Withania somnifera is also known commonly as Ashwagandha, Indian ginseng, Poison gooseberry or Winter cherry. From the central stem branches are extended radially. Leaves are 10- 12 cm long and dull green in color. Flowers are small and round in shape. Flowers are greenish- yellow, found in flowered clustered in axils and 4-6 mm in diameter. Fruits are red berries enclosed in a green enlarged calyx. Roots are stout, long tuberous, fleshy, whitish brown and aromatic.
Ashwagandha is one of most potent herb in Ayurvedic healing system. It is composed of two Sanskrit words (Ashwa – horse and Gandha – smell because its roots smell like horse urine). This describes that herb provides the strength of a stallion and traditionally prescribed to strengthen immune system of people after illness.
– The liquid extract of the root has anti-stress effects similar to those of ginseng.
– The antiserotinergic activity results in the stimulation of appetite.
– An alcohol extract of the aboveground herbage has quite potent anti-inflammatory properties, primarily as a result of the steroids that are present in the plant, especially withaferin A.
– The root is used as a fumigant, blowing the incense smoke onto inflammed teeth.
– The herbage is smoked to soothe coughing and asthma.
– The root is used as a tranquilizer.
– Folk medicine uses a paste created from grinding ashwangandha leaves to a pulp (on occasion the fruits will also be added into this pulpy mixture). The salve is then applied topically and massaged into the skin to treat open wounds, swelling, rheumatism, and external inflammation.
– The crushed Withania somnifera leaves are smeared onto arthritic joints to relieve pain.
– “Winter cherry” has long been widely used in medicine to help men and women improve sexual function.
– The root of the plant contributes to the treatment of infertility.
– As an adaptogen, ashwagandha is useful for relieving fatigue, exhaustion, and memory loss. It reduces mental stress, gives a quiet sleep and tissue regeneration, and also slows down the aging process.
– Ashwagandha is excellent for use in bodybuilding and for any type of physical activity, as it gives an instant feeling of energy without the use of stimulants
Many biochemically heterogenous alkaloids are present in roots of Ashwagandha. Whereas the leaves contain withanolids other alkaloids are somniferine, somnine, somniferinine. All these phytochemical compounds have various therapeutic properties.
Cautions: Ashwagandha has no major side effects within the recommended dose of 3–12 g daily, but some people may experience nausea or diarrhea. Since it can enhance or negate the efficacy of medicines, people on medication for diabetes, hypertension, insomnia, thyroid malfunction, and autoimmune disorders must exercise caution. It’s also best avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women and people with acute liver problems.
As per ayurvedic theory, ashwagandha increases pitta (a dosha that represents the tendency to transform) and pacifies kapha (which represents the tendency to accumulate) and vata (which represents the tendency to flow). Disorders are a manifestation of imbalance in these 3 basic humors. For example, lack of sufficient pitta will show up in the form of sluggish metabolism, indigestion, accumulation of toxins, and loss of memory.
Ashwagandha is recommended to overcome and correct pitta deficiency. Conversely, those with excess pitta should be careful while consuming ashwagandha, since it may aggravate disorders caused by excess pitta, such as acidity, ulcers, skin rashes, and anxiety.
Сonclusion: Ashwagandha is used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a number of ailments. The plant acts as “an immune stimulant, hypnotic, tranquilizer, sedative, narcotic, analgesic, hypotensive, respiratory stimulant, vasomotor stimulant, appetite stimulant, astringent, brachycardiac, antirheumatic, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, antiparasitic, and anti-stress agent”.
Although the health benefits of ashwagandha are numerous, it is best to consult a physician before starting the course.