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  • - [Dorian] I can't be the only one

  • who sometimes dreams what it would be like

  • to live in a different time period

  • until I remember the healthcare.

  • (classical music)

  • (coughing)

  • Definitely the common cold.

  • Don't worry, three leeches for 30 minutes

  • will fix you right up.

  • (snarling)

  • Well some things have definitely changed since then.

  • I think sometimes people over blow

  • how backwards traditional medicine was.

  • Joke about how medieval doctors used leeches

  • to cure injuries all you want,

  • but explain why modern-day doctors

  • are now beginning to use them too as studies demonstrate

  • leeches are able to stimulation circulation

  • and draw out contaminated blood.

  • I think part of the problem lays in the fact

  • that leeches don't come in that little orange drug bottle,

  • which in today's world means one thing, results.

  • While leeches actually have medical backing,

  • that orange bottle is so powerful

  • that when given blank sugar pills

  • and told it was a pharmaceutical drug,

  • patients still reported feeling

  • like there were reductions in their symptoms.

  • A drug is simply a chemical substance of known structure

  • which has been proven to treat a disease.

  • All that's special about it is that it has been standardized

  • and researched conclusively.

  • But here's the thing, many of these chemical structures

  • are actually inspire by chemicals found in nature.

  • Don't believe me?

  • For thousands of years willow bark was gathered

  • and used as a pain reliever.

  • We now know

  • that it contains the chemical substance salicylic acid.

  • We know this because centuries later

  • salicylic acid from willow bark was being extracted and sold

  • as acetylsalicylic acid,

  • better known by its brand name aspirin,

  • now one of the most popular drugs in the world.

  • While the idea of drinking some willow bark tea

  • for your achy joints might seem like nonsense,

  • I doubt you'd think twice

  • about the efficacy of aspirin, why?

  • Because thousands of research studies and testimonials

  • speak to the fact that it works.

  • This is what is key to remember when we discuss ashwagandha.

  • For thousands of years ashwagandha root

  • was one of the staples of traditional Indian medicine

  • and what I want you to remember

  • is just because it doesn't come in that orange bottle

  • doesn't mean that the chemical compounds within it

  • are any less effective.

  • In this video we are going to take a scientific approach

  • looking at the substances within the root,

  • the research-backed benefits of consuming them,

  • and how this simple root has helped so many people.

  • The name itself comes from the translation smell of horse,

  • which is attributed to the root itself

  • smelling a bit like a horse and the idea that the root

  • is supposed to give you the strength and virility

  • of a wild horse.

  • More on that later.

  • In traditional Indian medicine

  • it is classified as rasayana,

  • meaning it is believed to lead to a long life.

  • Similarly, in more modern times,

  • medicine tends to classify it as an adaptogen.

  • Adaptogens are compounds which all the body to deal

  • with the physical and chemical effects of stress.

  • It's no surprise then

  • that one of its most celebrated benefits

  • is an apparent reduction in feelings of anxiety

  • and a boost in mood.

  • As people began to understand the importance of hormones,

  • claims began to surface

  • that ashwagandha possesses the direct ability

  • to reduce the stress hormone cortisol.

  • Ayurvedic medicine also classifies it as bhalaya,

  • signifying a belief it increases strength and as vajikara,

  • which means something works as an aphrodisiac.

  • In a similar vein, the strength and bodybuilding communities

  • often float claims that it directly increases testosterone,

  • which could potentially lead

  • to greater strength and fitness.

  • There are also claims surrounding a benefit

  • to male fertility.

  • Today, we're gonna look at all of these common claims

  • and check what the published research says.

  • Beyond that though, let's go a little bit deeper

  • and understand what the key chemical structures are

  • within the root, which endow ashwagandha

  • with its medicinal properties.

  • So your first question may be,

  • how could a root even have medicinal properties?

  • Isn't is just made up of root molecules?

  • Well, as it turns out

  • plants are just a little more complicated than that.

  • See inside plants are an array of special compounds

  • known as phytochemicals.

  • Because plants can't move around to meet their needs,

  • these secondary metabolites exist to perform specific tasks.

  • Some act as an immune system,

  • responding to and attacking disease molecules

  • if their soil becomes contaminated.

  • Some are designed to deter insects from eating them

  • as the plant can't exactly run away.

  • And certain phytochemicals

  • simply help the plant grow fast and strong.

  • In any given plant species, there are between 200,000

  • and a million unique chemical compounds.

  • When you have an organism

  • with so many potential phytochemicals,

  • every so often these molecules can overlap with ones

  • which activate pathways in our own bodies.

  • In this way,

  • they can have a very meaningful effect on our bodies

  • when consumed, just as the chemicals in willow bark

  • can trigger receptors and pathways

  • which dull the sensation of pain.

  • What makes ashwagandha special is that it contains

  • an unusually high number of phytochemicals

  • which positively influence systems in our own bodies.

  • Worth special attention

  • is a family of approximately 40 phytochemicals

  • which ashwagandha contains.

  • They're a class of steroidal lactones known as withanolides.

  • Don't let the word steroid confuse you though.

  • In our bodies

  • there are a bunch of naturally-occurring steroid hormones,

  • which do everything from suppressing inflammation

  • to helping us heal from injury and build muscle.

  • One of the most common claims regarding ashwagandha

  • is that it helps to reduce

  • levels of the stress steroid hormone cortisol

  • as well as the resultant feelings of anxiety and depression

  • resulting in an overall improved feeling of well-being

  • and a new positivity towards life.

  • I saw a YouTube comment the other day

  • which backed this up saying,

  • "I always feel anxious and stress for no reason at all

  • "and ashwagandha takes me off the fight-or-flight mode.

  • "I don't behave like a squirrel.

  • "I'm more chill and much happier."

  • But this of course is just anecdotal.

  • I'm sure many of you are wondering like I was

  • whether these results are real

  • or just that placebo effect, which we talked about earlier.

  • In 2008 a clinical trial was conducted

  • to address exactly this question.

  • They found 98 chronically stressed out

  • but otherwise healthy participants

  • and had participants complete a survey

  • to measure the degree of their stress.

  • The survey was based on a Bengali version

  • of a modified Hamilton Anxiety Scale for stress

  • and had participants rate symptoms of anxiety

  • on a five-point scale.

  • Zero meaning they never experienced that symptom

  • and four meaning they feel that symptom to a severe degree.

  • They divided the participants into four groups.

  • The placebo group, which would consume a pill

  • without ashwagandha in it, one group which would consume

  • one daily dose of 125 milligrams of ashwagandha root powder,

  • one group would consume 250 milligrams each day,

  • and the last group would take 500 milligrams

  • of the root powder each day.

  • The researchers were smart

  • to use a standardized ashwagandha extract.

  • This ensured that the root powder was tested

  • and verified to contain enough of the key withanolides,

  • removing some of the guesswork.

  • That's actually why I also personally choose

  • to take a standardized extract.

  • I put a link in the description to the one I take myself

  • but any standardized extract should work similarly well.

  • This way they could see if ashwagandha

  • would truly have the desired effect on the participants.

  • After 30 and 60 days,

  • they re-administered the questionnaire

  • to see if any of the symptoms had reduced.

  • What they found was pretty amazing.

  • In the lowest dose group by day 30 their average total score

  • dropped by 39.5% and by day 60 it had dropped 62.2%

  • compared to the placebo group,

  • which saw no significant change at all.

  • The groups taking larger doses of ashwagandha

  • saw even greater decreases in their scores

  • in a dose-dependent manner, leading to the conclusion

  • that not only is ashwagandha effective

  • but 500+ milligrams seems to be the optimal amount

  • for maximum benefits.

  • Reductions like this make it sound like ashwagandha

  • is almost too good to be true, begging the question

  • how are the chemicals in the root

  • able to have such profound effects?

  • While the research is far from complete,

  • there are some very promising theories

  • backed by some additional findings in the previous studies

  • which I haven't mentioned yet.

  • You see, while the questionnaires

  • provided evidence of an effect,

  • the researchers also measured biological changes.

  • At the start of the study

  • they took baseline levels of several hormones

  • including cortisol, DHEAS, and C-reactive protein

  • to name a few.

  • What happened after the 60 days to these levels

  • provides a strong clue

  • as to how ashwagandha is exerting its powerful effects.

  • To fully understand though,

  • we need a quick bio lesson on free radicals

  • and their impact on your health, brain, and mood.

  • Bear with me here, as understanding this is key

  • to helping everything else make sense.

  • If you don't really care about the mechanisms

  • behind ashwagandha reducing anxiety and depression

  • you can skip ahead to learn about the rest of the benefits.

  • In past videos, we've talked about how our bodies

  • turn the nutrients in the food we eat

  • into energy our cells can use.

  • This usable energy is a specific chemical called ATP.

  • ATP molecules are comprised of adenosine and a chain

  • of three phosphate molecules.

  • Think of ATP molecules as our body's energy units.

  • Our cells create ATP within themselves

  • by combining oxygen with other precursor chemicals.

  • ATP is great because once it is time to use this energy

  • the third phosphate on the chain of the ATP molecule

  • can be released,

  • resulting in a burst of energy being given off.

  • (pop)

  • This energy powers our cells

  • and by extension our entire body.

  • One of the main processes of creating these energy units

  • is called the electron transport chain,

  • which involves a complex series of chemical reactions

  • which create ATP as well as various byproducts.

  • One of the byproducts of the system are excess electrons,

  • hence the name.

  • Now, usually this isn't a problem.

  • Through a series of oxidation reduction reactions,

  • the electrons can be brought to an oxygen molecule

  • which is then combined with hydrogen

  • to produce simple, harmless water.

  • However, in anywhere from .1% to 2% of electrons

  • passing through the chain there is a glitch

  • where oxygen is instead prematurely

  • and incompletely reduced,

  • creating the superoxide radical

  • which is definitely not harmless.

  • superoxide is a type of free radical.

  • Think of these free radicals like the chemical emissions

  • car engines give off when they misfire