There is no standard for what makes a healthy libido. Our sex drive is as unique as we are. Some of us may crave sex constantly, while others may think about it only once in a blue moon.
However, if you notice that your sexual libido is a lot lower than usual, it can be a sign that something is off.
If you go to your doctor to treat low libido, they may recommend you a combination of lifestyle changes, psychological counseling, and hormone replacement therapy. However, another option you can use to boost your sex drive is ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha belongs to a class of herbal supplements known as adaptogens. It has been used in ancient India’s Ayurvedic medicine for centuries for various purposes. Most notably, ashwagandha was used in Ayurveda to improve sexual health or sexual dysfunction and is often mentioned as an aphrodisiac in the Kama Sutra.
In this guide from ASYSTEM, we’ll go over the benefits of ashwagandha for your sexual health, how it can help to improve your libido, and how you can start supplementing with it today.
Read on to optimize your sex drive — naturally.
What Is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is a plant native to India and some parts of South Asia. Its Latin name — Withania somnifera — translates to “sleep inducer.” In Sanskrit, ashwagandha translates roughly to “odor of the horse,” presumably due to its pungent aroma.
Ashwagandha belongs to the nightshade family, including tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. While it grows as a perennial shrub, only the ashwagandha root extract is used to create supplements. The root contains a high concentration of various beneficial compounds that make it a popular herbal supplement.
Although the plant is native to certain parts of Asia, its cultivation has spread across the globe. With an increasing interest in stress-relieving herbs, farmers across North America have begun to grow the plant.
What Are the Ashwagandha Health Benefits?
India’s Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) have long placed their faith in ashwagandha as a healing herb. As such, you may be wondering if research supports the benefits of ashwagandha and, if so, what they might be.
Ayurvedic medicine and TCM propose dozens of benefits of ashwagandha, which can range from improving wellbeing to curing disease. While research does not support all of these claims, here are a few benefits of ashwagandha that are backed up by evidence:
Ashwagandha Can Reduce Psychological Stress
Since ashwagandha belongs to a group of herbs known as adaptogens, its claim-to-fame is its ability to reduce stress.
How does this work? Well, adaptogens are known for adapting their function to regulate the stress response in your body, which in turn can also support your immune system and sexual health.
If there is a dysfunction in your stress response — which involves a complex interplay with the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands — adaptogens can help restore balance. As a result of adaptogens, levels of stress hormones can return to normal levels.
Ashwagandha certainly does not disappoint in this regard. It reduces activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and cortisol levels in states of hyperarousal. However, what’s interesting is that ashwagandha can also increase cortisol levels in cases where it's too low.
Studies show the efficacy of ashwagandha in reducing stress levels. For instance, one randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment shows that administering 300 milligrams of the herb to healthy adults significantly reduced blood cortisol levels. In addition, the study’s participants reported no marks of chronic stress at the end of the experiment — as opposed to the control group.
As for the best part, subjects reported no negative side effects during the experiment. This supports both the efficacy and safety of ashwagandha supplementation.
Ashwagandha Can Lower Markers of Inflammation
We always hear about inflammation as being at the root of poor health, but few of us know what it really means. Essentially, inflammation is your body’s response to fighting off invading pathogens, such as bacteria or viruses.
In cases of acute inflammation, such as a cut, your body’s white blood cells rush to the injury site. This helps fight off invading pathogens while also supporting your body’s recovery.
However, if inflammation is chronic, then it is likely that your body is fighting off something other than an invading pathogen. Some potential causes of chronic inflammation include excess fat cells, toxins from tobacco products, or a build-up of cholesterol deposits.
Depending on how severe the chronic inflammation is, it can initiate significant damage to your body. Chronic inflammation is linked to various health conditions, which makes its presence damaging to health. While lifestyle-based interventions, such as diet and exercise, are the first line of approach to addressing chronic inflammation, herbal supplements such as ashwagandha can also play a role.
Research shows that ashwagandha reduces the physical markers of inflammation, such as c-reactive protein (CRP) and cytokines. Most research on ashwagandha’s role in inflammation is done in animals. For instance, one study shows that supplementing with ashwagandha could significantly reduce paw swelling in arthritic rats.
Although research in humans is fairly limited, a few studies show that ashwagandha can play a role in modulating chronic inflammation. For instance, one study shows that an herbal formula containing ashwagandha can significantly reduce pain in patients with osteoarthritis.
Ashwagandha Can Help Address Low Libido
Ashwagandha has been used for centuries to address low libido. Although it is most well-known for its anti-stress and anti-inflammatory effects, many individuals are turning to it as an alternative to pharmaceuticals to increase their sex drive and other facets of sexual health, sexual performance, and sexual function.
In the next sections, we’ll go over ways to tell if you have a low libido and how you can use ashwagandha to restore it.
What Are the Signs of Low Libido?
There’s no such thing as a “normal” libido: Everyone’s sexual desire is different.
However, if you’re noticing that you’re craving sex a lot less than usual — and it’s interfering with your well-being — then it may signify that your libido is low relative to your normal levels.
Along with low libido, you may experience a reduced ability to get aroused, trouble having an orgasm, reduced stamina and endurance, and psychological “blocks.”
While it may seem like something is wrong with you, there are many reasons why you may experience a reduced sex drive. Many of these causes can stem from the environment. For instance, too much stress, too little sleep, poor diet, low levels of exercise, and prescription medications have all been linked to a low sex drive. Mental health can also impact your sex drive and, in women, vaginal lubrication.
As such, addressing a low libido requires getting to the root cause and nipping it in the bud.
However, what happens if you’re not able to address these causes? After all, reducing stress or increasing sleep is a lot easier said than done in our modern society.
In this case, you can turn to an herbal supplement for some help. In the following section, we’ll go over how exactly ashwagandha works to improve libido and how you can start supplementing with it to restore your sex drive.
How Does Ashwagandha Help Improve Libido?
1. It Lowers Stress Levels
As a response to psychological stress, your body releases a cascade of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. This can significantly reduce blood flow to your sex organs, which can impact desire.
Aside from that, who wants to have sex when they’re feeling on-edge?
If stress is one of the main reasons you have a low libido, it might make sense to supplement with something that can help you reduce stress.
By regulating your biological stress response, ashwagandha may be an excellent way to reduce agitation while promoting a relaxation response. This can support you in restoring your libido back to its normal levels.
2. It Improves Sexual Health
Poor physical health can lead to inflammation, poor circulation, and other conditions contributing to reduced libido. After all, if we are physically unwell, it is much harder to get into the mood.
If you suspect that poor health is one of the culprits behind low libido, then lifestyle interventions are in place to increase your sex drive. However, you can also supplement with ashwagandha to improve certain aspects of your health.
For instance, ashwagandha can increase nitric oxide production, which can increase how much oxygen blood vessels carry throughout the body — this includes the genital area. This, in turn, can help you to increase arousal, have an erection, or have an orgasm.
3. It Balances Hormone Levels (Such as Testosterone)
Although it is viewed as a male sex hormone, women also have testosterone (albeit in smaller amounts).
Healthy levels of testosterone can help to regulate a healthy sex drive. However, lower levels of this hormone are associated with reduced libido.
Ashwagandha can help to support the production of testosterone. It most likely does this indirectly by reducing stress hormones and increasing energy levels.
Nonetheless, randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trials show that ashwagandha supplementation is associated with as much as a 15% increase in testosterone levels.
If you’re experiencing low libido, turning to herbal supplements for health can be a safe and effective way to restore your sex drive. Ashwagandha is a popular option with a large evidence base to back up its sexual benefits.
Of course, various other ingredients have been clinically proven to enhance libido — discover ASYSTEM’s science-backed Libido System for an all-natural way to boost your sex drive.
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 | PubMed
Meet our Experts
This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.
Former Olympic Athlete, Founder, B2ten Foundation (coach to multiple Olympic Champions)
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