Ashwagandha is a medicinal plant used in India to treat a wide range of age-related disorders.53-63 Its most remarkable effect may involve its ability to preserve the health of the aging brain.
Ashwagandha offers myriad neuroprotective benefits. For example, one study showed that when given to mice, ashwagandha extract promotes memory retention, even when amnesia has been induced experimentally.60 Another study found that ashwagandha extract is capable of protecting the brains of laboratory rats against experimentally induced stroke.61
Ashwagandha constituents have also been shown to inhibit acetylcholinesterase (AChE), an enzyme responsible for breaking down acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter that is in dangerously short supply in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease sufferers.62 This AChE-blocking action is similar to that of prescription drugs such as Aricept® that are currently used to treat Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Exciting new research indicates that ashwagandha extract is capable of halting and even repairing damage to brain cells in an experimentally induced model of Alzheimer’s disease.63 Scientists in Japan induced Alzheimer’s-type brain cell atrophy and loss of synaptic function in mice by exposing them to the toxic protein Abeta, which has been implicated in the genesis of Alzheimer’s disease in humans. “Subsequent treatment with [a constituent of ashwagandha] induced significant regeneration of both axons and dendrites, in addition to the reconstruction of pre- and postsynapses in the neurons,” according to the scientists.63
53. Bhattacharya SK, Bhattacharya A, Sairam K, Ghosal S. Anxiolytic-antidepressant activity of Withania somnifera glycowithanolides: an experimental study. Phytomedicine. 2000 Dec;7(6):463-9.
54. Mishra LC, Singh BB, Dagenais S. Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): a review. Altern Med Rev. 2000 Aug;5(4):334-46.
55. Owais M, Sharad KS, Shehbaz A, Saleemuddin M. Antibacterial efficacy of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha) an indigenous medicinal plant against experimental murine salmonellosis. Phytomedicine. 2005 Mar;12(3):229-35.
56. Mohan R, Hammers HJ, Bargagna-Mohan P, et al. Withaferin A is a potent inhibitor of angiogenesis. Angiogenesis. 2004;7(2):115-22.
57. Prakash J, Gupta SK, Dinda AK. Withania somnifera root extract prevents DMBA-induced squamous cell carcinoma of skin in Swiss albino mice. Nutr Cancer. 2002;42(1):91-7.
58. Padmavathi B, Rath PC, Rao AR, Singh RP. Roots of Withania somniferainhibit forestomach and skin carcinogenesis in mice. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2005 Mar;2(1):99-105.
59. Andallu B, Radhika B. Hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic effect of winter cherry (Withania somnifera, Dunal) root. Indian J Exp Biol. 2000 Jun;38(6):607-9.
60. Dhuley JN. Nootropic-like effect of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera L.) in mice. Phytother Res. 2001 Sep;15(6):524-8.
61. Chaudhary G, Sharma U, Jagannathan NR, Gupta YK. Evaluation of Withania somnifera in a middle cerebral artery occlusion model of stroke in rats. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2003 May;30(5-6):399-404.
62. Choudhary MI, Yousuf S, Nawaz SA, Ahmed S, Atta uR. Cholinesterase inhibiting withanolides from Withania somnifera. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2004 Nov;52(11):1358-61.
63. Kuboyama T, Tohda C, Komatsu K. Neuritic regeneration and synaptic reconstruction induced by withanolide A. Br J Pharmacol. 2005 Apr;144(7):961-71.
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