The Potential Benefits of Ashwagandha for Women

Published on May 24, 2022

By Kristen Boye BS, Natural Health

Kristen Boye

Kristen Boye is a natural health expert, writer, copywriter, and editor. Kristen was raised on an organic farm in British Columbia which inspired her life’s work. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Health, is a Certified Natural Foods Chef, co-owner of a medicinal herb farm, and is a natural foods and children’s health advocate. Kristen lives with her husband and two children on their medicinal herb farm in Western North Carolina.

Ashwagandha has grown steadily in popularity over recent years. For centuries, this potent herb has been celebrated for its numerous therapeutic benefits in India and other parts of Asia. However, the popularity of ashwagandha supplements continues to grow, especially due to their ability to soothe feelings of stress.

In terms of stress, research shows that women experience stress with more intensity than men. REF#1723 In fact, clinical studies have shown that women are twice as likely as men to experience stress and anxiety. REF#1724 The demands of life, be it work, family life, caregiving roles, and loads of other day-to-day obligations can certainly cause chronic stress. 

Stress is one of the primary reasons that women seek out powerful adaptogen herbs like ashwagandha. In this article, we’ll dive into some of the health benefits of ashwagandha for women. 

The History of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha (withania somnifera), also known as Indian Ginseng or Winter Cherry, is a medicinal herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine. This herb comes from a small shrub with yellow flowers and red fruit, and it grows in the arid regions of India, Nepal, and China. Its root is the most commonly used part and is well-known for its adaptogenic properties. 

Ashwagandha has been cultivated for thousands of years and is a revered herb in Indian culture. More recently, this herb has been recognized worldwide for its remarkable benefits as a dietary supplement.

Ashwagandha is a compound word with its ancient origins in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. Derived from the Sanskrit language, "Ashwa" refers to a horse, while "Gandha" refers to smell or odor. This is a reference to the fact that Ayurvedic medicine practitioners believed ashwagandha could imbue the user with the strength, stamina, and resilience of a horse.

Ashwagandha has been traditionally utilized to:

  • Soothe feelings of stress*
  • Soothe menstrual issues like PMS or irregular periods*
  • Support adrenal health*
  • Support sleep*
  • Promote immunity*
  • Support the thyroid*
  • Encourage sexual drive*
  • Support energy*
  • Support cognitive function*

Today, most herbalists classify ashwagandha as nervine. This class of herb can help support the nervous system. As an adaptogen (or plant substance that can help support the nervous system), it can aid the body in adapting to physical, mental, and emotional stress.* 

What Are the Benefits of Ashwagandha for Women?

Numerous scientific studies have been conducted on ashwagandha in modern times. They’ve revealed more than 50 chemical constituents within this potent herb. This includes steroidal alkaloids and lactones, which are collectively referred to as withanolides. REF#1725

Studies have found that ashwagandha can help soothe feelings of stress and anxiety, support immune system function, support sexual function, and support heart health in healthy adults. REF#1726

It's no wonder why so many are turning to this powerful herbal supplement as a natural way to support their overall health and well-being. But what kind of benefits does this ayurvedic herb have for women specifically? Let’s take a closer look. 

Ashwagandha May Support a Balanced Mood

We’ve all had issues regulating our moods at some point. The good news is, if you suffer from mood swings or occasional feelings of sadness, ashwagandha may be able to help.* As an adaptogen, it’s traditionally been used to help women adapt to various physical, mental, and emotional stressors.* 

But how does it work? Well, research suggests this herb may help support healthy cortisol levels. This is one of the primary hormones released in response to stress. 

In fact, one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that women taking ashwagandha generally had balanced cortisol levels. REF#1727 These conclusions suggest that ashwagandha may help support the body's stress response. 

Ashwagandha’s ability to support feelings of relaxation can have profound effects on mental health, as well. REF#1728 

Mood balancing is not the only support provided by this potent herb. In fact, it is believed that ashwagandha may also have benefits for things like sleep, thyroid function, HPA-axis function, and hormonal balance.* Of course, all of these can have a major impact on mood.* 

At this time, more research is needed to make a definitive scientific conclusion. But, ashwagandha has the witness of tradition in its corner, not to mention loads of both anecdotal and scientific evidence to make a very strong case for its mood-supportive properties.*

Both Ayurvedic practitioners and traditional herbalists may recommend people take adaptogens like Ashwagandha, Mushrooms, or Maca daily to help maintain a healthy stress response and state of mind.*

Ashwagandha May Support Sexual Function

Healthy sexual function is important for many women. Sexual dysfunctions like low libido tend to be one of the biggest complaints, especially as women go into menopause. The major culprit for this is generally hormonal imbalance. 

However, low libido in women isn’t just a hormonal issue. Often, it can result from too much stress or a sub-optimal response to stress.

As a nervine and an herbal adaptogen, it can help promote a calm state of mind while supporting a healthy stress response.* This, of course, has implications when it comes to sexual desire.

While it is certainly not an aphrodisiac, there is limited research on the effects of ashwagandha, specifically on sexual function in healthy women. 

One published study used 50 women participants to test this theory. They were given 300 mg of ashwagandha or a placebo twice daily for eight weeks. REF#1729 The women who took ashwagandha reported healthy levels of arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and satisfaction. 

There is also evidence that chronically elevated levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, can suppress libido in women by lowering testosterone levels.* While more research is needed to fully understand the effects of this herbal medicine on sexual function in women, these findings are certainly promising.

Ashwagandha May Support Thyroid Function

The thyroid is an important endocrine gland located at the front of the neck. This gland secretes hormones that help regulate blood sugar levels, glucose metabolism, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure.

There are many health issues that can arise when the thyroid doesn't produce enough of its hormones. Over time, this can lead to conditions like hypothyroidism, which can cause fatigue, depression, memory issues, and more. 

If too much of these thyroid hormones are produced, symptoms like anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and weight loss can occur. With all that in mind, it's no surprise that keeping your thyroid healthy is important for maintaining both physical and mental health. 

The good news is both traditional use and modern research have shown that ashwagandha may be a safe and helpful herbal ally for thyroid support.* In a 2017 double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of 50 women aged 18 to 50, results found that taking 600 mg of ashwagandha daily could support thyroid hormone levels. REF#1730

Of course, more research is needed to come to conclusions. However, these results are likely due to the herb’s effects on cortisol levels.

As an adaptogen, Ashwagandha can help support your adrenals over time, supporting healthy cortisol levels. Gaia Herbs offers Thyroid Support, a herbal formula with Ashwagandha, Brown Seaweed, Kelp, and Schisandra.

A Closer Look at Thyroid Issues & Ties to The Female Reproductive System

Regrettably, thyroid disorders are very common. REF#1734 These ailments are more prevalent in females than males, with a higher frequency following childbirth and during menopause. REF#1734

Diagnosing thyroid problems can be problematic since they often imitate other health conditions. 

For instance, thyroid hormones can affect all of the following:*

  • Menstruation
  • Reproductive health
  • Metabolism
  • Blood glucose levels
  • Digestion
  • Skin
  • Hair
  • Circadian rhythm
  • Cardiovascular well-being
  • The stress response

Nonetheless, when stress persists, the excessive release of cortisol can contribute to HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) dysfunction, which can negatively affect the endocrine system, thyroid, immune system, sleep pattern, and other bodily functions.

Ashwagandha May Support Sleep Quality

It should come as no surprise that sleep is crucial for maintaining good physical and mental health. In short, sleep is when the body repairs and rejuvenates tissues.* Also, sleep can help strengthen the immune system while restoring energy levels. *

Unfortunately, many Americans don't get enough sleep, which is generally recommended to be between seven to nine hours per night. REF#1734 

Chronic sleep deprivation can impair cognitive function, memory, and decision-making. Sleep deprivation in women can result from several factors, including hormonal fluctuations due to menstruation or menopause, stress, caregiving, and other chronic conditions. REF#1731

Thankfully, ashwagandha has been used for centuries to help support the sleep cycle.* Studies have found ashwagandha may support sleep duration, sleep quality, sleep efficiency, sleep latency, and mental alertness upon waking. REF#1732

The benefit of ashwagandha for sleep support could have to do with its effects on the HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis, which governs your cortisol awakening response. This response is what normally can help you feel awake and alert during the day. If you find that you feel anxious or exhausted upon waking, there may be an issue with this response.

At the end of the day, taking ashwagandha for sleep support will depend on the individual.* If your sleep problems are related to stress, taking ashwagandha any time of day might help your body adapt to feelings of stress and support sleep.*

At Gaia Herbs, we offer several herbal formulas with Ashwagandha to support a healthy night’s sleep, including SleepThru®, Sleep Gummies, and Adrenal ® Health Nightly Restore.*

Ashwagandha May Soothe Discomfort From Menopause

Menopause and perimenopause (the phase leading up to menopause when hormone levels begin to fluctuate) can be both empowering and challenging at times. On the one hand, you’re settling into a new stage of life. On the other, this transition can come with uncomfortable symptoms.

In short, menopause is a natural biological process that marks the end of a woman's reproductive years. In general, this process occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, but it can happen earlier or later for some. 

The symptoms of menopause tend to result from the decrease of hormones like estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). 

This hormonal decrease can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, difficulty sleeping, and more. These symptoms may affect your mood, sleep, body temperature, thyroid function, bone health, mental well-being, and more.

In Ayurveda, ashwagandha has been used for centuries to support this transitional period.* One randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that ashwagandha root extract could be an option to help soothe mild to moderate climacteric symptoms during perimenopause in women. REF#1733

More specifically, researchers observed that ashwagandha could help support healthy hormone levels during perimenopause.* 

Again, this points back to ashwagandha’s ability to help support HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis function, which can have a positive downstream effect on all hormones.* 

The Bottom Line on Ashwagandha for Women

As we’ve seen, the potential benefits of ashwagandha for women are many. The good news is that this herb is generally safe and it is widely available as a supplement. Gaia Herbs offers several Ashwagandha supplements that can help you support your health.

These include:

But quality does matter. So, when you’re looking for a high-quality ashwagandha supplement, make sure it uses certified organic ashwagandha, that it’s been tested by third-party testing for purity and contaminants, and that it is free of artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, or fillers. 

However, if you’re breastfeeding, pregnant, taking medication, have a sensitivity or allergy to nightshades, or have a chronic health condition, check with your practitioner first to avoid unnecessary side effects. Combine this with other healthy diet and lifestyle changes, and you can experience the incredible rejuvenating benefits of one of Ayurveda’s most cherished herbs.*

For more herbal remedies and to learn about how herbs can support your health, visit our shop and browse our blog.


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