A staple of ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha restores energy, fights disease and promotes healthy sleep. It’s been used as a medicinal herb to treat the body and mind for over 3,000 years. Recent studies indicate that one of the benefits is that it can improve memory. But can it treat Alzheimer’s?
Native to dry regions of India, Northern Africa and the Middle East, ashwagandha has been around for millennia. It’s a relative of the tomato. Ayurvedic medicine looks to the plant’s leaves for therapeutic benefits, but Western cultures rely on its roots to make herbal remedies.
According to the Chopra Center, studies have shown that ashwagandha provides a range of health benefits, from lowering cholesterol and stabilizing blood sugar to reducing inflammation and anxiety. In turn, these benefits help fight a number of diseases, including:
Ashwagandha also has shown to improve learning and memory. Ayurvedic practitioners recommend it as a brain booster and a remedy for forgetfulness.
Researchers at Newcastle University have found that it inhibits the formation of beta-amyloid plaques. These plaques, considered toxic to brain cells, accumulate in the brains of people with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. Because the studies were conducted in test tubes, however, researchers emphasize that more testing is needed.
At the National Brain Research Center (NBRC), scientists tested the herb on mice with Alzheimer’s. After 20 days of treatment cognitive performance of the mice improved significantly. At the end of 30 days, their brain function had returned to normal and the amyloid plaques that had been present in the mice’s brains were reduced.
Moreover, the study showed that rather than altering brain chemistry directly, ashwagandha boosts a protein in the liver. This protein clears amyloid from the brain.
Researchers caution that it’s too early for human trials of ashwagandha for Alzheimer’s. Although the dose given to mice was effective, it was very high. In high doses, the herb has shown to have a hypnotic effect, cause drowsiness and provoke intestinal problems. It’s also not recommended for people with hyperthyroidism or women who are pregnant.
Studies show its promise as a treatment for memory loss and dementia in humans. But it’s still too early to tell whether it will someday become an alternative Alzheimer’s therapy.
Like any other remedy not prescribed by a doctor, people considering ashwagandha should consult with a physician to determine any potential drug interactions or side effects. Always talk to your doctor before you change your treatment regimen.
Have you used ashwagandha? What effects did you see?