OCD, Ashwagandha and Serotonin Dysregulation


In the latest edition of Galen’s Watch a study of interest came up, Evaluation of the efficacy of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) root extract in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Patients with Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) taking SSRI’s were randomized to 120mg/day of Withania for 6 weeks. It was found to be beneficial as a safe and effective adjunct to SSRIs in the treatment of OCD with a positive change in self-rated compulsions and obsessions. OCD is thought to be a dysregulation of the serotonergic system. Other diseases that have links to this dysregulation are anorexia nervosa, depression, anxiety, PTSD, IBS, autism……

Withania somnifera ( Ashwagandha)  is a trophorestorative specific to the endocrine system.  In The Medicine Woman’s Roots they describe this common herbal term as

A trophorestorative is an herb, food or other substance that acts as a nutritive restorative for the body, usually with a strong affinity for an organ or organ system and corrects deficiency and weakness not simply through temporary stimulation but through the vital nourishment of that organ or organ system.

Trophorestoratives sometimes called tonics fall into another commonly used term and heading of Nervine but more specifically Withania is an adaptogen.  The word adaptogen was coined by Soviet scientist, Dr. Nikolai Lazarev.

Adaptogens modulate our response to stress (physical, environmental, or emotional) and help regulate the interconnected endocrine, immune, and nervous systems. This re-regulation of a disordered or highly stressed system is achieved by metabolic regulators such as cytokines, catecholamines, glucocorticoids, cortisol, serotonin, nitric oxide (NO), cholecystokinin, corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF), and sex hormones.

Harmony Remedies: An Overview of Adaptogens by David Winston

Other interesting resources on Withania:

HERBAL ADAPTOGENS Fitting into the Modern Age Christopher Hobbs L.Ac., A.H.G.

The Winter Cherry: Restoring Vitality The Medicine Woman’s Roots

Scientific Basis for the Therapeutic Use of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha): A Review Alternative Medicine Review

Ashwagandha  by Gayle Engels, Josef Brinckmann  HerbalGram. 2013; American  Botanical Council

Complementary Therapies in Medicine Volume 27, August 2016, Pages 25–29 Evaluation of the efficacy of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) root extract in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial

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