Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ayurveda herb holds hope for heart patients
Kounteya Sinha
[ 28 Sep, 2006 0230hrs IST TIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

NEW DELHI: Ayurveda's wonder herb Ashwagandha has been found to prevent heart attack in rats.

In a series of pre-clinical animal studies conducted by AIIMS, researchers have for the first time demonstrated how Ashwagandha (withania somnifera) strengthens heart muscles, protecting it from an attack and significantly increasing its power of endurance and survival.

The herb extract has shown signs that it can stall Necrosis — accidental death of cells and living tissues caused during a heart attack.

It also stalls the harmful release of chemicals by cells that die by Necrosis causing damage to other cells.

The team, led by D S Arya, associate professor of pharmacology at AIIMS, is now planning to undertake human trials on 100 subjects — those who have suffered a heart attack once, those who are prone because they have hypertension and diabetes and those who have suffered stroke several times — to see if Ashwagandha extract provides them protection.

Therapy with Ashwagandha, also known as winter cherry, has been advocated for centuries by most of India's ancient systems of medicine, against illnesses like arthritic inflammation, insomnia, respiratory disorders, asthma, coughs and nervous disorders.

But the AIIMS study has, for the first time, revealed the herb's heart protective properties. According to researcher Shirish Ojha, rats were fed three doses of Ashwagandha extract for four weeks.

On the 29th and 30th day of the study, the rats were injected with two doses of a chemical called Isoproterenol (ISP) which induced heart failure.

Tests then revealed that the rats which were fed Ashwagandha extract survived longer. Subsequent blood tests and examination of their heart muscles under a microscope found that the rats that had received Ashwagandha prior to ISP injections had their heart muscles intact compared to rats that did not receive Ashwagandha extract.

The rats also displayed lower levels of inflammation. Arya told TOI: "Recently, we found how Tulsi protected heart against coronary diseases. Now, Ashwagandha looks even more potent. A year-long human trial, being planned, will show how effective it is on humans."
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