And it will help you make better food choices and lose weight
An ancient treatment may hold the answer to relieving your stress during the pandemic and improve your health afterwards - for the long-term.
Withania somnifera (WS), commonly known as Ashwagandha or Indian Ginseng, possesses diverse biological functions. These include reducing anxiety, and reducing weight. That's a beautiful combination.
Think about it. Right now, most of us are exercising less, and putting on a little extra weight. We are feeling more stressed as a result of everything from losing our jobs, to having to do home-schooling, to just not getting outside in the fresh air often enough.
Not only that, but these two things are linked. Our stress level affects what we eat - as it gets higher, we tend to make poorer food choices. That is, we eat more sugary junk foods - comfort foods. That makes us heavier, which raises our stress level, which puts us into a vicious cycle.
Is Ashwagandha the Covid stress relief wonder drug?
WS may help us reduce our anxiety and simultaneously reduce weight. Either of these, individually, is a positive for our long-term health. Both together is a massive benefit.
Let's first look at the weight-loss claims for Ashwagandha, as proof of this is very recent - February 2020 in fact! Korean researchers conducted controlled experiments with mice, and reported what I would describe as spectacular results.
WSE (0.5%) supplementation significantly suppressed the increases in body weight and serum lipids, and lipid accumulation in the liver and adipose tissue induced by HFD. WSE supplementation increased oxygen consumption and enhanced mitochondrial activity in brown fat and skeletal muscle in the HFD-fed mice. In addition, it promoted browning of subcutaneous fat by increasing mitochondrial uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) expression.
Translation: Withania somnifera turned white fat into high-energy burning brown fat, reduced the accumulation of unhealthy fats in the liver and white fat, and was associated with weight loss.
Summarised, WS reduces diet-induced by obesity enhancing energy expenditure via promoting mitochondrial function in adipose tissue and skeletal muscle.
Sure, but how can we use this knowledge?
Firstly, we know (2013) that improving mitochondria is very relevant to the prevention or treatment of metabolic diseases and age-related dysfunction, for example, Type 2 diabetes.
The available literature strongly suggests that the lower mitochondrial capacity associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes and aging is not an irreversible condition. For example, increasing physical activity "improves mitochondrial content and perhaps the function of individual mitochondrion".
Since Withania somnifera was found to improve mitochondrial condition and activity in mice, it may also do so in humans. For those of us with Type 2 diabetes that's good news as a potential supplement.
But can it help me sleep better? Sure ...
But wait, there is more. WS has many talents.
Ashwagandha is a central herb in Ayurveda, the traditional home medicine native to India. In the Latin name — Withania somnifera — somnifera means sleep-inducing.
WS it has been recommended for sound sleep through the centuries, but scientists had struggled to understand which of its active components induces sleep - until recently.
Research in Japan at the International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine (WPI-IIIS), University of Tsukuba, investigated the effect of various components of Ashwaganda on sleep in mice (2017).
[Remember, Withania somnifera = "WS" commonly known as Ashwagandha.]
A water extract of Ashwaganda leaf, rich in triethylene glycol (TEG), promoted non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep significantly. In contrast, the alcoholic extract containing active withanolides showed no effect on sleep. Furthermore, "commercially available TEG also increased the amount of NREM sleep". They thus concluded that "TEG is the active component that induces physiologically sound sleep".
Insomnia is one of the most common neuropsychiatric disorders, with an estimated incident of 10-15% in the general population and 30-60% in the elderly population. Insomnia is associated with other age-related diseases, including obesity, cardiovascular diseases, depression, anxiety, mania deficits etc.
According to the authors of this study, Ashwagandha crude powder, including the significant amount of TEG can be consumed for better sleep without any side effects.
The Ashwagandha herbal trifecta
Taking all the above, Ashwagandha offers us a trifecta of benefits - especially in this time of the pandemic:
Transforming a vicious COVID-induced circle into a virtuous circle
Ashwagandha offers a potential way to short-circuit this vicious circle and to transition us into a virtuous circle, for these four reasons:
The trifecta of benefits are better sleep, less stress, and weight control.
But now, I want you to hold on to your hat. There's more. India has started clinical trials of Ashwagandha as complementary medicine for COVID_19! One of the aims is to see if Ashwagandha can help protect high-risk populations like health care workers.
That's a phenomenal set of credentials for Ashwagandha.
I have ever used it myself, but I see here advice from WebMD, and there are many options to buy it, e.g. Amazon. It's not particularly expensive but make sure that you are getting the best value as the strength per tablet varies from 50mg to 2100mg.
In Australia, Ashwagandha can be purchased as a safe dietary supplement without a prescription. Supplements that contain Ashwagandha have been approved for sale by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which is responsible for regulating natural supplements that claim to have medicinal value.
I'm off to Chemist Warehouse to pick up a couple of bottles.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or another qualified clinician. Disclaimer.
Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building fitness training which lowers my age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter