Ashwagandha or withania somnifera translates to “smell of a horse.” This implies that the person who consumes this herb will have the virility of a horse. It also refers to the smell of the root which has a horsey smell. Somnifera means inducing sleep.
This perennial shrub is short and tender. It grows one to three feet tall. Its elliptical leaves are simple and dull green in colour. The grow up to ten or twelve centimeters in length. The branches have flattened and matted hair and radiate from the central stem. The leaves have a length of 4 – 5 inches. The bell-shaped flowers are small and green. Its fruits when ripe are orange-red.
Mostly, the roots and the seeds find use in the preparation of the medicines. The roots are carrot-like and sometimes intertwined. The red coloured seeds are small (less than one centimeter in diameter) and have a berry-like appearance.
The main chemicals in Ashwagandha are steroidal lactones and alkaloids notably cuscohygrine and atropine. This is the building block of the anticholinergic drug, atropine. We group Cuscohygrine with potent alkaloids such as cocaine and atropine. Cuscohygrine is in the form of an oil that we distil since it is soluble in water. The other alkaloids are somniferine, ashwagandhinine, and ashwagandhine.
The common name is Indian ginseng. People also call it winter cherry or poison gooseberry.
Botanical name or family
The botanical name of Ashwagandha is Withania somnifera. It belongs to the nightshade or Solanaceae family.
Geographical locations where Ashwagandha plant grows
This plant grows in the Middle East, India, and North Africa. It grows in other regions of the world such as Yemen, China, and Nepal. In India, it grows in the drier regions such as Rajasthan, Gujrat, Sindh, Punjab, and Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh.
Withania somnifera medicinal use
Ashwagandha is a miracle herb used for centuries as a beauty aid and health supplement. It has good medicinal value, optimizes the physiological functions of the body, and helps cure a variety of ailments, including neuro degenerative diseases. You get good improvement in mental, physical, and emotional health by taking Ashwagandha. People traditionally take this after an illness to strengthen the immune system.
Also Read: Ayurvedic medicine shatavari benefits
Sexual stimulation: Kamasutra, one of the oldest literature on human sexuality, mentions withania somnifera as a sexual stimulant with great potency. Results of the research have indicated that the improved sexual health occurs when the bodily tensions decrease, and one has more flow of blood. Women who take Ashwagandha experience better sexual health and satisfaction.
Relieves joint pain: It relieves inflammation and thus proves helpful for treating ailments such as osteoarthritis.
Calming effect: It shows remarkable anti-anxiety effects. We see this property even with alcohol. People with alcohol addiction will have better control over themselves, and this can help them overcome addiction.
Improve Fertility: This herb stimulates DHEA. This DHEA is the precursor for both testosterone and oestrogen. These sex hormones help augment the activity level during sexual intercourse and improve male fertility. This increases the chances of conceiving.
Improve the skin health: It has anti-aging properties. It prevents wrinkles from forming. Oestrogen and testosterone production help augment the natural skin oils production. Many of the proteins and vital compounds needed for healthy skin such as hyaluronan needed for skin hydration remains enhanced. It helps you age gracefully and improves muscle tone and makes the skin firm. Another element is elastin that helps keep the suppleness of the skin. To get a glow on the skin, use dried ginger and lemon with Ashwagandha.
You can heal wounds: Used for wound healing since the ancient times in Ayurvedic practices, Ashwagandha found use in reducing swellings, cure sores, and alleviating pain in the joints through topical application.
It shows antioxidant properties: Ashwagandha has antioxidant property in a sense it fights free radicals and prevent them from being formed. This helps prevent infections and diseases.
Relieves stress-related depression: Ashwagandha inhibits high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. For this reason, they mix it with antidepressant drugs and tranquilizers to help the patients overcome depression and mental stress.
It is an adaptogen: Withania somnifera helps to dissipate stress as it shows good hormone balancing nature.
Helps you deal with insomnia: You get very good sleep due to the rejuvenating nature of Ashwagandha. It eases the stresses and calms the nervous system. Traditionally, women take it in powder form along with milk and honey, and thus, their vata becomes calm. This regulates the sleep-wake cycle.
Memory Improvement: It enhances the growth of brain cells and strengthens the nerves. This helps the memory of the person to develop. It improves the cognitive abilities by helping the brain cells develop.
Mood booster: By revitalizing the person mentally and physically, the Ashwagandha improves the mood of the person.
Alleviates symptoms of Parkinson’s disease: This herb promotes nerve cells regeneration and helps to obstruct negative environmental influences on the brain.
Supports those passing through menopause: By acting on the endocrine system, the wonder herb withania somnifera helps to balance the hormones. A study of women undergoing menopausal changes showed a reduction in symptoms such as mood, anxiety, and hot flashes.
Get relief if you suffer from Alzheimer’s disease: Withania somnifera shows property of aiding memory formation. However, this research is not complete. This memory formation could aid people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Revitalizes the entire body: It makes one feel younger and stronger. Ashwagandha helps the body reserve and sustains vital energy. It gives strength in conditions of general debility by increasing endurance and stamina.
Cancer treatment: This herb does not cure cancer but proves helpful when taken along with drugs used to cure cancer patients. It eases the pain of chemotherapy treatment by reducing fatigue and stress. Further, it slows the growth of cancer cells.
Reduces stress: You can reduce the stress related to physical activity using withania somnifera. Both ordinary people, as well as those who indulge in a great amount of physical activity such as athletes, get relief. You can use it as a supplement for reducing immunosuppression as it reduces the effects of stress. It helps reduce cortisol concentrations.
Avoid overdosing with Ashwagandha as it proves toxic. The lowest effective dose is 300-500 mg while a lower dose of 50-100 mg may prove enough for cases of immunosuppression. Take withania somnifera with meals. Preferably take Ashwagandha root powder with warm milk. Pregnant women should avoid the use of withania somnifera. But it is strictly recommended to take any herb under the guidance of doctor or Ayurveda.