Ashwagandha is an erect branched shrub that grows to a height of 170cm. As a member of the nightshade family, and like its relative the tomato, Ashwagandha bears small yellow-green flowers and red fruit, although its fruit is berry-like in size and shape. The species name ‘somnifera’ means sleep-bearing in Latin, indicating it was considered a sedative.
Common Name: Ashwagandha
Botanical Name: Withaniasomnifera
Other Names: Winter Cherry, Indian Ginseng, Physalisflexuosa
Growing Area: Native to Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. It also grows in parts of Africa.
Nutrients & Applications:
Ashwagandha’s main bioactive constituents are a class of compounds found in the roots stems and leaves called withanolides. The leaves also contain chlorogenic acid and cysteine is presentin the fruit.
African tribal peoples used Ashwagandha to treat fevers and inflammatory conditions, however Ashwagandha is best known and most used, in traditional Ayervedic medicine where it has been prescribed for more than 4000 years. Ashwagandha was initially employed as a rejuvenating tonic to help promote energy, good health and longevity, and later became the backbone of many multi-ingredient Ayurvedic formulations to treat a variety of conditions. It is used therapeutically as an adaptogen for patients with nervous exhaustion, insomnia, and debility due to stress as it can ease fatigue and tension and act as a potent antioxidant to boost the immune system, especially after illness. Ashwagandha also increases mental alertness and improves memory and concentration. Studies show that Ashwagandha may be useful in normalizing blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.
Ashwagandha also builds marrow, muscle and semen, increases red blood count, and acts as a liver tonic, anti-inflammatory and astringent. In Ayurveda, the leaves are traditionally used to kill internal parasites and worms and the fruit and leaves can be applied externally, as a plaster, to tumours, tubercular glands, inflammation, carbuncles, and ulcers or as a local analgesic. Ashwagandha has Ayurvedic applications in osteoarthritis, Type 2 diabetes, tumours and as an anti-anxiety agent. In India, Ashwagandha fruit and its seeds are used instead of animal rennet to coagulate milk in cheese making.