Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a traditional medicinal Indian herb commonly known for promoting sleep. A research group led by Mahesh K. Kaushik and Yoshihiro Urade of the International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine (WPI-IIIS), University of Tsukuba, Japan has identified the active component responsible for this sleep induction.
The water extract of Ashwagandha leaf is rich in TEG. It was observed that the sleep induced by triethylene glycol (TEG) was similar to normal sleep. The researchers found out that TEG promoted non- rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep significantly and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep slightly. In comparison, the alcoholic extract of Ashwagandha leaf containing active withanolides showed no effect on sleep.
This finding can revolutionize the natural plant based therapies for insomnia and sleep related disorders. Sleeplessness and other sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome are very common among the middle aged population. About 10-15 percent of general population and 30-60 percent of elderly population are suffering from the most common neuropsychiatric disorder known as insomnia. Ashwagandha based crude powder offers a much safer option in comparison to the currently available synthetic drugs for inducing sleep.
Further studies are to be conducted to investigate the clinical application of TEG for treating conditions like insomnia and also for looking into evaluating the effect of TEG on overcoming stress. TEG is primarily used for industrial purposes and very little is known about its applicability and toxicity to the biological systems.