Ashwagandha for Menopause Symptom Relief

01/31/2023 | 6 min. read

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Around the time of perimenopause and into menopause, as estrogen and progesterone levels are changing and declining, women may experience a host of distressing symptoms that can negatively impact their quality of life and weigh on their physical and psychological health.

Hot flashes, sleep changes, and other symptoms can be so troublesome that approximately 90% of women seek management of perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms from a healthcare provider.

Now more than ever I believe it is important for women to remember that hormones do not function in isolation. Yes, sex hormones are important and often at the forefront of our focus during this stage, but they rely on a little help from their friends.

One of my favorite herbal supports, which targets everything a woman needs at this stage, is Ashwagandha.

What Is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb, meaning that it assists your body’s ability to “adapt” to both physical and psychological stress.

What I love about Ashwagandha is that it has a nourishing effect that is gentle yet incredibly powerful. It can not only help reduce fatigue and improve you overall sense of wellbeing, but also help to calm and reduce anxious energy. It can even be taken at night before bed to promote a restful sleep.

In fact, a specific extract from the roots of the plant, called KSM-66 Ashwagandha, has been researched in numerous studies with many promising results, including improvements in a wide range of menopausal symptoms!

Let’s take a look at some of the impressive research that supports these claims.

Ashwagandha Reduces Hot Flashes & Other Menopausal Symptoms

Hot flashes are not only one of the most common symptoms associated with menopause, they are often one of the most distressing. Hot flashes are moderately problematic for 1 in 3 women and are a main reason why women seek medical care for menopause symptom relief.

Although the majority of women experience hot flashes for around one to two years, new research is showing that some women experience them for 10 years or more—and a small number of women have hot flashes throughout their lifetime!

The good news is that in the above study, the Ashwagandha group’s improvements in estrogen levels translated into a statistically significant reduction in mean daily hot flashes.

Moreover, this equated to a statistically significant overall reduction in total reported menopausal symptoms. Symptoms that were reduced include:

  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Moodiness
  • Physical discomfort
  • Hot flashes
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Night sweats
  • Muscular discomfort

Ashwagandha Reduces Cortisol Levels & the Effects of Stress

Ashwagandha root extract has been shown in many studies to reduce stress, occasional anxiousness, and moodiness, and support better sleep quality. 

In a placebo-controlled study involving individuals with a history of chronic stress, participants who took 300 mg of KSM-66 Ashwagandha twice daily for 60 days experienced a significant reduction in stress-assessment scales, compared to those in the placebo group. This stress-reducing effect was confirmed physiologically, as the Ashwagandha group’s serum cortisol levels were also substantially reduced.

Ashwagandha Improves Sleep

We’ve all experienced the negative impact stress can have on our sleep—lying in bed with ruminating thoughts, struggling to fall asleep, or waking in the middle of the night and not being able to easily fall back to sleep.

Thankfully, Ashwagandha’s ability to improve our stress response also translates to an improvement in sleep. This benefit was seen in a study in which participants took Ashwagandha root in a dose of either 250 mg or 600 mg a day.

A statistically significant reduction in perceived stress scale scores as well as reduced serum cortisol levels were observed with both Ashwagandha doses. 

Ashwagandha Supports Attention & Mental Alertness

It is common for me to hear from my female clients as they enter this stage of life that they feel like their minds aren’t keeping up like they used to. Granted, they have many needs pulling them in multiple directions, but they often report feeling foggy and less mentally sharp. This can be distressing and may impact their work and home life as well as their perceived quality of life.

In a study looking at memory, participants who took KSM-66 Ashwagandha extract showed greater improvements in immediate and general working memory than those who took a placebo. They also had greater improvements in executive function, attention, and information processing speed.

Interestingly, a study of older participants between 65 and 80 years of age who took 300 mg of Ashwagandha KSM-66 twice daily found that this extract was efficient in improving self-assessed quality of life, sleep quality, and mental alertness.

We have all seen how stress or a poor night’s sleep can impact our ability to function the next day, so it is wonderful to see how one herb can provide statistically significant benefits in all these realms.

Ashwagandha Modulates Estrogen Levels

As a woman goes through the menopausal transition, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) levels increase while estrogen levels decrease, leading to many of the undesired symptoms associated with menopause. Because the production of estrogen from the ovaries decreases, a woman’s body relies more on her adrenal glands for the small amount of estrogen still being produced.

Research has shown that taking 300 mg of KSM-66 Ashwagandha twice daily provided statistically significant increases in serum estradiol levels, along with a significant reduction in serum FSH and LH levels, compared with a placebo group.

According to the researchers, antioxidants such as withanolides, which are present in Ashwagandha root, may be the reason for its effect on estradiol levels.

Ashwagandha Improves Sexual Function

As estrogen levels decline, so does the beneficial effect estrogen has on the urogenital tissues. Notably, women report a change in their body’s response to arousal, including lubrication and orgasm, which can be painful and distressing.

In an eight-week study, Ashwagandha extract, 300 mg twice daily, led to an improvement in sexual function and reduced sexual distress. The Ashwagandha group reported significantly higher improvements relative to the placebo group in “arousal,” “lubrication,” “orgasm,” and “satisfaction.” There was also a greater number of successful sexual encounters reported by the Ashwagandha group at the end of the study.

Ashwagandha Helps Reduce Food Cravings and Supports Overall Weight Management

Do you notice how empty carbs, sweets, and chocolate just jump out as the primary thing you MUST consume when your stress level peaks? ;)

As a result of hormonal changes, many women in the menopausal years report their weight increasing without doing anything differently—and even DESPITE actively working harder to avoid it!

In a study specifically investigating this link, researchers found that women who took 300 mg of Ashwagandha twice daily reported a reduction in perceived stress with a measurable reduction in serum cortisol levels. They also had a reduction in food cravings, body weight, and BMI.

Ashwagandha Benefits for Women Recap

As you can see, Ashwagandha sure packs a strong punch. This is particularly evident when we factor in all the aspects of health that can be positively impacted for women, especially around the menopausal years.

If you haven’t tried taking Ashwagandha yet, I encourage you to give the well-researched KSM-66 Ashwagandha root extract a try. Research has shown it to be very well-tolerated with minimal side effects.

Considering the burden of menopausal symptoms and the side effects that can accompany many of the traditional options, I believe Ashwagandha is a worthwhile first step for any woman to consider.

Dr. Briana Sinatra

Meet Dr. Briana Sinatra

Dr. Briana Sinatra is a board-certified naturopathic doctor with a vibrant practice in the Pacific Northwest. There she focuses on women’s and family health, taking a holistic approach to healthcare by empowering women with the knowledge and tools they need to live their best life now and protect their future wellness by looking at how all the systems in the body work together and how diet, lifestyle, and environment all influence health.

More About Dr. Briana Sinatra