More Muscle, Testosterone and Calm With Ashwagandha
Can Ashwagandha cut your stress and boost testosterone, libido and muscle? Yes, this unfamiliar Indian herbal adaptogen can do that, and more!
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:
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.
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:
The powdered form I’m using is Banyan Botanicals Organic Ashwagandha Root Powder:
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.
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.