Male factor fertility accounts for 20-30% of overall infertility. Add this with the fact that combined male and female factor fertility accounts for another 30%. Clearly it’s important to have your partner assessed and treated if you’re having trouble conceiving.
Ashwagandha, or withania somnifera, is a well-known herb that has been used to treat male infertility. It’s also helpful for other male reproductive health concerns. At Hormone Health Associates, it’s one of our favourite adaptogenic herbs for women. It’s always great when we find an evidence-based treatment that can be used for both men and women to help boost their fertility – sharing is caring!
Like most herbs, the part of the plant you use matters. Ashwagandha root is a great adaptogen, diuretic, sedative, antioxidant and aphrodisiac. Meaning it can help you manage stress, flush extra water from your system, calm you down, reduce your oxidative stress and give you a little zip in the bedroom. Ashwagandha leaves and fruit are great for memory, pain relief, anti-cancer support, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory.
The researchers looked at two different ways Ashwagandha can help improve fertility: reducing oxidative stress and balancing the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis.
Oxidative stress can occur for a many reasons. Damage occurs when the amount of reactive oxygenated species (ROS) outweighs the amount of antioxidants in the body. DNA, cell and tissue damage can occur. One of the biggest causes is smoking – regardless if you quit years ago there may be years of ROS built up in your system.
Ashwagandha also works on the HPA axis. This essentially explains its stress managing effects. It helps to reduce your stress hormone, cortisol. High levels of cortisol can impact a wide-variety of processes in your body, but it definitely messes with your hormones. It also increases GnRH, gonadotropin releasing hormone, which tells your body to produce more LH and FSH. Both of these are important hormones for spermatogenesis to take place. If they are low, all aspects of sperm production and maturation will be impacted.
Reducing cortisol and increasing LH and FSH will increase testosterone levels. Testosterone needs to be optimal in males in order for sperm production and maturation. It’s also necessary for men to feel strong, motivated and sexy!
In men with low sperm count, supplementing with Ashwagandha for 90 days improved count, motility and semen volume. A second study that was similar confirmed these results.
In men with normal sperm parameters, but who were diagnosed with unexplained infertility, under great deals of stress, or who were previous smokers, supplementing with Ashwagandha for 90 days increased sperm concentration and motility. They also found an increase in positive pregnancy outcomes by 14%.
The good news is, coupling herbs with other supportive fertility treatments can be extremely beneficial to both the male and female partner. This particular study was looking at male infertility, but the principles of reducing oxidative stress, improving hormone levels, and reducing stress can all be translated to women as well. Ashwagandha can be an amazing supportive treatment on your fertility journey.
Remember it’s important to not start any supplements or herbs without consulting your primary healthcare professional to make sure it is right for you.
If sperm quality is a concern, check out our free 5-day fertility boosting meal plan that will provide you with delicious, easy to make recipes to help increase antioxidant support and balance your hormones using food. Click here to download your copy.
If you’re interested in booking a free 20-minute discovery call with one of our fertility practitioners to see how HHA can help via virtual appointments, click here.