age. The participants had limited experience with resistance training.
The authors were interested in what impact ashwagandha supplementation had on muscle strength and development, along with testosterone levels.
The research participants were broken into two groups. One of those groups (29 men) received 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract twice per day for the eight weeks. The other group (28 men) was given a placebo.
Both groups underwent resistance training for the eight weeks and outcomes were evaluated at the end.
The authors found that the group on ashwagandha supplements had a significantly greater increase in muscle size in their arms and their chest, while also having more muscle strength in the bench press and the leg-extension exercises. The averages were as follows.
- Bench Press – Placebo: 26.4 kg, Ashwagandha: 46.0 kg
- Leg-Extension – Placebo: 9.8 kg, Ashwagandha: 14.5 kg
- Muscle Increase in Arms – Placebo: 5.3 cm2, Ashwagandha: 8.6 cm2
- Muscle Increase in Chest – Placebo: 1.4 cm, Ashwagandha: 3.3 cm
- Body Fat Decrease – Placebo: 1.5%, Ashwagandha: 3.5%
Additionally, the ashwagandha group saw dramatic improvements in testosterone levels (96.2 ng/dl) compared to the placebo group (18.0 ng/dL).
These outcomes clearly show that ashwagandha supplementation had a significant impact on performance, body composition and on testosterone.
What’s more, the study design meant that the participants didn’t know whether or not they were taking the ashwagandha or a placebo. As such, the observed effects were truly the result of the supplement.
Does Ashwagandha Increase Testosterone?
Now, this was just a single study and it only considered 57 men, all of whom were healthy and under 50 years of age. As such, the study doesn’t provide an answer for age-related muscle loss or for the way that testosterone can decrease with age.
Nevertheless, the outcomes are important.
First of all, they show that an ashwagandha supplement can significantly improve a range of physical outcomes, while also boosting testosterone. This would make it particularly valuable for people trying to gain muscle.
And indeed, increasing muscle mass is more important for health than most people realize. For example, in related studies, researchers have found a significant association between muscles and longevity.
The outcomes are even relevant for weight loss. For one thing, the ashwagandha supplementation did result in significant fat loss. Participants were also gaining muscle at the same time, not losing it. As such, ashwagandha supplementation and resistance exercise could be key in developing and maintaining a healthy body composition.
There is also the relationship between testosterone and belly fat to consider. In particular, low testosterone can contribute to the development of belly fat, which also serves to decrease testosterone. This creates a challenging cycle and is a key reason why many middle-aged men end up with significant belly fat.
Such a pattern is concerning because belly fat is dangerous and is associated with a wide range of health risks (1,2,3) – an area that Dr. Axe highlights in detail.
There is also evidence of health benefits of increased testosterone, even for healthy young males (4,5,6). That pattern is why products like Nugenix and TestMax Nutrition are popular, even though their value is somewhat debatable.
Finally, the outcomes here aren’t in isolation either.
Instead, there are other studies that highlight the health benefits of ashwagandha, often in the form of ashwagandha root extract. For example, ashwagandha can help lower blood sugar (7,8,9), improve both cholesterol and triglyceride levels (10,11,12), lower stress (13,14,15) and it may also improve brain function (16,17,18).
You can also find more details about the various research on ashwagandha through the summary that Examine.com offers. This provides detail about the individual studies that have focused on the supplement, along with their outcomes and the strength of their conclusions.
All-in-all, it’s clear that ashwagandha has some significant implications for health, despite the fact that it is often overlooked as a supplement. What’s more, there are probably benefits that research hasn’t discovered.
After all, ashwagandha does have a long history in traditional medicine for a range of different uses. Plants also tend to contain a wide range of different compounds and these can interact with our bodies in many different ways. Research is only just beginning to understand these compounds and studies on herbs like ashwagandha are still in their early stages.
All of these areas suggest that the benefits of ashwagandha may go far beyond increasing testosterone and improving body composition.
How to Use Ashwagandha
Compared to options like cinnamon, ginger and turmeric, ashwagandha is relatively difficult to include in the diet. After all, it isn’t a herb that you can easily add to cooking.
But, there are high-quality ashwagandha supplements. These can be a powerful way to get the health benefits of the herb and they’re easy to access as well. Now, there are various brands out there, but the one that we recommend is Organic India (pictured below).
This brand gets consistently good reviews and it also has the advantage of being non-GMO verified and USDA certified. As such, it is a perfect place to start trying ashwagandha for yourself and getting the health benefits that it offers.
And, this is true regardless of your age or your experience with resistance exercise. Indeed, many of the benefits may apply to females as well as to males.
After all, the various studies on ashwagandha have covered many different types of people. So, even if you don’t see the benefits of ashwagandha on testosterone or body composition, you may well see health benefits in other areas.
If nothing else, this is a safe herb and is worth trying out to see if it helps you.
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