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Ashwagandha: Effects on Stress, Inflammation and Immune Cell Activation

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ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00817752
Recruitment Status : Completed
First Posted : January 6, 2009
Last Update Posted : March 18, 2010
Helfgott Research Institute
Information provided by:
National University of Natural Medicine

Brief Summary:
Ayurvedic medicine has been practiced in for more than 2,500 years. Ashwagandha is one of the most widely utilized herbs in the system. It is thought to affect the endocrine, immune, nervous, and cardiopulmonary systems. This study is designed as a preliminary investigation of the effects of Ashwagandha on stress, inflammation, and immune modulation. Participants will take the liquid extract in cow's milk twice a day for five days. The results of initial, one-day, and final blood draws will be compared to determine participant's beginning and ending levels of cortisol, inflammatory cytokines, and immune-cell activation (CD4 T-cells, CD8 T-cells, B cells and natural killer cells). Measurements will be completed using flow cytometry and ELISA assay. The purpose of this study is to determine which effects of Ashwagandha are most suitable for further investigation.

Condition or disease Intervention/treatment Phase
Inflammation Cancer Autoimmune Diseases Dietary Supplement: Ashwagandha Phase 1

Detailed Description:

Due to the increased use of alternative medicine, supplements and herbs are consumed more frequently in the treatment of common ailments. This pilot study investigates the immune, anti-inflammatory and anti-stress effects of Ashwagandha in human subjects.

Liquid extract of the herb will be taken followed by milk; this mode of administration will be used as it approximates the traditional administration as well as making self administration easier for participants. Extract will be taken in 3 milliliter quantities 2 times per day, (morning and evening), for five days. Total dosage of 6 milliliters will approximate the higher end of the traditional daily dosage of 6 grams daily of powdered root.

Flow of visit:

25 participants will arrive at the research lab and after being consented, filling out health histories and two stress questionnaires, (POMS and STAI Self-Evaluation), average milk intake questionnaire. The 25 participants will receive blood draws. They will then be administered the herb extract, milk and instructions for taking them.

Subjects will return to the research institute after 24 hours for a second blood draw and then after 5 days for a final blood draw and two more stress questionnaires, (POMS and STAI Self-Evaluation).

Once the blood samples are drawn, they will be refrigerated and processed within 24 hours at the NCNM laboratory. Initially they will be centrifuged to separate the white from the red blood cells using Ficoll separating tubes. Then the white blood cells will be stained using CD69 marker (Cytokine Detection type 69) which assesses cell-surface phenotypic markers in combination with intracellular cytokines, measuring response to activation. It is especially effective for rare-event, antigen-specific events, such as the administration of a specific immune-stimulating herbal tincture. We will also stain with other similar florescent CD markers specific for CD4 T-cells, CD8 T-cells, B-cells, NK cells, and macrophages. These markers will be analyzed using a FACScan flow cytometer, which will count the number of cells that have been activated in each subtype of the immune cell and overall action. Blood will also be analyzed for cortisol levels and inflammatory cytokines, (IL-1, IL-6 and TNF-alpha) using the ELISA assay procedure.

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Study Type : Interventional  (Clinical Trial)
Actual Enrollment : 25 participants
Allocation: Non-Randomized
Intervention Model: Single Group Assignment
Masking: None (Open Label)
Primary Purpose: Prevention
Official Title: Ashwagandha: Effects on Stress, Inflammation and Immune Cell Activation
Study Start Date : May 2007
Actual Primary Completion Date : January 2008
Actual Study Completion Date : February 2008

Arm Intervention/treatment
Experimental: 1
Receives Ashwagandha herb.
Dietary Supplement: Ashwagandha
Participants consume 3mL of Ashwagandha for 5 days. Blood work/immune cells (CD4 T-cells, CD8 T-cells, B-cells, NK cells, macrophages, IL-1, IL-6 and TNF-alpha) and psychological assessments (POMS and STAI Self-Evaluation) given at specified time intervals.

Primary Outcome Measures :
  1. The primary endpoint of this study will be to measure immune cell activation, inflammatory cytokines and cortisol levels after administration of the herb. [ Time Frame: 24 hours and again at 5 days ]

Secondary Outcome Measures :
  1. The secondary endpoint of this study will be to measure and correlate stress levels to the use of the herb. [ Time Frame: 24 hours and again at 5 days ]

Information from the National Library of Medicine

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Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years to 55 Years   (Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Healthy adults, not pregnant

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Fear or aversion to needles or blood draws.
  • Recent infection or immunocompromised.
  • Allergy to cow's milk.
  • Known herb allergies.
  • Aversions or medical contraindications to alcohol.
  • Medication contra-indications, such as: benzodiazepines, CNS depressants,immunosuppressants and thyroid hormone and supplements.

Information from the National Library of Medicine

To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contact information provided by the sponsor.

Please refer to this study by its ClinicalTrials.gov identifier (NCT number): NCT00817752

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United States, Oregon
Helfgott Research Institute
Portland, Oregon, United States, 97201
Sponsors and Collaborators
National University of Natural Medicine
Helfgott Research Institute
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Principal Investigator: Heather Zwickey, PhD Helfgott Research Institute at NCNM
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Responsible Party: Heather Zwickey, PhD., Helfgott Research Institute
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00817752    
Other Study ID Numbers: 02202007A
First Posted: January 6, 2009    Key Record Dates
Last Update Posted: March 18, 2010
Last Verified: January 2009
Keywords provided by National University of Natural Medicine:
natural remedy
inflammatory conditions
auto-immune disorders
Additional relevant MeSH terms:
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Autoimmune Diseases
Pathologic Processes
Immune System Diseases