Are you looking for a natural way to enhance your health? Then you may want to learn more about ashwagandha. In this blog post, we explore ashwagandha’s role in alternative medicine, and unveil what makes it such a valuable herb for women’s health and wellness.
Ashwagandha Benefits for Females, What are they?
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With its origins in India, ashwagandha has been a highly prized herb in Ayurvedic medicine for over 3000 years. It is now used all over the world as a natural supplement to improve physical and mental wellbeing.
With accent on its power to relieve symptoms of certain health issues, we focus on the areas where ashwagandhas can help you, explaining how and why it works.
Current clinical research into various aspects of ashwagandha for human health have centred on its neuroprotective, sedative and adaptogenic properties. It has also examined its beneficial effect on sleep, its value as an anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, cardioprotective and anti-diabetic. This rapidly progressing body of research into ashwagandha highlights the herb‘s potential as a valuable natural remedy for many health issues.
Here is a list of the main areas where ashwagandha can give you scientifically proven, effective support:
- Hormonal imbalance
- Low libido
- Increased energy and enhanced bone density
- Stress related weight gain
- Metabolic issues (lowering blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol)
How Ashwagandha Works
Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen, which is a natural substance that helps your body cope with stressors. Adaptogens help regulate the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA), which is responsible for the fight or flight response. They also improve your body’s resistance to stress by balancing hormones and the immune system. This means that ashwagandha can modulate the release of cortisol into your bloodstream, easing the effects of stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Ashwagandha also has anti-inflammatory properties to relieve long-standing inflammation which is the root cause of many diseases and chronic conditions.
Modern science has found that the active compounds of ashwagandha, called withanolides, are responsible for its therapeutic effects. These compounds, when extracted, have antibacterial, antitumour, and anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers have also discovered that withanolides work by inhibiting the activity of certain chemicals in the brain, such as acetylcholine, which has the effect of improving brain function and cognitive ability.
Ashwagandha has been shown to work in numerous ways to support, preserve and restore women’s health. Here is a more detailed account of exactly where and how it is effective.
Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
We all experience stress. It’s an inevitable part of life and in short bursts can prove essential. Unfortunately, we find that everyday issues that surround us can often trigger stress, which activates the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a necessary hormone used by your body for many positive functions, but the effect of long-term high cortisol is not so good. When triggered by stress or fear it is present in large amounts to prepare you for a state of high alert in case you need to physically run or fight for your life.
This is an ancient biological function which in modern times is often (but not always) excessive. Everyone has different thresholds of coping with stressors. You may find driving in rush-hour traffic or coping with crowds in a city or railway station can sometimes trigger a stress reaction. Or it could be concerns for family, work-related worries, financial or health problems causing your stress levels to soar.
Apart from these effects of everyday life and work, our world is also filled with multi-communication and media bombardment, often to the point of overload. You may be someone who finds that listening to news bulletins causes a stress reaction and this could mean that your levels of stress may remain high or be constantly renewed. This prolonged state of stress has other negative effects on your body and mind as well as possibly leading to anxiety and depression.
Hormones that react to stress are those produced by your adrenal glands, and when you are in a state of high alert your adrenals issue the fight or flight alert. This causes your body to release cortisol which then triggers glucose from your liver to enter your bloodstream. Cortisol also boosts your brain’s capacity to utilise the extra glucose.
Women may sometimes have high cortisol due to raised oestrogen levels or certain medications, but the most usual culprit is perpetual stress. Your body is designed to have short, acute spikes of cortisol which should then subside. What you are not equipped to handle is having constantly raised levels, even throughout the night in many cases. Our bodies are designed to have naturally raised cortisol first thing in the morning, ready to begin the day, and by evening they should be subsiding to low levels ready for sleep. If levels are high during your sleep time, it will stop you getting deep and restorative sleep.
However, cortisol is not the real villain. The main culprit is prolonged stress. When cortisol is in balance it helps your brain to control motivation and mood. It triggers alertness as well as relaxation. Cortisol also plays a part in how your body uses the various food groups such as fats, proteins and carbs.
You can see why it’s important to strive to get a balance with your cortisol levels and if you have an unavoidably stressful life there is help at hand from a natural herb. Ashwagandha has been scientifically proven to reduce cortisol levels, and it can achieve this without the side effects of prescribed medication such as benzodiazepines and other tranquilisers.
Cognitive Ability and Memory
Ashwagandha has been found to have a positive effect on brain function, cognitive ability, and memory. The plant was originally described in its native India as ‘Rasayana’ which means rejuvenator because it promotes a state of youthful physical and mental health. It was also well known for its rejuvenating neurological effects.
A revelation has been scientifically established that ashwagandha acts as a gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) equivalent. This means that it has the ability to block addictive cravings for psychoactive substances such as nicotine and alcohol as well as for certain narcotics.
Your body produces natural opioid-like substances that bring feelings of pain relief and pleasure. These are neurotransmitters such as endorphins and enkephalins. Other mood-enhancing neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin are triggered by your brain when you feel pleasure.
Addictive substances such as nicotine, morphine, alcohol, and caffeine imitate your brains own neurotransmitters, or block other neurotransmitters such as GABA to create feelings of euphoria. When this happens, you are likely to find you begin to crave the substance in question.
Ashwagandha effects the GABA and opioid receptors in the brain which block some of these sensations, so helping to reduce addiction. It has also been found to be a safe and reliable alternative to medicines such as diazepines in treating addiction withdrawal symptoms.
The calming, mood-balancing effect that ashwagandha has is due to its ability to increase GABA and serotonin levels. It also works as an anti-anxiety, anti-convulsant, and muscle-relaxant by controlling the nerve cells that are triggered in the brain.
It has been discovered that ashwagandha has been used in the traditional Ayurvedic medical practise to boost memory and improve cognition. In light of this, research in the form of studies have taken place to establish the role of ashwagandha in boosting cognitive health and memory.
Ashwagandha and Female Hormones
Ashwagandha also helps to regulate the menstrual cycle, ease mood swings and improve fertility. Because of its ability to reduce oxidative stress and balance hormones, ashwagandha has been found to help female fertility. It works by boosting egg production and therefore increases the chances of conception. One factor that may be helpful to fertility is ashwagandha’s stress-relieving properties, which help with the inhibitive anxiety that can arise when trying to conceive.
Female hormones affect many areas of your health from menstrual cycle to mood and energy levels. When they are out of sync you may feel low, suffer with mood swings and may experience depression.
Ashwagandha has been found to help alleviate certain symptoms experienced around the time of the menopause. Symptoms such as hot flushes, mood swings, sleep disturbances, and anxiety.
The reason ashwagandha can help with balancing hormones is because of properties that support thyroid function. Research has found that ashwagandha may stimulate the activity of the thyroid gland and this increases the production of thyroid hormones T3 and T4. It is also known to reduce the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone if it should be raised. This helps to correct symptoms of hormonal imbalances such as irregular periods, mood swings, and fatigue.
Clinical studies have found that supplementation with ashwagandha has a positive effect on peri-menopausal and menopausal females.
Ashwagandha for Libido
In Ayurvedic medicine women have been using ashwagandha to rekindle the smouldering embers of libido for thousands of years. It has been considered an almost magical herb for sexual health due to its ability to act simultaneously upon both mental and physical barriers.
Ashwagandha has a very long-standing reputation for relieving stress which often leads to sexual inhibition, as well as helping with weight loss where necessary. A study published in the Natural Medicine Journal reports findings that ashwagandha can ‘improve sexual dysfunction in women and can help them achieve orgasms.’ One of the ways this is achieved is due to ashwagandha’s ability to increase blood flow which enhances sexual sensitivity.
Ashwagandha for Weight Loss
Research has found that ashwagandha has properties which have proved to be effective in helping women who are suffering with long-term stress to reduce body fat and increase muscle mass. This is due to the cortisol-reducing effect of ashwagandha. High cortisol levels cause you to store fat, particularly around your middle, it also inhibits sound sleep, and lack of quality sleep is a further reason your body may be holding onto stored fat.
A study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine, reports that ashwagandha helps in managing stress by reducing psychological and physiological markers of stress, serum cortisol level, and food cravings. It concludes that ‘reducing stress and lowering cortisol levels contribute to weight loss.’
Ashwagandha Benefits for Sleep
Research has found that taking ashwagandha supplements may help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep for longer, and have more restorative sleep. The participants in one study reported their sleep to have improved by 72%.
In trying to establish exactly why ashwagandha has such a good effect on sleep, researchers have looked at various compounds present in the herb which could be responsible for this effect. Findings were that triethylene glycol is naturally present and may bring on sleepiness. Other research suggests that ashwagandha acts on GABA receptors which are a key part of the sleep cycle.
Immunity and Inflammation
Ashwagandha possesses anti-inflammatory properties and although inflammation is the body’s natural reaction when infection or stress is present, the kind of inflammation which persists over a long period of time can lead to serious issues such as diabetes, arthritis, bowel disease, cancer and heart-related problems.
Research has found that the compound withaferin A in Ashwagandha is responsible for reducing inflammation. Laboratory trials have found that it reduces levels of inflammatory proteins such as interleukin-10, and recent studies are ongoing for its possible effect on inhibiting cell growth in certain cancers, particularly breast cancer.
Ashwagandha also has natural antioxidants which fight free-radical damage, so can protect your cells from damage caused by environmental pollutants, poor lifestyle choices and the effects of ageing. These antioxidants also help with brain and nervous system function.
Ashwagandha for Exercise
Due to its adaptogenic properties, ashwagandha combines boosting strength, enhancing endurance levels and increasing energy with reducing stress, easing inflammation and aiding in muscular recovery following exercise. It has also been found to increase bone density.
Risks and Precautions
Ashwagandha is generally safe to use. However, if taken to excess, there may be some possible side effects such as nausea, diarrhoea, and abdominal discomfort.
Other conditions when taking ashwagandha is not advised are:
- During pregnancy – Evidence suggest that it may cause miscarriage so should not be taken at all during pregnancy.
- Breastfeeding – There is currently no clear conclusion as to whether it is safe to use ashwagandha during breastfeeding.
- Thyroid conditions – Because ashwagandha can increase levels of thyroid hormones, it should be avoided if you have an overactive thyroid or if you take thyroid hormone medication.
- Autoimmune diseases – Because it can increase immune response, it is recommended that if you have an autoimmune condition that you don’t take ashwagandha. This includes multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes.
You should not take ashwagandha if you are on the following medications:
- Sedatives – Ashwagandha may increase sleepiness and slow breathing and if you are currently taking benzodiazepines or CNS depressants it may result in breathing problems and levels of sleepiness that could be a danger.
- Blood pressure medication – Ashwagandha lowers blood pressure so taking both could cause blood pressure to drop too low.
- Diabetes Medication – Ashwagandha can lower blood sugar levels so taking both can cause blood sugar to drop dangerously low.
- Immunosuppressant Medication – As it increases the activity of the immune system, taking ashwagandha alongside immunosuppressants will reduce the effects of the medication.
It’s always recommended to speak to your doctor before taking any supplement to ensure there will be no negative interactions with any current medications.
Dosages and Preparations
The recommended dosage of Ashwagandha varies depending on the form of the supplement you choose. It can be consumed through a capsule, tincture, or powder. It’s best to start taking Ashwagandha in small doses to ensure you have no adverse reactions.
Our capsules are made from KSM-66 Ashwagandha root sourced from India and contain a minimum of 5% withanolides. The extract is the highest concentration, full-spectrum root extract available worldwide and is an award-winning natural extract which has been used in 24 published ‘gold standard’ clinical trials.
Ten Key Takeaways
- Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that originated in India and is used as a natural supplement in alternative medicine.
- Ashwagandha is an excellent treatment to reduce cortisol levels that cause stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Withanolides, which are active compounds in Ashwagandha, offer anti-inflammatory properties and improve brain function and cognitive ability and declining memory.
- It mimics the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This means that it can block addictive cravings for narcotics.
- Ashwagandha regulates hormones and helps alleviate the symptoms of premenstrual stress and menopausal symptoms.
- It is known to be a support in boosting low libido.
- Ashwagandha helps with stress-related weight retention.
- It helps you to fall asleep and enjoy quality restorative sleep.
- Ashwagandha strengthens the immune system, aids digestion,
- It boosts energy levels, helping with exercise and increasing bone density.
When it comes to keeping you informed on health and nutrition, we’re here for you and aim to help where we can. If you would like to discuss any aspect of using natural supplements, or would find advice helpful, please feel free to contact us on 01297 553932.