An increasing number of adults are experiencing stress due to past experiences, occupation, family problems, and environmental factors. Anxiety is everywhere, and its prevalence is on the rise globally. 

An analysis of a recent pandemic revealed that 29.6% of the general population was stressed during the epidemic.

This randomized, double-blind clinical study aimed to determine whether Ashwagandha root extract sustained-release capsule 300 mg would improve cognitive functions, stress levels, sleep quality, and overall well-being in stress-related individuals.

In Ayurveda, an ancient system of medicine that dates back thousands of years, herbal therapies are recommended to aid memory and cognition. Recent research indicates that plant-derived products could help with these abilities. Ayurveda uses Ashwagandha’s root extract (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) as a “Rasayana” or an “adaptogen” as a therapeutic agent.

Only small studies support the efficacy and safety of Ashwagandha root extract on cognitive functions or stress. 

A recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 50 adults with mild cognitive impairment demonstrated significant improvements in immediate and general memory, executive function, attention, and processing speed over an eight-week follow-up period.

Methodology

The 130 participants were healthy, cognitively sound adults (age 20 to 55; BMI 18 to 29 kg/m2) who perceived themselves under stress and scored 14-24 on the 10-item Perceived Stress Scale (PSS).

Participants attended four study visits. In the first visit, which took place from days 2 to 0, the experts assessed subjects who met the inclusion criteria and obtained informed consent, collected data on the subjects’ history and baseline PSS score and performed preliminary laboratory tests.

As part of the double-blind process, researchers randomly assigned subjects to the Ashwagandha SR or placebo groups during the second visit (day 1).

Ashwagandha SR or placebo capsules were taken by participants daily for 90 consecutive days. The primary endpoint was the change in cognitive function measured by CANTAB from baseline to the end of the study period (90 days). 

A secondary outcome measured the shift in PSS-10 scores, serum cortisol levels (between 9 and 11 am), OHQ scores, PSQI scores, and serum BDNF levels.

Only 125 completed the study and were evaluated. The Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB) reported significantly improved recall memory. The total error rate in recalling patterns significantly decreased at visit 4 in the Ashwagandha SR group vs. the placebo group.

Results of the Study

The Ashwagandha SR group had lower PSS-10 scores, serum cortisol levels, and Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) scores than the placebo group but higher Oxford Happiness Questionnaire (OHQ) scores. 

Compared to the placebo group, the former demonstrated significantly lower levels of stress and improved psychological well-being and sleep quality. In addition, no adverse events were reported.

It’s the first clinical study to test Ashwagandha SR’s safety and efficacy. Treatment with one Ashwagandha SR capsule every day for 90 days improved memory, focus, psychological well-being, sleep quality, and stress levels.

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