Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera holds a place in Ayurvedic (or Indian medicine) similar to ginseng in Chinese medicine. Although its name is derived because its roots smell like a horse – “Ashwa” meaning “horse” and “Gandha” meaning “odour” - don't let this put you off as it is a very potent herb that can play many roles in Alzheimer's disease and other dementias! It is a powerful rejuvenative herb and adaptogen meaning that it can help increase endurance, whilst also helping to increase energy and strengthen the immune system. In addition to all of this, it also has anti-inflammatory, anti-stress and is a potent antioxidant with mind-boosting properties.

Ashwagandha contains flavonoids and many active ingredients of the withanolide class and it is these that are believed to account for Ashwagandha's many medicinal roles. Researchers from the Paul Flechsig Institute for Brain Research, University of Leipzig, Germany and also researchers in India have discovered that Ashwagandha increases acetylcholine receptor activity in the brain and it is this that partly explains its cognition and memory enhancing effects in humans.

Other researchers have also discovered that Ashwagandha stimulates the growth of axons and dendrites in human nerve cells – which may play an important role in repairing damaged neuronal circuits (brain pathways) in the ageing brain, whilst also preventing the loss of other brain nerves and synapses or nerve connections. This is vitally important as Ashwagandha can not only prevent brain damage but also repair damage that has already occurred! This led the lead researcher to state that Withanolide-A (the active ingredient in Ashwagandha) is “an important candidate for the therapeutic treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, as it is able to reconstruct neuronal networks”.

Ashwagandha is also a sedative and a mood enhancer and may also play a role in improving sleep and behaviour in those suffering from Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.

The herb is readily available over the internet in both a powdered form and as a tea, tincture or a capsule. However care must be taken as its raw seeds can be toxic and because of this it should be prepared and used only as prescribed by an experienced practitioner.

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Author's Bio: 

Dr. Steffan H. Abel D.C. has been involved in Chiropractic and healthcare research for over 20 years. He has run his own successful practice in the north of England for the last 19 years. During which time he has treated over 10,000 patients and given over 100,000 treatments. He has lectured and taught extensively in both Europe and America to students, chiropractors and medical doctors.

He has studied Hypnotherapy, N.L.P. and qualified as a Life Coach. He has also studied various Chiropractic-based treatments (gaining a M.Sc. in post graduate Clinical Chiropractic in 2003) as well as energy therapies such as Seichem and Reiki. In 2001 he became a Fellow of the College of Chiropractors and a Fellow of the Association of Osteomyology and in 2007 became a Fellow of the European Academy of Chiropractic.

In his spare time he spends between 15 and 25 hours per week researching all areas of “alternative” and allopathic healthcare in order to bring the best advice to his patients through his practice and writing and has just finished his latest book The Alzheimer's Alternative ( When not working he is to be found enjoying life with Sue, his partner, – whom he loves tremendously!

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