The Indian herb withania somnifera, also known as Ashwagandha, Indian ginseng or winter cherry received some recent press after a study by Senhgal, et al was printed in PubMed and indexed for Medline (PMID:22308347 PMCID:PMC3295277 available on 2012/8/28). The researchers working in the Division of Molecular & Cellular Neuroscience, National Brain Research Centre, Nainwal Mode, Manesar, Haryana, 122050, in India titled their report “Withania somnifera reverses Alzheimer’s disease pathology by enhancing low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein in liver.” They used Alzheimer’s disease transgenic mice (mice specifically bred to develop Alzheimer’s symptoms) and found that a 30 day oral course of a semipurified extract of Ashwagndha showed a reversal of behavioral deficits, plaque pathology and Beta-amyloid accumulation in the brains of mice they deemed to be middle-aged and old. This is exciting news because it points to a new target to aim at in the treatment of AD. As I’ve said repeatedly, it’s a huge leap from the brains of mice to men, but every small advancement in the mouse experiments can only help us move toward that cure.
This herb has been around the centuries, and often used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine as a general tonic, a sedative, a liver tonic, an anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor agent and a coagulant when the berries are used to coagulate milk in cheese making. As with ALL herbs, no matter how long they’ve been around, there can be adverse side effects especially if you are diabetic, pregnant, or have liver disease. There is at least one case report of a person developing thyrotoxicosis when she took this herb for symptoms of chronic fatigue.
If you feel you want to consume this herb, please talk it over with your health care provider first. Then, carefully monitor your response to it for any adverse effects. There is no scientific proof that it will prevent AD, or cure it, but there may be a chance it can help.
Let us hold out hope that this ancient herb and help us find that cure.

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