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Early-Stage Discoveries: Ashwagandha, SAMe, Beta-Sitosterol

Good results in the lab can lead to larger human trials. Here are some of the most promising recent findings.

Ashwagandha and lung cancer

Ashwagandha is an annual evergreen that contains powerful phytochemicals. Traditional medicine has used ashwagandha to treat neurological disorders. Here, doctors wanted to test the ability of ashwagandha to limit the growth and spread of lung cancer cells, and to trigger programmed cell death, called apoptosis.

In the lab, doctors prepared water- and alcohol-extracts of ashwagandha, using a stain to see DNA damage in lung cancer cells. The alcohol extract killed lung cancer cells, showed significant anti-blood-vessel-forming activity, and decreased cancer cell spread.

Reference: Phytomedicine; 2021, Vol. 90, 153639

SAMe may treat traumatic brain injury

The journal Military Medicine reports over 400,000 service members have sustained traumatic brain injury, with lingering symptoms including headache, fatigue, irritability, cognitive problems, depression, insomnia, and chronic pain.

Here, doctors reviewed preclinical and clinical literature evaluating the role SAMe plays in cognition. Evidence suggests SAMe may reduce cognitive complaints without side effects, and decrease chances for dementia. The nutrient appears to work, doctors believe, by generating energy at a cellular level, helping serve the increased energy demands of the injured brain.

Reference 2: Military Medicine; April, 2021, usab130

Beta-sitosterol reduced anxiety

Safely reducing anxiety through drugs is a challenge because the same brain circuits are related to memory, awareness, and other functions that handle danger. In the lab, mice given beta-sitosterol had less anxiety than those not receiving beta-sitosterol, without any of the side effects typical of anti-anxiety drugs.

Doctors then combined beta-sitosterol with fluoxetine (Prozac®), which reduced anxiety at lower dosages than when the two are given separately. Beta-sitosterol may reduce the activity of certain genes activated under stress, doctors believe.

Reference 3: Cell Reports Medicine; 2021, Vol. 2, No. 5, 100281


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