Should You Try Ashwagandha For PCOS?

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Is Ashwagandha Beneficial For PCOS

PCOS both leads to and is caused by stress. Ashwagandha lowers cortisol levels, restoring other hormones to normalcy and checking free radical damage. As it hikes insulin sensitivity, it lowers fat and the production of testosterone, the hormone disrupting menstrual cycles. Taken with other herbs, it induces ovulation, regularizes periods, and relieves period pain. It works best with a healthy diet and exercise.

Given the odds, chances are someone you know has polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). It has become a common hormonal imbalance that affects a woman’s menstrual cycle, ability to have children, and even appearance. The Office on Women’s Health, US Department of Health and Human Services, estimates that one in ten women of childbearing age suffers from this condition. Causes are multiple and vary from woman to woman but the end result is a higher than normal level of male hormones, specifically testosterone, causing havoc in the endocrine system. Some women will also find that they have high levels of prolactin, low levels of progesterone, and insulin resistance.

The overproduction of androgens (male hormones) by the ovary combined with a dip in progesterone levels is detrimental to the development and release of eggs during ovulation. Signs of PCOS include irregular cycles, heavy periods, cysts on the ovaries, excess body and facial hair, male-pattern baldness or thinning hair, and infertility. Unfortunately, PCOS does not have a straightforward cure and has to be managed. Conventional medication and its side effects are prompting women to turn to alternative remedies such as Ayurveda. Ashwagandha, a super herb that’s almost Ayurveda’s poster child, is thus in the spotlight for all the right reasons.

Relief Thanks To Ashwagandha

The havoc due to the quell and fall of hormones is integral to PCOS and insulin is a major player in this disequilibrium. Many studies emphasize a relationship between insulin resistance and PCOS. When the body has excess insulin, the ovaries produce more of the male hormone testosterone, leading to menstrual cycle disturbances. Extra testosterone circulating in the female body can also cause acne and hirsutism. High insulin levels also cause the body to store more fat, especially around the abdomen, another effect seen in PCOS.1

Controlling insulin levels can, to a large extent, reverse some of the symptoms of PCOS. Ashwagandha has been found to increase insulin sensitivity and improve glycemic control in animal studies.2 In human patients also, ashwagandha has been found to be as effective as prescription drugs in lowering blood glucose.3

Connecting The Dots With Ashwagandha

PCOS is a complex disorder and the fallout varied. Let’s look at some of the conditions associated with PCOS and whether ashwagandha can help address them.

Stress And Anxiety: It is thought that PCOS is more common now because a stressful lifestyle contributes to and magnifies PCOS symptoms. Excessive levels of cortisol, a hormone normally produced by the body in response to stress, can lead to a drop in healthy levels of other hormones and increased production of cell-damaging free radicals. Studies show that ashwagandha can help regulate cortisol levels.4

PCOS can also cause anxiety and depression in women either due to hormonal disturbances or due to the embarrassing physical changes that can occur with this condition. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that can help with this. Ashwagandha enhances GABA receptors in the brain, thereby inhibiting the signals caused by stress and helping to relieve anxiety.5 Ashwagandha roots also contain tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood.6

Oxidative Stress: Research has found that PCOS may be related to oxidative stress and antioxidants may improve the prognosis of PCOS.7
Our fast-paced lives have made it virtually impossible to escape the environmental factors of oxidative stress like pollution, man-made chemicals, heavy metals, pesticides, and tobacco smoke. However, ashwagandha can protect the body against oxidative stress as it has been found to have antioxidant and immunostimulatory properties.8

Infertility And Irregular Menstrual Cycles: PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women given that it suppresses ovulation.  A polyherbal preparation which also included ashwagandha has been found to be successful in inducing ovulation. It can also correct irregular menstrual cycles and resolve menstrual pain. 9

Living With PCOS

Ashwagandha can undoubtedly help with many aspects of PCOS, but it has to work in tandem with other lifestyle changes like eating healthy, reducing stress inducers in your life, and giving your body the exercise it requires. Cutting down on processed foods and having more whole-grain products, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats can also help to lower blood glucose and normalize hormone levels in your body. Remember, PCOS can be managed and in this ashwagandha can prove a great ally.

References   [ + ]

1. Homburg, Roy. “Should patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome be treated with metformin? A note of cautious optimism.” Human Reproduction 17, no. 4 (2002): 853-856.
2. Anwer, Tarique, Manju Sharma, Krishna Kolappa Pillai, and Muzaffar Iqbal. “Effect of Withania somnifera on Insulin Sensitivity in Non‐Insulin‐Dependent Diabetes Mellitus Rats.” Basic & clinical pharmacology & toxicology 102, no. 6 (2008): 498-503.
3. Andallu, B., and B. Radhika. “Hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic effect of winter cherry (Withania somnifera, Dunal) root.” Indian Journal of Experimental Biology 38, no. 6 (2000): 607-609.
4. Houston, Mark. “A Standardized Withania Somnifera Extract Significantly Reduces Stress-Related Parameters in Chronically Stressed Humans: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study.”
5. Candelario, Manuel, Erika Cuellar, Jorge Mauricio Reyes-Ruiz, Narek Darabedian, Zhou Feimeng, Ricardo Miledi, Amelia Russo-Neustadt, and Agenor Limon. “Direct evidence for GABAergic activity of Withania somnifera on mammalian ionotropic GABA A and GABAρ receptors.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 171 (2015): 264-272.
6. Chauhan, Komal, and Gauri Patil. “IMPACT OF ASHWAGANDHA (WITHANIA SOMNIFERA) ON MENTAL HEALTH PROFILE OF ELDERLY WOMEN.” European Scientific Journal 9, no. 27 (2013).
7. Zhang, D., W. Y. Luo, H. Liao, C. F. Wang, and Y. Sun. “[The effects of oxidative stress to PCOS].” Sichuan da xue xue bao. Yi xue ban= Journal of Sichuan University. Medical science edition 39, no. 3 (2008): 421-423.
8. RajaSankar, Srinivasagam, Thamilarasan Manivasagam, and Sankar Surendran. “Ashwagandha leaf extract: a potential agent in treating oxidative damage and physiological abnormalities seen in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease.” Neuroscience Letters 454, no. 1 (2009): 11-15.
9. Parveen, Sanjeeda, and Shabnam Ansari. “TESTO INDUCED OVULATION SUCCESSFULLY IN WOMEN OF POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME.” Indo American Journal of Pharmaceutical Research 5, no. 6 (2015): 2430-2434.
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.