Withania somnifera, most commonly called Ashwagandha, is a small perennial shrub. Its roots are harvested in winter often from poor and disturbed soils extending from parts of the Middle East, through India into western China and south into parts of Africa. Ashwagandha belongs to the Solanaceae or Nightshade family, along with other medicinal plants like Goji berry and Datura, and common foods like tomatoes and potatoes. It is dynamic plant that is classified as a ‘rasayana’ in Ayurvedic medicine, or a rejuvenating tonic. The modern term to describe Ashwagandha would be ‘adaptogen’. Ashwagandha has a long and varied history of use. The use of Ashwagandha root has been documented in various traditional Ayurvedic texts, the oldest being the Kasyapa-Samhita from 600 A.D. The common and Latin names of the plant also point towards the common uses of the plant. In Latin, ‘somnium’ means to dream, and ‘fer’ means to carry. The species name ‘somnifera’ roughly translates to ‘dream carrier’, a reference to its use in support restful sleep. The common name, Ashwagandha, has a multitude of translations, all alluding to the vitality of a horse. In addition to supporting sleep, Ashwagandha is commonly used to support daytime energy and stress.
What is Ashwagandha Used For?
Adaptogens support the ability of an organism to cope with stress and thereby conserve energy. Ashwagandha rejuvenates and tonifies the entire system, especially the endocrine and immune systems.
Traditional Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
Additional Information on this Herb
Steroidal compounds which include the lactones Withaferin A, and carbon-27-glycowithanolides, known collectively as Withanolides. It also contains a fair amount of alkaloids; tropine, pseudotropine isopelletrine, and anaferine, and saponins.
1.) Upton R, ed. Ashwagandha Root (Withania somnifera): Analytical, quality control, and therapuetic monograph. Santa Cruz, CA: American Herbal Pharmacopoeia 2000:1-25.2.) Mishra LC, Singh BB, Dagenais S. Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): a review. Altern Med Rev 2000;5:334-46. 3.) Kulkarni, S. K. and Dhir, A. Withania somnifera: an Indian ginseng. Prog.Neuropsychopharmacol.Biol.Psychiatry 7-1-2008;32(5):1093-1105. 4.) Singh, R. H., Narsimhamurthy, K., and Singh, G. Neuronutrient impact of Ayurvedic Rasayana therapy in brain aging. Biogerontology. 2008;9(6):369-374. 5.) Vaishnavi, K., Saxena, N., Shah, N., Singh, R., Manjunath, K., Uthayakumar, M., Kanaujia, S. P., Kaul, S. C., Sekar, K., and Wadhwa, R. Differential activities of the two closely related withanolides, Withaferin A and Withanone: bioinformatics and experimental evidences. PLoS.One. 2012;7(9):e44419. 6.) Altern. Med. Rev. 2000 Aug; 5(4): 334-46 Mishra LC, Singh BB, Dagennais S. Scientific Basis for the Therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): a review.
Not to be used during pregnancy. If you have a medical condition or take pharmaceutical drugs please consult with your doctor before use.
- This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.
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