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Ashwagandha is a well-known Indian adaptogen13 – a tonic herb, similar to eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng) in that it is said to tonify the body and help body systems come into balance. Ashwagandha is said to contain antioxidative, antistress1, antigenotoxic, and immunomodulatory properties13. Its antioxidants are said to provide a protection against lipid peroxidation and increase antioxidants in the body such as catalase and superoxide dismutase (SOD) contents in brain tissue, peripheral organs, liver and kidney13. It produces little red-orange berries (that have a cape similar to tomatillo) that are quite bitter but research has shown them good to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in kidneys of diabetic rats2 – suggesting promise and the need for further research on humans in delaying the onset and progression of diabetic renal complications.
Other studies with rats have identified a bioactive compound found in Ashwagandha root, withaferin A, as well as withanone, a substance from the leaves11, that show promise for inhibiting metastasis of ovarian cancer8 as well as stopping spread to other organs3,9. The roots are used for enhancing memory according to ayurvedic tradition4 by preventing neurodegeneration – a great nerve tonic! Its antioxidant (flavonoids identifiable with chromatography10) withania also contains substances that increase the superoxide dismutase in the body) and inflammatory activity improves ischemic stroke outcomes (similarly to ginger) by preventing the neural damage that can occur when blood returns to the brain after being deprived of blood for a short period4.
There has been some fascinating research on Aswagandha for a variety of uses:
* Potential for use as a cough suppressant5
* Potential preservative or natural replacement for BHT6
* Reduction of the desire for alcohol in rats trained to consume it12
* Possible therapeutic against lead poisoning13
* Reduction of anxiety – some research has shown considerable improvement1
Ashwagandha grows well in hot climates and does not require rich soil to grow, but produces more antioxidants like withferin A with sufficient nitrogen7, so be sure to feed your ashwagandha plants plenty of compost!
1.) J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Dec;20(12):901-8. doi: 10.1089/acm.2014.0177.
2.) Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2014;2014:201436. doi: 10.1155/2014/201436. Epub 2014 Sep 14. Withania coagulans Fruit Extract Reduces Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Kidneys of streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Rats. Ojha S1, Alkaabi J2, Amir N1, Sheikh A1, Agil A3, Fahim MA4, Adem A1
3.) PLoS One. 2014 Sep 29;9(9):e107596. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107596. eCollection 2014. Withaferin a alone and in combination with Cisplatin suppresses growth and metastasis of ovarian cancer by targeting putative cancer stem cells. Kakar SS1, Ratajczak MZ2, Powell KS3, Moghadamfalahi M4, Miller DM2, Batra SK5, Singh SK1
4.)PLoS One. 2014 Oct 13;9(10):e105311. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0105311. eCollection 2014. Withanolide A Prevents Neurodegeneration by Modulating Hippocampal Glutathione Biosynthesis during Hypoxia. Baitharu I1, Jain V2, Deep SN2, Shroff S3, Sahu JK4, Naik PK5, Ilavazhagan G6
6.) J Food Sci Technol. 2014 Oct;51(10):2727-33. doi: 10.1007/s13197-012-0781-1. Epub 2012 Aug 2. Effect of added herb extracts on oxidative stability of ghee (butter oil) during accelerated oxidation condition. Pawar N, Gandhi K, Purohit A, Arora S, Singh RR
7.) Pharm Biol. 2014 Oct 21:1-6. [Epub ahead of print] Effect of macronutrient deficiency on withanolides content in the roots of Withania somnifera and its correlationship with molybdenum content. Devkar ST1, Suryapujary SM, Jagtap SD, Katyare SS, Hegde MV
8.) PLoS One. 2014 Sep 29;9(9):e107596. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107596. eCollection 2014.
Withaferin A alone and in combination with Cisplatin suppresses growth and metastasis of ovarian cancer by targeting putative cancer stem cells. Kakar SS1, Ratajczak MZ2, Powell KS3, Moghadamfalahi M4, Miller DM2, Batra SK5, Singh SK1
9.) Pharm Biol. 2014 Sep 19:1-11. [Epub ahead of print] Withania somnifera shows a protective effect in monocrotaline-induced pulmonary hypertension. Kaur G1, Singh N, Samuel SS, Bora HK, Sharma S, Pachauri SD, Dwivedi AK, Siddiqui HH, Hanif K
11.) Mol Cancer Ther. 2014 Sep 18. pii: molcanther.0324.2014. [Epub ahead of print] Withanone Rich Combination of Ashwagandha Withanolides Restricts Metastasis And Angiogenesis Through hnRNP-K.
12.) Behav Pharmacol. 2014 Oct;25(7):618-28. doi: 10.1097/FBP.0000000000000078.
13.) Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:182029. doi: 10.1155/2014/182029. Epub 2014 May 28. Glioprotective effects of Ashwagandha leaf extract against lead induced toxicity.