Virtual—Michael Lelah, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer at NutriScience Innovations, presented a session at the Naturally Informed eventMental Wellness: Mastering the Market titledNew Ashwagandha Research for Stress, Sleep & Immune Health.The session provided an in-depth explanation of ashwagandha’s bioactive components and the way it affects sleep and stress, and provided a first look at the effects of ashwagandha on immune health.

“Emotional wellbeing has, obviously, in the pandemic era, has become the new consumer need,” Dr. Lelah said in the presentation. “That incorporates various aspects—we’ve heard about stress, we’ve heard about anxiety, sleep, and immune health.” These categories, he pointed out, are growing—and ashwagandha, even in 2019, was booming, one of the major players in these segments. Nor does Dr. Lelah think that ashwagandha  has peaked: He suggested that as ashwagandha plants and extracts improve, there will be more opportunities in the market. “As we go to develop newer and newer varieties and extracts," he told attendees, "higher potency means higher bioactives, which means lower doses, which means more opportunity for combination products, means more opportunity for brands to create some uniqueness in their offerings, and to help meet consumer demand for emotional wellness products.”

“Within ashwagandha, the primary bioactive compounds are the withanolides,” Dr. Lelah continued, explaining that there are different types of withanolides, so that it doesn’t just matter that an extract has a given amount of withanolide content—diversity makes a difference. He discussed the different types of withanolides, what percentages to look for in a product, and provided examples of test results.

After covering studies regarding stress and sleep, Dr. Lelah discussed the first ever clinical study on ashwagandha for immune health—which is, as yet, unpublished, as it is still undergoing peer-review, making this session the first place this study has been reported. The study measured a range of factors associated with both the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. The results: Both the innate and adaptive immune systems showed significant activation, with no cytokine storm effect.

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Also covered in Dr. Lelah’s presentation: How is stress measured? What does ‘morning cortisol’ have to do with total stress? What is ‘restorative sleep,’ and how is it affected by ashwagandha? What other botanicals contain withanolides, and how do they compare to ashwagandha? How long does it take to feel the plant’s effects? How and when should it be taken? How should night shift workers take ashwagandha?

Get answers to these questions and key study findings by registering to view this session on-demand