As per the estimations of WHO (World Health Organization), around 80% of people globally have used herbal medicine for health care. That’s quite a number, around 4 billion of the population. If we were to speak about the United States specifically, about 30% of the population resort to herbal remedies each year.
While some religiously follow herbal medicine, a few do not find it very effective. It’s all on the perspective, which varies from one person to the other. Needless to say, herbal medicine has been pivotal in treating ailments since time immemorial.
Every part of the herb seems effective – the roots, the seeds, the flowers, and the leaves. I was never a fan of herbal medicine until my friend, an ardent believer in herbs, introduced me to some of them she used. The ones that topped her list included black cohosh, red clover, and evening primrose. This is how I made friends with herbs and implemented a few to treat my joint pains and skin issues.
I didn’t do anything before I got the approval from the doctor. It was during one such visit to my healthcare provider’s office that I overheard her conversation with another patient who was keen on taking ashwagandha supplements to manage her menopausal symptoms. I had never heard of Ashwagandha’s role in menopause before. It aroused my curiosity. From what the doctor said and my research inputs, I learned a lot about this herb and its effectiveness in managing menopausal symptoms (if any).
Do you have a fascination for herbal treatment? Are you interested in knowing the significance of Ashwagandha in menopause? Well, then, here’s my write-up on the same. I have covered the relationship between menopause and Ashwagandha. I have even spoken of the side effects. Keep reading to know more.
What is Ashwagandha?
It’s not that the herb is unknown to me. However, to know more about it, I have done comprehensive research. Here is what I got to know. Ashwagandha, a medicinal herb, has its roots in India, Southeast Asian countries, and parts of Africa. The scientific name of Ashwagandha is Withania somnifera. It’s also called the winter cherry and ginseng.
Ashwagandha is referred to as a nootropic by some since it can boost our brain’s performance. Nootropics are the term given to medical substances that positively impact a person’s memory and learning. This herb has even been referred to as an adaptogen because of its ability to help the body cope with stress and recover from it. All these findings amazed me, as I didn’t know that ashwagandha was that effective in so many ways.
Ashwagandha and Menopause: The Relation between the Two
It’s no unknown fact that fluctuating hormone levels trigger most of the symptoms women face in menopause. To manage them, women resort to doing a lot of things, from managing their diet to trying herbal remedies.
So, how is ashwagandha helpful in menopause? Does it help to reduce the hot flashes, night sweats, and other symptoms of menopause? Scroll down to take a look at some of the interesting information I gathered.
1. The Herb’s Role in Relieving Stress
Ashwagandha has stress-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. So it can lower the cortisol or stress hormones rising in menopause and the transition phase.
You must be wondering what cortisol is. It is the stress hormone that spikes when you are anxious or stressed. You’ll be amazed to know that cortisol levels rise by nine times during times of stress. You cannot keep the stress bugs away in menopause when hot flashes and sleep issues trouble you quite often.
Estrogen plays a significant role in lessening the cortisol levels. But, in menopause, or the phase before menopause, there is a dip in the estrogen level. This hampers the cortisols as well, which may become elevated. The calming effect produced by ashwagandha impacts cortisol levels positively Thus, it helps to control stress and mood swings.
A study with 60 participants was conducted. The objective was to assess the role of ashwagandha in reducing cortisol levels. The results confirmed that those on two-month ashwagandha extracts had lower anxiety levels than those on a placebo. However, the study wasn’t specific to menopausal women.
2. Ashwagandha’s Role in Managing Hormonal Imbalances and Vasomotor Symptoms (Hot Flashes & Night Sweats)
Hormonal imbalance is one of the main reasons why women are troubled with hot flashes, night sweats, and other symptoms in menopause.
A recent study was conducted in 2021 for an 8-week duration on 100 women. The study aimed to assess the role of the ashwagandha root in the physiological changes and hormonal imbalances women go through in the perimenopause stage. It even tried to determine the impact of ashwagandha on the QoL(quality of life) in women on the verge of menopause.
Women who took ashwagandha supplements experienced reduced symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. The ashwagandha root extracts were also found to improve urinary abnormalities to a certain extent.
This is the only study to date that evaluates the role of ashwagandha in managing menopause symptoms. However, due to the small size of the study the results must be verified by involving a bigger group.
So, if you wish to try the ashwagandha remedy to manage your flashes, I would suggest you talk to your healthcare provider about its effectiveness before taking the plunge.
3. The Role of Ashwagandha in Improving Sleep
In perimenopause and menopause, sleep disorders affect around 47% and 60% of women, respectively. This is mostly due to night sweats, hot flashes, and increased stress levels. Because of the positive impact of ashwagandha in lowering cortisol, it even helps to improve sleep. The sleep-inducing capacity of the root extract of ashwagandha was highlighted in one study. However, the research doesn’t involve menopause in particular. So, I would give the same disclaimer I gave before. Do not use it to better your sleep unless you consult with the doctor.
Other Benefits of Ashwagandha (Unrelated to Menopause)
I came across some other benefits of ashwagandha, not all of which were directly related to menopause.
1. Possible Effects on the GABA Receptors
GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) receptors are neurotransmitters that slow down the brain’s activities by blocking certain signals of your CNS (Central Nervous System). When the nerve cell experiences an increased activity leading to emotions like fear, anxiety, and stress, the GABA receptors come into play. They help in providing a calming effect. Low GABA levels mean the onset of several neurological conditions.
Ashwagandha plays a significant role in increasing the GABA receptors when it is present in low amounts. That’s why it has a calming and tranquilizing effect. A study in 2000 compared ashwagandha to lorazepam, stating that the herb had a similar ability to the medicine in lessening stress and anxiety. This was done on mice, not humans.
Another study highlighted that a daily intake of 250mg/650mg of ashwagandha reduced stress and cortisol levels.
2. Has Anti-inflammatory Properties
The anti-inflammatory properties of ashwagandha make it useful for relieving inflammation and pain. It’s even used to treat conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
A study conducted in 2015 on 125 patients who had rheumatoid arthritis showed how effective the herb was on them.
3. Effects Heart Health
Ashwagandha directly affects heart health as it helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure and even eases chest pain. A study in 2015 established the role of ashwagandha in boosting heart health.
4. Increases Thyroxine Levels
Thyroxine is the primary hormone produced by the thyroid gland. It plays an important role in the functioning of our hearts, muscles, brains, and bones. Recent studies have yielded positive results regarding the role of ashwagandha in controlling hypothyroidism.
The other functions of ashwagandha include helping to manage blood sugar levels, boosting fertility, and controlling weight.
What Are the Side Effects of Ashwagandha?
As I already mentioned, a doctor’s consultation is needed before implementing anything new. Ashwagandha also has its set of side effects, which I would like to say here. Let’s look at the common side effects first.
The most common ones include:
The less common ones include:
- Hyperactivity and restlessness
- Lessened appetite
- Blurred vision
- Weight gain
- Night cramps
- Dry mouth
Ashwagandha is a no-no for women who are pregnant or might be pregnant. People with underlying medical conditions or any medication should avoid ashwagandha as well.
There isn’t any study to assess whether stopping ashwagandha can result in withdrawal symptoms. However, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pains could be some of the common signs.
My research on ashwagandha yielded interesting results. However, not all benefits of the herb are directly related to menopause. Yet, its stress-relieving and calming abilities may come of aid to menopausal women. More research is needed to determine this herb’s exact impact on menopause. When dealing with menopause, talking to the doctor before taking ashwagandha or any other herbal remedy is always advisable.
- Menopause & herbs
- Ashwagandha for menopause: Does it help?
- Ashwagandha and Menopause: Benefits and Uses
- Ashwagandha and Menopause: Benefits and Uses
- Trial finds ashwagandha provides relief for symptoms of menopause
- Is Ashwagandha Good for Menopause?
- Ashwagandha for Menopause
- Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA)
- Top 15 Natural Ways to Increase GABA
- Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
- Does Ashwagandha Improve Thyroid Health?
- Vaginal and Urinary Symptoms of Menopause
- What You Should Know About Ashwagandha Withdrawal
- Does Ashwagandha Actually Relieve Stress?
- How Does Menopause Affect My Sleep?