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Proven Benefits Of Ashwagandha For Brain Health
Sep 06, 23
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Author: Sony Sherpa

Proven Benefits Of Ashwagandha For Brain Health

  • by Sony Sherpa

    Medically reviewed by

    Sony Sherpa

    Dr. Sony Sherpa is a board-certified Clinical Doctor and dedicated advocate for holistic medicine, specializing in functional mushrooms. Her blend of medical expertise and passion for alternative wellness lends authenticity to her role as a contributor for Natures Rise.

  • |
  • 12 min read
Proven Benefits Of Ashwagandha For Brain Health

Ashwagandha is an ancient herb used in Ayurveda for centuries, and is taken as the “queen of Ayurveda”. It has a beneficial effect on almost all organ systems of our body including ashwagandha for brain health. 

It improves cognition of the brain, decreases stress, and helps to control brain tumors like glioblastoma. It is helpful in traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury.

Understanding Ashwagandha

Understanding Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha(Withania somnifera) or Indian ginseng is an evergreen herbal plant that is grown mainly in Asian and African countries. It has been used in traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda) since the ancient time; more than 3000 years ago. It is also known as ‘Queen of Ayurveda”. 

Mainly root extract is used for medicinal purposes but extracts from its leaves are also equally effective.  It is available as a single component or as a mixture with other Ayurvedic(1) medicines. Powder, paste, oil form, juice, pills, etc. are a few methods by which this herb can be taken. Choosing the right form of it depends on the disease or condition that you have.  You can choose one form of preparation over another if it is suitable for your health condition.

Though it originated in Asia, it is widely used in Europe, America, and other continents as well. Its use is increasing day by day as more experiments and results are coming out. Research is going on to extract the active chemicals in more pure form and test their activity in humans.

Root extract of this plant contains more than 35 active chemicals(2) out of which withanolides, withaferins, saponins, etc. are the major components with health benefits. When the root is used to extract active chemicals, then the whole plant is sacrificed and also it needs more effort to clean. In search of alternatives to this, plant leaves are used to extract active chemicals. Leaves extract also has the same efficacy as root extract. 

A review article has shown that active chemicals from Ashwagandha(3) act as anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, apoptotic, immunomodulatory, antimicrobial,  hepatoprotective, hypoglycaemic, cardio-protective, hypolipidemic, neuroprotective, neuroregenerative, and spermatogenic agents. It has been used in tuberculosis, poisoning and to treat baldness too.

Effect of Ashwagandha on the Nervous System (Brain)

Effect of Ashwagandha on the Nervous System (Brain)

In modern days, increasing stress and the aging population raise the concern of brain health. Brain tumors, neurodegenerative diseases, and neuropsychiatric conditions are increasing day by day. There are certain herbs with neuroprotective and neuroregenerative properties that have been continuously used for centuries, similar to ashwagandha effects on brain. Ashwagandha, also known as ‘queen of Ayurveda’ is one of these herbs. 

Active chemicals like withanolides, withanosides, and withaferins play a major role in the treatment of multiple brain disorders and also improve overall brain health.  Ashwagandha benefits for brain include its use in brain disorders(4) like anxiety, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Schizophrenia, Huntington's disease, dyslexia, depression, autism, addiction, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorders. It is also helpful in ischemic stroke(5), sleep deprivation, bipolar disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

A review article mentioned sitoindosides VII–X, withaferin A, withanosides IV, withanols, withanolide A, withanolide B, anaferine, beta-sitosterol, withanolide D as key neuroprotective phytoconstituents found in Ashwagandha. One of the purified components, withanone protects glial and neuronal(6) cells from oxidative and glutamate insults. This is important for neuroprotection.

Cognitive Benefits

Cognition is a unique capacity of humans that includes memory, reasoning, rational thinking, reading, learning, and paying attention. Other ashwagandha benefits for brain are its positive effects on cognition, memory-enhancing effects, and nootropic effects.

Stress Reduction and Cognitive Performance

Stress is helpful for progress if it is within a certain limit but too much stress can decrease attention and memory. Ashwagandha helps to adapt to stressful situations because of its differential action in various GABA receptor(7) subtypes.

In old age, one of the causes of decreased memory is Alzheimer’s disease. Among the various causes of Alzheimer’s disease, the deposition of ꞵ-Amyloid in brain matter is one of them. Ashwagandha extract, withanolides, and withanosides prevent the deposition of amyloid-ꞵ. Extracts from Ashwagandha leaves exert cholinergic activity(8) in the brain which improves memory in Alzheimer’s disease.

It can be used as an add-on therapy along with standard treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder. The root extract of Ashwagandha improves sleep quality(9) and thus helps in the management of insomnia.

A study showed that it has GABAergic activity(10) which is useful in the management of sleep disorders, anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures. Some studies are claiming the use of Ashwagandha in the treatment of brain tumors like Glioblastoma because of its differentiation property(11) and in traumatic brain and spinal cord injury as it exerts neuroregenerative properties.

Ashwagandha Brain Benefits

Ashwagandha Brain Benefits

When talking about ashwagandha brain health, it mainly helps by decreasing stress in the brain. It also increases memory, learning power, and the thinking capacity of the brain. It improves sleep quality which is essential for the brain to restore its functions. Besides this, it helps to recover from injury and heal brain disorders.

What does Ashwagandha do to the brain?

Active chemical from ashwagandha like withanolides, and withaferins activates GABA receptors and cholinergic receptors of the brain. Activation of these receptors decreases anxiety and improves memory and thinking power. It prevents the deposition of ꞵ-amyloids in the brain which prevents Alzheimer’s disease. It has antioxidant property too which protects the brain from inflammation and the early aging process.

How to Include Ashwagandha in Daily Life?

How to Include Ashwagandha in Daily Life?

The typical dose of Ashwagandha is 250-600mg per day. Many people take 300mg two times a day. It has most often been used by adults in doses up to 1000 mg daily, for up to 12 weeks. Tested highest toxicity dose(12) is 2gm /day.

It can be used in crude form (root or leaves) but dose can not be assured in this form. These crude forms can be used as paste, juice, or tea. Ashwagandha is also available as a nutraceutical preparation in pill or syrup form. It is either prepared as a single component form or in combination with other herbs.

Side Effects and Precautions

Side Effects and Precautions

Ashwagandha is relatively safe if taken for less than 12 weeks. Details of safety data on long-term use are still not available. It can cause stomach discomfort, diarrhea, vomiting, and rarely liver failure. 

If you are pregnant, it is better to avoid its use. It can cause miscarriages. During breastfeeding, there is no sufficient data on its safety.

Enough data is not available regarding the safety of using over skin. Ancient literature mentions using it in erysipelas. 

As it increases immunity, it can flare up the symptoms of autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) rheumatoid arthritis (RA), multiple sclerosis (MS), or other conditions.It can also increase thyroid hormone levels so if you have thyroid disorder be cautious to take Ashwaganda.

If you are scheduled for major surgery, discuss your taking Ashwagandha with the Surgeon and Anaesthesiologist. It may slow down the central nervous system and medications used during surgery can increase this effect. So it is better to stop taking Ashwagandha at least two weeks before the surgery date.  

Drug Interaction

Certain drugs can interact with Ashwagandha which are mentioned below:

It increases immunity so it will decrease the effect of immunosuppressants like the one used after organ transplant.

If you are taking medication that makes you sleepy then taking these drugs along with Ashwagandha will increase sleepiness or even breathlessness. Commonly used such drugs are sleeping pills (Benzodiazepines or CNS depressants).

Ashwagandha increases the production of thyroid hormone in the body. It is better to be cautious while taking Ashwagandha along with medication used for thyroid disorder ( either increased or decreased thyroid hormone level). It can lower blood sugar and blood pressure. So taking Ashwagandha along with diabetic medication or anti-hypertensive can drop blood sugar or blood pressure too low. Monitor blood sugar or blood pressure closely.

FAQs About Ashwagandha For Brain

Does Ashwagandha clear brain fog?

Yes. It helps to improve memory and increase attention. Chronic stress and poor sleep quality are one of the causes of decreased brain function. Ashwagandha decreases stress, improves sleep quality, and elevates the mood in depressive patients. All these can help improve the cognitive function of the brain. 

Can Ashwagandha help with ADHD?

Yes, it can be used in ADHD in addition to standard treatment. There are a few postulates for the cause of ADHD which includes environmental exposure to toxins, brain injury, and genetic defects. Ashwagandha has antioxidant property that scavenges toxins and it helps to regenerate injured brain cells too. besides, it improves attention and concentration problems seen in ADHD patients.

How long does it take Ashwagandha to work?

It varies from person to person. In some people, the effect is seen immediately while a subtle effect can be seen within a month in other people. Positive effects can be seen as early as four weeks. It may take two to three months for some people to see the effects. The safety of this herb beyond three of use has not been studied to date so its effect beyond three months of use is not known.

Key Takeaways

Ashwagandha is a herb with multiple health benefits. It is easily available and widely used in Ayurveda. When taking ashwagandha for brain health, it helps to improve memory, attention, learning, and overall brain health. It is also used in multiple brain disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, psychiatric illness, traumatic brain injury, etc.

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  1. Rational use of Ashwagandha in Ayurveda (Traditional Indian Medicine) for health and healing, (1) 
  2. Chapter 52 - Ashwagandha: Multiple Health Benefits, (2) 
  3. Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal (Ashwagandha): A comprehensive review on ethnopharmacology, pharmacotherapeutics, biomedicinal and toxicological aspects, (3) 
  4. Ashwagandha in brain disorders: A review of recent developments, (4) 
  5. Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal (Ashwagandha): A comprehensive review on ethnopharmacology, pharmacotherapeutics, biomedicinal and toxicological aspects, (5) 
  6. Combinations of Ashwagandha leaf extracts protect brain-derived cells against oxidative stress and induce differentiation, (6) 
  7. Direct evidence for GABAergic activity of Withania somnifera on mammalian ionotropic GABAA and GABAρ receptors, (7) 
  8. Assessment of Cholinergic Properties ofAshwagandha Leaf-Extract in the Amnesic Mouse Brain, (8) 
  9. Clinical evaluation of the pharmacological impact of ashwagandha root extract on sleep in healthy volunteers and insomnia patients: A double-blind, randomized, parallel-group, placebo-controlled study, (9) 
  10. Direct evidence for GABAergic activity ofWithania somnifera on mammalian ionotropic GABAA and GABAρ receptors, (10) 
  11. Nootropic potential of Ashwagandha leaves: Beyond traditional root extracts, (11)
  12. Safety assessment of Withania somnifera extract standardized for Withaferin A: Acute and sub-acute toxicity study, (12)

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