Withania somnifera, commonly known as "Ashwagandha" or "Indian ginseng," is an essential medicinal plant from the Indian subcontinent. It has been used independently or in combination with other plants to treat various diseases in Indian systems of medicine for 3000 years. It contains a wide range of phytochemicals with a broad spectrum of biological activities.
Ashwagandha has been shown in research to exhibit various biological effects, including anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, anti-arthritic, anti-stress/adaptogenic, neuroprotective, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, and immunomodulatory properties. Its remarkable "power" is due to the presence of active ingredients, including withanolides, organic compounds that exhibit high and diverse biological activity. Studies suggest that withanolides may have a positive impact on the treatment of many diseases.
An excellent example is neurodegenerative diseases, which usually cause irreversible damage to the neuronal network of the central nervous system, resulting in permanent functional impairment. Currently, there is a lack of effective drugs against neurodegenerative diseases. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera Dunal root) is used in traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda) for general weakness, dryness, nervous exhaustion, insomnia, and memory loss.
Studies have shown that active substances contained in Indian ginseng help alleviate anxiety and reduce the amount of cortisol secreted in the body. It is also popular among people who have sleep problems.
Ashwagandha has gained immense popularity among physically active people. Research has shown that regular consumption of Withania somnifera root helps increase muscle mass and strength. In studies involving cyclists, it has been shown that using Ashwagandha can help increase physical performance. Cyclists who took Ashwagandha extract twice a day for 8 weeks significantly increased their VO2 max. VO2 max is the body's ability to absorb oxygen and is considered one of the most important indicators of physical fitness.
Ashwagandha is also classified as an adaptogenic herb. Adaptogens are active ingredients found in certain plants and fungi that can help calm and relax the body. A plant considered to be adaptogenic must meet certain requirements. First and foremost, it has anti-stress properties and is non-toxic. Additionally, it helps maintain the body's internal balance.
Another very important group of active ingredients in Ashwagandha are alkaloids. They have pain-relieving and cough-suppressant properties. Moreover, they reduce the contractility of the heart muscle, which lowers blood pressure, but they are also diuretic. In addition to withanolides and alkaloids, Ashwagandha contains flavonoids, which have exceptional health-promoting effects. They have strong antioxidant properties, which combat free radicals.
According to the 2020 Resolution on Supplements, the product can be consumed in a quantity of 3-6 g per day. The maximum amount of withanolides should not exceed 10 mg. Supplements available on the market provide approximately 300-500 mg of Ashwagandha extract, with a suggested intake of up to 2 capsules per day. Such high doses should not be used for more than 3 months.
Check out a supplementation that you can use according to general medical recommendations, containing a wide range of activities.
In summary, ashwagandha is not a medication but a dietary supplement that has been well researched. There is a lot of evidence of the beneficial effects of this plant on the human body. However, it should be remembered that if we have doubts about using ashwagandha, we should consult a doctor. It has been confirmed that people taking drugs with calming, sedative, and anticonvulsant effects should not take ashwagandha extract. It is also excluded for children and women during pregnancy and lactation.
Sources: T. Kuboyamy, Ch. Tohda, K. Komatsu - The influence of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera root) on neurodegenerative diseases. Deepa S. Mandlik - Pharmacological evaluation of Ashwagandha with regard to its health properties, safety, and toxicity. Hermońska - Ashwagandha - action, properties, and application. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/