Acute Ashwagandha supplementation improves cognitive function. Xing et al, 2020. Proceedings of the Seventeenth International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) Conference and Expo
Why is this important?
Nootropics and adaptogens are all the rage at the moment. An adaptogen is a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress whilst a Nootropic is a substance used to enhance memory or other cognitive functions. Think “Smart drug” from the film “Limitless” with Bradly Cooper. Ashwagandha is one such herb known as the “King of Ayurvedic” that ticks both these boxes. Personally, I have found a lot of benefit from supplementing with Ashwagandha KSM-66. The benefits have been a reduction in perceived stress and an improved ability to focus. This is purely anecdotal and hence why this study was of interest.
Research has indicated that chronic supplementation with Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera root extract) has resulted in reduced feelings of stress & anxiety, improved mood and attenuated cognitive function although a lot more research is required before definitive conclusions can be made (1-4). This is because a lot of the studies to date have poor methodology, mixed subject groups and varied supplementation routines. It appears a dosage of 300-500mg of root extract taken for 2-6 months has a beneficial impact on users. For now, the research is promising and the space should be watched closely.
The source of Ashwagandha (NooGandha®, Specnova Inc., FL) is not one that has a lot of information on it, so I am unsure of the quality (% withanolides, % Withaferin A). The form I am familiar with is KSM-66 and it is the most researched form of Withania root extract, with the majority of studies using that form. Saying that the study was a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study so the results should carry some weight. Participants completed a battery of cognitive function tests then consumed 400mg of Ashwagandha (NooGandha®, Specnova Inc., FL) or a placebo and repeated the tests every hour up to 6hrs post-consumption. They had a 7 day washout period then reversed the treatment.