Withania somnifera / Ashwagandha
If healthy people take 3-5 ashwagandha capsules every day, their muscle strength and lean body mass increase and their fat percentage decreases. In addition, taking this herb, which is used in the ayurveda tradition, reduces the chance of cardiovascular disease. Researchers at the ICMR Advanced Centre for Reverse Pharmacology in Traditional Medicine discovered this.
In the classical Indian tradition of ayurvedic medicine, ashwangandha, like shilajit, is a rasayana: a remedy with a rejuvenating effect. Traditional healers in India prescribe ashwagandha mainly as a medicine that can improve general health and condition. The researchers carried out this study to find out whether the same effects were found in healthy men and women.
They gave 12 men and 6 women aged 18-30 an extract of ashwagandha for a period of 30 days. On days 1-10 the dose was 750 mg per day, on days 11-20 it was 1000 mg per day, and on days 21-30 the dose was 1250 mg per day. The subjects took half the total daily dose twice a day.
The researchers studied the subjects twice before administration of the extract started. Administration of the extract started just after the second time that the researchers had seen the subjects [Visit 2].
On days 11 [Visit 3], 21 [Visit 4] and 31 [Visit 5], the researchers examined the subjects again.
Lean body mass
The figure below shows how the subjects’ lean body mass rose by just less than two kilograms, and their fat percentage decreased by over two percent after they had taken ashwagandha. To be precise: the extract reduced the average fat percentage from 27.78 to 25.51 percent.
The researchers also measured the amount of strength the subjects could generate with their hands, their quadriceps and their lower back. These all increased during the supplementation period.
The strength effects in the quadriceps and lower back were statistically significant; the strength effect in the hands was not.
Ashwagandha supplementation reduced the concentration of triglycerides in the blood by a significant amount. The decline in LDL concentration was almost significant.
The researchers also used the trial to assess whether ashwagandha was safe in the – fairly high – doses that were used. One person at least suffered from side effects.
Exploratory study to evaluate tolerability, safety, and activity of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in healthy volunteers.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) (WS), a “rasayana” drug, is recommended for balavardhan and mamsavardhan. The study was intended to evaluate dose-related tolerability, safety, and activity of WS formulation in normal individuals. The design was prospective, open-labeled, variable doses in volunteers. Eighteen apparently healthy volunteers (12M:6F, age:18-30 years, and BMI: 19-30) were enrolled. After baseline investigations, they received WS capsules (Rx) (aqueous extract, 8:1) daily in two divided doses with increase in daily dosage every 10 days for 30 days (750 mg/day ×10 days, 1 000 mg/day × 10 days, 1 250 mg/day × 10 days). Volunteers were assessed for symptoms/signs, vital functions, hematological and biochemical organ function tests. Muscle activity was measured by hand grip strength, quadriceps strength, and back extensor force. Exercise tolerance was determined using cycle ergometry. Lean body weight and fat% were computed from skin fold thickness measurement. Adverse events were recorded, as volunteered by the subjects. Repeated measures ANOVA, McNemar’s test, and paired t test were employed. All but one volunteer tolerated WS without any adverse event. One volunteer showed increased appetite, libido, and hallucinogenic effects with vertigo at the lowest dose and was withdrawn from study. In six subjects, improvement in quality of sleep was found. Organ function tests were in normal range before and after the intervention. Reduction in total- and LDL- cholesterol and increase of strength in muscle activity was significant. Total body fat percentage showed a reduction trend. WS, in escalated dose, was tolerated well. The formulation appeared safe and strengthened muscle activity. In view of its traditional Rasayana use, further studies are planned to evaluate potential of this drug in patients of sarcopenia.
PMID: 23125505 [PubMed] PMCID: PMC3487234