Background: Withania somnifera is an herbal medicine that has been known to possess memory-enhancing properties. The current study involved an assessment of cognitive and psychomotor effects of Withania somnifera extract in healthy human participants.
Materials and methods: In this prospective, double-blind, multi-dose, placebo-controlled, crossover study, 20 healthy male participants were randomized to receive 250 mg two capsules twice daily of an encapsulated dried aqueous extract of roots and leaves of Withania somnifera or a matching placebo for a period of 14 days. Cognitive and psychomotor performance was assessed pre-dose (day 1) and at 3 hrs post-dose on day 15 using a battery of computerized psychometric tests. After a washout period of 14 days, the subjects crossed-over to receive the other treatment for a further period of 14 days as per prior randomization schedule. Same battery of test procedures were performed to assess cognitive and psychomotor performance.
Results: Significant improvements were observed in reaction times with simple reaction, choice discrimination, digit symbol substitution, digit vigilance, and card sorting tests with Withania somnifera extract compared to placebo. However, no effect can be seen with the finger tapping test.
Conclusion: These results suggest that Withania somnifera extract can improve cognitive and psychomotor performance and may, therefore, be a valuable adjunct in the treatment of diseases associated with cognitive impairment.
Keywords: Central nervous system; Withania somnifera extract; psychometric tests.