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Ashwagandha, an Adaptogenic Herb

Updated: Dec 17, 2019

Ashwagandha is an herb frequently found in supplements or teas designed to enhance energy levels and prevent the physical and chemical effects of stress. Another term used for it is “adaptogenic.” There are a number of “adaptogens” and while they do not share a common mechanism, all have some type of “well-being” effect. Studies have shown that if an adaptogen is taken prior to a stressful event, the body handles that stress with greater efficiency with less impact on the body.


Ashwagandha is not new to the culinary, healing, or longevity arenas. This small, evergreen-like shrub bears green flowers that turn into fruits and have been used in cooking/medicinal preparations since at least the 19th century throughout India, the Middle East and even Africa. It is thought that Indian herbalists practicing Ayurvedic medicine ushered the plant into America. As a medicinal component in Ayurvedic medicine, it is said to be neuroprotective, anti-anxiety, and a virility enhancer.


Other studies have hinted at the ability of the Ashwagandha herb in reducing LDL levels, improving memory retention, improving physical performance in the sedentary as well as trained athletes and to reduce immunosuppression. Studies overwhelming support the ability of Ashwagandha in reducing CARDIOCRP or hs-CRP, an inflammatory marker associated with heart disease and inflammation.


It is the root of the herb that is medicinally most effective and the part of the plant that should be used for anticipated therapeutic benefits.


Mechanism


A measurable decrease in the stress hormone cortisol was seen with the use of this herb reducing levels up to 27.9% in healthy, but stressed individuals. While animal studies have revealed many potential mechanisms of actions in humans, more study is needed. The reduction of cortisol is a predominant consideration in its benefit to individuals under a great deal of stress but consideration needs to be given to those who are on a cortisone medication for treatment of a condition such as arthritis or asthma or who have adrenal insufficiency where a reduction in cortisol would be undesirable. Ashwagandha should not be used in such cases.


Dosage


The lowest and most cost-effective dose is 300-600 mg/day taken with meals.


Safety Profile


Is it safe? Most experts believe that Ashwagandha is safe in recommended doses in healthy individuals who are not breastfeeding or pregnant. Long-term use, however, have posed serious questions about safety. Apparent safe dosage is up to 3 g per day according to some studies. It is NOT on the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list put out by the U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA).


There have been reported side effects including, but not limited to, scratching, a lowering of blood sugar, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, a decrease in libido, antidepressant-like effects, respiratory depression or, in other words, side-effects no worse than any medication the doctor might prescribe. It is a supplement, but supplements have side effects just like medications, another reason individuals should seek counsel from a credentialed professional in the nutritional sciences before using supplements.


Drug-Nutrient Interactions


Ashwagandha has many drug-nutrient interactions to be on the look for:

· Amphetamines such as ephedrine, epinephrine, effects are increased

· Analgesics

· Anti-coagulants, like Warfarin or Coumadin, reduces effectiveness

· Antidiabetic agents

· Anti-inflammatories

· Digoxin


Application of research statement: As with most nutritional research, further study is indicated. Preliminary animal and human studies have shown Ashwagandha is safe in the doses discussed if individuals are properly assessed and all other medications, supplements and medical conditions taken into holistic consideration.

#ashwagandha, #adaptogen, #fatigue


References:


Ashwgandha Tea from Root


Examine.com

Natural Standards Database

German E Monographs

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Kathy J. Shattler

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist