October 4, 2016

Ashwagandha, an adaptogen from the Ayurvedic tradition is becoming increasingly popular with doctors and their patients. It has been used for thousands of years in India to support health and cultivate the mind. Current research is shedding light on the many ways Ashwagandha promotes mental health.

A new study of OCD patients without adequate control on SSRIs alone showed that ashwagandha extract was able to greatly increase the control of symptoms with no adverse effects[i]. A look at overweight adults under chronic stress found that ashwagandha extract was able to significantly improve the group’s weight management outcomes. In addition they found that the extract decreased the subjects stress level and improved their sense of wellbeing[ii]. Researchers found that when ashwagandha was given to alcoholic mice it was able to significantly decrease alcohol intake and eliminated withdrawal symptoms. The authors also measured neurotransmitter levels and found that the extract increased levels of serotonin and GABA in the brains of the mice which likely accounts for many of the observed effects[iii]. A recent review of published data on the neurological effects of ashwagandha found that there is mounting, high quality evidence that it not only has antioxidant effects that protect neurons but also increases nerve growth factors and connections between neurons thus not only protecting but improving overall brain health[iv]. These neuroprotective effects are at least in part due to its ability to block NMDA receptors which are implicated in excitotoxicity[v]. Additionally, ashwagandha has been shown to decrease NF-κB levels in astrocytes and upregulate Nrf2 expression in the cells leading to less neural inflammation and higher levels of antioxidants[vi].

These are just a few of the studies demonstrating ashwagandha’s phenomenal ability to promote mental health. Modern science is validating the Ayurvedic tradition’s use of this potent herb. Consider incorporate this wonderful herb into your medicinary, your patients will thank you.