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Indian Ginseng and Milk Boost Immunity
Published Wednesday, September 3, 2008

PHOENIX — Eastern and Asian medicine practitioners have long known Ashwagandha, Indian Ginseng, commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, helps fight disease when used in combination with a liquid known as anupana. Anupana may be derived from olive oil, beer and ghee. A team of American researchers examined whether drinking whole cows' milk with the herb can increase the body's white blood cells, which can boost immunity. The study was led by Heather Zwickey of the National College of Natural Medicine's Helfgott Research Institute, Portland, Ore., and her colleagues Jeremy Mikolai, Andrew Erlandsen, Andrew Murison, Will Gregory, Padma Raman-Caplan and Kimberly Brown.

Mikolai, Erlandsen and Murison will be presenting the team's findings during the 23rd annual meeting of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP; on Aug. 13-16, 2008 in Phoenix. The full findings of the study will be published this fall. The research team used milk in a co-administered intervention along with the herb extract. Cows' milk was chosen over goats' milk and other potential substances because Ayurvedic medicine considers it to be a strengthening, nutritive driver for medicine.

This made it an appropriate choice for an immunological study. A follow-up study will compare the results of the herb extract alone to the combination of herb with milk and to placebo controls. To measure the effects of the herb in humans, the researchers examined the impact the herb had on cell activation in lymphocytes. Blood samples were taken from five healthy volunteers (F=2, M=2; average age 27) to set a baseline for immune cell levels. They administered an alcohol and water extract of Ashwagandha totaling approximately two teaspoons (6mL) in 8 oz. of cows' milk . The liquids were consumed twice a day for four days. Blood work was drawn again at 24 and 96 hours post-baseline to look for differences in the cells. The results showed consuming Ashwagandha with cows' milk had the following effects on the human immune system. There was a statistically significant overall increase in the level of white blood cell activation. Cell activation was most pronounced in the CD56+ Natural Killer cells. There was a statistically significant increase in the number of CD4+T helper cells. While both CD8+ T helper cells and B cells also increased, the amount was not significant.

“I felt it was time to open the door a little wider and see what more we could find to use ancient medicine's ability to heal the health disorders of today,” Zwickey said. “Given that conventional medicine has a lot to offer for the treatment of bacterial infections, my lab focuses on identifying those products that can address viral disorders such as sinus infections, colds and the like.”

Zwickey recommended those who use natural products consult a naturopathic practitioner or other alternative medicine specialist first before purchasing herbal products. The most expensive is not always the best quality, and vice versa. She recommended the public wait until additional studies are complete before beginning a cows' milk/Ashwagandha regime in earnest.

This abstract was provided courtesy of Natural Products Industry Insider, published by Virgo Publishing Inc.

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