Showing posts with label ashwagandha for depression. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ashwagandha for depression. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ashwagandha is a herb whose roots and berries have been used for centuries as a tonic to treat a wide variety of ailments in traditional Indian, Ayurvedic, and Unani medicine. It is native to India, North Africa, and the Middle East, and today is cultivated in various parts around the world. Modern research has begun to recognize Ashwagandha for its anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor benefits as well as its role in stress relief, cancer treatment, and fighting fatigue.

A short shrub that grows to a height of 35 to 75cm, Ashwagandha bears tiny orange-red tinged fruits and belongs to the same family as the tomato plant. Also known as winter cherry or Indian ginseng, the name Ashwagandha is derived from the Sanskrit words Ashva, meaning horse, and gandha, meaning smell. This name is in part due to the root having a strong odor when wet as well as the extract from the herb being able to impart the strength and vigor of a stallion. 

The root was used as a tonic, an aphrodisiac, a narcotic, and a diuretic among other uses. The leaves had uses in reducing fever and painful swellings, while the seeds were used as an anthelmintic.
Ashwagandha is known as an adaptogen, which is a term used for substances such as plant extracts that help to increase the body's ability to resist the damages caused by stress and to restore homeostasis. 

Poor diets and environmental factors all play a role in having detrimental effects to our bodies. The antioxidant ability of Ashwagandha can be beneficial in fending off free radical damage that comes as a result of these stresses on the body.

Antioxidant Ability

Ashwagandha is rich in flavanoids, which are antioxidants commonly found in fruits and vegetables. In one study, components of Ashwagandha were given to rats to test its effects on their brains. Researchers saw a dose-related increase in three natural antioxidants: superoxide dimutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase. These three antioxidants have a protective effect on neuronal tissue, and a decrease in these three result in accumulation of toxic oxidative free radicals which lead to degenerative effects.

In anther study, Ashwagandha root extract was shown to prevent an increase in lipid peroxidation in mice and rabbits. This highlights Ashwagandha's potential role in slowing the onset of such inflammatory diseases such as atherosclerosis, ishemia, liver disorders, and neural disorders.

Stress Relief

Ashwagandha was also tested for its effects on the body after being exposed to physical and environmental stress. In two separate swimming performance tests, mice were given extracts of Ashwaganha in order for researchers to determine if it would have an improvement on the swimming time of the mice. The results of the studies showed that mice that were given the extract were able to swim for twice as long a duration as their control counterparts. Researchers determined that Ashwagandha extract had an effect in reducing ascorbic acid content and weight increase of the adrenals that were normally seen during the test.

In the brain, Ashwagandha changes the configuration of neuron receptors, enabling GABA molecules to neutralize norepinephrine and adrenaline which is produced in the brain due to nervous tension and stress. The root also contains tryptophan which is a precursor to serotonin. In the body, serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for maintaining mood balance and a lack of it is responsible for depression.

Cancer Treatment

Ashwagandha extract was also tested for its effectiveness in cancer treatment. In mice and in vivo studies, the leaf extract was shown to selectively kill tumor cells by causing either growth arrest or apoptosis. Results like this were shown in bone, breast, lung, cervical, and brain tumors. One way Ashwagandha does this is by interrupting cell division and inhibiting the development of new blood vessels that would otherwise feed the cancer cells. The antioxidant properties of Ashwagandha also have been shown to provide protection against the oxidative stress produced by tumor cells and some forms of traditional cancer treatments.

Ayurvedic medicine (also called Ayurveda ) is one of the world's oldest medical systems. It originated in India more than 3,000 years ago and remains one of the country's traditional health care systems