ASHWAGANDHA

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Herbal Monograph

Herb: ASHWAGANDHA ROOT (Withania somnifera; Solanaceae)

Other Names: Winter Cherry.  (S) Ashwagandha, that which has the smell of a horse, as it gives the vitality and sexual energy of a horse. (40) 

Character/Energetics: bitter, sweet, warm (6)

bitter, astringent, sweet/heating/sweet   

VK- P and Ama + (in excess)   (40)

Tissues:  muscle, fat, bone, marrow and nerve, reproductive   (40)

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected: lungs, kidney (6); reproductive, nervous, respiratory (40)

Parts used: root (6)   (40)

Identification & Harvesting: a small branching shrub that grows in the arid wastelands of India (1)

Cultivation has begun in US.    (61)

Active constituents: bitter alkaloid somniferin (6)

Active principle:  withanolides.    (61)

Actions: yang tonic, aphrodisiac, sedative, astringent (6)

  adaptogen, tonic, anti-inflammatory, immune stimulant, restorative, rejuvenator  (22)

  tonic, rejuvenative, aphrodisiac, nervine, sedative, astringent    (40)

Indian studies suggest significant antioxidant activity, aphrodisiac, anti-inflammatory, sedative.  Most of this research has been published in scientific journals not available in US.    (61)

Conditions and Uses:  This member of the nightshade family is one of the most revered of all Ayurvedic herbs, where it occupies a place that is likened by some writers to the position ginseng enjoys in Chinese and Korean traditional medicines. This ginseng-like position has been interpreted by some marketers of  commercial  products as being  tantamount  to  ginseng  itself: although Ashwagandha is highly revered, it is not botanically, chemically, or pharmacologically related to true Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng).

Despite the position of the two herbs in the respective cultures, their actions are quite different. According to Ayurvedic scholar David Frawley, Ashwagandha has mildly sedative properties as opposed to ginseng’s stimulant action. Ashwagandha is well known to increase sperm count and female fertility, and is thus considered to be a more desirable sexual tonic than the more expensive and harder to grow ginseng. Although the leaves are also used for various medicinal purposes, the primary use of Ashwagandha is for its root, which according to some experts is a tonic, astringent, aphrodisiac, and a sedative. Its use is manifold including reduction of  rheumatic swelling and healing of obstinate ulcers, reversing emaciation of children, improving senile debility and general debility, relieving nervous exhaustion, loss of memory, loss of muscular energy, and even impotence and seminal debility.

Frawley says that Ashwagandha is “calming and promotes deep, dreamless sleep.”  Traditionally, Ashwagandha is often taken in milk with raw sugar or honey, sometimes with long pepper and basmati rice, especially for vata conditions. Ashwagandha is also an adaptogen– a non-toxic, natural substance that protects  the  body  against  biological, chemical and  physical  stressors. By increasing non-specific host resistance to infections, adaptogens exert a favorable effect on immunity. They induce immuno-surveillance and normalize homeostatic mechanisms.  Some adaptogens, for example, raise blood pressure when it is too low and reduce blood pressure when is  too  high.  Anti-stress herbs help to reverse pathophysiology at the biochemical and cellular levels without causing adverse side effects. Since they promote physical  and  mental  stamina as well, adaptogens are ideal supplements for rejuvenation.

Adaptogens such as Ashwagandha restore physiological homeostasis which allows the body to repair damaged cells and tissues. They directly enhance mental clarity since they modify the activity of  the central nervous system (CNS).  Ashwagandha contains substantive amounts of

arginine and ornithine, two amino acids required for the proper functioning of  the CNS.  These amino acids are also thought to stimulate the release of growth hormone, which is thought to play a role in maintaining youthful  muscle and bone strength, skin health, energy and vigor and which diminishes with age (see “A Shot at Youth?” in the February/March ’95 issue The Natural Way” magazine).   (1)

             Ashwagandha treats impotence, infertility, weakness of the back and knees, joint and nerve pain, arthritis, insomnia, neurasthenia, weakness of the mind, wasting diseases, convalescence, poor growth in children and diseases of aging….promotes sound sleep and supports yoga and meditation (6) 

In Ayurvedic medicine, this herb is considered the “Ginseng of India,” said to “protect the organism from illness through maintaining the healthy balance of physical energies.” Like other adaptogens, ashwagandha root exhibits an anti-stress effect, an immunomodulatory effect,

Ashwagandha can enhance both short and long term memory, and it can strengthen the body’s overall power of resistance. In sum, this Ayurvedic herb helps build immunity and is useful as a general tonic to enhance virility and vitality. Also indicated as exhibiting anti-inflammatory properties.  (22)

general debility, sexual debility, nerve exhaustion, convalescence, problems of old age, emaciation of children, loss of memory, loss of muscular energy, spermatorrhea, overwork, tissue deficiency, insomnia,

paralysis, multiple sclerosis, weak eyes, rheumatism, skin afflictions, cough, difficult breathing, anemia, fatigue, infertility, glandular swelling.  

Ashwagandha holds a place in the Ayurvedic pharmacology similar to ginseng in Chinese medicine, yet it is far less expensive. It is the best rejuvenative herb, particularly for the muscles, marrow and semen and for Vata constitution. It is used in all conditions of weakness and tissue deficiency in 

  ASHWAGANDHA ROOT  (Withania somnifera; Solanaceae)

Conditions and Uses (cont):

children, the elderly, those debilitated by chronic diseases, those suffering from overwork, lack of sleep or nervous exhaustion.

For regenerative purposes, it can be taken as a milk decoction to which may be added raw sugar, honey, pippali and basmati rice. As such, it inhibits aging and catalyzes the anabolic processes of the body. Sattvic in quality, it is one of the best herbs for the mind upon which it is nurturing and clarifying. It is calming and promotes deep, dreamless sleep.

Ashwagandha is good for weak pregnant women; it helps to stabilize the fetus. It also regenerates the hormonal system, promotes healing of tissues, and can be used externally on wounds, sores, etc. Five grams of the powder can be taken twice a day in warm milk or water, sweetened with raw sugar.  (40)

Of the Ayurvedic nervine tonic herbs, Ashwagandha is considered superior   (41)

Combinations:

Precautions:  High Ama, severe congestion  (40)

No toxicity associated with small amounts.  Berries have reportedly caused severe gastroenteritis in children.    (61)

Tincturing Process: Vita Mix: Ashwagandha should be vita-mixed in small amounts, herb barely          reaching above blades and below nipple. Ashwagandha marc settles deeply          into the menstruum.

        Process 355 gr herb in (1) 2-qt mason jar and remaining herb in (1)16-oz          mason jar.   (1A)

                    1 lb Ashwagandha powder can fit in (1) 2-qt mason jar w/approx 54 oz alcohol.   (1A)

Applications:  Tincture: 20-40 drops 2-3 times daily  (22) 

Traditionally,  Ashwagandha is often taken in milk with raw sugar or honey, sometimes with long pepper and basmati rice, especially for vata conditions. Ashwagandha is also an adaptogen– a non-toxic, natural substance that protects  the  body  against  biological, chemical and  physical  stressors…. For regenerative purposes, it can be taken as a milk decoction to which may be added raw sugar, honey, pippali and basmati rice. As such, it inhibits aging and catalyzes the anabolic processes of the body. Sattvic in quality, it is one of the best herbs for the mind upon which it is nurturing and clarifying. It is calming and promotes deep, dreamless sleep… Ashwagandha is good for weak pregnant women; it helps to stabilize the fetus. It also regenerates the hormonal system, promotes healing of tissues, and can be used externally on wounds, sores, etc. Five grams of the powder can be taken twice a day in warm milk or water, sweetened with raw sugar.

Decoction, milk decoction, powder (250 mg to 1 g), paste, medicated ghee, medicated oil    (40)

Divination:

Dosage: 3 grams of powder 2x daily in boiled warm milk; in formulas, 3-12 grams (6)

General Notes: 

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References:

(1) Joniris Herbals Research Data, “Ashwagandha” file 

(1A) Joniris Herbals Research Data, “Ashwagandha Tincture” file 

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D. 

(22) Herbs and Herbal Formulas (booklet) by Mark Hershiser, pg. 4

(40) The Yoga of Herbs  by  Dr. David Frawley &  Dr. Vasant Lad, pgs. 160

(41) American Herbalism (Essays)  edited by Dr. Michael Tierra, O.M.D., pg. 153 (essay by David Frawley)

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 22-23