Ashwagandha for the menopause

by Hannah de Gruchy September 05, 2023

Ashwagandha for the menopause

Ashwagandha, also known as winter cherry and Indian ginseng, is an ancient herb, that’s been used in the traditional Indian system of medicine, Ayurveda, for generations. There is some evidence that it can have an adaptogenic effect, helping the body adapt and restore balance during times of physical and emotional stress.

The menopause is a natural event in the life of a woman and some trans men, triggered by a gradual reduction in levels of the female sex hormone, oestrogen, and to a lesser extent, progesterone.

In the UK, the average age for menopause is 51, however, some people experience it earlier. The period of transition leading up to the menopause is called perimenopause.

Golden Autumn leaves

The perimenopause and the menopause have similar and wide-reaching symptoms. Everyone will experience this time of change differently, but for many, the associated symptoms are uncomfortable, distressing, and embarrassing, and can severely impact their quality of life.

As well as a change in the frequency, duration, and flow of periods, common physical symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, headaches, weight gain, loss of muscle and bone mass, heart palpitations, difficulty sleeping, and loss of libido. Emotional symptoms include brain fog, memory loss, loss of confidence and self-esteem, mood swings, anxiety, low mood, and depression.

Since the symptoms of menopause can be difficult to manage, many people choose to consult their doctor to discuss medical help, including HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy - a type of talking therapy). However, not everyone wants to or can take HRT or commit the time to CBT.

Many people struggling with their symptoms therefore choose to take natural supplements, either alone or alongside more conventional treatments such as HRT. One such natural remedy is ashwagandha.

Ashwagandha and the menopause: Fast facts

  • Ashwagandha is a medicinal herb that has been used in traditional medical practices for thousands of years.
  • Menopause can lead to a range of physical and mental symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, brain fog, and anxiety.
  • Ashwagandha supplements may help to ease symptoms of menopause, such as stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
  • They can be taken any time of day; however, they may be more beneficial in the morning to help manage anxiety and in the evening to help promote good quality sleep.
  • There are no known serious side effects to taking ashwagandha, but there are some instances where these supplements should be avoided.

Does ashwagandha help with menopause symptoms?

Studies suggest that taking ashwagandha supplements may help to reduce some of the symptoms associated with menopause. For this reason, they are becoming a popular natural supplement to take to help people through this period of transition.

Does ashwagandha help menopause stress and anxiety?

This medicinal herb has adaptogenic properties, which means it can help the body find a sense of homeostasis or equilibrium when it’s under stress.

Declining oestrogen levels can mean that levels of the stress hormone cortisol can increase (as it’s less “masked” by oestrogen) which can lead to more feelings of stress and anxiety. Ashwagandha has the potential to lower stress and cortisol levels, that can also have a positive effect on the symptoms of anxiety that are common during the menopause.

Does ashwagandha benefit sleep?

Mature woman waking up

Due to the fact that ashwagandha helps to reduce stress and anxiety, it can also be useful for promoting restorative sleep – the less stressed and anxious we are, the more likely we are to gain a full night’s sleep.

Not only that but studies also suggest that ashwagandha has a mild sedative effect on the body. So, when taken in the evening, it can help those who struggle to sleep. Participants in the study also reported less grogginess the following morning when compared to conventional sleep tablets.

Does ashwagandha help hot flashes and urine infections?

Recurrent urinary tract infections, or UTIs are another common symptom of menopause. A recent study has found that taking an ashwagandha supplement reported a “statistically significant reduction in urinary symptoms”.

The same study also found that it also had a significant positive effect on hot flashes and that the women taking it reported an overall better quality of life score.

Does ashwagandha affect oestrogen levels?

Studies do suggest that ashwagandha has the potential to have a positive effect on oestrogen levels, and more studies are encouraged.

Does ashwagandha balance female hormones?

Since ashwagandha has an adaptogenic effect on the body, it could potentially help to redress the balance of hormones during menopause which could help you manage your symptoms. However, an herbal supplement cannot completely restore hormones to their previous levels.

Can you take ashwagandha with HRT?

There is no advice that explicitly warns against taking ashwagandha alongside HRT and it’s generally considered safe. However, as with any herbal preparation, if in doubt, speak to your GP or pharmacist.

What time of day should I take ashwagandha supplements?

The best time to take ashwagandha

There is no “right time” to take ashwagandha supplements – it can be taken any time of day, in the morning, afternoon, or evening. However, it may be more beneficial to take ashwagandha at a certain time of day, depending on what benefits you hope to gain from it.

As a general rule, take it in the morning to help reduce stress and anxiety during the day, and in the evening before bed to help promote restful sleep.

Either way, taking ashwagandha regularly and at the same time each day will help you gain the maximum benefit. This is the case for all supplements.

How much ashwagandha should I take to manage menopause symptoms?

Taking between 250-1,250mg per day is thought to be beneficial, with around 600mg per day considered an optimal daily intake of ashwagandha.

Are there any side effects from taking ashwagandha?

There are no known serious side effects to taking these herbal supplements. However, taking more than 600mg per day, particularly if you have a sensitive stomach, may cause abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting. Taking your supplements with a meal may help to prevent this, or lead to milder gastric symptoms.

belladonna plant botanical

Ashwagandha, along with aubergines, bell peppers, and tomatoes, is a member of the nightshade family of plants. Some nightshade plants are dangerous to consume, such as tobacco, or the most well-known “deadly” nightshade, belladonna.

But on the whole, nightshade plants do not pose any health risks to most people. However, if you have a known allergy or sensitivity to nightshade vegetables or fruits such as tomatoes or peppers, the advice is to avoid taking ashwagandha supplements.

Ashwagandha is also best avoided if you take certain medications, including barbiturates, anticonvulsants and benzodiazepines. If there’s a possibility you could be pregnant, avoid taking ashwagandha supplements. If in doubt, consult your GP before taking any herbal supplements for menopause.

Ashwagandha for menopause symptoms

Like any nutritional supplement, the advice is to choose the highest quality available to you. Many lower-quality supplements contain unnecessary fillers and binders that may pose a risk to human health, and they may not contain sufficient levels of nutrients to be of benefit.

In terms of ashwagandha supplements specifically, some may also contain heavy metals such as lead and arsenic, due to contamination from agricultural chemicals in the soil in which the ashwagandha plant has been grown. These contaminants may lead to headaches and dizziness in some people, and in rare cases, liver or kidney disease.

Organic Fermented Ashwagandha capsules from Living Nutrition are Soil Association-certified and contain no fillers, binders, or preservatives. Only the freshest, highest quality ingredients are used in Living Nutrition products, for maximum benefit.

Fermented into its most bioactive form, the ashwagandha root in these twice-a-day capsules is rich in substances called withanolides which are the most active components of the ancient herb.

Take ashwagandha capsules every day for at least 12 weeks to see if they help you manage your menopause symptoms.

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Hannah de Gruchy
Hannah de Gruchy

Author

Health and wellness author and biologist specialised in sustainability, nutrition and eco-living.


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