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Ashwagandha: The wonder herb for your brain

Ashwagandha, an ayurvedic herb, improves your cognitive functions i in many ways. © Shutterstock

Ashwagandha supports long life and helps the mind and mental capacity. Here are a few ways in which ashwagandha our improves brain health.

Written by Jahnavi Sarma |Published : July 8, 2019 10:56 AM IST

The health benefits of ashwagandha is well known since time immemorial. But does it also keep our brain healthy? Well, it does say ayurveda experts and reams of research. Ashwagandha is a herb that is said to come with amazing healing properties. Its health benefits were known to ancient Indian rishis or holy men who used this knowledge to successfully treat various mental and physical ailments.

Commonly known as the Indian ginseng, it benefits the immune system and fights neurological problems. It is also beneficial for your endocrine and reproductive systems. Ashwagandha is well-known for its neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties. Ayurvedic medicine uses this herb extensively as it promotes physical and mental health, defends the body against diseases and environmental pollution and also slows down the aging process.


Many studies have established the medicinal and therapeutic properties of ashwagandha. Its effects on the human brain are also well known. This is a herb that supports long life and helps the mind and mental capacity. It has neuroprotective qualities. Experts say that it improves memory, increases spatial and visual memory, decreases oxidative brain stress and helps prevent nerve cell degeneration. This supports and maintains our brains throughout life and particularly as we age.

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Here are a few ways in which ashwagandha our improves brain health. But if you are pregnant or taking some other medications for mental health, please consult a doctor before adding this herb to your daily dose of medication and supplements.

It reduces anxiety

Ashwaghanda has calming, relaxing and sedative properties that works better that many prescribed medications. In a study published in PLOS One, researchers found that ashwagandha was an effective and safe naturopathic option to help alleviate anxiety.

If you take a high-potency extract of Ashwagandha for five days,it is as effective as the sedative lorazepam and antidepressant drug imipramine. It reduces anxiety by reducing the stress levels by up to 80 per cent. This is a perfect supplement for people who live and work in a high-stress environment. In fact, it reduces cortisol levels, a key stress-related hormone, by almost 26 per cent on an average.

It improves sleep quality

Researchers from the Sleep Institute in the University of Tsukuba, Japan, say that your sleep problems may be a thing of the past if you try an Indian herb, Ashwagandha. According to them, an active component found in Ashwagandha leaves can help in combating insomnia.It can induce deepsleep without the side effects associated with many herbs and pharmaceutical medications.

A natural relaxant

Ashwagandha acts as a natural relaxant and brings down stress and anxiety. A study published in PLOS One says that its effect can be favourably compared to common pharmaceutical drugs lorazepam and imipramine, but without the side effects. It does so by suppressing the secretion of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.The amazing antioxidant qualities of ashwagandha also contributes.

It is a great stress reliever

Stress can cause mental and emotional tension. This, in turn, can lead to adverse health conditions. There are many herbs that help to fight off stress. Ashwagandha is one such herb that works as a safe and effective stress buster.

Acute stress increases your heart rate and blood pressure. It also stimulates gluconeogenesis, glycogenolysis, lipolysis and hepatic glucose secretion. These in turn elevates the catecholamines and cortisol levels in the body. Ashwagandha helps by suppressing the production of the stress hormone cortisol in the brain.

Keeps depressions at bay

This herb offers protection against depression and improves people's quality of life. In fact, some studies have found that ashwagandha can work as a mood stabiliser in clinical conditions of depression.

Depression is a serious condition that causes sadness, loss of interest in fun activities, insomnia, fatigue and suicidal tendencies. According to a study published in Phytomedicine, researchers found that ashwagandha root has anti-depressant properties. An Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology study found that ashwagandha can be as effective as the medicine diazepam in some cases of depression and anxiety.

It saves the brain from cellular degeneration

Emotional, physical and chemical stress can damage the brain and nervous system to an extent. But ashwagandha can protect the brain from cell degeneration. It, therefore, gives us protection against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Huntington's and Parkinson's. Ashwagandha slows, stops and reverses neurological decline. It provides protection against neuritic atrophy and synaptic loss associated with these diseases.

According to researchers from Michigan State University, withanamides, a property extracted from Ashwagandha seeds, can help scientists to find a cure for Alzheimer's. Studies showed that the use of withanamides prevents neurodegenerative diseases at the onset and also slows its progress. Withanamides is a powerful antioxidant that prevents cellular degeneration seen in Alzheimer's. The journal Phytotherapy Research featured this study.

It improves cognitive functions

Withanolides, a compound found in ashwagandha, improves cognitive function. These are naturally occurring steroids that promote cell outgrowth, reverse behavioural deficits and plaque build-up and reduce amyloid beta burden.

A study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements found that this plant enhanced memory in people with mild cognitive impairment. It also helps in attention building, information processing speed and overall mental skills. It increases acetylcholine levels in the brain which, in turn, improves memory, brain function and intelligence. Besides, it is also known to elevate the levels of GABA in the brain. It is a neurotransmitter that relaxes your nervous system. Ashwagandha also stimulates nitric oxide production by regulating the blood flow and pressure of the arterial system. This, in turn, increases oxygen levels in the brain, improving your cognitive ability.

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