What happens to your skin when it is scraped or cut? At first, it develops a scar, and then it grows back again. What if your neurons can repair themselves just like your skin? Could they help improve your memory and cognitive functions if they could regenrate?
Have you ever thought about why your brain and spinal cord are bounded by a bony structure? The answer is simple. Look at the way our skulls are designed. The bony box just bears some holes that allow nerves to pass from it. The human nervous system is unique, sensitive, and vulnerable. Its main function is to convey messages from the brain to the other parts of the body. If it gets damaged, the impairment might persist for a lifetime.
Can Neurons Regenerate?
Your nerve cells, or neurons, unlike your skin, don’t divide. This is of particular concern because neurons can die easily. If you hit your head and get a concussion if there is a disturbance in the blood supply to the brain, or a stroke, if they stop getting energy (glucose or sugar) and oxygen from the blood, each of them leads to neuron injury.
Similar changes take place inside a neuron during neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Neurons are unable to cope with such changes, and the result is permanent damage. Neurons can’t renew themselves like our skin; however, there are few exceptions.
Structure of a neuron is complex, but it has the ability to compensate for its loss. It has a hard time regenerating once again. Firstly, neurons require motivation in the form of growth factors. Secondly, their environment has stop signals which stop them from regenerating. The good news is that experts are working on strategies to find a way out, and some of them might have already succeeded.
Benefits of Ashwagandha in Nerve Regeneration
Paracelsus was right about it when he said, “The art of healing comes from nature.” Ayurveda, or traditional Indian medicine as we name it, remains the oldest living tradition when it comes to health and disease. Ayurveda reflects upon the knowledge of life to find the cause of illness. As per the tradition, most of them result from imbalance or stress in a person's consciousness. Ayurveda supports some lifestyle interventions and natural therapies to restore the balance between body, mind, spirit, and environment.
One of the magical herbs we have discovered from this science is Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is a small green herb native to the arid regions of India, North Africa, and the Middle East, has been around for thousands of years. Ashwagandha is the common name of the Withania Somnifera plant, also known as "winter cherry" and "Indian ginseng." It has been used to treat anxiety, chronic inflammation, depression, fatigue, stress, weakness, and even prevent memory loss in ancient times. Ashwagandha has a long therapeutic history of use in traditional Ayurvedic Indian medicine.
The herb is generally considered safe. It is a relative of the tomato. Ayurvedic medicine seeks out the leaves of a plant due to the therapeutic benefits of Ashwagandha, but Western cultures rely on their roots to make herbal preparations. Ashwagandha is taken orally in the form of pills mostly. Sometimes it is consumed as powder and taken with tea or other liquid.
How Does Ashwagandha Work?
The health benefits of Ashwagandha are amazing! It contains chemicals that can help the brain to calm down, reduce swelling and inflammation, lower blood pressure, and prepare our immune system to fight.
Researchers from the Uehara Memorial Foundation carried out an experiment to explore the compounds with the potential to regenerate neurons and their synapses. The team was successful in finding out a compound name Withanolide A. This specific compound, withanolide A (WL-A), is present in Ashwagandha. It is traditionally and commonly used as a stimulator and nootropic agent. It has shown some promising results associated with the improvement of scopolamine-induced memory deficit.
Ashwagandha Extracts & Their Uses
Previously such experiments revealed that Ashwagandha methanol extract had been associated with the growth of neurites and particularly dendrites. Furthermore, there are six more components isolated from methanol extract that can induce neurite growth in neuroblastoma cells, according to a study conducted in 2002. In a recent study, Predominant axonal growth was observed in normal cortical neurons when treated with anolide A, which was one of the main active ingredients isolated from Ashwagandha.
Β amyloid is one of the main pathological causes of Alzheimer's disease. β amyloid forms deposits in the brain and subsequently induces neuronal cell death by atrophy and synaptic loss. Aβ (25-35) is an active partial fragment of amyloid β. A recent study investigated the effects of WL-A on neuritic regeneration and synaptic reconstruction in cultured neurons damaged by Aβ (25-35). Once again, the results were promising.
Experts consider this compound an important candidate for the therapeutic treatment of neurodegenerative diseases because it is capable of reconstructing neural networks. It acts as an adaptogen for the body. All adaptogens prepare the body to cope with physical, emotional, or environmental stress. They work by balancing the hormones and neutralizing the normal process happening in the body.
Ashwagandha Brain Benefits
The benefits of Ashwagandha also include its properties that prolong life. Research studies at Japanese universities show that this herb regenerates nerve cells and dendritic growth not just in the brain but also in the body. Thanks to this power, Ashwagandha is considered of high importance in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Ashwagandha stimulates and improves the chemical communication pathway between nerve cells and stimulates the nervous system to heal any damage happening to it.
As far as scientific evidence and proofs are concerned, one randomized controlled clinical trial in healthy adults investigating the effects on cognitive function has been proven successful. That’s not all. Another randomized controlled clinical trial was carried out in patients with bipolar disorder. Another study carried out at Newcastle University found that it inhibits the formation of beta-amyloid plaques. These plaques are considered toxic to brain cells, as discussed before. Since the studies were performed in test tubes, the researchers pointed out that further tests were needed.
Researchers from the National Brain Research Center (NBRC) tested the herb in mice with Alzheimer's disease. After 20 days of treatment, the cognitive performance of the mice improved significantly. At the end of the 30 days, their brain function returned to normal, and the amyloid plaques present in the brains of the mice were reduced.
In 2011, several studies were carried out to test Ashwagandha's ability to slow or prevent loss of brain function in people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and Parkinson's. Some of these studies showed that Ashwagandha increases proteins in the liver instead of directly altering brain chemistry. This protein, in turn, stops amyloid deposition in the brain.
Other Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
Following are some other health benefits of Ashwagandha that compels people to use it:
Ashwagandha may have a calming effect on anxiety symptoms when used with antidepressants such as lorazepam, a sedative, and anxiety medication. Ashwagandha has shown the most promising results for stress. In 2019, a study was carried out among 60 highly stressed adults.
According to the results, those who took ashwagandha extract had a significant reduction in mental stress. Apart from Ashwagandha, L-theanine benefits also include helping with stress and anxiety. It is a non-protein amino acid usually found in green, black, and white tea.
Ashwagandha is exactly what you need to consume when you feel bursting with pressure. This herb has natural properties that will calm you down and increase your stamina. It strongly stimulates your immune system, increases the production of disease-fighting white blood cells, which in turn increases the levels of superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase, two of the most potent antioxidants and beneficial substances are known to man.
Plant extracts have shown a remarkable ability to induce deep sleep without the drowsiness associated with different sleep medications. Not only that, but it also improves memory as well. Since one of the health benefits of Ashwagandha is that it can make people feel more relaxed, one possible side effect is sleepiness in some people. It also increases nitric oxide production by regulating blood flow and pressure in your blood vessels, which increases the oxygen level in the brain.
A small study was carried out in 2019, published in the journal Cureus among 60 people. It was found that people who used Ashwagandha reported sleeping peacefully and feeling less stressed.
Ashwagandha is known to have profound effects on thyroid and adrenal glands hormones. Ashwagandha can help people with hyper (hyperactive) and hypo (inactive) thyroid problems. Both of them are equally common in developing and developed companies. The same goes for the adrenal glands, which have a great impact on general health and psychological balance.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, unbalanced corticosteroid or insufficient adrenal glands hormones can cause fatigue, fear, anxiety, and weakness. The benefits and positive effects of Ashwagandha on the health and functioning of the adrenal glands tend to reverse these problems and produce an energetic and positive mood, self-confidence, and peace of mind. Thyroid and adrenal health also have a direct impact on our sexual vitality, including our libido.
The result of using Ashwagandha has been studied in women and men with various sexual problems, and the results are mixed. Its nitric oxide boosting effects help to heal infertility issues. For now, the topic needs more research, and there is not yet enough evidence that Ashwagandha can improve symptoms of sexual dysfunction.
The Bottom Line
Ashwagandha is used as a herbal treatment in Ayurvedic medicine. Scientific studies suggest Ashwagandha may have a number of health benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety and improving arthritis.
If a person decides to use this herb as part of a treatment plan, he should be sure to discuss this with their doctor first. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor before starting this drug or avoid it totally.
You can take Ashwagandha as a pill, powder, or raw, but if you opt for the last option, then be prepared for an unpleasant smell and taste. It tastes bitter and astringent, so you can add it to something naturally sweet or to a smoothie to get a cover. Come on! Not everything you consume can be finger-licking good.