Botanical name: Withania somnifera
Other names: Indian ginseng, Winter cherry
Ashwagandha is one of the most widespread herbs used in India, where it holds a position of importance similar to ginseng in China.
Ayurvedic practitioners have been using ashwagandha for thousands of years in oral and topical preparations as a general tonic and for a variety of health disorders. The Sanskrit word “ashwagandha” means “the smell of a horse,” symbolizing the strength and vigor of a stallion.
Ashwagandha is traditionally prescribed to strengthen the immune system after an illness. It acts mainly on the reproductive and nervous systems, having a rejuvenative effect on the body. It is also used to treat nervous exhaustion, debility, insomnia, wasting diseases, failure to thrive in children, impotence, infertility and multiple sclerosis.
It is well-known as a natural sedative and general stress reliever. The active compounds in ashwagandha have anti-anxiety, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-arthritic properties that may be effective in reducing stress caused by physical and emotional fatigue; increasing mental alertness, focus and concentration; relieving nervous tension and anxiety; invigorating the body; decreasing inflammation and balancing out and leveling mood swings.
Ashwagandha appears to inhibit cyclooxygenase (COX), the same mechanism of anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin. Other uses are that the fruit is rich in saponins and can be used as a soap substitute, and also that the leaves are an insect repellent.
Reference: http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Withania+somnifera, http://www.livestrong.com/article/159038-the-truth-about-ashwagandha-herbs/, Michael Tierra (1988), Planetary Herbology, pp. 309, Image: by JMK (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Ashwagandha Common Uses
Can interfere with digoxin medications – use only with supervision. Will increase effects of anxiety medications and sedatives (phenobarbitone, barbituates, benzodiazepam), so use with caution and in small doses. Contradictory information about its role in pregnancy exists – while some studies and traditional usage support use of ashwagandha in pregnancy for healthy babies, other traditional usage supports the use of ashwagandha to induce abortion. For safety’s sake, do not use when pregnant.
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