Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Indian Ginseng And Its Health Benefits
Withnia somnifera (Ashwagandha) Plant
Latin Name : Withania somnifera
Ashwagandha is also known as winter cherry, Indian ginseng or poison goodseberry.
It is a herb, a very important one in Ayurveda the ancient Indian medicine system used to overcome a variety of health problems. Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurveda for about 3000 to 4000 years.
Ayurvedic texts like Charaka and Shusruta Samhitas extoll the virtues of this wonder herb especially as a restorative tonic for the aged to increase vitality; in fact for persons of all ages including babies.
Ashwa means horse in India and Gandha means smell. The leaves of Ashwagandha when crushed emit a smell akin to horses and the herb is thus so named.
Ginseng which is native to China but today is known and used all over the world to give strength to the body can only be challenged by Ashwagandha herb that is nutritious, gives strength and boosts immunity.
The Withania somnifera Plant
The ashwagandha plant is a short stout shrub that is about 5 feet in height. It bellongs to the tomato family. The plant bears tellow flowers while the ripe fruit is red in color and the size of a raisin.
Ashwagandha is native to India, northern Africa and the Middle east.
Ashwagandha is said to be an adaptogen which is a substance or plant that helps to normalize and regulate body systems.
Though ashwwagandha is not related to ginseng, it can compare to some of the most renowned herbal tonics of the world like,
- Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
- Astragalus (Astraglaus membranaceus)
- Dang gui (Angelica sinensis)
- Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)
- South American Suma (Pfaffia paniculata)
And while ginseng takes 7 years to mature enough for harvesting, ashwagandha can be harvested after just 1 year of growth.
There are 2 types of ashwagandha plants. Those whose roots are used are from the cultivated variety and have thinner and smoother leaves as compared to the leaves of the wild variety which are rough and thicker. The wild variety is used for its leaves.
Ashwagandha Fruits & RootsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Health Benefits Of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha has antioxidant, antitumor, anticancer, antiepileptic, antistress, antibacterial, antifungal, restorative, anti inflammatory and healing properties.
Ashwagandha has strong stress relieving properties than the current day drugs used to treat anxiety and depression.
It has excellent effects on the nervous system and can beenfit a great deal in degenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimers.
Ashwagandha selectively affects and reduces the number of cancer triggering cells and is thus a useful anti cancer supplement.
The herb calms the mind thereby promoting sleep. It also helps to treat cough, colds and bronchitis.
It has powerful immunity boosting properties, increases white blood cells and helps to keep diseases at bay.
Additionally in men, Ashwagandha helps to increase sperm count and boosts fertility. It has traditionally been used as an aphrodisiac to counter impotency.
Some other health benefits of Ashwagandha are :
- Increases breast milk quantity and quality in nursing mothers.
- Lowers cholesterol
- Regulates blood sugar
- A diuretic
- Relieves arthritic and rheumatic pains
- Nourishes muscles, bones and nerves
- Reduces fatigue, increases energy levels and vitality
- Increases concentration and memory
- Increases hemoglobin levels
Ashwagandha in fact, has been used to keep the immune system parameters normal during chemotherapy. Thus it can be used to advantage during chemotherapy.
Animal studies have indicated that ashwagandha is well tolerated and safe and there are no toxicity issues with its use though Ayurveda has used it safely and to advantage since times of yore.
Ashwagandha roots are traditionally used in Ayurveda for making ashwagandha powder.
However its leaves and the berries are also used to treat and apply on external lesions.
Ashwagandha powder or churna is made from its roots.
The dose for ashwagandha churna or powder is 1-3 grams per day for adults.
Ashwagandha extract is available as tablets and the dose is 2-4 tablets of 250 mg per day.
Ashwagandha is also available as :
Ashwagandha ghruta which is a decoction made with ghee, AND
As a medicated wine, ashwagandha rishta.
Some Home Remedies With Ashwagandha
- General fatigue and exhaustion/weakness
Take 250 grams to 1 gram of ashwagandha root powder 3 times a day.
A decoction of 1 tsp of dried root in 120 ml of milk or water simmered till it has reduced to half is good for relieving fatigue and stress.
Mix 1 tsp of ashwagandha root powder in a glass of milk and drink daily.
- Strength and Tissue Building
Mix 1 tsp of ashwagandha powder in ghee and honey and take everyday.
- Men's Problem (Sexual Weakness etc)
Mix 1 tsp of ashwagandha powder in milk and drink daily.
- Whooping Cough
Take 12 grams of ashwagandha root, grind and add 12 grams of sugar. Add to 1 liter of water. Simmer till the quantity of water reduces to 1/8 (becomes 125 ml). Drink this after straining the decoction.
- Leucorrhea and Infertility in Women
3 grams of ashwagandha powder mixed with 12 grams of sugar, two times a day with milk.
- To Aid Conception
Take 25 grams of ashwagandha root powdered coarsely, 400 ml of water, 100 ml milk and 2-3 ml ghee.
Add the powdered root powder to 400 ml water. Boil till the water reduces to 100 ml.
Now add 100 ml milk and heat this till it again reduces to 100 ml. Filter this decoction.
Take 30 ml of this in the morning before food along with about 2 ml ghee for about 2-3 months.
Consult your Ayurvedic doctor before taking this.
It is best to take this hot and do not reboil this milk.
- Skin Problems
Mix ashwagandha powder well in oil like mustard or sesame and massage on the affected area.
The following remedies have been suggested by Acharya Balkishan of Divya Yoga.
- To Reduce Obesity
Take a leaf of ashwagandha and crush it to make a ball. Swallo this with hot water. Take it 3 times a day, in the morning, afternoon and evening for 3 days. Repeat after 15 days.
Along with this do yoga and pranayama and eat within limits.
This will help reduce weight fast.
- Pain & Swelling In Arthritis
Boil some ashwagandha leaves. Add sendha namak (rock salt) and cook it. Foment the painful joint with this. It reduces swelling.
- Knee Pain
Take big leaves of ashwagandha and apply some oil that is used for pain to the leaves. Heat the leaves and tie at the spot while they are warm. This relieves pain.
- Angina Pain
Take the bark of Arjun plant and ashwagandha in equal quantities. Grind to a powder and take morning and evening. It relieves pain and gives strength to the heart.
Take 1 tsp of ashwagandha powder in the morning and evening with milk. It will increase strength and energy.
Those with diabetes, leucorrhea, spermatorrhea and urinary diseaes will also benefit from ashwagandha consumption.
- Arthritis/Rheumatism/Sciatica/Slipped Disk/Raised Uric Acid Levels
Take equal quantity of dry turmeric, fenugreek seeds, dry ginger and ashwagandha. Powder all these together and take 1 tsp of this mixture morning and evening.
It gives relief in all pains.
- Back Pain
Take ashwagandha powder 1 tsp in the morning and then in the evening.
Some Side Effects Of Ashwagandha
- Large doses of ashwagandha can cause abortion so this herb should not be used by pregnant women.
- Do not take with sedatives or anti anxiety drugs.
- Large doses can lead to stomach upset, diarrhea and vomiting.
The information provided in this hub is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician, or health care provider before taking any home remedies or supplements.
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Facts About Ashwaganda
Ashwagandha - What is it? (Herb Talk with Dr. Virender Sodhi)
Ashwagandha Proven to Heal Thyroid and Adrenals
© 2014 Rajan Singh Jolly