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Ashwagandha; a rasayana for the brain?

Friday May 5, 2017
Ashwagandha; a rasayana for the brain?

The brain can be likened to a memory stick, but what happens if it crashes?


Before you call the IT department, consider one of the most highly prized herbs in Ayurvedic medicine; Ashwagandha.  Its traditional use elicited its tonifying effects and led to its reputation in rejuvenation and strengthening of the mind and body.  The Latin name Withania somnifera refers to sleep, and rightly so, as traditional use of Ashwagandha is that taken in an evening, it is believed to greatly improve the symptoms of insomnia.


In the western world, it is a popular stress-supporting herb, referred to as an adaptogen as it is believed to help the body adapt to stress.  Furthermore, studies have identified a host of therapeutic properties that include anti-ageing, anti-inflammatory, immune regulation, cardio protective, anti-anxiety, anti-depressive and neuro protective effects.


Some of the most important properties are thought to be due to effects on the brain and nervous system exerted from the bio active constituents; withanolides.  Furthermore, withanolides have been shown to help restore neurological networks.


A recent study on patients aged over 35 years with mild cognitive impairment, took 300mg of Ashwagandha twice daily for eight weeks.  A comparison against those who took the placebo reported that the treatment group performed significantly better in cognitive tests on the four-week check-up and further improved by the end of the study.


Memory, recall, executive function, attention and processing speed were put under scrutiny and it was concluded that Ashwagandha significantly enhanced the cognitive abilities, these findings open the door for herbal therapy for cognitive conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.


So to return to the memory stick analogy, a crash may be recovered or even prevented by some simple dietary changes that include supplementary Ashwagandha alongside healthy fats, for example; nuts, seeds, oily fish, avocadoes and eggs.   Eating wholesome foods and eliminating any processed products could naturally increase the nutrient content of the diet.



Add in some ‘me’ time to destress and recoup, ask yourself what makes you happy and set time aside to do those activities, it could be a walk in the park, reading or meditation and yoga practice. Finally, restorative sleep can help to clear the brain as during sleep the brain undergoes detoxification.  


Sleep tips include turning off all back lit screens 90 minutes before sleeping, using black out curtains, a sleep mask and ear plugs and lastly an evening drink that contain magnesium and cherry can provide the necessary nutrients to support the onset of sleep.

Author: Jenny Hall is a Nutritional Practitioner and Technical Service Assistant at Viridian Nutrition. She holds a BSc honours degree in Nutritional Science.



Dnyanraj Choudhary MD, Sauvik Bhattacharyya MPharm, PhD & Sekhar Bose MPharm, PhD (2017): Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Functions, Journal of Dietary Supplements, DOI: 10.1080/19390211.2017.1284970

Kuboyama T, Tohda C, Komatsu K. Neuritic regeneration and synaptic reconstruction induced by withanolide A. Br J Pharmacol. 2005 Apr;144(7):961-71.  

Singh P, Guleri R, Singh V, Kaur G, Kataria H, Singh B, Kaur G, Kaul SC, Wadhwa R, Pati PK. Biotechnological interventions in Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal.  Biotechnol Genet Eng Rev.  2015 Mar 19:1-20.  


TAGS: Brain Health


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