Are your PCOS symptoms getting uncontrollable? Do you have difficulty falling asleep or fertility problems? Ashwagandha could hold the key to all your health issues. It won’t be an exaggeration to say this age-old herb is the panacea of female health. In fact, a wealth of study now supports its role in maintaining optimal hormone balance in women. Continue reading to know the benefits you can expect and how you can take it.
Common names: Indian ginseng and winter cherry (NOT Physalis alkekengi).
Ashwagandha is one of the most valuable herbs in Ayurveda. Its use dates back to at least 3,000 years. Ayurveda is a traditional medicine system that originated in India. The benefits range from calming the excited nerves to preventing the spread of certain cancers.
Notably, a number of scientific studies have found it beneficial for various female health issues that arise due to hormone imbalance. For example, Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), female sexual dysfunction, and fertility problems.
A Quick Overview of Ashwagandha for Female Health
Ashwagandha or Withania somnifera is a plant of the nightshade family. Commonly used parts of Ashwagandha are its roots and leaves. It is a rich source of alkaloids and steroidal lactones. All these ingredients make it a powerful anti-stress, antioxidant and adaptogenic herb. Moreover, it is potent:
- Memory enhancer.
- Hormone balance facilitator. Thus, it helps to make your reproductive system healthy and improves fertility.
- Immune enhancer. Particularly, it activates certain types of white blood cells to suppress an infection or invasion by a harmful microorganism.
- Anti-inflammatory herb. A 2017 study conducted in female rats found that Ashwagandha along with another herb Tinospora cordifolia significantly reduces inflammation in the brain. Notably, this property is extremely beneficial to the women in their 40’s who have problems falling asleep and dealing with stressful situations.
What are the Major Chemical Ingredients in Ashwagandha?
- Withaferin A. This is the most active steroidal lactone in Ashwagandha. It interferes with cell multiplication and promotes the death of cancer cells. Thus, it could act as an effective anticancer herb for female breast cancer.
Other biologically active ingredients include:
4 Female Hormone Problems and How Ashwagandha Can Help
PCOS and ashwagandha
It is a common disorder of hormone imbalance that causes an increase in testosterone levels. Consequently, the patient has to endure symptoms like acne, excessive hair growth, irregular periods and high blood glucose levels. The worst effect of untreated PCOS is infertility.
How ashwagandha can help with PCOS
Extracts of ashwagandha and another common herb Tribulus terrestris have shown a promising effect against the symptoms of PCOS. Most notably, this combination works to lower the levels of testosterone. Other effects include:
- Reduction in blood glucose and blood cholesterol levels.
- Decreased weight of the ovaries and womb.
- Increase in the ability of the cells to utilize available insulin.
With all these benefits, ashwagandha can be a highly beneficial herb for women with PCOS to manage unwanted symptoms.
Problems with arousal, orgasm, and lubrication.
Collectively called female sexual dysfunction, these problems are more common than they appear. Still, many cases go unnoticed because the patient often prefers to keep them secret. But with this amazing herb, you can expect to get the much-needed relief.
How ashwagandha can help with low libido, low sex drive and difficulty with lubrication
300 mg Ashwagandha root extract twice daily for 2 months can work wonders to restore your sex life. In the study, the researchers found that it improves all the parameters of a healthy female sex life. These include arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and sexual satisfaction. Even better is to know that the root extract is safe and is not associated with any severe side effects.
Underactive thyroid gland
The thyroid gland produces two major hormones that regulate various body functions, most notably, metabolism and sleep. They are called thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland does not produce enough T3 and T4. The common symptoms of an underactive thyroid are:
- Weight gain.
- Excessive tiredness.
- Irregular periods.
- Memory problems.
- Loss of hair.
How ashwagandha can help with underactive thyroid gland
Taking an extract prepared from the root of Ashwagandha has been shown to stimulate thyroid function. In fact, a regular intake lasting just 20 days can produce significant improvement in the symptoms.
The chemicals in Ashwagandha facilitate thyroid hormone release by:
- Increasing the activity of an enzyme in the liver, Glucose-6-phosphatase.
- Protecting the cells from damages by the free radicals.
- Preventing the degradation of fats.
Women with low thyroid functions may find ashwagandha beneficial to supporting healthy thyroid levels and functions.
Nonclassic congenital adrenal hyperplasia (NCAH)
NCAH is a genetic disorder which causes widespread effects on hormone balance. In women, it leads to increased testosterone levels and decreased the production of the hormones that regulate glucose metabolism. As a result, it causes menstrual problems, infertility, and excessive hair growth. In fact, these symptoms are similar to those of PCOS.
How ashwagandha can help with Non-classic Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (NCAH).
For some women with NCAH, Ashwagandha may work better than hormonal therapies. Also not to forget that the hormonal therapies have numerous side effects. For example, irregular vaginal bleeding, nausea, vomiting, migraine, and depression. If any of these effects become too severe, you may have to discontinue the therapy. However, Ashwagandha has no severe effects and works at various levels to correct hormone imbalance.
The researchers believe Ashwagandha may work through two basic mechanisms. These include:
- Anti-inflammatory effects.
- Increased insulin sensitivity. Meaning, the cells are now in a better position to utilize insulin.
The recommended dose for NCAH is 400 mg twice daily for up to six months. However, your dose and duration may be different depending on how you respond to the treatment.
How to take ashwagandha for maximum benefits?
No doubt, Ashwagandha is potent enough to ward off most disorders of hormone balance. Nonetheless, you may want to make some dietary changes to get the full benefits. Here are tips to consider.
- Take a high-fiber diet.
- Eat enough healthy fats.
- Avoid or cut down on sugar and processed foods.
What is the normal dose of ashwagandha for managing female health?
The normal dose ranges from 450 mg to 2 g per day. The available forms are powder, tablets, extract, and capsules. Read the label on the supplement to know the amount present in it.
Talk to your doctor if you have any chronic disease of the liver and kidneys before taking the supplement. Also, DO NOT use it if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
DIY Tips: Growing ashwagandha at your home
The good news is you can grow Ashwagandha at your home using these simple steps.
- It grows well in hot and humid conditions when the temperature is around 75 – 85 F. Also, it can survive dry environment without weathering out.
- Take Ashwagandha seeds and plant them at your garden. The location should be dry and receive sunlight most days of the year and
- Usually, the seeds take two weeks to germinate. If you are planning to grow more than one plant, make sure to leave between 50 cm to 60 cm between the plants.
- Water only when the plant looks dry.
- Use only organic fertilizers.
- You can harvest Ashwagandha within 150 to 180 days after the flower and berries become mature. After harvesting, wash the roots and dry in shade.
- Kalani, A., et al. “Ashwagandha root in the treatment of non-classical adrenal hyperplasia” BMJ Case Reports 2012; 2012: bcr2012006989.
- Witchel, SF., et al. “Nonclassic Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia” International Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology 2010; 2010: 625105.
- Yang, Z., et al. “Withania somnifera Root Extract Inhibits Mammary Cancer Metastasis and Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition” PLoS One 2013; 8(9): e75069.
- Saiyed, A., et al. “Effect of combination of Withania somnifera Dunal and Tribulus terrestris Linn on letrozole induced polycystic ovarian syndrome in rats” Integrative Medicine Research 2016 Dec; 5(4): 293–300.
- Singh, H., et al. “Intermittent fasting combined with supplementation with Ayurvedic herbs reduces anxiety in middle aged female rats by anti-inflammatory pathways.” Biogerontology 2017 Aug;18(4):601-614.
- Dongre, S., et al. “Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Improving Sexual Function in Women: A Pilot Study.” BioMed Research International 2015;2015:284154.
- Panda, S., et al. “Withania somnifera and Bauhinia purpurea in the regulation of circulating thyroid hormone concentrations in female mice.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 1999 Nov 1;67(2):233-9.