Ashwagandha

Summary

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) also known as Indian ginseng is one of the most widely touted phytoherbs and is knwon for its promotion of health and general strength, having been used for centuries (Raut et al., 2012; Sangwan et al., 2008; Tiwari et al., 2014). The phytoherb Ashwagandha, has been implemented successfully in traditional medicines throughout many cultures including Chinese, Unani, Ayurveda and Siddha (Raut et al., 2012). In Ayurveda, Ashwagandha is categorized as a Rasayana herb due to its life promoting abilities (Kuboyama et al., 2014). Investigations into the bioactive components of the plant have found that the primary acting metabolites are withanolides (Sangwan et al., 2008). Withanolides occupy receptor sites where direct activation of these steroidal lactones is moderated (Tiwari et al., 2014).

Benefits and Effects

  • Anti-aging (Sangwan et al., 2008; Singh et al., 2010; Verma & Kumar, 2011);
  • Anti-arthritic (Kumar et al., 2015; Sangwan et al., 2008; Singh et al., 2011);
  • Anti-cancer (Widodo et al., 2008);
  • Anti-inflammatory (Chandra et al., 2012; Singh et al., 2010; Singh et al., 2011; Tiwari et al., 2014);
  • Antioxidant (Kuboyama et al., 2014; Singh et al., 2010; Widodo et al., 2008);
  • Adaptogenic, Anti-stress and Anti-anxiety (Chandrasekhar et la., 2012; Pratte et al., 2014; Verma & Kumar, 2011; Singh et al., 2011; Tiwari et al., 2014);
  • Reduces total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (Raut et al., 2012; Tiwari et al., 2014; Verma & Kumar, 2011);
  • Improves sleep quality (Raut et al., 2012; Tiwari et al., 2014);
  • Supports healthy immune system functioning (Singh et al., 2010; Tiwari et al., 2014; Verma & Kumar, 2011; Yamada et al., 2011);
  • Enhances muscle strength (Raut et al., 2012; Tiwari et al., 2014);
  • Promotes cognitive functioning (Choudhary et al., 2017; Sangwan et al., 2008; Verma & Kumar, 2011);
  • Improves cardiovascular functioning (Singh et al., 2010; Tiwari et al., 2014);
  • Enhances sexual behaviour and functioning (Tiwari et al., 2014);
  • Protects against neurodegenerative disorders and toxins (Kuboyama et al., 2014; Sangwan et al., 2008; Tiwari et al., 2014);

Doseage

Ashwagandha is typically mixed in its powder form with water, honey, ghee, or milk (Raut et al., 2012).

As low as 50 to 100 mg

Optimal at 300 to 500 mg

Can be as high as 6 grams per day divided into three doses of 2000mg (Examine, 2018).

References

Chandra, S., Chatterjee, P., Dey, P., & Bhattacharya, S. (2012). Evaluation of anti-inflammatory effect of ashwagandha: a preliminary study in vitro. Pharmacognosy Journal, 4(29), 47-49. DOI: 10.5530/pj.2012.29.7

Chandrasekhar, K., Kapoor, J., & Anishetty, S. (2012). A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 34(3), 255. DOI: 10.4103/0253-7176.106022

Choudhary, D., Bhattacharyya, S., & Bose, S. (2017). Efficacy and safety of Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera (L.) Dunal) root extract in improving memory and cognitive functions. Journal of dietary supplements, 14(6), 599-612. DOI: 10.1080/19390211.2017.1284970

Examine. (2018, March 15). Ashwagandha. Retrieved from https://examine.com/

Kuboyama, T., Tohda, C., & Komatsu, K. (2014). Effects of Ashwagandha (roots of Withania somnifera) on neurodegenerative diseases. Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 37(6), 892-897. DOI: 10.1248/bpb.b14-00022

Kumar, G., Srivastava, A., Sharma, S. K., Rao, T. D., & Gupta, Y. K. (2015). Efficacy & safety evaluation of Ayurvedic treatment (Ashwagandha powder & Sidh Makardhwaj) in rheumatoid arthritis patients: a pilot prospective study. The Indian journal of medical research, 141(1), 100. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4405924/

Raut, A. A., Rege, N. N., Tadvi, F. M., Solanki, P. V., Kene, K. R., Shirolkar, S. G., … & Vaidya, A. B. (2012). Exploratory study to evaluate tolerability, safety, and activity of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in healthy volunteers. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine, 3(3), 111. DOI: 10.4103/0975-9476.100168

Pratte, M. A., Nanavati, K. B., Young, V., & Morley, C. P. (2014). An alternative treatment for anxiety: a systematic review of human trial results reported for the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 20(12), 901-908. DOI: 10.1089/acm.2014.0177

Sangwan, R. S., Chaurasiya, N. D., Lal, P., Misra, L., Tuli, R., & Sangwan, N. S. (2008). Withanolide A is inherently de novo biosynthesized in roots of the medicinal plant Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). Physiologia plantarum, 133(2), 278-287. DOI: 10.1111/j.1399-3054.2008.01076.x

Singh, N., Bhalla, M., de Jager, P., & Gilca, M. (2011). An overview on ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, 8(5S). DOI: 10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5S.9

Singh, G., Sharma, P. K., Dudhe, R., & Singh, S. (2010). Biological activities of Withania somnifera. Annals of Biological Research, 1(3), 56-63. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Rupesh_Dudhe2/publication/265245087_Biological_activities_of_Withania_somnifera/links/551e4f430cf29dcabb03ae02.pdf

Tiwari, R., Chakraborty, S., Saminathan, M., Dhama, K., & Singh, S. V. (2014). Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): Role in safeguarding health, immunomodulatory effects, combating infections and therapeutic applications: A review. Journal of Biological Science, 14(2), 77-94. DOI: 10.3923/jbs.2014.77.94

Verma, S. K., & Kumar, A. (2011). Therapeutic uses of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha) with a note on withanolides and its pharmacological actions. Asian Journal Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research, 4(1), 1-4. Retrieved from http://www.ajpcr.com/Vol4Suppl1/408.pdf

Widodo, N., Takagi, Y., Shrestha, B. G., Ishii, T., Kaul, S. C., & Wadhwa, R. (2008). Selective killing of cancer cells by leaf extract of Ashwagandha: Components, activity and pathway analyses. Cancer letters, 262(1), 37-47. DOI: 10.1016/j.canlet.2007.11.037

Yamada, K., Hung, P., Park, T. K., Park, P. J., & Lim, B. O. (2011). A comparison of the immunostimulatory effects of the medicinal herbs Echinacea, Ashwagandha and Brahmi. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 137(1), 231-235. DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2011.05.017

Rhodiola rosea

Summary

Rhodiola rosea, less commonly known as Rhodiola, Roseroot, Rosenroot, Golden Root, Arctic Root, or Orpin Rose (Panossian, Wikman & Sarria, 2010), grows in high altitudes throughout the mountainous regions of Europe and Asia (Brown, Gerbarg, & Ramazanov, 2002). Due to its ability to promote resistance to chemical, physical and biological stressors, Rhodiola rosea was designated an adaptogen by Russian scientists (Kelly, 2001). Some researchers believe that Rhodiola rosea use dates back to the Vikings as a medicinal compound used to enhance vigorous and strenuous work (Panossian et al., 2010). Since 1961 there have been more than 180 studies on the adaptogen’s pharmacological, phytochemical and clinical effects (Panossian et al., 2010), however the majority of modern research has been conducted in Russia and Scandinavia (Kelly, 2001). In traditional medicine Rhodiola rosea has been used to “increase physical endurance, work productivity, longevity, resistance to high altitude sickness, and to treat fatigue, depression, anemia, impotence, gastrointestinal ailments, infections, and nervous system disorders” (Brown et al., 2002, p. 41).

Benefits and Effects

  • Reduces burn-out, mental fatigue and cortisol levels associated with stress (Darbinyan et al., 2000; Olsson et al., 2009; Spasov et al., 2000);
  • Promotes cognition through neuroprotective, antioxidant, stimulatory yet emotionally calming effects, reduces forgetfulness, memory impairment, irritability, inability to concentrate, and cognitive deficits associated with Alzheimer’s (Qu et al., 2009; Walker & Robergs, 2006; Fintelmann & Gruenwald, 2007; Khanum, et al., 2005);
  • Promotes a sense of general well-being and reduces depression (Brown et al., 2002; Panossian et al., 2010; Khanum et al., 2005);
  • Improves exercise endurance capacity, work capacity and cardiovascular functioning (De Bock et al., 2004; Spasov et al., 2000; Kelly, 2001).

Dosage

360-600 mg standardized for 1-percent rosavin

180-300 mg standardized for 2-percent rosavin

100-170 mg standardized for 3.6-percent rosavin

References

Brown, R. P., Gerbarg, P. L., & Ramazanov, Z. (2002). Rhodiola rosea. A phytomedicinal overview. HerbalGram56, 40-52. Retrieved from https://realdosestatic.com/common/info/research/Rhodiola-Phytomedicinal-Overview-Brown-Gerbarg.pdf

Darbinyan, V., Kteyan, A., Panossian, A., Gabrielian, E., Wikman, G., & Wagner, H. (2000). Rhodiola rosea in stress induced fatigue—a double blind cross-over study of a standardized extract SHR-5 with a repeated low-dose regimen on the mental performance of healthy physicians during night dutyPhytomedicine7(5), 365-371. doi: 10.1016/S0944-7113(00)80055-0

De Bock, K., Eijnde, B. O., Ramaekers, M., & Hespel, P. (2004). Acute Rhodiola rosea intake can improve endurance exercise performanceInternational journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism14(3), 298-307. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.14.3.298

Fintelmann, V., & Gruenwald, J. (2007). Efficacy and tolerability of a Rhodiola rosea extract in adults with physical and cognitive deficienciesAdvances in therapy24(4), 929-939. doi: 10.1007/BF02849986

Khanum, F., Bawa, A. S., & Singh, B. (2005). Rhodiola rosea: a versatile adaptogenComprehensive reviews in food science and food safety4(3), 55-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1541-4337.2005.tb00073.

Kelly, G. (2001). Rhodiola rosea: a possible plant adaptogen. Altern Med Rev6(3), 293-302. Retrieved from http://www.brainlife.org/fulltext/2001/kelly_gs010600.pdf

Olsson, E. M., von Schéele, B., & Panossian, A. G. (2009). A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatiguePlanta medica75(02), 105-112. Doi: 10.1055/s-0028-1088346

Panossian, A., Wikman, G., & Sarris, J. (2010). Rosenroot (Rhodiola rosea): traditional use, chemical composition, pharmacology and clinical efficacyPhytomedicine17(7), 481-493. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2010.02.002

Qu, Z. Q., Zhou, Y., Zeng, Y. S., Li, Y., & Chung, P. (2009). Pretreatment with Rhodiola rosea extract reduces cognitive impairment induced by intracerebroventricular streptozotocin in rats: implication of anti-oxidative and neuroprotective effectsBiomedical and environmental sciences22(4), 318-326. doi: 10.1016/S0895-3988(09)60062-3

Spasov, A. A., Wikman, G. K., Mandrikov, V. B., Mironova, I. A., & Neumoin, V. V. (2000). A double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of the stimulating and adaptogenic effect of Rhodiola rosea SHR-5 extract on the fatigue of students caused by stress during an examination period with a repeated low-dose regimenPhytomedicine7(2), 85-89. doi: 10.1016/S0944-7113(00)80078-1

Walker, T. B., & Robergs, R. A. (2006). Does Rhodiola rosea possess ergogenic properties?International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism16(3), 305-315. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.16.3.305

Adaptogens and Stress

“The fast pace of life in modern times contributes to an increase in the production and sustained release of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Chronic activation of these stress hormones can cause deterioration of vital organs […] One of the best and most powerful ways to lower excess cortisol levels, bring the body into a state of metabolic harmony and reduce the damaging effects of stress is to use adaptogens” (Pawar & Shivakumar, 2012, p. 481).

Balance, equilibrium or homeostasis all fall under the umbrella of creating harmony. This is one of the most overlooked aspects of our day to day lives, that can serve up some major impact. Homo Sapiens appear to thrive on chaos. We continuously experience blissful behavioural highs and subsequent lows. Nonetheless, the question we must ask ourselves is: just how far can we push it until we burn out into a blazing couch potato and Netflix week long flame of glory? So how do we perform at our optimal potential while maintaining overall health?

The wealth of information on adaptogens is ever growing, and it is no wonder! As one of the most withstanding forms of herbal therapy, far before conventional westernized medicine was ever introduced, adaptogen use goes back thousands of years (Winston & Maimes, 2007). Adaptogen research is as broad as the effect these compounds can have on the mind and body.

Adaptogens are used for several reasons:

  • To enhance the effectiveness of certain medications;
  • To reduce the side-effects of certain medications;
  • And most notably, to reduce stress (Winston & Maimes, 2007).

Stress has been revealed to be a rampant contributor to disease and illness due to modernized fast-paced lifestyles. It is now believed that stress may contribute to as much as 75% of illness and disease (Pawar & Shivakumar, 2012).

According to Pawar and Shivakumar (2012) “stress has been postulated to be involved in the etiopathogenesis of a diverse variety of diseases ranging from psychiatric disorder such as anxiety and depression, immunosuppression, endocrine disorders including diabetes mellitus, male sexual dysfunction, cognitive dysfunctions, peptic ulcer, hypertension and ulcerative colitis (p. 480).

Canadian pioneer in stress research, Hans Seyle, revealed the results that stress has on an otherwise healthy organism. He proposed the general adaptation syndrome (GAS) in which three stages occur in response to a stressor: alarm phase (shock and anxiety), resistance (adaptation up to exhaustion aka adrenal maladaptation, and finally homeostasis (the organism sets a regulatory biological point) (Pawar & Shivakumar, 2012).

The definition of what constitutes an adaptogen was created by Brekhman and Dardymov in 1969 and follows with four requisites:

  • Adaptogens must reduce stress-induced harm;
  • Adaptogens must create a stimulatory effect on the sympathetic nervous system, in which as a result, produces increased cognitive and working performance;
  • The abovementioned stimulatory effect must not deplete the body of resources and create an exhaustive state, as conventional stimulants do;
  • Adaptogens must not disturb the body from normal regulatory functioning, yet instead revert the body back to a state of biological balance (Pawar & Shivakumar, 2012).

References

Brekhman, I. I., & Dardymov, I. V. (1969). New substances of plant origin which increase nonspecific resistanceAnnual review of pharmacology9(1), 419-430.

Winston, D., & Maimes, S. (2007). Adaptogens: herbs for strength, stamina, and stress relief. Inner Traditions/Bear & Co.

Pawar, V. S., & Shivakumar, H. (2012). A current status of adaptogens: natural remedy to stressAsian Pacific Journal of Tropical Disease2, S480-S490.