Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is one of those herbs that have been used by humans since time immemorial. Native to some parts of Asia, ashwagandha is also found in North America and some other regions of the world. The plant belongs to the family Solanaceae, and is usually found as a shrub with a central stem and radial branches. The flowers are small and whitish green, and the ripe fruits are dark red. The plant has tuberous roots that are long and brown. The fruits of this plant have milk coagulating properties, and are used for culinary purposes in some regions. Some people use them as a substitute for rennet, in cheese making process. However, this plant is highly popular for its medicinal purposes. Ashwagandha is an important herb that has been used in the traditional medicine of India - Ayurveda.
In Sanskrit, ashwagandha means the smell of horse, as the roots of this plant have a pungent smell. The Latin meaning of 'somnifera' is 'sleep inducing', and this indicates the sedative properties of this herb. The properties of ashwagandha have been compared to that of ginseng; and this herb is also referred to as the Indian ginseng. Even though, the stems and leaves of this plant have certain medicinal properties; the roots are widely used for therapeutic purposes. This herb is available as extracts, capsules, teas, and tinctures.
Uses and Side Effects
Like ginseng, ashwagandha is also considered an adaptogen, which relieves fatigue and trauma. It has rejuvenating properties, and is one of the most popular Ayurvedic herbs, that is used in a wide range of tonics.
- Ashwagandha is commonly used as an energy tonic, which can help the user combat stress and fatigue.
- This herb has sedative properties that may be beneficial for fighting insomnia. Even some other herbs are used in combination with ashwagandha, for treating sleep problems.
- It is used for boosting the immune system and for providing energy and stamina; thereby reducing the chances of falling ill. This herb is often prescribed by herbal practitioners, for those with weak immune systems.
- It is also said to increase sexual potency in men. Ashwagandha is also used to treat fertility problems in men.
- This herb is used for treating arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. In some regions, crushed leaves (for topical application) of this plant is used for treating inflammation.
- Some people use ashwagandha for treating intestinal parasites. It is also said to be useful for building and repairing tissues, and also for combating aging.
- It is believed that ashwagandha can improve insulin sensitivity, and so, it is considered beneficial for diabetics. The herb may be effective in treating type 2 diabetes.
- It has been suggested that, ashwagandha may prove useful for treating drug withdrawal, certain types of cancer (like bone and breast cancer), tuberculosis, and Parkinson's disease.
It will be better to consult a qualified herbal practitioner, if you want to use this herb. Follow his instructions regarding the dosage and duration of use. You may also seek the opinion of your doctor before starting this herbal treatment.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert advice.