Aging is inevitable. And just as inevitable are the maladies and declines it brings along, one of which is a marked decrease in bone strength and health, a cause of mortality among the elderly. You can’t stop aging but you can improve your bone strength and health with ashwagandha, or Withanina somnifera, Ayurveda’s miracle herb. Even if you are not aged but have a bone condition, this is your remedy.
As you age, you lose bone mass or density. Bones become more brittle and may break more easily. Aging also leads to osteoporosis, compression fractures, muscle weakness, arthritis, gait changes, instability, loss of balance, and fatigue.
1. Promotes Bone Strengthening
Withaferin A, a principal constituent of ashwagandha, has been found to increase the proliferation of cells that synthesize bone.
Ashwagandha has been found to increase the expression of the specific genes that help in increasing the number of osteoblasts or cells that synthesize bones and the genes that mineralize the bones. It also promotes the survival of osteoblasts and suppresses the proteins that promote inflammation.
2. Prevents Bone Loss And Osteoporosis
The bone density in your body is maintained by a constant process of bone replacement. While osteoblasts help form new bones, osteoclasts help break down existing bones and release the minerals back into the blood, in a process called resorption. As the estrogen levels drop in your body, especially after menopause, there is more bone resorption than formation. This is what results in osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis, characterized by reduction in bone density, is a significant cause of mortality among the elderly, particularly in postmenopausal women or women with low estrogen levels.
Bones become fragile because of the loss of mineral density, such as of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Because people with osteoporosis also have high levels of the enzyme alkaline phosphatase or ALP – which splits the phosphorus from other compounds in the body – they leak out calcium and phosphorus through urine.
As a result of this mineral loss, the support-giving compact bones or cortical bones become less dense and cannot provide proper support to the body. And the spongy bones or the cancellous bones that support movement become worse affected as the spaces between their micro-architecture increase, reducing the bones’ ability to function as good shock absorbers. As there is also a loss of the weight-bearing portion of the long bones, namely the metaphyseal portion, the bones give away under pressure more easily. Because of all of these, there is a significant reduction in the biomechanical strength of the body.
In vivo studies have shown that treatment with ashwagandha extract markedly prevents all of the above changes, potentially because it has chemicals called withanolides, which function like estrogen.
3. Prevents Bone Loss Due To Stress And Inflammation
Ashwagandha reduces bone damage by reducing cortisol levels as well as inflammation.
Stress produces cortisol, which has a damaging effect on bones as it increases bone resorption and decreases the rate of new bone formation.
Inflammation, which is aggravated by high cortisol levels, is also known to cause osteoporosis. The proteins responsible for inflammation, namely pro-inflammatory cytokines, also regulate the function of osteoblasts and osteoclasts.
Ashwagandha is known to reduce cortisol levels, even by 28 percent in 60 days, and break the vicious cycle of stress and inflammation.
4. Aids Bone Healing And Forms New Bones
Ashwagandha increases bone mineral density by forming new bones and keeping the bone tissues from being broken down and absorbed back into the blood.
It has been found that withaferin A in ashwagandha blocks the action of proteosomes or protein complexes that break down other proteins and thus promotes healing after injury and increases bone mineral density.
Treatment with ashwagandha showed the following results:
- Increase in the expression of the bone-producing genes, especially in the femur, and regeneration of cortical bones
- Increase in the number of pre-osteoblast cells (bone-forming cells) in the bone marrow
- Improvement in the micro-architecture in the spongy part of the long bones, which help support your movements
- Increase in the biomechanical strength of the vertebrae and the femur
- Decrease in the expression of the osteoclast genes that promote resorption
- Regeneration of cortical bones at drill-hole sites in the femur bone and bridging of all cortical gaps with woven bone
These findings are in line with a 2010 clinical study from India’s University of Poona, in which, researchers gave a combination of ashwagandha and two other Ayurvedic herbs (Boswellia serrata and Curcuma longa) or a placebo to 42 patients with osteoarthritis. After three months of treatment, the herbal treatment group had significantly less pain and better mobility than the placebo group.
How Should You Consume Ashwagandha?
Ayurveda recommends that you mix 2 tablespoons of ashwagandha powder in a glass of warm cow’s milk. Add sugar or jaggery according to your taste and mix well. Drink it every night before going to bed. This dosage holds for all age groups and there are no known side effects associated with the consumption of ashwagandha.
Ayurveda recommends regular consumption of ashwagandha to improve overall vitality and strength, including bone strength. Modern research seems to be converging to a similar view. So, have a glass of milk with ashwagandha every day for strong and healthy bones.