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Ashwagandha, also called Winter Cherry or Indian Ginseng, is a well-known apoptogenic herb that has been shown to help people cope with stress. Ashwagandha has been shown to reduce cortisol levels during stressful times and support healthy adrenal function. Ashwagandha has also been shown to balance out the fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous system, which can overreact to stress. (1)
Traditionally, it has been commonly used for boosting strength and endurance, thus keeping up with one of its nicknames, “strength of ten horses.” Beyond helping the body cope with stress and body strength, it has been used as an aphrodisiac of sorts.
Studies have shown this root has been used to treat sexual weakness, secondary erectile dysfunction, and performance anxiety in men and increase sexual desire in women caused by many forms of sexual dysfunction. (3-5)
In a recent study, 50 women were split into two groups. One group received 300mg of ashwagandha root twice a day and the other group received a placebo for 8 weeks. The study measured sexual function in the areas of sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, sexual encounters and painful intercourse.
The women that received the ashwagandha supplementation saw significant improvements in sexual function relating to improved sexual arousal, lubrication, orgasm and satisfaction. (2)
The ashwagandha group also experienced decreased sexual distress and an increased number of sexual encounters during the 8-week supplemental period. (2,6)
They attributed these sexual benefits to 2 major pathways. Stress is exhausting, which decreases sexual desire, arousal and function. Stress increases cortisol levels to help battle stress, which directly depletes sexual hormone production. Ashwagandha reduces stress by reducing the production of cortisol, in turn, balancing sexual hormones. (1,2)
The second pathway is attributed to androgen deficiency syndrome or low testosterone. In both men and women, testosterone is required for a healthy libido and sexual function. Aging and stress can deplete testosterone and cause sexual dysfunction and decreased libido in both men and women. (2)
By raising testosterone levels, ashwagandha has been successfully used for years to boost sexual function including secondary erectile dysfunction, performance anxiety and low libido for men, but only recently has it been shown to do the same for women. (2-5)
For women, ashwagandha provides well-documented support for healthy sexual function, enhanced libido, arousal, lubrication, orgasm and satisfaction. (2)