Ashwagandha vs. Cistanche: Similarities & Differences Explained

Ashwagandha and cistanche are two herbs that are often compared to each other because of their similar effects on male hormone health. Both herbs have been used traditionally to support …

Photo of author
Written by: Daniel Powers, MS
Published on:

Ashwagandha and cistanche are two herbs that are often compared to each other because of their similar effects on male hormone health.

Both herbs have been used traditionally to support the health of male hormones, but they have different origins, uses, and phytochemical makeup.

There are some key differences to consider before choosing between either of these herbs.

In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences of ashwagandha vs. cistanche in depth.

ashwagandha vs. cistanche - herbs compared

Ashwagandha Overview:

Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng, is a popular herb in Ayurvedic medicine. It has been used for thousands of years in India as a natural remedy for a variety of health conditions. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is used for its ability to reduce stress and improve immune health.

Recent scientific research has demonstrated that ashwagandha can be effective in treating anxiety, improving the production of hormones, and improving sleep quality.

It is considered to be on the list of adaptogenic herbs, a class of herbs that helps the body adapt to stress.

Differences Between Ashwagandha & CistancheAshwagandhaCistanche
Botanical NameWithania somniferaCistanche deserticola
Plant familySolanaceaeOrobanchaceae
Common namesAshwagandha, Winter cherry, Indian ginsengDesert ginseng, Desert broomrape, rou cong rong
Native regionIndia and Southeast AsiaDesert regions of Asia
Traditional usesStress, anxiety, insomnia, fertility, immune supportSexual dysfunction, constipation, kidney problems, bone health
Active compoundsWithanolides, alkaloids, saponins, flavonoidsCistanosides, echinacoside, acteoside, cistanin
Potential benefitsMay reduce stress and anxiety, may promote testosterone, may improve sleep qualityMay benefit sexual function, may support brain health, may promote healthy aging
ashwagandha vs. cistanche - ashwagandha

1. May Reduce Anxiety & Stress

Recent clinical studies have demonstrated that ashwagandha may be one of the most effective herbs for lowering stress and anxiety.

One study found that daily supplementation with 300mg of ashwagandha significantly reduced self-reported stress levels in participants.

Another study found that ashwagandha was effective in reducing anxiety in humans, as determined by a variety of standardized anxiety measures.

These findings suggest that ashwagandha may be a useful natural remedy for anxiety and stress. However, more research is needed to fully understand its potential benefits and risks.

2. May Improve Testosterone Production

Several studies have suggested that ashwagandha may benefit physical performance and increase testosterone production.

One study involving aging, overweight males found that ashwagandha supplementation was able to boost testosterone levels by 14.7% compared to a placebo. The researchers also noted a 18% increase in DHEA-S levels among the study participants.

Another study found that daily supplementation with 500mg of ashwagandha was effective in enhancing upper and lower body strength. The researchers also observed an increase in muscle mass in the study participants.

Additionally, a separate study found that ashwagandha was effective in raising testosterone levels and promoting muscle mass and strength growth.

These findings suggest that ashwagandha may be a useful natural supplement for improving physical performance and enhancing testosterone production. However, more research is needed to fully understand its potential benefits and risks.

3. May Improve Sleep Quality

Several clinical studies have suggested that ashwagandha may have potential benefits for sleep quality and insomnia.

One study found that ashwagandha had a positive impact on various sleep disorders in people with poor sleep quality.

Another study compared the effects of ashwagandha on individuals with and without insomnia and found that it improved sleep quality in both groups.

These findings suggest that ashwagandha may be a useful natural remedy for improving sleep quality and reducing insomnia. However, more research is needed to fully understand its potential benefits and risks.

You can learn more about the health benefits of ashwagandha in our comprehensive article.

Cistanche Overview:

Cistanche, or “desert ginseng”, is a tonic herb also used in traditional Chinese medicine that has been used for centuries to support various aspects of health and well-being. It’s thought to be an adaptogenic herb, which indicates that it may help the body adapt to stress.

Below is an overview of the health benefits of cistanche:

  • May help with male sexual wellness
  • May improve brain health
  • May act as an adaptogen to help the body cope with stress
  • May have anti-aging properties
ashwagandha vs. cistanche - cistanche

1. May Benefit Male Hormonal Health

Recent research has suggested that cistanche may be one of the best herbs for male sexual health.

Laboratory studies have found that the plant chemicals found in cistanche, including echinacoside, can increase testosterone levels and enhance sexual function by relaxing arteries and improving blood flow.

These findings suggest that cistanche may be a useful natural supplement for supporting male sexual health. However, more research is needed to fully understand its potential benefits and risks.

2. May Support Brain Function

Research indicates that cistanche supports cognitive function and brain health.

Laboratory studies have indicated that cistanche may be able to protect brain cells and improve overall brain function.

One clinical trial found that cistanche may be helpful for individuals with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Overall, the research suggests that cistanche may have the potential to benefit cognitive health and brain function.

3. Potential Anti-Aging Properties

Cistanche is also thought to benefit the aging process.

A study showed that cistanche can stimulate human growth hormone production, a natural hormone that’s involved in cellular regeneration and healing. HGH is considered an important hormone for healthy aging as it helps to restore and rebuild the body.

You can learn more about the health benefits of cistanche in our in-depth article.

Ashwagandha vs. Cistanche: Similarities & Differences

When it comes to comparing the herbs cistanche and ashwagandha, there are a few important similarities and differences to keep in mind.

First off, both cistanche and ashwagandha have been shown to have positive effects on testosterone levels, making them potential options for individuals who are looking to naturally improve their level of hormones and support sexual function.

While both ashwagandha and cistanche help to impact testosterone levels, they do this via different mechanisms. Researchers believe that cistanche can increase testosterone levels by increasing testosterone synthesis.

Ashwagandha impacts testosterone levels due to its strong antioxidant properties. It’s thought that ashwagandha may protect cells in the testes from oxidative damage. The testes are where testosterone is produced, so less damage to the testes may increase overall testosterone levels.

Additionally, both cistanche and ashwagandha benefit brain health. Ashwagandha helps to support mental health and stress relief, while cistanche may help to support brain function over the long term.

One key difference between ashwagandha and cistanche is the fact that ashwagandha has more of a stress-relieving, adaptogenic effect. Cistanche doesn’t have this same impact, however, it does help to promote a healthy aging process.

Ashwagandha vs. Cistanche: Which is Right for You?

Ashwagandha is an anti-stress herb that helps to improve resilience within the body. It also has been shown by researchers to help improve sleep quality, as well as testosterone production.

Ashwagandha is perfect for those that are looking for an overall anti-stress boost. The added sleep benefits and hormonal uptick are a nice secondary effect.

Cistanche on the other hand is ideal for those who want to improve their hormone levels and long-term brain health.

When comparing ashwagandha vs. cistanche, ashwagandha has the edge in that it also has strong anti-stress properties, which cistanche doesn’t have.

That said, ultimately, the right herb for you will depend on what your specific needs are.

It’s always best to speak with a healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle. They can help you determine which herb is the most suitable for your individual needs and goals.

Can You Take Ashwagandha and Cistanche Together?

Yes, it’s safe to take the herbs cistanche and ashwagandha together. There are no known negative interactions between these two herbs, and they may have complementary effects on hormone health.

There are two main types of cistanche, Cistanche tubulosa and Cistanche deserticola. These two types of cistanche have similar benefits, but are not the same.

We have put together a helpful guide going over how to pick which type is best for you.

However, it is always important to consult with a healthcare provider before taking any herbs, whether alone or in combination, to ensure they are safe and appropriate for your individual needs.

Potential Side Effects & Interactions:

Herbs, just like any other substance, have the potential to interact negatively with your body if not used correctly.

Cistanche has been considered a safe herb in traditional Chinese medicine for over a millennia.

It’s considered to be a well-tolerated herb by most individuals. There are minimal reported side effects & interactions.

Ashwagandha is also typically well-tolerated and generally safe to consume.

A safety study showed that standard doses of ashwagandha (~300mg daily) do not appear to be associated with any negative side effects or adverse reactions.

You can find our full safety review of ashwagandha in more detail here.

As with all supplements, it’s best to check in with your personal physician prior to taking them.

Conclusion:

As you can see, taking either ashwagandha or cistanche is generally well-tolerated and safe to consume.

Consider testing each one of these herbs for a few weeks before deciding between them.

You may discover that one is superior to the other, or vice versa! Alternatively, combine them to see whether you get a synergistic effect.

Photo of author

About Daniel Powers, MS

Daniel has a master's degree in herbal science from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He has a passion for herbal medicine and how it can be used to support everyday health & wellness.