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Ayurveda Medicinal herb - Ashwagandha

[Withania somnifera]

Ashwagandha Common Name:Winter cherry, Indian Ginseng (Eng.)

Sanskrit Name: - Ashwagandha- Means 'the smell of a horse' as its fresh root smells like a horse's urine, and also perhaps because it is renowned for imparting the sexual stamina of a horse. Also known as Varahakarni. it’s frequently referred to as 'Indian ginseng' because of its rejuvenating properties (although botanically, ginseng and ashwagandha are unrelated).

Lt. Name: - Withania somnifera (somnifera means "sleep-bearing" in Latin, indicating it was considered a sedative, but it has been also used for sexual vitality and as an adaptogen)- Solanaceae

Habitat and Botany : Ashwagandha is a small shrub that grows to 1.5 meters tall. It is related to the tomato and has small yellow flowers that turn to red fruits about the size of a raisin. This plant is native to India, parts of Africa and the Mediterranean.

Ashwagandha benefits / Ashwagandha uses:

  • This herb is considered an adaptogen which is a nontoxic herb that works on a nonspecific basis to normalize physiological function, working on the HPA axis and the neuroendocrine system.
  • Ashwagandha is effective for insomnia but does not act as a sedative.its rejuvenative and nervine properties produce energy which in turn help the body to settle and sleep. Thus it helps the body to address a stress related condition rather than masking it with sedatives. A herb that rejuvenates the nervous system, erases insomnia and eases stress.
  • Ashwagandha has also been shown to lower blood pressure and is highly effective in stopping the formation of stress induced ulcers.
  • In arthritis, which involves joints that are painful, dry, swollen and inflamed, Ashwagandha would be the herb of choice.
  • One of the special properties of Ashwagandha is that it will enhance ojas. Ojas is the most subtle, refined level of the physical body and is the end result of healthy food which is properly digested. It is responsible for a healthy immune system, physical strength, lustrous complexion, clarity of mind and sense of Well being. It allows consciousness to flow within the body. With decreased ojas, we are less in touch with ourselves and more prone to diseases and having a feeling of disharmony. 'Ojakshaya' (decreased ojas) is a condition similar to AIDS/HIV
  • Research on Ashwagandha has concluded that extracts of the plant has a direct spermatogenic influence on the seminiferous tubules of immature rats presumably by exerting a testosterone-like effect.
  • Ashwagandha increases hemoglobin (red blood count) and hair melanin.It stabilizes blood sugar and lowers cholesterol.


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Ayurvedic properties of Ashwagandha:
Vajikara- Increases sexual desire
Rasayani- Rejuvenates the body
Balya- Increases strength
Ati shukrala- Improves quality and quantity of semen
Shwitrapaha- Useful in management of white discoloration of the skin
Shothahara- Useful in management of edematous helps clear impurities (Ama) from the various channels of the body.
Kshayapaha- Useful in treating emaciation and under nutritive conditions
Bio energetics:
Rasa (Taste)- Tikta (Bitter); Katu (Pungent); Madhura (Sweet)
Guna (Characteristics)- Laghu (Light); Snigdha (Unctuous)
Veerya (Potency)- Ushna (Warm)
Vipaka (Post digestion effect)- Madhura (Sweet)

Effect on Tridoshas (Three bio humors):
Pacifies Kapha and Vata Doshas i.e. it is useful in management of all diseases originating from aggravated Kapha and Vata.

Biochemistry of Withania somnifera:
The biochemical composition of Withania somnifera has been widely studied and researched. Some 35 compounds had been analyzed in the laboratory.

  • Alkaloids: About 13 alkaloids are known as Isopelletierine, Anaferine, Cuseohygrine, Anahygrine, Tropine etc.
  • Somniferin: It is a bitter alkaloid with some hypnotic activity.
  • Steroidal Lactones: Withanolides, Withanoferins.
  • Saponins: These are with an additional acyl group (Sitoindoside VII and VIII.
  • Withanolides With Carbon At 27th Position: Sitoindoside IX and X.
  • Iron.
  • Others: resin, fat, coloring matters, a reducing sugar, phytosterol, Ipuranol and a mixture of saturated and unsaturated acids.

Useful part: - Roots. The root of one year old plants are harvested from January to March then dried in the sun.

Ashwagandha Preparations : - Ashwagandha is used in Ayurvedic medicine in many different ways. Some of the more common methods include as a Ashwagandha powder/ Ashwagandha churna, Ashwagandha extract , a decoction, medicated ghee -Ashwagandha ghruta, as a medicated wine- Ashwagandharishta, Ashwagandha rasayana, Ashwagandhadi churna.

Ashwagandha Dosage: - The most popular method is to take the Ashwagandha churna (root powder) 1 to 3 Gms. or Ashwagandha extract in tablet form (2-4 tabs. of 250 mg daily).

Useful preparations of Ashwagandha:

  • A paste of Ashwagandha leaves when applied on a local inflammation acts as anti-inflammatory.
  • The herbal massage oil which includes Ashwagandha herb is useful in many conditions like paralysis, epilepsy, sleeplessness etc.
  • The preparation of Ashwagandha which is processed with ghee, sugar and honey is a very good aphrodisiac and increases semen quantity, sperm count and mobility. It is effectively used in Erectile dysfunction, low libido and premature ejaculation.
  • Ashwagandha churna when used regularly helps to improve the conditions like senile debility, rheumatism, in all cases of general debility, nervous exhaustion, brain-fag, low of memory, loss of muscular energy and spermatorrhoea. It increases body energy and vigor. It helps to rebuild the body system which is worn out due to chronic diseases like syphilis, rheumatism etc. It also replenishes the lowered energy of body due to over-work, mental exertion thus preventing early ageing.
  • A good remedy to balance sweet cravings for vata can be prepared using Ashwagandha. Roast an ounce of Ashwagandha in ghee and add a tablespoon of date sugar. Store in a screw top glass jar in the refrigerator. This can be eaten in the morning about twenty minutes before breakfast, in the mid afternoon— if sweet cravings arise— and at bed time with a cup of hot milk.
  • Ashwagandha when used regularly, is very useful in emaciated children. It increases body weight and body energy.
  • Regular use of Ashwagandha helps to reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
  • Fine powder of Ashwagandha well mixed with oil is very use full in many skin conditions.
  • Ashwagandha also acts as galactogogue and thickens and increases the nutritive value of the milk when given to nursing mothers.
Ashwagandha side effects:- Excessive doses of ashwagandha have been reported to cause abortions, so pregnant women should avoid this herb. Do not take this herb with other sedatives or anti-anxiety drugs. Large doses can cause diarrhea, stomach upset and vomiting.