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An Overlooked Men’s Sexual Health Panacea?

AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo

“Panacea” might be a stretch. But it is very impressive.

This supplement was once a staple of my supplement regimen, then fell out of my rotation for a spell, but made its way back into the stable (a pun on the translation of its name, you’ll see) recently, where it belongs.

(Note: The last time I wrote about an herbal remedy for a problem not conventionally solved with anything but expensive pharmaceuticals — tongkat ali — what is probably an extreme minority of readers accused me of hocking snake oil or whatever. I exist on the internet so I understand the cynicism, but this is an unfair and unfounded accusation; I am not making any money off of recommending anything and there’s not any particular brand I would endorse. Furthermore, none of what follows is medical advice — just what I’ve learned over time based on real evidence and what might be of benefit, or at least interest, to you.)

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Of all the ayurvedic (ancient Indian) herbal medicines, turmeric and ashwagandha seem to have the most research to back them up.

You might have heard of turmeric — the spice that contains the potent anti-inflammatory compound curcumin — but ashwagandha tends to fly under the radar, without the due I believe it deserves.

The moniker ashwagandha — its scientific name being Withania somnifera — is derived from a combination of Sanskrit words translating to “smell of the horse.” And, if you’ve unfortunately smelled the extract outside of a capsule in powder form, you will understand it has earned its name by way of its horrendous odor.

But it works as advertised, based on personal experience and on the body of clinical research surrounding it as a supplement.

As a baseline benefit, and one of its more common uses, ashwagandha increases testosterone in men. This is borne out by many, many studies, one of which is highlighted via American Journal of Men’s Health:

Overweight men aged 40-70 years, with mild fatigue, were given a placebo or an ashwagandha extract…

Ashwagandha intake was associated with an 18% greater increase in DHEA-S ( p = .005) and 14.7% greater increase in testosterone ( p = .010) compared to the placebo.

Aside from increasing testosterone, the clinical evidence also points to ashwagandha being something at least approaching a (much-needed) panacea for various domains of male sexual health.

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Via Health Science Reports (emphasis added):

A randomized, double‐blind, placebo‐controlled study of 50 healthy male subjects was conducted to test the efficacy of the ashwagandha root extract in improving male sexual health function through the improvement of various sexual domains and an increase of serum testosterone. This clinical study clearly demonstrated that people who took the ashwagandha root extract had an 88.5% greater probability of improving the total DISF‐M sexual health function score. The ashwagandha root extract also increased their abilities to perform better in all the five DISF‐M domains, such as sexual cognition, sexual arousal, sexual behavior, orgasm, and sexual desire

The study also supported improving and maintaining the QoL in the participants who took the ashwagandha supplement.

Ashwagandha may also confer better sleep — sleep being a critical component to maintaining high testosterone levels in men.

In one study, researchers gave ashwagandha to a group of 80 participants, some who self-reported experiencing sleep issues and some who self-reported healthy sleep, giving half of each sub-group either placebo or ashwagandha extract for two months and saw what happened to their sleep.

What happened was members of both the healthy sleeper and insomniac cohorts fell asleep more quickly, their sleep was more restorative, and they stayed asleep longer than the placebo group.

Via Journal of Ethnopharmacology (emphasis added):

The assessment was done based on the sleep parameters (Sleep Onset Latency, Total Sleep Time, Wake After Sleep Onset, Total time in bed, and Sleep Efficiency), Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and Hamilton Anxiety scale-A questionnaire, mental alertness on rising assessment, and sleep quality questionnaire…

In both healthy and insomnia subjects, there was a significant improvement in the sleep parameters in the Ashwagandha root extract supplemented group. The improvement was found more significant in insomnia subjects than healthy subjects…

The present study confirms that Ashwagandha root extract can improve sleep quality and can help in managing insomnia. Ashwagandha root extract was well tolerated by all the participants irrespective of their health condition and age.

I haven’t tested my testosterone levels or sperm count myself before and after starting ashwagandha, but I imagine the results would be similar to those recorded in multiple studies, including the ones above.

Beyond its therapeutic use for men, ashwagandha is also potentially beneficial for many issues related to the sex hormones for the fairer sex: treating symptoms of menopause in women; regulating menstrual cycle; increasing fertility.

Perhaps best of all, it’s super cheap and widely available without a prescription from medical gatekeepers.  

So perhaps consider giving it a whirl.

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