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Ashwagandha root and leaf extract shows cognitive benefits for people with bipolar disorder

By Stephen DANIELLS , 26-Jun-2014

Ashwagandha root and leaf extract shows cognitive benefits for people with bipolar disorder

Daily consumption of a standardized Ashwagandha root and leaf extract may improve several areas of cognitive effect in subjects with bipolar disorder, says a new study.

Ashwagandha, the so-called flagship herb of Ayurveda, has been gaining traction in the mainstream US market with consumers embracing its wide-ranging body of health benefits, which include supporting stress, cognitive function, sleep, metabolic wellness, adrenal function, sports performance, and more.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center now report that the branded ingredient Sensoril was associated with improvements in auditory-verbal working memory, reaction time, and a measure of social cognition in people with bipolar disorder.

The study was conducted at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic‐University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. An investigational new drug application (IND) was submitted to the US FDA and approval was obtained to use Sensoril in the study because it met FDA‐approved safety guidelines.

The study involved 60 subjects with bipolar disorder (53 completed the eight week intervention). Participants received either 500 mg per day of the Ashwagandha product or placebo in addition to medications used as maintenance treatment for bipolar disorder.

According to findings published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry , Sensoril showed significantly greater benefits for 3 cognitive tasks, compared to placebo.

“Given the lack of positive studies and paucity of data to improve cognition in bipolar disorder, and the importance of cognition to functioning, this standardized medicinal extract of Withania somnifera with a procognitive profile merits further investigation,” concluded the researchers.


Sensoril is an ashwagandha ingredient that combines extracts of both the root and leaf of the ashwagandha plant Withania somnifera. NutraGenesis is the exclusive North American sales and marketing representative for Sensoril under license from Natreon, Inc. (New Brunswick, NJ). According to Natreon, the combination of root and leaf yields an ingredient that has “optimal concentrations of the desired active constituents found in the plant”.

A category of chemicals known as withanolides are generally associated with ashwangadha’s health benefits.

“Modern research and chemistry have identified several bioactive constituents in Ashwagandha that have significant cognitive enhancing benefits, namely the steroidal lactones which are known as glycowithanolides and sitoindosides,” said Dr Sanni Raju, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Natreon, Inc.  

“Glycowithanolides are brain antioxidants which can promote neuroprotective and memory enhancing activity,” he added.  

NutraGenesis recently told us that the ingredient is currently used in over 200 SKU’s in the US, with approximately 85% of those SKU’s using Dietary Supplement Panels (the ingredient is also used in generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use in food and beverages).

Source: Journal of Clinical Psychiatry
Volume 74, Number 11, Pages 1076-83, doi: 10.4088/JCP.13m08413
“Randomized placebo-controlled adjunctive study of an extract of withania somnifera for cognitive dysfunction in bipolar disorder”
Authors: Chengappa KN, Bowie CR, Schlicht PJ, Fleet D, Brar JS, Jindal R.

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