Ashwagandha Identification: A low-lying, perennial shrub reaching only 1 to 2 feet, but occasionally reaching 6 feet. The small flowers are greenish yellow. The seeds are enclosed in deep orange-red papery husks. The plant and fruits resemble its Ashwagandha Flowers
relatives the ground cherry and chinese lantern.
Habitat: Widely cultivated in India and the Middle East for its medicinal properties. It has also been found in parts of Africa. The plant does well in warm and/or arid climates, although water should be provided through long dry spells. Can be grown in a container. Hardy to temperatures in the mid 30s (F). Propagation by seed.
Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade family)
Other Names: Indian ginseng, winter cherry, withania root.
Parts Used: Root.
History: Ashwagandha has been used in India for over 4000 years. It is an important herb in Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicine. It was used for tumors,
inflammation (including arthritis), and a wide range of infectious diseases. Traditional uses of Ashwagandha among tribal people in Africa included fevers and inflammatory conditions. The name Ashwagandha comes from the peculiar odor of this herb, somewhat like a sweaty horse. As its name “somnifera” suggests, it is also sometimes said to produce mild sedation.
Constituents: Somniferine, somnine, somniferinine, withananine, pseudo-
withanine, tropino, pseudotropine, choline, cuscohygrine, isolettetierine, anaferine, anahydrine, 3-alpha-gloyloxy tropane, etc.
The compounds known as withanolides are believed to account for the multiple medicinal applications of ashwagandha. These molecules are steroidal and bear a resemblance, both in their action and appearance, to the active constituents of Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) known as ginsenoside,. hence the name Indian ginseng.
Properties: Alterative, aphrodisiac, astringent, nervine, rejuvenative, sedative, and tonic.
Immune System – Generally, ashwagandha stimulates the immune system. It has also been shown to inhibit inflammation and improve memory. These actions support the traditional reputation of ashwagandha as a tonic or adaptogen. It counteracts the effects of stress and generally promotes wellness.
Cancer / Arthritis – Ashwagandha is helpful in putting cancer tumors into regression (used as an alcoholic root extract) and in reducing inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. The plant’s high steroid content was found to be more potent than hydrocortisone in animal and human arthritis. The compounds known as withanolides are believed to account for the multiple medicinal applications of this herb.
Endurance / Stamina – Traditionally, ashwagandha has been used in many ways–as a sedative, a diuretic, a rejuvenating tonic, an anti-inflammatory agent, and as an “adaptogen” (endurance enhancer). Many Western herbalists refer to this herb as “Ayurvedic ginseng” because of its reputation for increasing energy, strength, and stamina, and for its ability to relieve stress.
Alzheimer’s Disease – Because ashwagandha has traditionally been used to treat various diseases associated with nerve tissue damage related to the destructive molecules known as free-radicals, some researchers speculate that the herb may have antioxidant properties. Free-radical damage plays a role in normal aging, and in such neurological conditions such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Boost Sexual Performance – In one study, 101 normal healthy male volunteers aged 50 to 59 took 3 grams of powdered ashwagandha daily for three months. All showed significantly increased red blood cell counts, and 71% of the volunteers reported improved sexual performance. Although ashwagandha is not considered an aphrodisiac, this rejuvenating effect may be related to the improved endurance shown in animal stress tests.
Preparations and Dosages:
Decoction: Boil the roots for 15 minutes and cool. Drink 1 cup (750 ml) three times a day.
For arthritis, stress, antioxidant protection, immunity, relaxation, and sexual performance, take 100 to 200 mg standardized extract or 1 to 2 teaspoons liquid extract twice a day.
Note: Take ashwagandha with a meal or a full glass of water.
Caution! Ashwagandha may increase the effect of other herbs or medications. It is important to review with your health-care provider any other herbs or any drugs you are taking before adding ashwagandha.
Because it may have sedative qualities, be sure you understand how ashwagandha affects you before using it.