Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 11/23/2020
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 common ailment, from reducing stress to lowering cholesterol.
While the scientific evidence for some of its purported benefits is mixed, there is some evidence that ashwagandha may 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 healthy, optimal testosterone levels as a man.
Ashwagandha is a type of plant that belongs to the Solanaceae, or nightshade, family. It’s often used as a treatment in the Ayurvedic system of traditional Indian medicine, usually as a tonic for treating various ailments.
Like many other herbal ingredients, ashwagandha has been studied as a treatment for a variety 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 aren’t regulated by the FDA. You can find and buy ashwagandha products online and in most health food stores.
Ashwagandha is arguably best known as a natural supplement for boosting testosterone. A few studies have looked specifically at this effect, finding that ashwagandha may have real benefits for men affected by testosterone deficiency.
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. Published in 2010, this study involved a total of 150 men. Seventy-five of these men were healthy and fertile, while the other 75 were going through a screening program for infertility.
The 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 ashwagandha root extract 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. 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 press 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 men aged from 19 to 39 is 264 ng/dL to 916 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 men, 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 clear link between ashwagandha and higher testosterone levels in men.
Ashwagandha is widely available as an over-the-counter supplement. It usually comes in tablet, powder and liquid form.
You can buy ashwagandha from most health stores, pharmacies and online vendors of natural supplements.
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.
Ashwagandha may also irritate stomach ulcers, trigger immune disorders and affect recovery from surgery.
However, 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. Large quantities of ashwagandha have also been known to cause vomiting, stomach issues and diarrhea.
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.
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 a significant increase for men who used ashwagandha supplements.
Ashwagandha also appears to help with physical fitness, with one of the studies also noting an increase in strength and muscle mass.
Since ashwagandha is available over the counter, it might be an option worth considering if you want to increase your testosterone levels and optimize your physical fitness.
From supplements like ashwagandha to simple changes to your habits, our complete guide to increasing testosterone lists a wide range of techniques that you can use to boost your body’s testosterone production and enjoy a higher quality of life.