Ashwagandha Root May Improve Memory and Cognitive Function in Subjects with Mild Cognitive Impairment

May 30, 2017

In a new clinical trial report, published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements1, researchers evaluated the effect of Ixoreal Biomed’s (Los Angeles, CA) proprietary KSM-66 ashwagandha supplement on memory and cognitive functioning. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has long been used in the traditional Ayurvedic system of medicine to enhance memory and improve cognition, with previous research indicating it has antioxidant, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, anxiolytic, and immunomodulating activities. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is often an early indicator of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and the results of the study indicate that ashwagandha root may improve memory as well as executive function, attention, and information-processing speed in subjects with MCI.

A total of 50 adults over age 35 and diagnosed with MCI were enrolled in the double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Participants who were enrolled in the study reported such MCI symptoms as general forgetfulness, missing important events, drifting thoughts, and feeling overwhelmed by decision-making. The treatment group received 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract in capsule form, twice daily for eight weeks, while the control group received the same dose of placebo capsules. Both groups underwent cognitive tests measuring memory, visuospatial processing and response (recall and recognition), executive function (a process relating to the coordination, selection, and execution of intentional action), and attention and speed of information processing.

The researchers observed that while both groups showed improvement in the Wechsler Memory Scale III immediate-memory subtest, the ashwagandha group had significantly higher scores in the logical memory, verbal paired associates, faces, and family pictures subtests after eight weeks. Results were not conclusive for the Wechsler Memory Scale III working-memory index.

Executive function was assessed using the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test and the Eriksen Flanker Task Test. At four weeks, the ashwagandha group produced significantly higher test scores in both tests than did the placebo group. By eight weeks, further score increases were observed in the ashwagandha treatment group for both the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test and the Eriksen Flanker Task Test. In addition, participants’ attention and information-processing speed were assessed through the Trail-Making Test and Mackworth Clock Test, and again the ashwagandha group demonstrated significantly higher scores.

Based on the results of the study, scientists hypothesize that the acetylcholinesterase inhibitory property of ashwagandha is responsible for its beneficial effects on memory and cognitive function. Kartikeya Baldwa, director of Ixoreal Biomed, the supplier of KSM-66, said he is optimistic about the potential of KSM-66 ashwagandha, and for future studies on its benefits: “This paper is an important contribution to the research literature because it presents a rigorous clinical trial validating this traditional application. This is the first clinical study using a standardized, branded ashwagandha root extract that demonstrates significant positive effects on cognitive functioning in heathy subjects.”

Baldwa added: “The scientific literature indicates that the ashwagandha root is a calming agent, improves focus and attention, facilitates choline production in the body, which in turn influences key memory processes. Moreover, ashwagandha has antioxidant effects that may protect from nerve cell degeneration. The present publication bolsters the clinical usage of KSM-66 as a brain health supplement.”

References: 
  1. Choudhary D et al. “Efficacy and safety of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) root extract in improving memory and cognitive functions.” Journal of Dietary Supplements. Published online February 21, 2017.