Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an ancient medicinal herb of the Solanaceae family. also known as Indian ginseng, King of Ayurveda, and winter cherry. Ashwagandha has been classified as “rasayana” in ayurvedic medicine for being used as a general tonic for natural healing and in modern terms as an “adaptogen”.1-5 The Ashwagandha plant is a small shrub with yellow flowers, native to India and North Africa. The extracts of Ashwagandha or powder from its roots and leaves are used to treat a variety of physiological disorders, including burns and wounds. It has been used for over 3,000 years as ayurvedic and indigenous medicine to relieve stress, increase energy levels, and improve concentration.1-3 The roots of ashwagandha are a constituent of many formulations in Ayurvedha, Siddha, and Unani medicine. Further, Withania appears in World Health Organization (WHO) monographs “Selected Medicinal Plants” and “The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia” 4. The main chemical constituents are tropane alkaloids and steroidal0 lactones (withanolides, mainly withaferin A). Tropine is a derivative of tropane (3-tropanol), a building block of atropine and an anticholinergic drug.
Clinical Benefits of Ashwagandha
Several human and animal studies have elucidated signaling pathways linked to ashwagandha via physiological and molecular targets. These health benefits include blood sugar reduction, reduced cortisol levels, stress alleviation, depression and anxiety reduction, effective endurance and physical performance, boosted fertility in men, reduced inflammation, improved cardiovascular health by lowering C-reactive proteins, cholesterol and triglyceride balance, and improved brain function and memory properties5- 16. Some supplementation studies in chronically stressed adults have shown a significant reduction in cortisol 7. Ashwagandha has also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in animal and human studies. 8,9 Also, there is scientific literature indicating the detoxification potential of ashwagandha.10-12 Supplementation studies have shown to enhance fertility in men13 . A safety and efficacy study in healthy men with 750-1250 milligrams (mg) per day supplementation indicated a gain in muscle mass and reduction in body fat.14 Further, studies in humans have found that oral supplementation of 250 mg ashwagandha per day resulted in a 36 percent decrease in C-reactive Protein (CRP) compared to a placebo group.15 Additionally, with ashwagandha supplementation of 500 mg per day, researchers observed improved task performance in men.16 In general, the consumption of ashwagandha products by healthy subjects and patients resulted in no documented safety concerns with recommended daily dosage of 450-500 mg root extract or powder at one or two servings.16