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All about Ashwagandha

By M H

All about Ashwagandha

History

Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera, is perhaps the most famous herb in Ayurvedic medicine (1). Ashwagandha is a member of the nightshade family of plants known as Solanaceae (2). Ashwagandha is an erect shrub that grows to be 30-75 cm high, with long tuberous routes. This plant bears a globose berry when fully mature; its leaves and roots are also commonly use in ancient Ayurvedic medicine [3]. This plant is used for a variety of ailments, including to promote youthful vigor, endurance, muscle gain, strength, counteract effects of fatigue, dehydration, etc. (3, 4). 

Effects

Ashwagandha has an interesting and wide range of effects in humans. A randomized, double-blind controlled trial on humans (n=64) found that 600 mg of Ashwagandha a day resulted in a reduction of stress and an improvement in quality of life in individuals after 60 days (5). Interestingly enough, another trial compared the effects of Ashwagandha on anxiety vs. psychotherapy and found that while both treatments were effective for anxiety, Ashwagandha was significantly more effective at reducing anxiety levels compared to psychotherapy (6). They also found it significantly improved quality of life compared to the psychotherapy. 

Other trials on Ashwagandha show a similar trend (that Ashwagandha is effective at reducing anxiety levels in humans), making this adaptogen excellent for those looking for an increase in quality of life (7, 8). 

A study on healthy individuals using Ashwagandha for 30 days showed that Ashwagandha supplementation resulted in significant reduction in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and that subjects experienced a significant in strength (9). A human trial on Ashwagandha also showed that it can increase the VO2 max (increase in endurance) and lower the resting systolic blood pressure in healthy young adults (10). A study in elite cyclists showed similar results, finding that cyclist who supplemented with Ashwagandha significantly increased their VO2 max and their time to exhaustion (11). The fact that this trend is (increase in VO2 max and endurance) is observed in both healthy young adults and elite athletes strengthens the argument for any individual looking to supplement with Ashwagandha. 

Ashwagandha also has a host of hormonal effects, resulting in an increase in testosterone levels, LH, FSH, and an improvement in sperm quality in infertile men (12). Similar results have been found in other studies, noting that Ashwagandha improved sperm quality and motility (13). They found that Ashwagandha significantly increased serum testosterone levels by 17% and LH by 34% compared to the placebo group (13). 

 (13)

Toxicity 

Ashwagandha has a large abundance of trials in humans, which showed no adverse effects when subjects received doses between 250 mg- 1000 mg a day (5-9). 

References

1. "Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal". Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. Beltsville, Maryland: USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. 

2. Gupta, A.; Mittal, A.; Jha, K. K.; Kumar, A. (2011). "Nature�s treasurer: plants acting on colon cancer" (PDF). Journal of Stress Physiology & Biochemistry 7 (4): 217�231.

3. Mirjalili, M. H., Moyano, E., Bonfill, M., Cusido, R. M., & Palaz�n, J. (2009). Steroidal lactones from withania somnifera, an ancient plant for novel medicine. Molecules.

4. Mishra, L., Singh, B., Dagenais, S. (2000). Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): a review. Altern Med Rev. 5(4): 334-46.

5. Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. (2012). A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults . Indian J Psychol Med. 

6. Cooley, K., Szczurko, O., Perri, D., Mills, E. J., Bernhardt, B., Zhou, Q., & Seely, D. (2009). Naturopathic care for anxiety: A randomized controlled trial ISRCTN78958974. PLoS ONE, 4(8).

7. Andrade, C., Aswath, A., Chaturvedi, S. K., Srinivasa, M., & Raguram, R. (2000). A double-blind, placebo-controlled evaluation of the anxiolytic efficacy ff an ethanolic extract of withania somnifera. Indian journal of psychiatry, 42(3), 295-301.

8. Biswjit et al. (2008). A standardized Withania somnifera extract significantly reduces stress-related parameters in chronically stressed humans: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. JANA. Vol 11:1. 

9. Raut, A., Tadvi, F., Kene, K., Pandey, S., Vaidya, A., Rege, N., Solanki, P., et al. (2012). Exploratory study to evaluate tolerability, safety, and activity of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in healthy volunteers. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine.

10. Sandhu, J. S., Shah, B., Shenoy, S., Chauhan, S., Lavekar, G. S., & Padhi, M. M. (2010). Effects of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) and Terminalia arjuna (Arjuna) on physical performance and cardiorespiratory endurance in healthy young adults. International journal of Ayurveda research, 1(3), 144-9.

11. Shenoy, S., Chaskar, U., Sandhu, J. S., & Paadhi, M. M. (2012). Effects of eight-week supplementation of Ashwagandha on cardiorespiratory endurance in elite Indian cyclists. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine, 3(4), 209-14.

12. Ahmad, M. K., Mahdi, A. A., Shukla, K. K., Islam, N., Rajender, S., Madhukar, D., Shankhwar, S. N., et al. (2010). Withania somnifera improves semen quality by regulating reproductive hormone levels and oxidative stress in seminal plasma of infertile males. Fertility and sterility, 94(3), 989-96.

13. Ambiye, V. R., Langade, D., Dongre, S., Aptikar, P., Kulkarni, M., & Dongre, A. (2013). Clinical Evaluation of the Spermatogenic Activity of the Root Extract of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in Oligospermic Males: A Pilot Study. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2013, 571420

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