Natural remedy for OCD may lie in ashwagandha
01/09/2019 // Edsel Cook // Views

Patients may finally get their obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) under proper control thanks to an ancient Indian herbal remedy. Iranian researchers have reported that the root extract of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) could help treat the mental disorder.

The hallmarks of OCD are recurring and insidious thoughts that the patient is compelled to fulfill or act upon immediately. The disorder is considered to be connected to problems in nerves that are stimulated by serotonin.

It is usually treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). However, these pharmaceutical drugs often fail to work and only provide minimal enhancement of OCD symptoms.

Traditional Ayurvedic medicine prescribes ashwagandha for treating nerve-related problems. The roots of the plants are known to relieve anxiety and alleviate depression.

Ashwagandha root contains steroids like withanolides and withanolide glycosides. It also has alkaloids such as withanine and somniferine. These phytochemicals are believed to be responsible for the therapeutic effects on mental health.

There is also an earlier mice model that indicated ashwagandha improved the transmission of serotonin to the appropriate nerves. This led some researchers to consider ashwagandha root as a possible supplement that could improve the effectiveness of SSRIs. (Related: Prevent cognitive decline with ashwagandha.)

Testing the effect of ashwagandha root powder extract on serotonin transmission

Researchers from Mashhad University of Medical Sciences (MUMS) examined ashwagandha root as a supportive therapy for OCD patients. They conducted an experiment to test the plant extract's effects on SSRI therapy.


The researchers collected ashwagandha roots and processed the plant parts to create the powdered extract. They combined 30 milligrams (mg) of powdered extract with lactose in a number of 250 mg capsules.

The study group consisted of 30 patients who were medically diagnosed with OCD and undergoing treatment with SSRIs. They were distributed between the ashwagandha extract treatment group and the placebo group.

Participants took one capsule each day. Every four days, they consumed an additional capsule until they were taking four capsules on a daily basis. This final 120 mg dosage was reversed towards the end of the experiment.

The trial was concluded after six weeks. The Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) symptom checklist served to evaluate the severity of a patient's OCD at the start of the experiment and upon its completion.

The results were published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine.

Ashwagandha root extract can improve OCD symptoms

The MUMS researchers found that the average severity score of the ashwagandha extract treatment group greatly improved at the end of the experiment when compared to the baseline score. There was also a significant difference between the scores of the treatment group and those of the placebo group.

Furthermore, a number of participants in both groups suffered from comorbid anxiety disorders. This is a combination of several anxiety disorders that is separate from OCD.

To this end, both groups were subdivided between patients with comorbid anxiety disorders and those who didn't suffer such anxiety-related problems. The average reduction of the scores in the subgroups was also compared.

The general scores of patients with comorbid anxiety disorders turned out to be fairly similar to the scores of patients who didn't have those anxiety issues. Finally, none of the participants reported any adverse reactions to the combination of ashwagandha extract and lactose they took.

The researchers concluded that the powdered extract of ashwagandha root could be considered as a safe and efficient adjunct to conventional SSRI therapy of patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder. They recommended further testing with a larger group over a longer period, as well as analyzing the phytochemicals in the extract and determining potential dose dependency of the treatment. has more to tell you about the ways ashwagandha can support your healthy mental functions.

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