Ashwaganda a New Adaptagen for you Adrenals
Are you exhausted? It may be that you are stuck in a job or family situation that’s sapping your strength. It could be that you are caring for a dying parent or perhaps have an autistic child. It’s people like this who can benefit from adaptogens. Adaptogens have been used for centuries to help deal with stress whether it’s physical, chemical, mental or emotional.
Over centuries every culture has identified botanical agents that create or sustain increases in endurance, physical and mental performance. Adaptogens and adaptogenic combinations are particularly good at supporting healthy sexual function. But in terms of a single or isolated substance, Ashwagandha is one of the all-stars.
Ashwagandha or withania somnifera is referred to as a “royal herb” because of its multiple rejuvenative effects on the human body. It is nick-named Indian ginseng or winter cherry. It has been used for over 4,000 years. One researcher claimed it’s the most commonly used and extensively studied adaptogen. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), is a small evergreen shrub found in India and the Middle East, as well as in parts of Africa. It is a plant in the Solanaceae or nightshade family providing adaptogenic properties, i.e. “something that helps one adapt to stressful situations”. Among Ashwagandha’s primary active components are mild-acting calming alkaloids. These steroidal lactones called glycowithanolides, consisting of Withaferin A, Withasomniferin-A, provide significant supportive health benefits. Some of the withanolides have been reported to be structurally similar to ginsenosides from ginseng, and are used to provide support for healthy adrenal, cognitive and immune system function, as well as providing relief for menstrual discomfort.
Many of us are familiar with Ashwagandha’s ability to modulate cortisol but Ashwagandha affects multiple systems. Ashwagandha has been studied as adaptogenic, anti-oxidant, anticancer, antianxiety, antidepressant,cardio-protective, thyroid modulating, immune-modulating, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, cognitive enhancing and as a hematopoietic agent.
In an article, “Ayurvedic medicinal plants for Alzheimer’s disease: a review,” authors believe Ashwagandha has some very interesting applications to cognitive problems including Alzheimer’s. “Unlike other adaptogens, which tend to be stimulating, Ashwagandha has a calming effect and thus may be particularly indicated in people with Alzheimer’s disease.”
A recent double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of the effects of Ashwagandha on stress found that it reduced symptoms of stress and inability to concentrate and reversed forgetfulness in a dose-dependent manner, at 500 mg/day.
In animal models Ashwagandha extracts induced significant regeneration of both axons and dendrites and reversed amyloid peptide-induced memory deficiency in mice.
Another group reported that oral administration of a semi purified extract of the Ashwagandha root reversed behavioral deficits, plaque load, and accumulation of beta-amyloid peptides in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease.
Because of the number of unique phytochemicals found in Ashwagandha and its long history of safety and rejuvenation effects, there are numerous articles on both animals and humans. One study with lab rats found that when given Ashwagandha, they actually were able to swim twice as long compared to the same type of rats that were not treated.
In this resistance training study, 57 males aged 20-50 were divided into two randomized groups; 29 people in a treatment group who received 300 mg of Ashwagandha twice a day and 28 subjects who served as a control group and received a placebo. Following baseline measurements, both groups of subjects underwent resistance training for 8 weeks and measurements were repeated at the end of week 8.
Researchers were primarily interested in muscle strength but also evaluated muscle size, body composition, serum testosterone levels and muscle recovery. As you would expect with 8 weeks of resistance training, all the health indicators measured increased. However, the group taking the Ashwagandha was found to be statistically significantly greater than the placebo in all areas. Muscle strength, muscle size and body fat percentage, testosterone, and muscle recovery were in-creased over the placebo group. There was also a 4.3 fold increase in testosterone.
When we think of substances that increase endurance, strength or physical and mental performance, we generally think of guarana, caffeine or what the Chinese may call a “yang effect.” Ashwagandha however seems to work in the opposite direction.
An Indian study looked at anxiety with 64 participants in a 60-day clinical trial that compared 600 mg of Ashwagandha per day with placebo. Significant differences were found for all outcome measures, including scores on the Perceived Stress Scale (p<0.0001), the General Health Questionnaire (p<0.0001), and levels of cortisol in the bloodstream (p=0.0006). Ashwagandha was well tolerated and reported no serious adverse events.
A new product by Biotics Research Corporation, Bio-Ashwagandha, contains 300 mg per capsule, in a 60 count bottle. Most of the studies use 250-300 mg twice a day, but note: animal studies safely use much higher doses.
Many of the sources of Ashwagandha come from third world countries and sometimes growing and processing conditions can be questionable. The beauty of using botanicals from Biotics is that you can be assured that it is free of heavy metals and solvents.