Ashwagandha: Dosage, Dangers, And Benefits For The Brain.

ashwagandha

In the traditional Indian medicine, Ayurveda, the benefits of Ashwagandha have been known for a long time. Now, the reputation of this medicinal plant is making its way to the west. 

What are the effects of Ashwagandha? Is it really a miraculous nootropic plant as its reputation sometimes suggests?

What are its benefits for the brain? The fields of application of Ashwagandha are numerous. We invite you to discover more in this article.

Presentation Of Ashwagandha.

We know the prestige of Ginseng in traditional Chinese medicine or TCM. In a way, Ashwagandha is its counterpart in Ayurveda: this adaptogenic plant enjoys great prestige and is known to treat many diseases. Moreover, it is sometimes referred to as ‘Indian ginseng’.

Discovering Ashwagandha, The Sacred Plant Of India.

If you haven’t heard of Ashwagandha yet, it’s time to get up to speed. This adaptogenic plant is becoming increasingly popular in Europe and contains promising substances that can provide various benefits.

Ashwagandha helps reduce stress, promotes concentration and restful sleep. It helps tissue regeneration and boosts fertility.

Ashwagandha is the Sanskrit term for this medicinal plant, which is also known as Indian ginseng. In botany, it is called Withania somnifera and is considered a natural adaptogen. 

The particularity of Ashwagandha is that the plant has a long history. In Ayurvedic medicine, it has been used for more than 3000 years; in Europe, it is slowly gaining importance. 

Short Botanical Introduction To Withania Somnifera.

This small bushy plant with hard red inedible berries is not only native to India, but also to the Mediterranean region and Africa. 

The plant belongs to the Solanaceae family, the nightshade family. The fact that one might feel rather bad after eating the berries is reminded by its English name “poison gooseberry”.

Ashwagandha bushes grow to about one to two meters high and bear bright red fruits. However, only the leaves and especially the root of the plant are of medical interest. 

As with most nocturnal plants, such as belladonna, it is best to leave the berries alone. Ashwagandha is considered in Ayurveda as a versatile remedy, to be used for many different pathologies.

Ashwagandha And Its Health Properties In Ayurveda.

In the traditional medicine of India, Ashwagandha is widely used. The plant is used in the preparation of more than 200 different remedies. The effects attributed to it are sometimes contradictory and some use it as a tonic, others for its calming properties. 

Nevertheless, in the traditional pharmacopeia, Ashwagandha is supposed to reinforce the resistance of the body and the spirit. Ayurveda lends its effects of life extension and rejuvenation.  

Indian ginseng is also used to support the health of the elderly as it is said to be a valuable nutrient that promotes longevity. Ashwagandha, when mixed with ghee or milk, is believed to promote fertility.

Other health properties attributed to it include the following:

  • Fight against stress.
  • Fight against memory loss.
  • Improve rheumatic pain.
  • Calming nervousness.
  • Counteract the effects of age-related dementia.

The areas of health improved by taking Ashwagandha are so numerous and varied that this plant is considered in India as a universal remedy, which is good for the body and mind. 

Ashwagandha, A Fabulous Adaptogen.

Studies on this plant of the Indian pharmacopeia emphasize its adaptogenic potential. It is important to know that adaptogenic plants support and reinforce homeostasis and can increase the body’s resistance to stress factors. Resilience is increased and long-term damage can be reduced. 

But what is the reason for the protective effect against the stress of this ancient plant? The benefits of Ashwagandha are mainly due to the withanolides and alkaloids such as somniferous contained in the plant. These substances reduce the release of stress hormones. In Ayurveda, they are said to counteract Vata-type disorders

At the same time, Ashwagandha promotes regeneration, which makes this food supplement an excellent remedy in all periods of tension. It can also be used against cramps and spasms related to stress. 

For these different reasons, Ashwagandha is also very suitable for women in menopause or perimenopause, who have to adapt to hormonal variations.

Our bodies actually have wonderfully functioning regulatory processes that ensure that circulation, hormones, body temperature, pH, etc. do their work harmoniously. If these are in homeostasis, that is, in balance, we are healthy.

The main function of an adaptogen, such as Ashwagandha, or its Chinese counterpart, Ginseng, is to ensure this homeostasis.

Effects On Memory And Cognitive Abilities.

In Ayurvedic medicine, the roots and leaves of Withania somnifera plants are used against cognitive disorders. Ashwagandha is neuroprotective and promotes neurogenesis, i.e. the formation of new nerve cells and new brain connections. 

This mechanism is particularly interesting for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. The active ingredients of the plant seem to protect the brain against the deposits of amyloid plaques involved in Alzheimer’s disease. According to Japanese scientists, Ashwagandha could improve neuronal function. 

In Ayurvedic medicine, the plant is used to protect memory by acting on the hippocampus. Studies have shown positive effects on brain damage associated with disease or injury.

Ashwagandha Against The Stress Of Modern Life.

In today’s world, we are constantly exposed to stressors. The way our body deals with stressors is based on ancient mechanisms. 

In other words, our body reacts with the same processes whether we are sitting in a noisy street cafe, drinking coffee, talking on the phone, or being threatened by a wild animal, as our ancestors were.

Our sympathetic nervous system releases stress hormones as soon as the danger is detected. Heart rate, pulse, and respiratory rate increase, norepinephrine, adrenaline, and cortisol enter the bloodstream.

Ashwagandha regulates this reaction, in particular thanks to the plant substances such as withanoside found in the leaves of the plant.

How Ashwagandha Acts On The Brain.

These are only assumptions, and in any case, the result of observations made by Ayurveda practitioners for several millennia. But the exact functioning of this remedy is not yet fully understood by today’s scientists.

It is assumed that plant substances such as withanoside modify neuronal excitation. As a result, fewer stress hormones are released. The withanoside content of the food supplements you buy seems to play a major role in the effectiveness of Ashwagandha.

Several studies have focused on the effects of the plant on the production of stress hormones. Scientists have been able to demonstrate a positive effect on the production of cortisol. In participants, a drop in cortisol levels of more than 10% was observed. It should be noted that these results show a more powerful adaptogenic effect than that obtained with other food supplements. 

One such study was published in July 2012 in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine.  In it, Indian scientists examined the effect of a highly concentrated extract of Withania somnifera roots on stress and anxiety in adults. 

To do this, they followed a set of 64 men and women divided into two groups. The first group received a placebo, while the second group took 300 mg of Ashwagandha extract twice a day.

After the 60-day period, the two groups were compared to each other. Here, the participants in the second group had significantly lower cortisol levels. This effect on cortisol levels does not seem to be limited to the brain and mind. 

Study results show that Ashwagandha capsules reduce physical exhaustion during stress. No side effects of Withania somnifera appeared in the participants.

Ashwagandha: What Dosage?

Dosage.

Ashwagandha preparations are still a bit difficult to find in pharmacies, but you can easily find them on the Internet. Do not hesitate to consult our buying guide below.

The dosage depends largely on the preparation you choose: capsules of plant powder. There are also tablets. The ground powder extracted from the root is then compressed. 

As this is a traditional medicinal plant, there are many recipes and the dosage of active ingredients can vary considerably. In the case of powders, one teaspoon is recommended once or twice a day. 

Official recommendations vary between 5 and 60 mg of withanolides per day, so ideally one should check the content of active ingredients. Root powder usually contains about 0.2% withanolides. Tablets and capsules contain Ashwagandha extracts which are often higher in dosage. 

For this product, Ashwagandha powder, the manufacturer Nature & Partage recommends the following dosage:

1 teaspoon per day (about 5 g).

The organic Ashwagandha of Vitall + Laboratories contains an extract standardized to 5% of withanolides. The dosage is 1 capsule per day.

When And How To Take Ashwagandha?

As we have just seen, the best solution is to take Ashwagandha as a dietary supplement in capsules, which ensures a sufficient dosage of active ingredients. 

But as it is a traditional medicinal plant, there are different preparations, largely inspired by Ayurvedic cures. The powder, for example, can be incorporated into smoothies or yogurt. It can also be used to make tea. 

The traditional use is to use the root as well as the bark and the root, sometimes the leaves. Laboratories extract standardized extracts from the root instead.

Traditional Recipes From India: 

Ashwagandha Churna.

In the Ayurvedic medicinal tradition, hot milk is prepared in which the Ashwagandha powder is diluted: 1 teaspoon two to three times a day, in organic milk. It is important to know that milk is considered a healthy beverage in Ayurveda. People who are lactose intolerant can use almond milk without any problem.

Aristha And Asava.

These are traditional Ayurvedic herbal drinks, which are fermented according to age-old recipes. In the first recipe, the herbs are boiled, in the second, the plant juice is fermented.

The closest preparation is currently manufactured by Salus Laboratories: 

Ashwagandha Tea.

The plant powder can also be used to prepare an Ashwagandha tea. 

The plant roots are immersed in 50 cl of boiling water and left to infuse for 15 minutes.

Risks And Dangers Of Ashwagandha.

Side Effects Of Ashwagandha.

Most studies have shown no side effects. Moreover, this plant is known for a very long time in the Ayurvedic pharmacopeia. Nevertheless, in case of an important overdose, nausea and headaches are possible, and this is what the WHO reported in 2009. It is therefore important to respect the dosage indicated on the package.

Contra-Indications Of Ashwagandha.

  • Ashwagandha should not be taken by pregnant or breastfeeding women. 
  • Caution is advised in cases of chronic illness and thyroid disease.
  • Ashwagandha is not suitable for children under the age of 12. 
  • Not recommended for patients with cardiovascular disorders.
  • Do not hesitate to ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Drug Interactions.

Possible interaction with diuretic drugs and blood thinners.

Opinion On Ashwagandha.

  • Effects on stress.
  • Effects on sleep.
  • Ashwagandha or Rhodiola?

Buying Guide For This Miracle Plant.

Ashwagandha-based dietary supplements are becoming increasingly popular and are becoming more and more readily available in our country. You will find them mainly on the Internet, in online pharmacies, on the websites of dietary supplement specialists, such as Onatera, Nature et Forme, etc., as well as on Amazon.

The main preparations are:

  • Ashwagandha capsules.
  • Plant powder.
  • Tea.
  • Preparations and complexes containing Ashwagandha.

Conclusion.

Ashwagandha is a plant whose root is used as a traditional medicinal preparation, especially in Ayurveda. Indian ginseng strengthens the mind and body. It is a powerful tonic and adaptogen. 

It can be taken in times of fatigue, but also when one is under stress and suffers from insomnia.

Its properties on the brain and the nervous cells allow supporting the cognitive capacities and memory. Some studies are underway to see if the medicinal plant could be effective in the case of Alzheimer’s disease. 

In any case, Ashwagandha is often considered a miracle plant, but its effects, whether they are benefits or side effects, are still little studied. They are rather transmitted to us by the Indian tradition.

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