Ashwagandha for Bipolar Disorder
Research has found that the Ayurvedic herb Ashwagandha can significantly treat symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar patients studied
The researchers, from the University of Pittsburgh’s Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, randomly divided 60 DSM-IV bipolar patients into two groups. 53 patients completed the study. For eight weeks they gave 24 patients 500 milligrams per day of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) herb extract, and 29 patients a placebo.
The researchers gave the patients a series of bipolar tests to gauge cognition, response time, social cognition response and others.
After the eight weeks, the researchers found the Ashwagandha group had significantly improved in the digit span backward test, the Flanker neutral response time, and the Penn Emotional Acuity Test for social cognition response.
The digital span backward test is conduced by having the patient repeat back a series of numbers backward. Other memory span tests use letters or words for a reverse recall. Recalling in reverse measures the ability of the brain’s cognitive potential together with its functional memory.
The researchers concluded:
“Although results are preliminary, Ashwagandha extract appears to improve auditory-verbal working memory (digit span backward), a measure of reaction time, and a measure of social cognition in bipolar disorder.”
The researchers also noted that the treatment was safe with few side effects.
Anxiety and depression
Other research has found that Ashwaghanda is effective for depression and anxiety, both elements of bipolar disorder.
A hospital study of 64 people with chronic stress found that 2 months of Ashwagandha therapy reduced reduced anxiety/insomnia by 68%, reduced severe depression by 79 percent, and reduced stress by 44%.
Another placebo-controlled double-blind study of 120 children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) found that Ashwagandha treatment improved “attention, cognition, and impulse control” among the ADHD children.
Still other studies have shown that Ashwagandha reduces oxidation among brain regions.
Ashwagandha boosts cognitive function
Bipolar disease is a cognitive condition. A number of other studies have confirmed that Ashwagandha can significantly boost cognition.
A 2020 review of research from the School of Medicine at National University of Singapore found that Ashwagandha is able to curb cognitive dysfunction. The researchers stated:
“Overall, there is some early clinical evidence, in the form of randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trials, to support the cognitive benefits of W. somnifera supplementation. However, a rather heterogeneous study population was sampled, including older adults with mild cognitive impairment and adults with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or bipolar disorder. In most instances, W. somnifera extract improved performance on cognitive tasks, executive function, attention, and reaction time. It also appears to be well tolerated, with good adherence and minimal side effects.”
Ng QX, Loke W, Foo NX, et al. A systematic review of the clinical use of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) to ameliorate cognitive dysfunction. Phytother Res. 2020;34(3):583‐590. doi:10.1002/ptr.6552
Chengappa KN, Bowie CR, Schlicht PJ, Fleet D, Brar JS, Jindal R. Randomized placebo-controlled adjunctive study of an extract of withania somnifera for cognitive dysfunction in bipolar disorder. J Clin Psychiatry. 2013 Nov;74(11):1076-83. doi: 10.4088/JCP.13m08413.
Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of Ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Ind Jnl Psych Med. 2012 34(3): 255-262.
Katz M, Levine AA, Kol-Degani H, Kav-Venaki L. A compound herbal preparation (CHP) in the treatment of children with ADHD: a randomized controlled trial. J Atten Disord. 2010 Nov;14(3):281-91. doi: 10.1177/1087054709356388.