Top 5 Benefits of Ashwagandha for Women

Women are the world’s great multitaskers. We juggle work, family, and household responsibilities, putting pressure on ourselves to succeed while striving to always be there for those who need us. Sooner or later, the cracks start to show. We feel tired, dull, and moody. Stress has become the new normal. Another cup of coffee is not going to fix this -- we need to get to the root of the problem. 

Meet my friend, ashwagandha. This herb has become the latest darling of the natural health scene, thanks to its powerful anti-stress effects. Ashwagandha has been a staple of traditional Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, but it seems to have arrived at just the right moment for our fast-paced modern age.

Research suggests that ashwagandha can be very effective at improving our tolerance to stress and reducing its harmful effects on our health. This is good news for everyone, but it’s especially good for women. To understand why, you need to understand what stress is doing to your body.

Chronic stress is pervasive in the modern era, and its effects on health are toxic. The body’s “fight-or-flight” stress response is meant to be a short-term survival strategy -- but your body isn’t designed to maintain this state long-term. As the Mayo Clinic explains:

"The long-term activation of the stress-response system and the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones...can disrupt almost all your body's processes. This puts you at increased risk of many health problems…"1

Long-term stress can negatively impact your cardiovascular, reproductive, cognitive, immune, and mental health. According to WebMD, stress-related health problems affect 43% of all adults and account for 75-90% of all doctor visits. 2

But women seem to be particularly susceptible to stress and more sensitive to its effects. As reported by the Office on Women’s Health, women are more likely than men to report physical symptoms of stress, such as tension headaches and stomach issues, as well as mental or emotional problems linked with stress.3

Stress and Women’s Health

Why are women suffering more from stress? Scientists aren’t sure, but it’s likely that both sociological and biological factors are at play. Research shows that women still shoulder more of the burden of housework and caregiving responsibilities for both older and younger family members than men do, even while also working a job. It’s no wonder that many feel stressed.

Women’s bodies may also be more sensitive to stress hormones. We already know that women’s hormones fluctuate more than men’s do. They go through cyclical changes with the monthly menstrual cycle, and shift dramatically during major life periods such as pregnancy and menopause. This complex hormonal system may be more easily disrupted by imbalances.

When stress hormones, such as cortisol, flood the body, they disrupt the balance of other hormones. 4 Hormones influence multiple processes in the body, from our reproductive system to our metabolism, energy levels, sleep cycles, and moods. And because our hormones work together in complex ways, any imbalance can cause ripples throughout all of these systems.

According to one survey, nearly half the sampled women between the ages of 30 and 60 have experienced symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Common symptoms include mood swings, sleep issues, fatigue, and low libido. But hormone imbalance can also lead to more serious conditions down the road. Many health problems that are more common for women, from thyroid issues to memory problems to bone loss, are directly influenced by hormone imbalance.

According to OB-GYN Dr. Jane Oh, stress is one of the major triggers for these imbalances. “When patients come to me for hormonal imbalance, the root cause is usually too much cortisol or stress hormone,” she told Healthline. “Then downstream...every other hormone in our bodies is affected, including sex hormones and thyroid.” To undo this ripple effect, we have to reduce stress and restore hormonal balance. That’s where ashwagandha comes in.

Benefits of Ashwagandha for Women

Balance is key to women’s health and well-being. That’s why traditional medicine systems such as Ayurveda can work so well, because they work holistically. A traditional herbal medicine like ashwagandha can provide a wide range of health benefits, precisely because it’s so good at restoring balance.

Ashwagandha is part of a special class of herbs known as adaptogens. Adaptogens are stress-response modifiers that help the body to “adapt” and become more resilient to various forms of stress. 5 When stress throws the body out of balance, adaptogens help “normalize body functions and strengthen systems compromised by stress.”6 They act like a magic shield, protecting us from the harmful effects of stress and increasing our stress tolerance.

Adaptogens are different from other kinds of herbs because they can adapt their effects to the needs of the body. Like a thermos that keeps hot liquids hot and cold liquids cold, adaptogens help insulate your nervous system against extreme fluctuations. They give you energy when you need a boost and calm you when you’re too wired. When life gets bumpy, they help smooth out your ride.

The main active plant compounds in ashwagandha are called withanolides. Withanolides can act as hormone precursors in the body, converting into human hormones as needed to help regulate physiological processes. 7 This, along with its stress-reducing effects, helps explain how ashwagandha can help restore hormonal balance.

One reason that ashwagandha has recently become so popular is that it has a growing body of strong research to back up its benefits. Here’s what the science says about the benefits of ashwagandha for women.

1. Stress & Mood

If there’s one thing ashwagandha is known for, it’s stress relief -- and for good reason. In clinical trials, ashwagandha has been shown to reduce cortisol levels by as much as 27.9% to 30.5% 8 9, with measurable improvements in mental and emotional well-being.

Ashwagandha has also been shown to mimic GABA-like effects in the brain 10, calming over-excited neurons to promote relaxation and improve mood. That’s important, because women are twice as likely as men to experience mental stress and mood problems.

2. Better Sleep

One of the side effects of stress and hormonal imbalance is that our circadian rhythms get disrupted. Our circadian rhythms are responsible for cueing the body to fall asleep at night and wake up alert the next morning. This, combined with a restless mind, is an easy recipe for insomnia and “non-restorative sleep,” leaving us tired and irritable the next day.

Ashwagandha can help put our sleep cycle back on track by normalizing our hormones and reducing the stress and worry that disrupt our sleep in the first place. In one clinical trial, ashwagandha significantly improved the ease and quality of sleep and reduced mental stress for patients with insomnia. 11

3. Memory & Focus

“Brain fog” is linked with hormonal imbalance, and many women experience problems with focus and memory during menopause and perimenopause. 12 Chronic stress can also have damaging long-term effects on brain function.13

Ashwagandha has been used as a nootropic to enhance mental function for thousands of years, and research shows why. Not only is ashwagandha clinically shown to improve cognitive performance in healthy adults, 14 it’s even been shown to improve memory, attention, and information processing speed in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.15

4. Reproductive Health

When the body is stressed, it diverts its resources from producing reproductive hormones in order to make more cortisol. Naturally, this can have a negative impact on fertility, sexuality, and the menstrual cycle.

Ashwagandha is traditionally known in Ayurveda for its sexual health benefits for men, but research shows that it may be just as beneficial for women. In one clinical study, ashwagandha significantly improved libido and sexual function for females experiencing a sexual slump. 16 In another study, ashwagandha, combined with two other Ayurvedic herbs, was shown to ease menopausal symptoms, with a significant improvement in quality of life.17

5. Thyroid Health

Thyroid problems affect 1 in 8 women during her lifetime 18, and are particularly common following major hormonal shifts, such as pregnancy and menopause. Stress can also interfere with thyroid hormone production. An underactive thyroid can trigger mood and energy slumps, menstrual irregularities, and a sluggish metabolism.

Early research shows that ashwagandha can help normalize thyroid hormones for patients with an underactive thyroid. 19 Some researchers caution against taking ashwagandha if you have an overactive thyroid, just in case it has a stimulating effect on thyroid hormone production.

Ashwagandha for Women

If you could use some more balance in your life, you may want to try ashwagandha for yourself. Keep in mind that the effects of ashwagandha are cumulative, so you will experience the most benefits with consistent, long-term use, as it gradually reconditions your nervous system.

NATURELO Ashwagandha is made with organic ashwagandha root and includes BioPerine black pepper extract as a bioenhancer to boost absorption. (As always, consult a doctor before use if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking any medications.)

 

References:

1. “ Chronic Stress Puts Your Health at Risk.” Mayo Clinic.
2.  “The Effects of Stress on Your Body.” WebMD
3. Hammen, C., Kim, E.Y., Eberhart, N.K., Brennan, P.A. (2009). "Chronic and acute stress and the predictors of major depression in women". Depression and Anxiety; 26(8): 718–723.
4. Ranabir, Salam, and K Reetu. “ Stress and hormones.” Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism vol. 15,1 (2011): 18-22. doi:10.4103/2230-8210.77573
5. Panossian A.” Understanding adaptogenic activity: specificity of the pharmacological action of adaptogens and other phytochemicals”. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2017;1401(1):49-64. doi:10.1111/nyas.13399
6.  “Reflections on the Adaptogenic Concept.”

European Medicines Agency, May 8, 2008.
7. Tohda C, Kuboyama T, Komatsu K. “ Search for natural products related to regeneration of the neuronal network.” Neurosignals. 2005;14(1-2):34-45; Research Center for Ethnomedicines, Institute of Natural Medicine, Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University, Sugitani, Japan.
8. Auddy, Biswajit & Hazra, Jayaram & Mitra, Achintya & Abedon, Bruce & Ghosal, Shibnath. (2008). “A Standardized Withania Somnifera Extract Significantly Reduces Stress-Related Parameters in Chronically Stressed Humans: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study.” Journal of American Nutraceutical Association. 11. 50-56.
9. Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. “A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults.” Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine. 2012;34(3):255-262. doi:10.4103/0253-7176.106022.
10. Singh, N., Bhalla, M., de Jager, P., & Gilca, M. (2011). “An overview on ashwagandha: a Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda.”African journal of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines : AJTCAM, 8(5 Suppl), 208–213.
11. Langade, D., Kanchi, S., Salve, J., Debnath, K., & Ambegaokar, D. (2019). “Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Insomnia and Anxiety: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Study.” Cureus, 11(9), e5797. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.5797
12.  “Do You Have a Hormone Imbalance?” WebMD.
13.  “Protect Your Brain from Stress.” Harvard Health Publishing, August 2018.
14. Pingali U, Pilli R, Fatima N. “Effect of standardized aqueous extract of Withania somnifera on tests of cognitive and psychomotor performance in healthy human participants.” Pharmacognosy Res. 2014;6(1):12-18. doi:10.4103/0974-8490.122912
15. Choudhary, D., Bhattacharyya, S., & Bose, S. “ Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Functions.” (2017). Journal of Dietary Supplements, 1-14. Chicago
16. Dongre, S., Langade, D., & Bhattacharyya, S. “Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Improving Sexual Function in Women: A Pilot Study.”
BioMed research international, 2015.
17. Modi, Mansi B et al. “Clinical evaluation of Ashokarishta, Ashwagandha Churna and Praval Pishti in the management of menopausal syndrome.” Ayu vol. 33,4 (2012): 511-6. doi:10.4103/0974-8520.110529
18. “ Prevalence and Impact of Thyroid Disease.” American Thyroid Association (2014).
19. Sharma, A. K., Basu, I., & Singh, S. “Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Subclinical Hypothyroid Patients: A Double-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. (2017)