Ashawagandha, also known as Withania somnifera, is one of the most revered herbs of the Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine. As a rasayana tonic, it is used to treat various kinds of ailments, but most predominantly as a nervine tonic to sooth the nervous system.
Considering its extensive history and use in Ayurveda, the scientific community has taken an interest to it, performing many studies on its adaptogenic/anti-stress mechanisms.
The summary of these experiments have found that ashwagandha can effectively increase diminish the stress response, increase adaptation, and therefore provide protection against stress induced disease including ulcers, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, anxiety and depression, while improving energy production and preventing inflammation.
Traditional Benefits Backed by Science
As mentioned, Ashwagandha is an Indian herb used in Ayurveda, which has been around for nearly 6000 years. During this time, the root of the Ashwagandha plant has been regarded as an overall tonic, aphrodisiac, narcotic, diuretic, anthelmintic, astringent, thermogenic and stimulant.
Traditionally prepared a mixture of milk and honey, ashwagandha has been used to treat data imbalances like arthritis, leucoderma, constipation, insomnia, nervous breakdown, goiter, inflammation of the joints, ulcers and painful swellings, hysteria, anxiety, memory loss, syncope, fatigue and infertility.
Taking a further look at the research baking the traditional claims of Ashwagandha's effects, we come to find that most, if not all of these claims are factual.
Anti-Stress Benefits: Ashwagandha has popular antistress properties that have been proven in both animal and human studies. In one animal model, rats were treated with ashwagandha prior to exercise induced stress and showed a significant increase in the duration of swimming time as compared to control. Not only did the treatment group have greater endurance, but their cortisol levels reduced significantly compared to the control group, showing an anti-stress effect. Other human studies have found that KSM66-ashwagandha can effectively lower cortisol up to 20%. 1
Anti-Ulcer Effects: One of the common side effects of chronic stress is the formation of ulcers. And sure enough, it Ashwagandha has found to be useful in the prevention of stress-induced ulcers of the gastrointestinal tract. In study, it showed significant protection against aspirin induced gastric ulcers and lowered the mean ulcer index in rats. 2
Anti-Cancer Effects: Ashwagandha's anti-cancer effects are less talked about, but do exist. Hans Selye discovered that anything which inhibits energy production in the cell chronically can cause cancer. This means that ultimately, anything which causes a stress can lead to cancer. We know that high cortisol levels are implicated in diabetes, and that diabetes is often an early prediction of cancer. So, through ashwagandhas anti-stress effects alone it may provide preventive anti-cancer effects.
Beyond that, the roots have been found in study to have an inhibitory effect of about 49% on colony forming cancer cells. It inhibits cancer cell growth and prevents cell attachment. Additional research has found that it prevented urethane-induced lung-adenomas in mice. The other effects of urethane like leucopoenia were also prevented, which are chemical stressors known to cause a variety of ill effects, all of which were prevented by Ashwagandha.
Most of ashwaganghdas anti-cancer effects trace back it its acts as an immunomodulating mechanisms. Together, the research and studies of Ashwagandha's inhibition and reduction of tumour growth have proven it to be a remarkable herb that may be extremely effective in the treatment of tumor type diseases including cancer. 3
Cognitive Enhancing Effects: Ashwagandha is commonly used to improve cognitive function, specifically to promote intellect and memory. These effects have been demonstrated in people with Alzheimer's disease, impaired learning and elderly people. One observation of those with declining cognitive is the atrophy of neurites. There are dozens of studies that show that Ashwagandha slows, stops, reverses or removes neuritic atrophy and synaptic loss, therefore making it effect in treating Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's and general neurodegenerative and cognitive impairment.
Beyond that, the pretreatment of Ashwaganda extract was found to prevent all of the negative biochemical changes seen in Parkinson's, including antioxidant enzyme activity, catecholamine content, and dopaminergic D2 receptor binding activity. 4
Stress-Induced Weight Management: Ashwagandha root extract can be used for body weight management in adults under chronic stress. In study, KSM-66 Ashwagandha caused significant reduction in perceived stress among the overweight people. At the end of the study, KSM-66 Ashwagandha produced a 32.74% reduction in perceived stress scores resulting in a reduced desire or craving for food, a reduction in serum cortisol (a stress hormone) levels and a 3.0% reduction in bodyweight respectively. 5
Energy Promoting Effects: Ashwgandha is known to provide energy to the chronically fatigued, mostly be inhibiting the release of energy-robbing stress hormones. In more complex ways, Ashwagandha can improve cellular energy production. For example, Ashwagandha inhibits something called glycosaminoglycan synthesis, which is the accumulation of mucopolysaccharidoses as a result im metabolic impairment. This is usually has an "uncoupling" effect on oxidative phosphorylation. Uncouplers of oxidative phosphorylation in mitochondria inhibit the coupling between the electron transport and phosphorylation reactions and thus inhibit ATP synthesis.
In fewer words, the glycosaminoglycans inhibit cellular energy production. And ashwagandha inhibits this uncoupling effect, thus having a promoting effect on ATP biosynthesis. This is all really complicated evidence of Ashwagandha being capable of helping your cells make more energy.
Anti-Arthritic Effects: Ashwagandha is also a powerful anti-inflammatory with an analgesic effect, meaning not only does it quell inflammation, it also soothes nervous system from pain response. 6
Studies have found that 1000 mg. of Ashwagandha can produce a significant analgesic activity for a rat experiencing heat induced pain via the hot plate method. 7
Ashwaganhda is one of the most well-known and long used herbal remedies in the world. It just so happens to be one of the most well-studied and well-documented herbs too. It is clear to see that ashwagandha walks its talk. To reap these benefits, remember these studies are done using high-potency extracts of ashwagandha, like this.
To learn more about the many proven benefits of KSM-66 Ashwagandha, be sure to read this early post as well.