Introduction to Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha has been used as an herbal remedy for hundreds of years. It has many applications, and has been used by Native Americans and Africans to treat inflammation, fevers, and to protect against infection or illness. It has also been used to boost the immune system, improve memory, and to promote overall wellness.
Ashwagandha is a shrub that flourishes in India and North America. The roots of the ashwagandha plant have been employed for millennia by Ayurvedic healers. Ashwagandha has many beneficial elements, including flavonoids and members of the withanolide class. Numerous modern studies have found that ashwagandha shows great promise for being effective in reducing inflammation, decreasing stress, increasing mental activity, invigorating the body, and as an antioxidant.
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Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
Scholars at Banaras Hindu University, located in Varanasi, India, have conducted research that has shown that many of the elements of ashwagandha are antioxidants. The researchers looked at the effects these elements have on the brains of test animals and found that ashwagandha led to larger amounts of three different natural antioxidants: superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase. The scholars conclude, “These findings are consistent with the therapeutic use of W. somnifera as an Ayurvedic rasayana (health promoter). The antioxidant effect of active principles of W. somnifera may explain, at least in part, the reported anti-stress, cognition-facilitating, anti-inflammatory and anti-aging effects produced by them in experimental animals, and in clinical situations."
For years, Indians have prescribed ashwagandha as a treatment for cerebral disorders in the elderly, including memory loss. Scholars from the University of Leipzig looked at the effects of ashwagandha on the brain. They dosed rats with ashwagandha and then looked at their brains to see if ashwagandha affected neurotransmitters. The research showed that ashwagandha led to more acetylcholine receptor activity. The scholars concluded that the increase of activity in that particular neurotransmitter could account for the increase in cognitive ability and memory that is attributed to ashwagandha.
Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center also looked at the effects of ashwagandha. They found that extracts of the shrub had activity that was similar to GABA, which could explain why the plant is effective in reducing anxiety.
Another study, conducted in 2002, found that ashwagandha leads to increased growth of axons and dendrites. Another study in 2001 found that the plant can enhance memory. A 2000 project indicated that ashwagandha reduced anxiety and depression in animals.
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