Ingredient Review: Ashwagandha
Common Name: Ashwagandha
Source: A plant – a shrub – with little red berries.
Background: In India, but also in Nepal, China, and even Yemen, there is a shrub called Witheria somnifera which has been noted for many hundreds of years to have certain benefits when consumed or rubbed on the skin.
Claims: Ashwagandha has been used for the treatment of arthritis, anxiety, bipolar disorder (manic depressive disorder), attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), balance, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), as well as a variety of infections, skin infections, pain syndromes (like fibromyalgia), Parkinson’s disease, and even liver disease.
Overall the uses fit into these basic categories: improved thinking, improved mood, reduced physical pain, improved sexual performance and desire.
Objective Information: Here is what we know – the quick and dirty science of it:
Ashwagandha when studied chemically, is actually a group of about 35 separate chemical compounds. Various alkoids, saponins, and lactones are all biologically active substances found within its composition.
Literal centuries of use have shown it to have adaptogen properties, antibiotic properties, aphrodisiac properties, astringent, anti-inflammatory, sedative, and even tonic properties. However, current medical science has yet to fully explore and study all the potential uses and the research articles that are published to date have sometimes conflicting conclusions.
There is evidence that Ashwagandha is helpful in stress management and reduction, ADHD improvement, male sexual performance, fibromyalgia, and fighting inflammation (swelling).
Side effects: In small to medium doses, Ashwagandha is very well tolerated by most people. However, there is a lack of long-term studies to tell if there are any potential side effects with such use. We do know that pregnant women should avoid it because it has been linked to early delivery.
Subjective Information: Ashwagandha has an amazing list of potential benefits and uses. It has been in use in Indian (Ayurvedic) medicine for nearly 3,000 years and can be taken orally (by mouth) or rubbed on the skin. Today, it is commonly found mixed in with other ingredients in everything from memory enhancing pills to pills for increased sexual performance and almost everything in between.
Recommendation: There is evidence that Ashwagandha is helpful in stress management and reduction, ADHD improvement, male sexual performance, fibromyalgia, and fighting inflammation (swelling). There is to date, no serious side effects attributed to its mild to moderate use, however, high dosages or long-term consistent use is not well studied. This is an ingredient that may prove to be useful on a case-by-case basis, but one should keep a close eye on side effects if taken for more than 6 consecutive months.
ALWAYS tell your doctor, pharmacist, and other healthcare providers about any and all dietary supplements that you take. Some supplements can interact or interfere with prescription medications so it is very important to let them know *all* of the supplements that you take – even if you don’t take them regularly.
Now you know, but as always, what you do with the information is up to you.
Dr. Nick has been practicing medicine for over 10 years. After finishing his MD he began his residency in Laboratory Medicine where he gained first hand knowledge of some of the effects of dietary supplements. Dr. Nick now specializes in gastrointestinal health, Over the years of vigorous study and in-depth experimenting with a variety of dietary supplements Dr. Nick found that there are few sources of clear, evidence-backed, honest information about what the supplements can help achieve - and what they cannot. There are many companies out there selling promises without providing results.
Dr. Nick's goal is to educate the general public and do his part to help the world get healthy again. The industry needed an honest educated practitioner to reveal the real benefits of specific dietary supplements and to unbiasedly dig into the formulas and companies selling these formulas to reveal the true Pros and Cons of each supplement and to educate the general public about these ingredients found in various dietary supplements. Dr. Nick promoting general health and proper use of nutritional supplements is step one of the goal. In order to get the best effects without wasting time and money, a proper understanding of chemistry and human physiology are critically important. Since not everyone has the time to master these topics, Dr. Nick hopes to help clarify otherwise complicated topics and give the best, clear, evidence-backed input to help each person select the most appropriate supplements.