More Muscle, Testosterone and Calm With Ashwagandha

Can Ashwangandha cut your stress and boost testosterone, libido and muscle? Yes, this unfamiliar Indian herbal adaptogen can do that, and more!

Ashwagandha boosts libidoUNLESS YOU’RE seeped in Ayurvedic medicine or Indian herbs, you must be thinking,

“Ashwag what!”

Frankly, it took me awhile to get the pronunciation right. I’ve been using this herb for over a year now in various forms, and want you to consider its benefits.

If you’re stressed, have low lbido or wonder where your muscles went, then Ashwagandha may be for you.

After a little introduction about it, this post will look at the potential for Ashwagandha to help you gain more muscle, libido and testosterone, while simultaneously reducing your stress.

Perhaps by the end of this post, you’ll have fallen in love with your very first Indian herb.

Some Ashwagandha Background

Ashwagandha belongs to the same family as the tomato, the “nightshades”. It’s a plump shrub with oval leaves and yellow flowers that produce a red fruit about the size of a raisin.

The herb is native to the dry regions of India, northern Africa, and the Middle East, but today is also grown in more mild climates, including in the United States.

When growing in the ground, Ashwagandha looks like this:

Ashwagandha plant

Both the berries and the root of the Ashwagandha plant are used to create an herbal powder that people use for a host of reasons that I’ll enumerate in a moment.  The powder can be consumed in capsule form or as a powder drunk in some liquid medium.

ASHWAGANDHA capsules

ashwagandha powder

 

In Sanskrit, Ashwagandha means “the smell of a horse,” but it doesn’t, not to my nose. The horse reference was used because the herb imparts the vigor and strength of a stallion, and it has thus been traditionally prescribed to help people strengthen their immune system after an illness.

Herbs like Ashwagandha are called adaptogens because of their unusual ability to “adapt” their function according to our bodies’ specific needs. It’s subtle and may take a month or so, but after a while it dawns on you that you’re somehow feeling better about things, less frantic — that all is fine in the world.

Adaptogens help us cope with anxiety by improving the health of our adrenals, which manage our physical response to stress.  This Life Extension protocol on stress management is very informative, and I recommend that you read it. Among the many supplements it describes that can reduce stress are various adaptogens, like Ashwagandha.

In How Depression Makes Us Age Faster, I describe the five negative effects of cortisol when sustained at high levels in the body due to chronic stress.

Cortisol is the hormone that our adrenals produce in response to a “fight or flight” situation.  If you’re doing neither, the cortisol does not dissipate through a physical response to the stress agent (a tiger leaping for you), but lingers, causing a host of problems, such as decreasing immunity, increasing abdominal fat, inhibiting thyroid hormone activation, and shortening your telomeres.

High intensity exercise also elevates cortisol, which is why I was initially attracted to taking adaptogens, experimenting with Siberian Ginseng, Rhodiloa and Ashwagandha.

Initially, I was taking 450 milligrams of Ashwagandha in capsule form twice a day, rotating it with Rhodiloa, every two months.

Then I read about how Ashwagandha can boost testosterone and muscle.

Once those benefits were revealed, I pushed the bottles of capsules aside and bought the powder form of Ashwagandha in bulk, and started using an increased dosage of it in tea and my green smoothies.

 

Ashwangandha Promotes Lean Muscle and Strength

As reported by ergo-log.com, researchers at the ICMR Advanced Centre for Reverse Pharmacology in Traditional Medicine discovered that participants in the study (12 men and six women, aged 18 thru 30) averaged an increase in lean body mass (aka, muscle) of a bit less than 4.4 pounds, and their fat composition decreased by more than two percent.

This happened over a period of 60 days, during which participants gradually increased their Ashwagandha dose:

  • Days 1-10, 750 milligrams/day
  • Days 11-20, 1,000 milligrams/day
  • Days 21-30, 1,250 milligrams/day

These were the total daily doses, half of which were taken twice each day.

Typically, along with more muscle comes more strength, and so it was with these participants.  They measured grip, quadriceps and lower back strength. The change in grip was statistically insignificant, but quadriceps strength increased by an average of just under eight pounds, and lower back strength of nearly four pounds.

Of course, these strength gains are trivial over the course of a month if you’re weightlifting three times a week, but remember that these participants were not doing any exercise during the study.

That they made these muscle gains recorded without any resistance training was remarkable.

What’s more – a valuable added benefit – Ashwagandha supplementation reduced the concentration of triglycerides in the participants’ blood by a significant amount, particularly the decline in LDL, the so-called “bad” cholesterol.

The numbers weren’t reported, but here’s the graph, courtesy of ergo-log.com:

Reduction of Triglycerides and LDL from Ashwagandha

 

Ashwagandha Boosts Testosterone

One reason that Ashwagandha may increase muscle and strength is through its effect on testosterone.

Also reported by ergo-log.com, in a review of a separate study than the one above cited, men taking a daily dose of five grams of Ashwagandha each day for 90 days could increase their testosterone by as much as 40%.

That’s a monstrous amount for a natural supplement to increase testosterone in so short a time period!

Here, researchers at the Indian Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University did trials on 75 men who were having problems conceiving children.

The men had three different characteristics, each with different testosterone improving outcomes:

  • Those infertile improved testosterone by 15%
  • Those with slow-moving sperm improved testosterone by 21%
  • Those with low sperm count improved testosterone by 40%

In addition to the increased testosterone levels in the men, the researchers found more antioxidant vitamins in them subsequent to the treatment. They reasoned that Ashwagandha neutralizes free radicals, and that this is the mechanism through which Ashwagandha increases fertility and testosterone levels.

It would be interesting to see if Ashwagandha supplementation would also increase testosterone in men with fertile, ample, fast swimmers.

I guess I’ll find out, presuming those three attributes are accurately descriptive.

As mentioned, I was taking 450 milligrams of Ashwagandha in capsule form twice a day, but then increased the dosage with a powdered form to two grams in the morning and evening (four grams total), taken either with hot water, or in a smoothie.

The capsule brand I’ve used is Life Extension’s Ashwagandha Extract:

 

(Click on bottle for more info.)

The powdered form I’m using is Banyan Botanicals Organic Ashwagandha Root Powder:

 

(Click on pic for more info.)

This stuff is pretty inexpensive given the potential benefits. So if you’re stressed, or would like to pump up your libido, testosterone or muscle, try out Ashwagandha.

Yep.

 

P.S.  As you’ve just read, Ashwagandha can help increase testosterone and also is a great adaptogen — something most of us could use — but if your goal is to boost testosterone, you might want to try other supplements as well.  I’ve been experimenting with Mike Mahler’s “Aggressive Strength” supplement, and have to agree with the many of the surprisingly supportive testimonials.

Mike Mahler's Aggressive Strength formula

(Click pic for more info.)

 

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Joe Garma
 

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 45 comments
Jonsondo - July 15, 2014

This is good information and well written.
How lucky are the ones who know about Ashwagandha.

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Mary - August 28, 2014

Would you recommend this for women (given the testosterone increase)?

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Joe Garma - August 28, 2014

Hi Mary.

The Web is full of reports about Ashwagnandha boosting testosterone in men, but I have yet to read one about how it would affect testosterone in women.

When I first discovered and began using Ashwagnandha it was because it’s a good adaptagen; meaning, good for relieving systemic stress. Only later did I learn that it can boost testosterone. I make this point because the typical use of this herb by both men and women is not for testosterone, but stress.

If you’re concerned about it increasing your testosterone, consider using other adaptagens, such as Rhodiola and Ginseng.

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Mary - August 28, 2014

Thanks Joe. I will consider the other adaptagens you mentioned, but first I’m going to see how I like the Ashwagandha. A friend gave me a bottle, so I’d like to try it out.

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Mark - November 11, 2014

Hello. I read your post on Ashwagandha. How has it been going since you upped your intake to 4 grams a day? Have you noticed any side effects? I am planning on starting an Ashwagandha regimen this weekend. I am 53 y/o and back into bodybuilding. The only supplements I take are whey protein and creatine. I like the fact that I can’t find any negative side effects in the research I have done on Ashwagandha. I was thinking of starting with 1 gram per day broken into 2 doses. What is your current opinion?

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Joe Garma - November 11, 2014

Mark, one of the challenges of using oneself as a guinea pig to test things is that — unless you really are a guinea pig (or lab rat) — it’s difficult to isolate inputs. So, I use Ashwagandha but I also use a bunch of other things that are designed to do a bunch of other things, such as support muscle growth. Therefore, it can be hard to know what’s doing what.

That said, I did not notice any side effects when I increased my dosage. And let me say that testosterone boosting is just one of several positive benefits attributable to Ashwagandha — it also is a great adaptogen (as mentioned in the post), helps control blood sugar and many other things. (Check http://bit.ly/1qCGd4I)

Whey protein is good, particularly after a workout, as it absorbs quickly. Creatine is good, take some before and after a workout. Some people also take a more modest dose on non-workout days. The research says it’s safe.

You may have noticed my mention of Aggressive Strength Testosterone Booster at the end of the post. If your body responds like most people’s do to this supplement, you’re likely to get the most out of it than others for testosterone. A friend of mine forwarded to me this email he wrote Mike Mahler, the guy behind Aggressive Strength:

“Greetings Mike:

I wanted to provide you a testimonial for Aggressive Strength because, well, it’s working for me.

I’m a 59 year old guy, eat reasonably well, cycle, practice yoga, and generally take good care of myself. At this age, however, my energy levels are, quite obviously, not what they used to be. I mentioned this to a friend who writes a health blog, GarmaOnHealth. Joe Garma recommended I try your Product and, coming from him, I thought it worth a try. And it has been worth the try. I’ve changed nothing in my diet, except for the inclusion of Aggressive Strength. For the 1-month + I’ve been using the Product I’ve felt a renewed sense of energy and focus. All without any artificial “caffeine-like” buzz. Simply more energy.

Bravo! on your Product. And, thank you for replying personally to my several inquiries.

All the best.”

His is one of many, many testimonials on Mike’s site. I’ve also cycled in and out of Aggressive Strength. I do notice a difference, but not to the extent others do. That might be due to what I said earlier — I take a lot of supplements, and it’s sometimes not clear which is responsible for what.

Good luck!

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Mark - November 11, 2014

Thanks for all the information Joe! I appreciate the honest answers. I can’t wait to try out the Ashwagandha. I might have to try the Aggressive Strength as well.

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AV - December 4, 2014

I want to buy the Ashwagandha powder but can you tell me how many teaspoons = 2 grams? Also, should I take on an empty stomach? The label doesn’t say anything about either question. Thx!!

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Joe Garma - December 5, 2014

Hi AV, thanks for posting your question.

Google does a great job for converting various metrics such as currencies, weights and measures, translations and the like. That said, a teaspoon is a measure of volume, grams a measure of weight, so an approximate conversion would have to be done. There’s one here: http://calculator-converter.com/converter_tsp_to_g_teaspoons_to_grams_calculator.php Plugging in your 2 teaspoons reveals 9.9 grams.

To answer your “empty stomach” inquiry, I went to Amazon.com and searched for “Ashwagandha” because I know that Amazon will present many pictures of labels where I could read the suggested use, which is to take it w/ food and water.

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Alexey - December 29, 2014

Joe,
Being 39 yo relatively inexperienced heavy lifter, how much root powder (NOT extract!) should I take daily for testosterone boost, faster recovery, lowering stress (and ab fat along with it)?
Not looking for a medical advice. Just what would you do if you were me 😉

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Joe Garma - January 7, 2015

I’d start by following the suggested dosage on the Ashwagandha package. On mine, the suggestion is 1/2 teaspoon up to 2x per day. I cycle in and out of using it (as you should w/ all herbs and supplements in general). Last time I was on it, I built up to a tablespoon once per day.

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Joe Garma - January 7, 2015

Whoops, made a mistake… was looking at a another herb package, Amalaki, not Ashwagandha, so don’t pay attention to the other response. I checked to see what Examine.com had to say about dosage: “The lowest effective dose for acute usage of ashwagandha, and perhaps the most cost-effective dose, is 300-500mg. The optimal dose is 6,000mg a day usually divided into three doses (2,000mg).” More here: http://examine.com/supplements/Ashwagandha/

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etienne portelli - February 21, 2015

Wich is the best qaulity ashwagandha what u think about holland and berrit

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Joe Garma - February 23, 2015

Etienne, I’ve only tried Banyan Botanicals Organic Ashwagandha Root Powder. There’s a link to it in the blog post. I included the Life Extension product because it is a reputable company and offers Ashwagandha in capsules.

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Raj Paul - March 5, 2015

Best brand would be ramdev /patanjali ashwagandha. Type Ramdev (Indian yog guru) in youtube or google.
Other powerful herbs for increasing muscle mass as mentioned in Charak Samhita are long pepper powder, dried ginger powder, shatavar, safed musli, kaunch……………
Some of the herbs for reducing bodyat are guggul and guduchi/amrita.

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pradeep - March 13, 2015

Good to join

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john - April 14, 2015

Hi Joe thanks for info,ive tried all supplements does ashwagandha cause tolerance issues ie do you have to cycle as of the last 6 yrs on researching supplements they are a bit short on what they claim to do, many thanx john

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Joe Garma - April 15, 2015

John, it’s always a good idea to cycle in and out of supplements, be they herbs or any other. I do a four cycle: 1) take maximum doses; 2) take a break; 3) go back on but at minimal doses; 4) take a break and then repeat.

Yes, supplements often do not live up to the hype, possibly because: a) The active ingredients simply don’t do as claimed; b) Every body is different and therefore reacts differently to the supplements; c) The quality is poor; e) Not enough is taken or for long enough.

Re Ashwagandha… It’s highly regarded and useful in several ways, particularly as a systemic stress reducer (an “adaptagen”) and a testosterone booster. It’s also fairly cheap so won’t break your bank to experiment w/ it.

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Ana - August 28, 2015

Thanks for another wonderful post. Where else may anybody get that
kind of information in such an ideal way of writing?
I have a presentation next week, and I’m at the search for such info.

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Rajneesh - August 29, 2015

Maharishi Vagbhatta has stated that ayurvedic herbs be taken for 2-3 months and then stopped for 2-3 weeks before resuming cycle.

The dosage as clearly specified in ayurvedic texts written by the rishis such as Charak, Susruta and Vagbhatta is not 2-5 grams as people often state on internet but pala or half pala measure i.e. 20-40 grams with clear statement that 40 grams is superior to 20 grams. In addition ayurvedic rasayna herbs should be taken in morning (not at night) and further not as divided dose but as single dose.
The vehicle depends on doshic constitution of the individual as follows:
Vata : with oil or milk
Pitta : with ghee or milk
Kapha : with honey (unpasterized)

As a general rule, take with milk mixed with ghee and honey for max effects.
Diet should consist of milk and ghee.

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arjun - November 6, 2015

Tou can also try Shatavri that is female substitute of ashwagandha… And helps to develop ripped body

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Joe Garma - November 7, 2015

Never heard of Shatavri, Arjun, so looked it up: http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/herbs/shatavari/ Appears to have a host of benefits, but none listed have to do with getting lean, specifically; however, if all the benefits listed occur, it would seem that one’s bodily functions would become more balanced, and therefore excess weight loss might occur.

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Maahi - November 27, 2015

Today i visited ur page about ashwagandha!! Mary.. Ahswagandha is very good for females too. just take it in ur daily life! No side effect!!

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Zhan - January 12, 2016

Hi Joe – Thanks for your article. You mention that you were cycling between Ashwagandha and Rhodiloa? Why? Can they be taken together? Should they? What about Saffron or Ginseng?

Thanks!

P.S Your “contact” page is broken

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Joe Garma - January 12, 2016

Hi Zhan. I’m constantly tweaking and changing my supplementation. One reason is that I learn about new ones that I want to try, and the other involves the principles of Hormesis and Homeostasis.

From gettingstronger.org/hormesis/: “Hormesis is a biological phenomenon whereby a beneficial effect (improved health, stress tolerance, growth or longevity) results from exposure to low doses of an agent that is otherwise toxic or lethal when given at higher doses.” From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeostasis: “Homeostasis is the property of a system in which variables are regulated so that internal conditions remain stable and relatively constant. Examples of homeostasis include the regulation of temperature and the balance between acidity and alkalinity (pH).”

What that means for my supplement regime is that I don’t, for instance, want my body’s natural free radical defenses to get weakened by consuming too many antioxidants too often and I want to mix things up so homeostasis doesn’t set in. (This is particularly relevant to weight loss, as many people’s bodies will adjust to calorie deficits and no longer burn fat.)

Re Ashwagandha and Rhodiloa… they are particularly effective when taken together (which I am presently), along with other adaptogens, such as Ginseng and Astragalus Root in a complex made by Swanson http://amzn.com/B001PSOAWA/garonhea-20. That said, more often I take these in powdered form in my smoothies because I consume more than the capsules provide.

Thanks for your heads up re the Contact Page!

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erin - February 20, 2016

I just bought a bag of ashwagandha in powdered form. I see your dosage recommendations given in mg, but what does that equal in teaspoons a day? Thanks

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Joe Garma - February 20, 2016

Remember Erin, there’s always Google: http://www.convertunits.com/from/teaspoons/to/grams

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kishore - February 21, 2016

does ashwagandha increase height for the people who are already overheight. since u say it is a adaptogen…

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Joe Garma - February 21, 2016

Kishore, there’s no reason to believe that Ashwagandha will increase height — that’s not what adaptogens do.

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Nayan - April 12, 2016

Joe,
I am 24 yrs old. I regularly spent minimum 1 hrs at Gym. Can I take ashwagandha before workout?
I have not use any kind of suppliment yet.. If I use ashwagandha can it help me to increase my muscle..

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Joe Garma - April 13, 2016

Nayan, at your age it would be unusual to need to boost testosterone. If you’re putting in the work at regular intervals and intensity, you should grow muscle and strength. Make sure you get good rest and eat balanced meals (protein, veggie and whole grain carbs, healthy fats). All that said, ashwagandha is pretty benign, so it’s fine to take it.

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Sheeja Paulos - July 13, 2016

Thanks Joe, for informative article.. Is it possible Ashwagandha can cure pre ejaculation during sex. I love to read Ayurveda all time.. If you have any suggestion reply same.

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Joe Garma - July 14, 2016

Sheeja, don’t know about its usefulness for ejaculation control, if that’s what you mean by “pre ejaculation”. There’s probably too many issues associated w/ that couldn’t be solved by a herb.

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Aditya - August 1, 2016

can i use ashwagandha along with protien powder

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Joe Garma - August 8, 2016

Yes.. I do all the time.

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RAJNEESH PAUL - September 4, 2016

Best age for ashwagandha is infact 11-20 yrs. This is when it would exert most potent effects. See Sarangardh Samhita for full details and decade-wise anti aging herbs and not just Ashwagandha.

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Ayurveda - January 18, 2017

I guess I’m replying really late but , ‘ashwagandha’ is for men and ‘shatavari’ is for women,according to ayurveda shatavari is recommended for women,you can google about it.

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Shenika Keis - February 12, 2017

Nice article, i hope it improves strength and reduces stress in both men and women. Thanks for the information.

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Mark McCaw - March 27, 2017

I just bought the liquid Tincture form by St Francis… is this as good as the powder for building muscle ?

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Joe Garma - March 27, 2017

Mark, according to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRIh0n2X97g the alcohol in tinctures can alter the benefits sought by the herb, whereas the powder form contains the whole herb without alteration by the alcohol. That said, tinctures are good to quickly deliver the herbal medicine, say if trying to stop an asthma attack. Don’t know if Ashwagandha is better as a tincture or powder, but since you have the tincture already, use it. Suggest you also use google to see if there’s reliable info out there about which is better. I just spent 10 minutes doing so and found nothing conclusive. I use the powder and will stick w/ it unless I bump into info suggesting otherwise.

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Mark McCaw - March 27, 2017

Thanks so much.

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Leona Lawhead - July 16, 2017

Hi Joe,
Since menopause, I have been using ashawaganda. I think I’ll up my dosage after reading your article on helping to control cortisol since I have adrenal fatigue. Thanks for the article.
Aloha!
Leona

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Joe Garma - July 16, 2017

Leona, also check out Rhodiola.

Re adrenal fatigue, I wrote about it here: https://www.garmaonhealth.com/adrenal-fatigue-tests-you-can-do/ and here: https://www.garmaonhealth.com/video-four-adrenal-fatigue-tests/ and Dr. Axe takes it on here: https://draxe.com/3-steps-to-heal-adrenal-fatigue/. Also Dr.Lam is an authority on the topic: https://www.drlam.com/

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Giselle Stewart - August 21, 2017

Yes Ashwagandha has good benefits that i got to know from this post …Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

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Joe Garma - August 22, 2017

You’re welcome, Giselle. Thanks for your readership.

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