What Is Ashwagandha?
Withania somnifera belonging to the family Solanaceae, commonly known as Ashwagandha or “Asgandh”, Indian ginseng or winter cherry is a one of the most valuable medicinal herb in traditional Indian medicine.
The plant is also used as a dietary supplement as it contains a variety of nutrients and phytochemicals. In India it is mostly cultivated in regions like Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat and Rajasthan. Internationally it is cultivated in Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Baluchistan, Sind, Canaries, South Africa, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Congo, Jordan etc.
ASHWAGANDHA & NEURODEGENERATIVE DISEASES
Acc. to a 2014 study in the journal Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin, by a Japanese research team, led by Tomoharu Kuboyama, from the Institute of Natural Medicine, University of Toyama, Japan; neurodegenerative diseases commonly induce irreversible destruction of central nervous system (CNS) neuronal networks, resulting in permanent functional impairments. Effective medications against neuro- degenerative diseases are currently lacking.
Ashwagandha is used in traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda) for general debility, consumption, nervous exhaustion, insomnia, and loss of memory. Ashwagandha and its constituents showed various activities against models of Alzheimer’s disease and spinal cord injury. Ashwagandha extracts also showed ameliorative effects against other neurodegenerative disease models such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease, suggesting that Ashwagandha may be useful against various neurodegenerative diseases.
Studies suggest that Ashwagandha is a potential basis for novel drugs against neurodegenerative diseases. In addition, pharmacological analyses of Ashwagandha extracts and related compounds has shown novel insights into the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
In a 2005 study in the journal Human & Experimental Toxicology, an Indian research team, led by M. Ahmad, from Jamia Hamdard University, New Delhi; suggested that, 6-Hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) is one of the most widely used rat models for Parkinson’s disease. There is ample evidence in the literature that 6-OHDA elicits its toxic manifestations through oxidant stress.
In this study, the researchers evaluated the anti-parkinsonian effects of Withania somnifera extract, which has been reported to have potent anti-oxidant, anti-peroxidative and free radical quenching properties in various diseased conditions. Rats were pre-treated with 100, 200 and 300mg/kg body weight of the ashwagandha extract orally for 3 weeks.
Rats were also given OHDA injections to induce all the neurodegenerative effects. But, researchers found that, ashwagandha extract was found to reverse all the negative parameters significantly, and thus it can be helpful in protecting the neuronal injury in Parkinson’s disease.
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