Ashwagandha and Testosterone: What's the Link
Reviewed by Angela Sheddan, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Ashwagandha, also referred to as Withania somnifera, is an herbal ingredient that’s often used in a form of traditional Indian medicine called Ayurveda.
Like many other medicinal herbs, ashwagandha is often promoted as a treatment for just about every common ailment, from reducing stress to lowering cholesterol. Ashwagandha hair loss is another popular treatment.
While the scientific evidence for some of its purported benefits is mixed, there is some evidence to suggest that ashwagandha might help to increase testosterone levels in men, including a few studies that specifically look at its effects as a testosterone supplement.
Below, we’ve dug into the science behind ashwagandha and testosterone to find out whether it works and, if it does, how you can use it to increase testosterone and maintain optimal, healthy testosterone levels as a man.
What Is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub that belongs to the Solanaceae, or nightshade, family. It’s used as a treatment in Ayurvedic medicine, usually as a tonic for treating various ailments.
Like many other herbal ingredients, ashwagandha has been studied as a treatment for a wide range of illnesses. Overall, the findings are mixed, although there’s some evidence that it may provide benefits for people with certain forms of stress and anxiety.
Because ashwagandha is a herbal supplement rather than a medication, products that contain ashwagandha are regulated by the FDA as foods, not as drugs.
This means that ashwagandha supplements aren’t subject to the same strict approval process as medications. It also means that supplements that contain ashwagandha aren’t approved by the FDA for effectiveness or safety.
You can purchase ashwagandha products online and in health food stores. Many are marketed as immune system support supplements, natural testosterone boosters or as herbal products for promoting improved moods and relaxation.
Does Ashwagandha Increase Testosterone?
Right now, we don’t have a lot of high-quality scientific evidence on the effects of ashwagandha supplementation on testosterone.
However, the few clinical studies that are available do suggest that ashwagandha could have a mild but noticeable positive effect on levels of testosterone in healthy males.
Before we talk about specific studies, let’s briefly go over the basics of what testosterone is and why it’s so important.
Testosterone is your primary male sex hormone. It’s responsible for maintaining your sex drive, helping you to get and maintain erections, keeping your muscles strong and healthy, promoting optimal bone density and giving you consistent energy levels and cognitive function.
Low testosterone levels are associated with a variety of negative effects, including a weak sex drive, reduced muscle size and physical strength, sleep difficulties and mental health problems, including mild fatigue, depression and difficulty concentrating.
These issues can have a major impact not only on your physical and mental health, but also on your quality of life as a man.
It’s normal for your testosterone levels to decline slightly as you get older, typically starting from 30 or 40 years of age.
Some health conditions and medications may affect your steroid hormone levels and contribute to low testosterone, or “low-T.”
Our guide to testosterone levels in men goes into more detail about what can cause you to have low testosterone levels, as well as the signs you may notice if your testosterone production isn’t quite what it should be.
Ashwagandha and Testosterone: The Science
So, what does the research say on the benefits of ashwagandha treatments for testosterone? At the moment, there aren’t yet any reliable clinical trials on the hormonal and sexual health effects of ashwagandha like there are for treatments such as testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).
However, there are a few small-scale human studies that have looked into the effects of dietary supplements that contain ashwagandha and testosterone levels.
Before we dig into the science behind ashwagandha and testosterone, it’s important to qualify a few things.
First of all, the number of studies that look at ashwagandha and testosterone is limited. In total, there are only a few reputable studies available. Second, these studies aren’t particularly large, with the biggest involving a total of 150 people.
With this said, the science that’s available appears to support a link between ashwagandha and testosterone.
Let’s begin with the first study, which was published in 2010 in the sexual health journal Fertility and Sterility.
This study involved 150 men. Seventy-five of the men that took part in the study were healthy and fertile, while the other 75 were going through a screening program for infertility.
This study set out to investigate the effects of ashwagandha root on semen profile, testosterone and other reproductive hormones in the infertile men.
The researchers found that the treatment with ashwagandha improved testosterone, luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone and prolactin in the infertile men — all major factors linked to sperm quality and male fertility.
In a separate study from 2015, researchers looked at the effects that an extract of ashwagandha could have on muscle mass, strength and testosterone in men aged 18 to fifty.
In the study, 57 men without significant weight training experience were sorted into two groups, only one of which received ashwagandha root extract.
Both groups took part in resistance training for eight weeks, with their muscle size, strength and testosterone measured before and after.
After eight weeks, the group that took the ashwagandha supplement showed a greater increase in strength when performing bench presses and leg extensions. They also had a larger increase in muscle size in the chest and arms.
Most interestingly, the group that took ashwagandha had a significantly larger average increase in testosterone levels, with an average testosterone increase of 96.2 ng/dL versus 18.0 ng/dL in the placebo group.
The ashwagandha group also had a greater reduction in body fat percentage over the course of the study.
To put these results in perspective, the normal range for testosterone in adult men is 300 ng/dL to 1000 ng/dL, making the increase from ashwagandha quite significant.
Finally, a more recent study published in 2019 looked at the effects of ashwagandha on several hormones in overweight males, including testosterone.
Over the course of 16 weeks, the men involved in the study received ashwagandha extract or a non-therapeutic placebo. At the end of the study, the men who used the ashwagandha showed a 14.7 percent greater increase in testosterone than the men in the placebo group.
In short, while there isn’t a huge amount of research into ashwagandha’s effect on testosterone, the few studies that are available certainly show a link between ashwagandha and higher levels of testosterone in men.
While these findings are promising, it’s important to put them in perspective. Currently, we don’t know if ashwagandha increases testosterone more than a small amount, or how it compares to other options for increasing testosterone production.
It’s also unclear if using ashwagandha produces any noticeable improvements in the symptoms of low testosterone.
As such, it’s best to think of ashwagandha as a “maybe” when it comes to boosting testosterone levels, not as a proven treatment for a weak sex drive or other symptoms of low testosterone.
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Does Ashwagandha Increase Size?
Currently, there’s no evidence to suggest that ashwagandha increases penis size, assists with getting an erection or offers any benefits for sexual function.
As we’ve discussed in our guide to penis growth pills, most herbal remedies for boosting penis size aren’t supported by any scientific research. Worse yet, several have been found to contain hidden ingredients, including unlabeled drugs that may cause adverse events or interactions.
As such, it’s best not to rely on ashwagandha or similar products as proven options for boosting your penis size.
How to Use Ashwagandha for Testosterone
Ashwagandha is widely available as an over-the-counter supplement. It usually comes in tablet, powder and liquid form. You can buy supplements that contain ashwagandha from many health stores, pharmacies and online vendors of natural supplements.
To use ashwagandha, follow the instructions provided with your supplement. It’s best to talk with your healthcare provider before using ashwagandha, as it may cause interactions when used at the same time as several common medications — a topic we’ve discussed more below.
How Much Ashwagandha Should You Take Per Day for Testosterone?
Because ashwagandha is a dietary supplement rather than an FDA-approved treatment for low testosterone, there’s no officially recommended ashwagandha dosage for testosterone.
Most studies of ashwagandha involve a dosage of approximately 500mg. For example, a study of ashwagandha as a physical activity supplement involved one dose of 500mg per day, while a similar study focused on muscle strength involved a dose of 300mg taken twice daily.
Because there’s no officially recommended dosage for ashwagandha as a testosterone booster, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider about how to use this supplement.
Potential Side Effects of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is generally safe to use. However, if you use other medications or have existing health issues, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before taking new supplements, including ashwagandha.
This is because ashwagandha may interact with certain medications, including those used to treat high or low blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety, autoimmune disorders and certain thyroid conditions.
Large quantities of ashwagandha may cause vomiting, stomach issues and diarrhea. Although uncommon, ashwagandha has been linked to liver issues in a small number of people.
Ashwagandha may trigger immune disorders, affect recovery from surgery and worsen thyroid disorders.
It’s important to note that the long-term effects of ashwagandha are unknown. While it’s possibly safe to take for up to three months, more research is needed about long-term use for us to know the true long-term side effect profile of this supplement.
As such, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before using ashwagandha, especially if you use medication or have an existing health issue.
In Conclusion on Ashwagandha and Testosterone
While research on many of ashwagandha’s health benefits is mixed overall, there’s some real evidence that it can boost testosterone, with several studies showing measurable increases in testosterone levels for men who used ashwagandha supplements.
Ashwagandha also appears to help with physical fitness, with a few small studies showing an increase in strength and muscle mass.
However, it’s important to note that these studies are small in scale. As such, it’s best to view ashwagandha as a supplement that might help to increase testosterone production, not as a proven option for treating issues such as low testosterone.
Since ashwagandha is available over the counter, it may be an option worth considering if you want to increase testosterone with something that’s easy to add to your daily routine.
Interested in learning more about how testosterone affects your body? You can also learn more about other potentially helpful nutrients for sexual health, such as the potential benefits of lecithin sexually.