If there’s one thing men suffering from sexual dysfunction or disorders need to know, it is this: sexual health is not independent of overall health, vitality, and lifestyle. Disorders like premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, impotence, and problems with sperm concentration, quality, and motility are often linked with insufficient or imbalanced nutrition, lifestyle problems like smoking and lack of physical activity, and other health conditions – stress being a primary contributing factor.
So it’s difficult to treat these disorders with drugs that address specific symptoms. This is where the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha can help by focusing on rejuvenating overall health and addressing the sexual disorders at their root rather than at the symptom level.
Ashwagandha Is Ayurveda’s Answer To Male Infertility
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), variously called Indian ginseng or winter cherry, is an Ayurvedic rejuvenator or rasayana that plays a multifacted role in improving overall health. The roots of ashwagandha are used extensively in Ayurveda to promote physical and mental health, provide defense against disease and adverse environmental factors, and arrest the aging process. There is an increasing body of research that seems to be validating these ancient claims. Here’s a list of all the proven health benefits of ashwagandha. On top of that, ashwagandha is an aphrodisiac of repute that addresses several specific symptoms related to male infertility. Here’s a detailed look at the benefits of ashwagandha for male fertility.
1. Increases Semen Volume, Sperm Count, And Sperm Motility
More often than not, the basic problem behind male infertility is the number, structure, and motility of the sperm. Ashwagandha has been seen to improve all these aspects.
A 3-month study was conducted to test the sperm-generating effect of ashwagandha root extract on 46 otherwise healthy men with a low sperm count (oligospermia). The study found that on day 90, as compared to the placebo-treated group, there was
- 167% increase in sperm count
- 53% increase in semen volume
- 57% increase in sperm motility1
2. Improves Semen Quality
The quality of the semen in terms of its biochemical composition – such as amino acids, essential salts, vitamins, and antioxidants – also determines a man’s sexual health.
A couple of studies in India tested the impact of ashwagandha roots on infertile patients for 3 months. They found that ashwagandha therapy
- repaired the disturbed concentrations of salts and amino acids like lactate, citrate, alanine, GPC, histidine, and phenylalanine in seminal plasma (semen fluid)
- recovered the quality of semen
- improved serum biochemistry
- improved sperm count and motility
- recovered the levels of antioxidant enzymes and vitamins A, C, and E
- corrected fructose levels in seminal plasma2 3
3. Raises Testosterone And Balances Reproductive Hormones
Another important factor in male fertility is the balance of reproductive hormones. This is why doctors often ask for tests to assess the levels of testosterone, luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and prolactin in blood. A study found that ashwagandha
- significantly increased testosterone and luteinizing hormone, which help produce sperm
- reduced the levels of follicle-stimulating hormone and prolactin, high levels of which indicate infertility
- invigorated the harmonic balance of seminal plasma metabolites and reproductive hormones4
Another study later found that ashwagandha improves the levels of testosterone by 17% and luteinizing hormone by 34%.5
4. Improves Testicular Health And Libido
Animal studies have shown that ashwagandha leads to improvements in sexual parameters, presumably by exerting a testosterone-like effect. The herb
- increases testicular weight
- increases the diameter of seminiferous tubules that produce sperms and the number of seminiferous tubular cell layers in the testes
- increases the daily generation of sperms
- increases pro-sexual behavior6 7
5. Reduces Oxidative Damage To The Sperm
It has been well documented that high levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the semen induce oxidative damage to the sperm and are associated with abnormal sperm parameters, leading to infertility. Ashwagandha, an effective antioxidant, can fight such damage. It also
- inhibits lipid peroxidation or the oxidation of the fat layers in sperm cell membranes
- lowers protein carbonyl content, which is a biomarker of oxidation-related stress in the body
- reduces oxidative stress by counteracting the formation of ROS in infertile men and improving levels of various antioxidants8
6. Counters Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
Stress, anxiety, and depression play a key role in sexual dysfunction. This is because these conditions raise the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which in turn increases oxidative damage. Ashwagandha can decrease the frequency and severity of instances where stress inhibits male sexual behavior.9
This is by virtue of ashwagandha’s adaptogenic and anxiolytic properties – that is its ability to modulate the body’s response to stress and reduce anxiety, respectively. This herb can reduce cortisol levels by 28%, decrease stress by 44%, and depression and anxiety by 72%.10
7. Reverses Ill Effects Of Smoking On Fertility
Like on other body parts, smoking has an adverse effect on sperms as well. It exposes the sperm to cadmium and lead, affecting sperm count, motility, and structure.
A study found that ashwagandha could reverse the adverse effects of cadmium on sperm-producing tubules. It could also improve the motility and density of the sperm in the cauda epididymis, the latter part of a tubular structure in the male reproductive system where sperm is stored.11
Has No Significant Impact On Erectile Dysfunction
One aspect of sexual health that ashwagandha doesn’t seem to have a significant beneficial impact on is psychogenic erectile dysfunction or difficulty in sustaining an erection due to psychological and personal factors.12
However, several health conditions like stress, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and smoking also cause erectile dysfunction. It is possible that ashwagandha can help eliminate such root causes and show better results in alleviating this disorder.
How Much To Consume
Ayurvedic preparations often use ashwagandha root or leaf powder, instead of a concentrated extract. The recommended dose for long-term use is 1 or 2 teaspoons twice daily, boiled in water or mixed with milk or honey. One could reduce 1 tsp of ashwagandha root or leaf powder to about 300 mg of concentrated extract.
Taking this cue from traditional texts, most human studies on ashwagandha have tested effects of dosage of 600–1,200 mg of ashwagandha root or leaf extract per day; they have found this dosage to be both safe and effective. In capsule form, that works out to 1–2 capsules, twice daily.
Ashwagandha has been found to be effective at even lower doses; the minimum effective dosage of ashwagandha extract is 50–100 mg. On the other end of the spectrum, even dosages as high as 6,000 mg of extract per day have been found to be completely safe and non-toxic.
Aswhagandha Aphrodisiac Recipe From The Charaka Samhita
An ancient libido-boosting recipe – the claim might very well be true given the variety of healthy herbs that go into its preparation
- Take 1/4 kg newly harvested grains of black gram and 1/4 kg seeds of kapikacchu (velvet beans)
- Add 1 tbsp each: jivaka, rsabhaka, vira, meda, rddhi, satavari, madhuka, and ashwagandha
- Boil all of the above together into a decoction (reducing to 1/4th volume) and filter
- Add 3 cups cow’s milk
- Add 1/4 cup ghee
- Add 1/4 cups juice of each: vidari, iksu
- Cook on a mild fire
- Add 1 tablespoon palm or date sugar
- Add 1 tablespoon each: vamsalocana, honey, and pippali
- Mix all of the above together
- Take 1/4 cup before meals
|↑1, ↑5||Ambiye, Vijay R., Deepak Langade, Swati Dongre, Pradnya Aptikar, Madhura Kulkarni, and Atul Dongre. “Clinical evaluation of the spermatogenic activity of the root extract of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in oligospermic males: a pilot study.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013 (2013).|
|↑2||Guptaa A, Mahdib AA, Shuklab KK, Ahmadb MK, Bansalb M, Sankhwarc P, Sankhwar SN. Efficacy of Withania somnifera on seminal plasma metabolites of infertile males: A proton NMR study at 800 MHz. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2013.|
|↑3, ↑4, ↑8||Ahmad, Mohammad Kaleem, Abbas Ali Mahdi, Kamla Kant Shukla, Najmul Islam, Singh Rajender, Dama Madhukar, Satya Narain Shankhwar, and Sohail Ahmad. “Withania somnifera improves semen quality by regulating reproductive hormone levels and oxidative stress in seminal plasma of infertile males.” Fertility and sterility 94, no. 3 (2010): 989-996.|
|↑6||Abdel-Magied, E. M., H. A. Abdel-Rahman, and F. M. Harraz. “The effect of aqueous extracts of Cynomorium coccineum and Withania somnifera on testicular development in immature Wistar rats.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 75, no. 1 (2001): 1-4.|
|↑7||Mishra, Raghav Kumar, Hari Prakash Verma, Nidhi Singh, and Shio Kumar Singh. “Male infertility: lifestyle and oriental remedies.” Journal of Scientific Research 56 (2012): 93-101.|
|↑9||Bhattacharya, S. K., and A. V. Muruganandam. “Adaptogenic activity of Withania somnifera: an experimental study using a rat model of chronic stress.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 75, no. 3 (2003): 547-555.|
|↑10||Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. 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. Ind Jnl Psych Med. 2012 34(3): 255-262.|
|↑11||Mishra, Raghav Kumar, Hari Prakash Verma, Nidhi Singh, and Shio Kumar Singh. “Male infertility: lifestyle and oriental remedies.” Journal of Scientific Research 56 (2012): 93-101.|
|↑12||Mamidi, Prasad, and A. B. Thakar. “Efficacy of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera Dunal. Linn.) in the management of psychogenic erectile dysfunction.” AYU (An international quarterly journal of research in Ayurveda) 32, no. 3 (2011): 322.|