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Science of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is Ayurveda’s premier adaptogenic herb for stress and longevity. It has a special classification as a rasayana herb.
Rasayana herbs are believed to promote longevity, induce nourishment, and prevent the effects of aging.
The science backing ashwagandha is impressive.
- It has shown to increase stamina during and boost recovery from vigorous exercise.
- It delivers what is called a cognition-promoting effect, supporting healthy brain function and memory for both younger children and elderly. (1)
- It has been identified as one of the few substances capable of boosting the natural production of brain-derived neurotropic factors (BDNFs) which support brain cell production and promote the healthy formation of dendrites (nerve cell projections). (1)
- It supports healthy levels of leptin—the appetite hormone—and normal weight loss. (1)
- It has been shown to support stable mood, improved energy, and the normal function of energy-producing mitochondria. (1)
- As an adaptogen, it balances stress-fighting hormones and protects the stomach from excess acid during times of high stress. It also protects the reproductive system and supports healthy joint function. (1)
Based on this quick snapshot of ashwagandha, it is not surprising that ashwagandha is getting attention from the scientific community.
Recently, an artificial intelligence (AI) process was developed that is capable of assessing tens of thousands of nervous system-signaling pathways that degenerate with age.
These cellular-signaling pathways are associated with protecting the cells from chemical and environmental stress, adverse gene expression, protein damage, inflammation, DNA damage and repair and the list goes on.
The AI scanned over 800 natural compounds to evaluate their ability to maintain these anti-aging signaling pathways as we age—and ashwagandha was at the top of the list. (7)
Withaferin A – Ashwagandha’s Power-Packed Constituent
Withaferin A, one of the major constituents in ashwagandha, was responsible for most of the anti-aging effects on the signaling pathways.
One of the major causes of aging is the breakdown of protein in the body. This is seen commonly with aging when the protein collagen breaks down and the skin becomes thin and wrinkled.
Ashwagandha has been shown to activate a protein clean-up network that removes damaged proteins from the body through the process called autophagy. (2,3)
Autophagy, recently brought to light by Nobel Prize-winning science, is the body’s way of cleaning house. It happens during starvation, calorie restriction, and fasting. (6)
In mice, Withaferin A demonstrated a 39% reduction of age-related protein damage in the spinal cord, and a 60% reduction in age-related protein damage in motor neuron cells—the cells that transmit movement signals from the brain, through the spinal cord, and to the muscles.
In the same study, mice with age-related protein breakdown in their nervous systems were supplemented with Withaferin A and their lives were extended by 5.6%. (4)
Weight gain is also associated with the breakdown of proteins in the body.
In one study, overweight mice were fed a high-fat diet. The group that was supplemented with Withaferin A saw a significant reduction in weight.
Compared to the control group that was not given the Withaferin A, there was a 23% reduction in weight and fat-mass reduction, while the placebo group saw no weight loss. (5)
The mechanism for the weight loss was reported to be that the group given the Withaferin A ate 60% less food.
This was due to an increase in the appetite hormone, leptin, which made them feel full with eating much less food.
Weight gain has been linked to a decrease or insensitivity to the hormone, leptin.
Withaferin A (ashwagandha) has been shown to boost leptin levels and leptin sensitivity. (5) It does this by gobbling up damaged proteins through the process of autophagy, which helps maintain normal signaling pathways by increasing the production of the anti-weight gain hormone, leptin. (5)