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Ashwaganda the India "Indian Ginseng"



GENERAL INFO
--Withania somnifera
--somnifera = sleepmaking in Latin
--20 other species in Withania genus occur in dry parts of India, North Africa, Middle East, and Med
--Withania coagulens and Withania simonii roots sometimes used interchangeably with somnifera
--aka: Indian ginseng, Winter cherry, Ajagandha, Kanaje Hindi, Samm Al Ferakh
--small plant in same family as common tomato (nightshade! Solanaceae)
--nonpoisonous
--a stout shrub which can grow 5 feet tall
--bears yellow flowers and has a red colored fruit, berry sized/shaped (don't eat berries)
--the root is used for most supplements
--endemic to south Asia
--abundant in the wild in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh
--cultivated in Madhya Pradesh (province of India)
--remedies use all the parts of the plant
--means "horse's smell" in Hindi
-heavily used in Ayurvedic medicine over 2,500 years --> "Indian ginseng"
--a rasayana herb = rejuvenation
--a "vitalizer" or energizer
--adaptogen
--balancing = amphoteric = buffering effect
--strengthen, calms nervous system
--relives fatigue, nervous exhaustion
--used to relieve stress
--general tonic
--also diuretic in Ayurvedic medicine

RESEARCH FINDINGS
--immunostimulating: induces of nitric oxide synthase expression in macrophages, significant and concentration-dependent increase in NO production ( Life Sci. 2003 Feb 21;72(14):1617-25.)
--antianxiety & antidepressant effects comparable to benzodiazepine (for anxiety) and imipramine (tricyclic antidepressant)(for depression) (Phytomedicine. 2000 Dec;7(6):463-9.)
--stimulates thyroidal activity, enhances the antiperoxidation of hepatic tissue ( J Pharm Pharmacol. 1998 Sep;50(9):1065-8)
--nontoxic even tho it is a nightshade (Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1998 Apr;42(2):299-302.)
--antibiotic effects: kills a spectrum of bacteria including Salmonella typhimurium, and does not induce lysis on incubation with human erythrocytes so safe for living cells, rats show increased survival rate as well as lowered bacterial load in various vital organs of the treated animals (Phytomedicine. 2005 Mar;12(3):229-35.)
--therapeutic potential in aging and copper-induced pathophysiological conditions: helps maintain glutathione peroxidase (GPx) activity in spite of aging, (normally decreases), also inhibits lipid peroxidation in a dose dependent manner, inhibits lipid peroxidation and protein oxidative modification induced by copper, similar effects to superoxide dismutase (SOD) and mannitol ( Drug Metabol Drug Interact. 2003;19(3):211-22.)
--increase in WBC and platelet counts (J Ethnopharmacol. 1999 Oct;67(1):27-35.)
--there is LOTS MORE OUT THERE

MECHANISMS AND CHEMICAL COMPONENTS
--contains alkaloids and withanolides
--contains natural steroids
--affects acetylcholine utilization (hey, this is what the heart doc said my fx was low in!!)
--when brain is low on acetylcholine or in low O2 situations it takes it from its own cells, blocking nerve signals in areas where cell remnants form neuro-fibrillary tangles causing Sx like Alzheimer's
--comsumption of ashwaganda reduces likelihood of this cannibalization process in the brain
--in supplement look for something with standardized content of withanolides
--components in root unless otherwise noted: Anaferine (alkaloid), anahygrine (alkaloid), beta-sisterol, chlorogenic acid (in leaf only), cysteine (in fruit), cuscohygrine (alkaloid), iron, pseudotropine (alkaloid), scopoletin, somniferinine (alkaloid), somniferiene (alkaloid), tropanol (alkaloid), withanine (alkaloid), withananine (alkaloid) and withanolides A-Y(steroidal lactones)
--alkaloids and steroidal lactones
--main alkaloid component: withanine
--other alkaloids: somniferine, somnine, somniferinine, withananine, pseudo-withanine, tropine, pseudo-tropine, 3-a-gloyloxytropane, choline, cuscohygrine, isopelletierine, anaferine and anahydrine
--2 acyl steryl glucoside viz. sitoindoside VII and sitoindoside VIII have been isolated from root
--leaves contain steroidal lactones commonly called withanolides
--withanolides have C28 steroidal nucleus with C9 side chain, having six membered lactone ring
--isopelletierine, withaferins, withanolides, saponins

AGING
--improves the chances of recovery from memory loss
--mild sedative, reduces mental turmoil, promotes calm sleep
--believed to promote rapid tissue regeneration
--believed to slow the aging process with longterm use
--has been used for Alzheimer's disease, anything with memory loss
--helps reconstruct neuronal networks (Br J Pharmacol. 2005 Apr;144(7):961-71)


SEX
--aphrodisiac (great reputation) used for lowered sex drive and other disorders
--sexual stimulant due to alkaloids and withanoloids
--a sexual "grounding" herb, reduces premature ejaculation, increases the sexual stamina
--said to prevent onset of sterility in males

ATHLETES
--stimulant for long term endurance and strength
--used for athletic performance enhancement, body building
--long lasting energy increases

ARTHRITIS AND CARPAL TUNNEL
--used in the treatment of arthritis and the carpal tunnel syndrome
--contains steroids that help more than synthetic hydrocortisone for inflam control but with no immune suppression
--also reduces arthritis pain as well as aspirin and phenylbutazone
--^ Ashwagandha next on patent hunters list,Hindu Vivek Kendra archive of the Times of India May 16, 2001

AUTOIMMUNE
--effective against autoimmune disorders
--in lupus-->increased RBC's & WBC's

CANCER
--also used for cancer Tx
--increases platelet count, RBC's
--increases WBC's which dip due to chemo
--sensitizes cancer cells to radiation, makes Tx 50% more effective
--anti-carcinogenic effects: decreases expression of nuclear factor-kappaB-->suppressing TNF-->apoptosis (^ Ichikawa H, Takada Y, Shishodia S, Jayaprakasam B, Nair MG, Aggarwal BB. “Withanolides potentiate apoptosis, inhibit invasion, and abolish osteoclastogenesis through suppression of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) activation and NF-kappaB-regulated gene expression.” Molecular Cancer Therapeutics 2006 Jun;5(6):1434-45. PMID: 16818501)

CONTRAINDICATIONS
--do not take in cases of acute sexual anxiety, only works longterm
--the oil is not to be consumed, it is a facial toner oft combined with almond oil and rose water
--DON'T EAT THE BERRIES THEY'LL MAKE YOU SICK
--DON'T COMBINE with tranquilizers, sedatives, meds for anxiety, insomnia, seizure
--Botanical safety guidelines in the US and Germany have suggested that Ashwaganda may be a mild abortifacient and it is not recommended for pregnant women.

CONTRADICTIONS:
--Ayurvedic sources indicate longterm use is desirable
--other sources say don't take longterm but only in times of need

SOURCES
this post initiated July 2008
http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/learn/ashwaganda.html
http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_ashwaganda.htm
wikipedia of course
http://www.naturalnews.com/011295.html

for research, go here and follow links:
http://www.webvitamins.com/nutrient.aspx?ID=2612

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