Friday, January 11, 2019

Can Ashwagandha Ease Menopause Symptoms?

What Is Ashwagandha?

This herb has many names. It's also known as the winter cherry or Indian ginseng. Ashwagandha is a popular Ayurvedic herb from India, but women all over the world use it for a variety of health reasons.

If you translate the word Ashwagandha, it means “odor of horse”. Sounds pretty weird, right? But there's a logical explanation for this!

Ashwagandha got this funny name because of its distinct smell, which is similar to horse sweat. According to many users of the herb, the smell is so strong, that taking the herb in its raw form can sometimes be intolerable. Aside from this, Ashwagandha gives you so much energy, endurance and strength – just like a horse!

In Ayurveda, this herb is known as Rasayana. It helps calm the mind and body and lengthens life. Ashwagandha also belongs to the class of small shrubs called Solanaceae where tomatoes and eggplants are part of. You can identify this herb because of its red berries and five-petal flowers.

Although most of its parts are usable, its roots are the most important part of the plant. They are made into powders, tinctures and extracts.

Grown in harsh weather, sunlight and extreme temperatures, ashwagandha, also known as “Indian Ginseng” or “Winter-cherry”, is capable of managing stress and boosting immunity. Interestingly, researchers have discovered more than 200 benefits of this herb!

How It Works

Ashwagandha has adaptogenic properties, which means it is a stress fighter. Menopause herbs such as red clover, red ginseng and ashwagandha have no direct effect on estrogen levels and thus, do not generate an estrogenic balance in menopausal women.

However, as mentioned before, practitioners do use it as tonic. Ashwagandha helps manage menopause symptoms by directly stimulating the central nervous system. Since it is an adaptogen, it works in your brain to reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is one of the stress hormones in your body, which in high levels causes a person to become increasingly anxious or depressed. Ashwagandha is a fabulous herb for those fighting with stress, especially menopausal women who are more vulnerable to negative emotions at this stage of their lives.

In addition, ashwagandha has a similar effect to GABA (Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid), which plays a role in calming the brain and the body. According to the Denver Naturopathic Clinic, GABA is a natural tranquilizer of the body.

Therefore, unlike most menopause treatments, ashwagandha doesn’t tackle vasomotor symptoms directly. However, since vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats are linked to stress, using ashwagandha can help relieve these symptoms too. Furthermore, adaptogens do a great job at improving sleep and treating insomnia. They can also be used to minimize mood swings and panic attacks, not only during menopause, but in all stages of a person’s life.

Ashwagandha and the menopause

Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for millennia to treat a wide range of health problems, including menopausal symptoms. Thanks to its adaptogenic properties, ashwagandha has been shown to help the body adapt to stressful situations, whether that’s environmental stressors or hormonal changes.

Ashwagandha has also been shown to play a role in calming the brain, by boosting the production of GABA – an important natural tranquilizer that boosts calm and reduces anxiety.

As many symptoms of menopause are directly linked to elevated cortisol levels, reducing stress naturally can help minimize many of these uncomfortable problems.

Here are just a few ways ashwagandha can help:

Boosts mood and improves sleep

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine adaptogens like ashwagandha are the most effective herbal remedies for treating sleep problems and mood swings in menopausal women.

Boosts sexual potency

Thanks to ashwagandha, you don’t have to go through a long dry spell even after being hit by menopause. Ashwagandha has been mentioned in the Kama Sutra as a natural and powerful aphrodisiac. According to research, ashwagandha promotes sexual health by increasing the flow of blood to all parts of the body, including the genitals. And it reduces muscle tension. Women who take ashwagandha usually talk about the effect it has on their libido.

Decreases stress

A recent study has suggested that Ashwagandha, or Withania Somnifera to use its scientific name, could help to decrease stress. After conducting a series of cold water swimming stress tests on albino rats, the study concluded that those rats that had taken Ashwagandha demonstrated higher levels of stress resistance. This ability to decrease stress could be of particular value to women experiencing the menopause.

Boosts energy levels

Many women experiencing menopause complain of low energy and fatigue. However, a 2011 study has suggested that ashwagandha can boost energy levels by tackling problems associated with high stress levels.

Elevates mood

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine assessed the effectiveness of six herbal medicines for the management of symptoms related to menopause. Researchers found that the use of ginseng for sleep problems and mood swings in menopausal women had the strongest evidence out of all the other botanical treatments. Since ginseng is also an adaptogen and has similar effects to ashwagandha on the body, it can be assumed that ashwagandha is equally beneficial in treating menopause symptoms. Of course, research has been done on ashwagandha too.

Researchers from the Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India describe the use of ashwagandha as follows:

“The roots of Withania somnifera (WS) are used extensively in Ayurveda, the classical Indian system of medicine, and WS is categorized as a rasayana, which are used to promote physical and mental health, to provide defence against disease and adverse environmental factors and to arrest the aging process.”

The researchers studied the effect of ashwagandha on rats and compared the results with benzodiazepine lorazepam, a clinical drug used for the management of stress, anxiety, insomnia and alcohol withdrawal. The rats were given a daily dose of 20 and 50 mg/kg of ashwagandha versus 0.5 m/kg of lorazepam.

The study was published in the 2000 issue of Phytomedicine and researchers found that the effects of ashwagandha on the lab rats were comparable to those of lorazepam thus, showing that ashwagandha can be used as a mood stabilizer to manage stress, anxiety and insomnia. Menopausal women fighting mood swings and sleep problems can greatly benefit from the regular use of this herb.

Improves vasomotor symptoms

Although ashwagandha doesn’t have a direct effect on your estrogen levels, studies do show that it can help in reducing vasomotor symptoms that are associated with estrogen decline. A couple of these symptoms include, you guessed it, the dreaded hot flashes and night sweats.

This is mainly because your stress levels have an effect on how frequent and intense your hot flashes are. The more you stress, the more you flush.

One study involving 51 menopausal women published in the 2012 issue of Ayurveda, showed that daily intake of ashwagandha supplement resulted in a significant improvement in symptoms of menopause syndrome, such as hot flashes, mood swings and anxiety.

Prevents memory impairment

According to modern research, ashwagandha may help reduce memory decline in aging and menopausal individuals. This isn’t some magic memory improvement gimmick, however. How ashwagandha works is complex yet simply put, it protects the brain from oxidative stress and thus, inhibits neuro-degeneration. You need to take ashwagandha regularly to reap its benefits and protect your brain.

One study showed that the herb relaxes the body and mind and fights stress. Stress is a strong degrader of memory and therefore, regular use of this herb has been linked to improvement in visual memory in the long term.

Helps relieve inflammation

Although many studies support the use of ashwagandha for the treatment of menopause symptoms, it is still a subject of ongoing study.

Researchers believe that ashwagandha may help fight inflammation in the body, indicating that it could be used as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, which is common among middle aged women.

In addition, ashwagandha may help improve cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and immune system function – but further research is still needed to validate this.


Usually, experts recommend a dosage of 500 to 1000 mg, twice or thrice a day however, a recommended daily dosage has not been established yet. Therefore, it is always best to follow the instructions given on the label or instruction sheet of the supplement.

How much you should take depends on the form of the product you take too, because it’s available in powder, capsules, tea and tincture form.

Side Effects of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha has been used for over 5000 years in Indian traditional medicine and has been mentioned in the oldest book related to sexual wellness, Kama Sutra. It’s a herb that was used years before an idea of a good dosage was developed and no side effects have been reported, except for occasional drowsiness or gastrointestinal problems.

Animal tests have been conducted with extreme doses, such as ¼ of the daily diet, which resulted in toxicity. However, this is true for almost any other herb. Too much of anything can be detrimental so it’s always best to follow instructions and not go crazy!

Women who are pregnant should avoid ashwagandha and always take supplements under their doctor’s instructions.

Ashwagandha powder may lead to some mild gastrointestinal problems so if at any point, you feel some discomfort with its use, reduce your dosage and gradually increase it to your complete daily amount. Another option if you experience side effects with the powder is to switch to tincture or supplements.

Since it has a calming effect on the body, it may lead to drowsiness in some people. If you’re sensitive to the herb’s sedative effect, try taking it to the night only and adjust intake accordingly. Some people report that the supplement makes them more energetic, in which case, you can have it during the daytime only or have a smaller dose in the night.

Sources and Additional Information:

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