Ashwagandha for PCOS: A Fab Find or Just Another Fad?

Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)
Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)

General Physician | 6+ years

Ashwagandha for PCOS
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Are you looking for a natural option to manage your PCOS symptoms? Then you must have come across numerous articles proclaiming the benefits of ashwagandha for PCOS. If you are puzzled about its efficacy and safety, don’t fret, we have you covered. In this article, we take a look at how ashwagandha can help improve PCOS symptoms and how to use it.

Contents:
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    What is Ashwagandha?
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    Ashwagandha Benefits for PCOS
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    How Much Ashwagandha Should You Consume Per Day for PCOS Management?
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    What is the Best Time to Consume Ashwagandha for PCOS?
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    How to Use Ashwagandha for PCOS?
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    Are There Any Risks of Overconsumption of Ashwagandha?
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    What are the Other Health Benefits of Ashwagandha?
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    Don’t Have Time To Read?
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    FAQs
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What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha, scientifically called Withania somnifera, is also known as Indian ginseng, poison gooseberry, or winter cherry. It belongs to the Solanaceae or nightshade plant family that grows in India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa.

The roots of this plant have been used for over 3000 years in Ayurveda as a cure for different ailments.

Studies suggest that ashwagandha has multiple health benefits such as improved blood glucose control, and reduced stress and anxiety levels, which can be helpful in managing the symptoms of PCOS.

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Ashwagandha Benefits for PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. In this condition, your ovaries produce more than the normal amount of male sex hormone or androgens, which is usually present in a lesser amount in women. This excess androgen in the body can cause an irregular menstrual cycle, unwanted facial hair, acne, weight gain and hair loss.

There are many factors that can disturb the hormonal balance and create havoc in your body. Stress is one such factor for which ashwagandha is a remedy. Ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogen, which means it can help counteract the effects of stress in your body and help in managing the symptoms of PCOS.

Now, let us understand how stress is connected to PCOS and how ashwagandha benefits females who have this condition. 

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

When you feel stressed, your body releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol to counteract the stressful situation. Cortisol triggers a ‘fight or flight’ response and breaks down the stored glucose in your body to provide an energy boost, which helps you deal with the stressor. This increases your insulin and blood glucose levels.

Meanwhile, cortisol also causes insulin resistance and makes it hard for insulin to enter the cells in your body. This, in turn, leads to an increased level of glucose and insulin in your bloodstream.

Excess insulin increases the production of androgens in your body and can worsen the symptoms of PCOS.

Ashwagandha can help balance cortisol levels and manage the symptoms of PCOS. It reduces the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a system in your body that regulates stress and your body’s response to it.

Stabilises Blood Sugar Levels

Ashwagandha has been thought to be effective in controlling elevated blood sugar levels. Studies suggest that the compounds in ashwagandha can help improve insulin sensitivity in your cells when taken regularly. This can help lower your fasting blood glucose levels, HbA1c levels and insulin levels.

Reduces Inflammation

Studies suggest that women with a chronic condition like PCOS are more likely to experience low-grade inflammation, which is a chronic response to the condition. This chronic low-grade inflammation in your body can stimulate the ovaries (polycystic) to produce excess androgens and may worsen your PCOS symptoms.

According to studies, ashwagandha is a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Thus, it can help prevent the complications of PCOS that are associated with chronic systemic inflammation.

In these ways, ashwagandha is beneficial for female hormone balance and ashwagandha also benefits female fertility by helping to manage the symptoms of PCOS.

How Much Ashwagandha Should You Consume Per Day for PCOS Management?

Ashwagandha comes in a variety of forms. It is  available as gummies, capsules, liquid drops and powders. An effective dosage of ashwagandha is thought to be between 250 to 500 mg a day. Ask your gynaecologist or healthcare provider for the ideal dosage for you.

What is the Best Time to Consume Ashwagandha for PCOS?

You can ideally take ashwagandha at any point of the day. Taking it on an empty stomach can cause discomfort in some people, so it is recommended to take it after a meal, ideally breakfast, but it can also be taken after lunch or dinner.

The effects of ashwagandha are not immediate. It may take days or weeks to show results, so keep taking it for the prescribed amount of time. Discontinue using ashwagandha if you experience any side effects like nausea, vomiting or stomach upset.

How to Use Ashwagandha for PCOS?

You can use ashwagandha powder for PCOS by mixing it with honey, ghee, or milk. Ashwagandha powder can be used to prepare a soothing tea to relax your mind and manage the symptoms of PCOS.

If you are wondering how to take ashwagandha for PCOS, you can check out the following recipes:

  • Boil 1 teaspoon (approximately 5 g) of ashwagandha powder with a cup of water. You can also add a spoonful of honey and adjust the sweetness as per your taste.
  • Warm a cup of milk but do not boil. Add half a teaspoon (about 2.5 g) each of ashwagandha, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg powder to the milk and stir. Take off of heat and honey as per taste.

Are There Any Risks of Overconsumption of Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is considered to be safe for general consumption. Those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, and on medications should consult their doctor before using ashwagandha

Some studies have found that ashwagandha may also increase the levels of testosterone in women, which could worsen your PCOS symptoms. More research needs to be conducted on these claims to confirm their veracity. So in order to avoid any complications, consult your healthcare provider before you start taking ashwagandha for PCOS. 

Avoid overconsumption beyond the recommended daily dosage prescribed by your doctor or the dosage mentioned on the package as it may cause stomach upset, diarrhoea, and vomiting.

What are the Other Health Benefits of Ashwagandha?

  1. Studies have shown that ashwagandha improves male infertility by increasing the levels of DHEA-S, a sex hormone involved in testosterone production. However, more research is needed in this regard.
  2. Ashwagandha could improve cognitive function in the elderly, people with mild cognitive impairment and schizophrenia. It improves attention, memory, and reaction time.
  3. Insomnia is a condition in which you are not able to sleep. Researchers suggest that ashwagandha can help decrease stress and improve the quality of sleep.
  4. Ashwagandha is also known to improve oxygen consumption during intense activity, which reflects the health of your heart and lungs. It also improves muscle strength and enhances athletic performance.

Don’t Have Time To Read?

  • Ashwagandha is a perennial herb, used since ancient times. It is known for its numerous health benefits.
  • It plays an important role in managing various symptoms of PCOS. It reduces the activity of stress hormones and manages your blood sugar and insulin levels by lowering insulin resistance in your cells. It also reduces low-grade inflammation in PCOS.
  • Ashwagandha is available as capsules, tablets, powder, etc. You can take about 250 to 500 mg daily after breakfast, lunch or dinner. The powder form can be best taken with honey, milk or in the form of tea. 
  • Ashwagandha is considered to be safe for general consumption. Overconsumption can pose issues such as stomach discomfort, nausea, diarrhoea, and vomiting.
  • Studies have shown that ashwagandha could improve male infertility, enhance athletic performance, and improve cognitive brain function in adults and in people who have schizophrenia.
  • Start your PCOS management journey with Phable. Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading gynaecologists, endocrinologists, nutritionists, and dieticians; order medicines; book lab tests; and get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Check out our store to order healthy treats, weighing scales, fitness bands, and more! We also have a PCOS Management program that provides ‎360º care.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, ashwagandha can be taken during periods. There is no clear scientific evidence regarding the same, but it is thought to help improve heavy bleeding during your periods. Ashwagandha may show this effect by reducing the effect of stress hormones on your body, which can cause hormonal imbalance and worsen the symptoms of PCOS such as irregular periods, heavy bleeding etc.

There is no clinical or scientific evidence to show that ashwagandha can cause weight gain. However, it may help in weight loss. Ashwagandha is rich in antioxidants, which improve digestion, fight free radicals, and reduce inflammation, which may help your body burn stored fat.

Ashwagandha is considered to be generally safe. However, overconsumption may lead to negative effects such as nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, etc. in some people.

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that ashwagandha is good for female fertility. However, it may help improve PCOS symptoms by lowering the stress hormone cortisol levels, relieving anxiety, promoting better sleep and by stabilising your blood glucose levels. This could help in improving female fertility issues.

Maybe. There is no significant evidence that shows that ashwagandha can increase the levels of female hormones. However, one small study conducted on women going through menopause suggested that it may increase estradiol, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH) levels in your body.

The effects of ashwagandha are not immediate. It may take anywhere from a few days to a couple of months to show its effect.

There is little evidence to suggest that taking ashwagandha can help balance hormone levels, especially in women. If taking it to lower stress levels, you can consume up to 5 g of ashwagandha daily without any side effects. Do not take more than the quantity prescribed by your doctor or mentioned on the label.

Maybe. There is no significant evidence suggesting that ashwagandha could cause hair loss or prevent hair growth. However, some experts claim that ashwagandha can help stop stress-induced hair fall. The stress hormone cortisol can damage your hair follicles and lead to hair loss, which can be improved by using ashwagandha. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the herb may also help prevent scalp irritation and stimulate hair growth.

Ashwagandha reduces the level of the stress hormone cortisol in your body and counteracts its effects on your system. It improves the insulin sensitivity of the cells in your body and helps stabilise your blood sugar level. This, in turn, reduces the production of excess insulin, which stimulates the production of androgen that causes difficulty in releasing eggs from your ovaries, leading to weight gain, acne, hair loss and other symptoms of PCOS. Thus, ashwagandha can help manage the symptoms of PCOS by relieving stress.

Dr. Pakhi Sharma
Dr. Pakhi Sharma, MBBS
(General physician, 6+ years)
An expert in obstetrics and medical emergencies, Dr. Pakhi Sharma, an alumni of Sri Devaraj Urs University of Higher Education and Research Centre, is a general physician working at Phablecare. She has 6+ years of work experience spread across gynaecology and obstetrics, family medicine, and medical emergencies at renowned hospitals and clinics.

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