The Medicinal Plant of Restoration – Ashwaghanda


Family:  Solanaceae

Botanical Name (Latin):  Withania somnifera

Sanskrit Name:  Ashwagandha

Plant of Restoration

Planets:  Mars, Jupiter


Ashwagandha (or Withania) has a very long history of medicinal use beginning over 4000 years ago in its native India. Ashwagandha grows prolifically in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and parts of Africa.  A member of the nightshade family, it is also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry. Ashwagandna is used in Ayurvedic medicine in much the same way as ginseng is used in traditional Chinese medicine. Both support the immune system, help with inflammation, increase memory and inhibit the aging process.

The therapeutic qualities of Ashwagandha are well recognised in Ayurvedic traditional Indian medicine as a rasayana herb … indicating that it strengthens, rejuvenates and invigorates.  It is an adaptogen that works to normalise physiological function by acting on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the neuroendocrine system to control stress and regulate body processes. According to Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha simultaneously balances the nervous system (vata = air) and the musculoskeletal system (kapha = earth, water) while it increases heat (pitta) in the body.  As a result, it improves memory, counteracts the effects of stress and calms the mind

In Western herbal medicine Ashwagandha is most commonly used as an anti-stress (adaptagen) herb to help the body adapt to psychological and physiological stresses.  In the world today, eighty percent of all disease can be attributed to stress; it is not surprising that many people are turning to alternative therapies.  Ashwagandha is rapidly becoming well known as a herb for energy, endurance and stress.  In one study, thirty participants suffering from anxiety were given 40 ml doses of Withania somnifera twice a day.  After thirty days, all anxiety symptoms, including panic attacks and paranoia, had virtually disappeared.  Western therapists have also found it useful in the treatment of depression.

No significant side effects have been reported with the use of Ashwagandha.   Children have been treated safely with the herb for centuries in India, where the shoots and seeds are also used as food and to thicken milk.