Ashwagandha – Withania somnifera is one of the most powerful gifts of nature and Ayurveda to the humanity. Talk about Ayurvedic treatment for anxiety, leucoderma, depression, insomnia, weight gain, weight loss, immunity, muscle strength, body building, anti oxidants, sexual stimulant and so on… The herb does it all and more. Botanical Name: Withania Somnifera Dunal
Family- SOLANACEAE (Kantakari Kula)
Hindi name- Asgandha, Asgandh
Telugu Name- Penneru Gadda/ Dommadolu Gadda
Tamil Name- Amukura, Askulang
Malayalam name – Amukkura
Marathi name – Asandh, Doragunj
Gujarathi Name – Aasandha, Ghoda Aakun
Bengali Name- Asvagandha
Kannada Name- Ashvagandhi
Hayagandha, Turagnagandha, Vajigandha, Ashwagandha – Ashwa, Haya, Vaji means horse and gandha means smell. This plant smells quite like horse dung.
Gatrakari – Gatra means body. It helps to improve body mass and strength
Turagi, Vajikari – Vaji means horse. This herb is used to improve sexual performance like that of a horse.
Balya- it improves strength
Varahakarni – Varaha means pig Karna means ear. Its leaf looks similar to ear of pig.
Balya – group of herbs to improve strength and immunity
Brimhaneeya – group of herbs to improve body mass, nourishment
There are two plants available in the trade namely
Withania somnifera (more commonly used in the name of Aswagandha)
and Withania coagulans.
The former one is denoted as Pennerugadda while the later is known as Dommadolugadda in Telugu.
There is another herb described in dhanvantari nighantu along with Asvagandha with the synonyms like Medasvi, sthoulyadhyava, Bali, Mamsi, and Rukmini. This is considered as the big variety of Asvagandha (W. coagulans ) by Sri Singaraja Kama Sastry (1932)
The cultivated variety of Asvagandha which is thin and lean is mainly brought from nagori dist. Of Madhya Pradesh. Hence, the name “Nagori Variety”. (Reference: Illustrated Dravyaguna Vijnana Vol. II, by Dr JLN Shastry)
Distribution of Withania somnifera:
Throughout the dry and subtropical India. It is also cultivated extensively throughout India at present.
Ashwagandha plant can easily survive and grow in almost all parts of South India.
Major Chemical constituents:
Withaferin A; withanone, withanolide WS-1, withanolide A to Y; somnirol, somnitol, withasomniferin A, nicotine, preudotropine, tropine, solasodine, withasomnine, Sitoindosides VII-X, sominone, Sominolide etc. (Reference: Illustrated Dravyaguna Vijnana, Vol. II, by Dr JLN Shastry)
Withania somnifera – medicinal qualities –
Rasa (taste) – Katu (pungent), Tikta (bitter), Kashaya (astringent)
Guna (qualities) – Snigdha (oiliness, unctuousness), Laghu (lightness)
Veerya – Ushna – Hot potency
Vipaka – Katu undergoes pungent taste conversion after digestion.
Effect on Tridosha -Balances Tridosha, especially Kapha and Vata.
Part Used- Ashwagandha root, Aswagandha Leaves, Alkali
Ashwagandha Powder 3 – 6 g in divided dose per day.
Capsule – 250 – 500 mg – once or twice a day, based on doctor’s advice.
Withania somnifera health benefits
Balaprada, Balya – improves strength and immunity
Vaajikari – improves sexual performance, useful in premature ejaculation and in some cases of erectile dysfunction.
Vrushya – acts as aphrodisiac
Rasayani – improves life expectancy, anti aging, elixir.
Pushtiprada – improves body nourishment
Kaasam hanti – useful in cough, cold
Anilam hanti – useful in Vata disorders – neurological and neuro-muscular disorders like paralysis
Vranaan hanti – useful to bring about quick wound healing
Shophahara – brings down inflammation
Kanduhara – relieves itching, useful in pruritis
Vishahara – anti toxic, useful in detox programs
Shvitrahara – useful in leucoderma, on internal usage and external application
Krumihara – useful in intestinal worm infestation,
Shwasahara – useful in asthma, chronic respiratory diseases
Kshatahara – useful in injury healing
Kshayahara – useful in treating muscle wasting, emaciation, post tubercular treatment to improve muscle mass and strength
Ati Shukrala – improves semen quantity and quality
It helps in reducing blood pressure on oral intake.
It is useful in relieving dysmenorrhea
It has diuretic action
Because of its anti anxiety properties, being rich anti oxidants and hypoglycemic activity, it is very useful in treating diabetes.
Withania somnifera for depression:
It is widely used in treating anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, adrenaline fatigue. Hence, it is used as an ingredient in Manasamitra vatakam and Brahmi Vati two famous Ayurvedic tablets.
Ashwagandha sleep – Because Ashwagandha is useful in relieving anxiety and depression and because of its nerve calming effect, it is used in treating sleep disorders.
Ashwagandha for weight loss –
Usually for weight loss, it is administered in capsule or powder form along with milk and water. it improves muscle strength, hence enables one to be more physically active, hence useful in weight loss.
It also helps to relieve depression. Many depression patients often put on weight either due to depression itself or due to anti depressant medication. In either case, Ashwagandha is useful to fight both depression and related weight gain.
Ashwagandha for weight gain –
Because it improves muscle strength and has nutritive value, when it is used along with other high nutrition foods like large quantities of ghee, milk and sugar candy, Withania somnifera is very useful to put on weight.
Indian ginseng for heart care:
Ashwagandha is a very good good anti oxidant and acts as a heart tonic. It improves strength of muscles of heart (cardiac muscles).
It can also be useful in high BP and to relieve stress.
Ashwagandha for muscle pain, strength and wound healing:
Its external application in the form of root paste or in the form of oil (prepared in sesame oil base) is useful to relieve pain, inflammation, useful in skin diseases and in chronic non healing wounds.
its leaf or root paste is used externally to treat painful swellings, abscesses, cellulitis and sinuses.
Legal Substitute for ashtavarga
Ashtavarga is a group of eight herbs with very high rejuvenation and anti aging qualities. Among them, Kakoli and Ksheera Kakoli – these two herbs are legally substituted with Ashwagandha, because of similar qualities.
Ashwagandha Home remedies
We have already covered a couple (and lot more to follow)
Ashwagandha remedy for easy conception for women
Ayurvedic medicines with ashwagandha ingredient:
It is an important ingredient in the making of chyawanprash
Ajaswagandhadi lehyam and Ashwagandhadi Leha is a non veg and vegetarian versions – in Avaleha (paste) form, used pretty much for similar purposes.
Ashwagandharishta is widely used in treating fainting disorder, mental fatigue etc.
Usage of Ashwagandha in sexual disorders
There are some studies done which proves Withania somnifera’s testosterone boosting action. (report)
It improves muscle strength, hence quite useful in treating premature ejaculation and in few cases of erectile dysfunction.
It also relieves anxiety and depression, so helps to improve sexual performance.
It is also used in treating and improving female libido.
Withania somnifera Side effects
Increased hotness, gastritis: If used alone, for example, Ashwagandha capsule with water, it tends to worsen gastritis in people with sensitive stomach. It also causes constipation in a few.
Because of its innate hot nature, people with Pitta dominance, feel increased hotness with Ashwagandha capsule.
But if it is taken along with milk or ghee, usually this side effect is very much nullified.
Sedative effect: In a very high dose, it may have sedative effect. Hence some experts advice to avoid it during day. But I have not seen its sedative effect so big to put someone to sleep in the day time. However, it is best to take it in the day, only if your doctor has suggested so. Its sleep promotion effect can be more attributed to its anti anxiety and anti depression properties than to its sedative effect.
It can be used safely in children and lactating mother, under medical supervision.
It is best to avoid this during pregnancy.
Research on Withania somnifera:
Anti stress activity:
To evaluate the anti-stress effects of Withania somnifera, an alcoholic extract from roots & seeds dissolved in normal saline was given (100mg/kg intra peritoneal as a single dose) to 20-25 g mice in a swimming performance test in water at 28’-30’ C. It is seen that the extracts approximately double the swimming time when compared to control. It suggested that Withania somnifera induced a stage of nonspecific increased resistance during stress. Glycosides of Withania somnifera exhibited significant antistress activity in forced swimming induced immobility in mice, restraint stress induced gastric ulcer & auto analgesia in rats. Further clinical studies should be conducted as well as studies in multiple animal based models using a variety of suitable biochemical markers to understand its mechanism of action.
Inhibition of mammary cancer metastasis:
Withaferin A showed dose-dependent inhibition of tumor growth and metastatic lung nodule formation with minimal systemic toxicity.
Prevention and treatment of cancer
The main objective of the study was to analyze the efficacy of Ashwagandha root powder with water and with milk in treatment of hypertension. The experiment was conducted on 51 stress-oriented hypertensive subjects in the age group of 40 to 70 years. Subjects were divided into group I and group II. Supplementation of 2gm of Ashwagandha root powder was given to group I and group II with milk and water respectively in morning. Blood pressure was also recorded over a period of three months. Overall decrease in systolic blood pressure was found though it was non- significant. Further, decrease in systolic blood pressure was significant in group I, whereas decrease in diastolic blood pressure was significant in both the groups. Hence, supplementation of Ashwagandha with milk is recommended in treatment of stress- oriented hypertension
Ashwagandha churna Vs Ashwagandha capsule
When pure uncontaminated Asgandh churna is available, then it is usually preferred to capsule form. But usually Churnas get contaminated easily.
When Ashwagandha needs to me formulated as a mix powder along with other powders (such as Ashwagandhadi Churna, used in indigestion), powder form has advantage over the capsule form.
Ashwagandha capsule is usually prepared with its water extract or crude extract, which retains most of its chemical constituents.
When it comes to easy dosage fixing and easy consumption, capsule is lot better than Churna form, because of bitter taste of Ashwagandha and powder dose fixing is a bit difficult task.
If Ashwagandha alone is to be used for treatment, then capsule can be preferred. But if used alone with water, it tends to cause burning sensation in stomach, hence it is advisable to use it along with milk or ghee, or a combination of both.
Can Ashwagandha be used in Hashimoto thyroidits? I have heard that it should not be used?
A false concept is there, that immune boosting herbs like Ashwagandha cannot be taken in auto-immune disorders. I do not approve of this concept.
Ashwagandha – stress reliever, anti oxidant, stimulates thyroid – Decreases TSH and improves T3 and T4. – placebo-controlled study
It is not directly indicated in the treatment of hyperthyroidism.
But it is useful in treating below symptoms which are associated with hyperthyroidism.
Fatigue, muscle weakness
more frequent bowel movements
Stimulate immunological activity in mice.
Enhances the total WBC count (17125 cells/mm(3)) on 10th day.
Bone marrow cellularity (27×10(6) cells/femur) as
Administration of Withania extract also showed an enhancement in phagocytic activity of peritoneal macrophages (76.5 pigmented cells/200) when compared to control (31.5/200 cells) in mice. (research)
- Active paw anaphylaxis and delayed type hypersensitivity (DTH). Immunomodulatory effect was assessed.
- A significant increase in white blood cell counts and platelet counts was observed in animals treated with Ashwagandha extract.
- A protective effect in cyclophosphamide-induced myelo suppression was observed in animals treated with WST and WS2, revealing a significant increase in white blood cell counts and platelet counts.
- Significant increase in hemagglutinating antibody responses and hemolytic antibody responses towards sheep red blood cells. (research)
Preliminary evidence suggests potent anxiolytic effectsin the context ofchronic stress, with lesser potency in standard forms of anxiety not related to stress. There may be more benefit to social anxiety as well with Ashwagandha relative to other anxiolytics
The reduction seen in C-reactive protein over the course of 60 days has been noted to reach 31.6% with standard oral doses of ashwagandha supplementation.
High CRP levels can indicate that there is inflammation in the arteries of the heart, which can mean a higher risk for heart attack.
Improvements in power output have been noted in trained persons subject to a sprint test and in sedentary persons who simply took the supplement as well as untrained people who began strength training.