Herbs & Plants


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Botanical Name:Withania somanifera
Family : Solanaceae
Kingdom : Plantae
Subkingdom : Tracheobionta
Division : Magnoliophyta
Class : Magnoliopsida
Subclass : Asteridae
Order : Solanales
Genus : Withania
Species : W. somanifera

INDIAN NAME:-  Amukkiran, Ghoda, Asor.  It is  also known as Ashwagandha, Indian ginseng, Winter cherry, Ajagandha, Kanaje Hindi, Amukkuram in Malayalam and Samm Al Ferakh, is a plant in Solanaceae or nightshade family.

Habitat:Ashwagandha grows prolifically in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It is commercially cultivated in Madhya Pradesh (a state in India).
Woodland Garden; Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Cultivated Beds; South Wall By; West Wall By;

It grows as a stout shrub that reaches a height of 170 cm (5.6 ft). Like the tomato which belongs to the same family, it bears yellow flowers and red fruit, though its fruit is berry-like in size and shape.
its is asmall middle-sized under shrub, to the height of 1.4 m, stem and branches covered with minute star- shaped hairs.
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LEAVES : leaves up to 10 cm long, ovate, hairy like branched.

FLOWER :-flowers are pale green, small about 1 cm long, few flower borne, smooth red, enclosed in the inflated and membranous calyx.

Other species
There are over 20 other species of the Withania genus that occur in the dry parts of India, North Africa, Middle East, and the Mediterranean. These include Withania coagulens and Withania simonii, the roots of which are sometimes used interchangeably with those of Withania somnifera.Withania somnifera itself has been extensively domesticated from the wild form. In India, at least five different cultivars have been developed for increased root size and adaptation to different climates.

Cultivation :

A fairly easily grown plant, it requires a warm sheltered position in full sun and a well-drained moderately fertile soil. Prefers a dry stony soil. This species is not hardy in temperate climates but it can be grown as an annual, flowering and fruiting in its first year from seed.


Seed – sow early spring in a greenhouse. There is usually a high germination rate within 2 weeks. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle and plant them out after the last expected frost. Consider giving the plants some protection, such as a cloche, until they are established and growing away well.

Active constituents:-
The main constituents of ashwagandha are alkaloids and steroidal lactones. Among the various alkaloids, withanine is the main constituent. The other alkaloids are somniferine, somnine, somniferinine, withananine, pseudo-withanine, tropine, pseudo-tropine, cuscohygrine,anferine and anhydrine. Two acyl steryl glucoside viz. sitoindoside VII and sitoindoside VIII have been isolated from root. The leaves contain steroidal lactones, which are commonly called withanolides. The withanolides have C28 steroidal nucleus with C9 side chain, having six membered lactone ring.
Edible Uses
Edible Uses: Curdling agent.
The seeds are used to curdle plant milks in order to make vegetarian cheeses

Medicinal  Action & Uses:-

Abortifacient; Adaptogen; Antibiotic; Aphrodisiac; Astringent; Deobstruent; Diuretic; Narcotic; Sedative; Tonic.

Ashwagandha is one of the most widespread tranquillisers used in India, where it holds a position of importance similar to ginseng in China. It acts mainly on the reproductive and nervous systems, having a rejuvenative effect on the body, and is used to improve vitality and aid recovery after chronic illness. The plant is little known in the West. The whole plant, but especially the leaves and the root bark, are abortifacient, adaptogen, antibiotic, aphrodisiac, deobstruent, diuretic, narcotic, strongly sedative and tonic. Internally, it is used to tone the uterus after a miscarriage and also in treating post-partum difficulties. It is also used to treat nervous exhaustion, debility, insomnia, wasting diseases, failure to thrive in children, impotence, infertility, multiple sclerosis etc. Externally it has been applied as a poultice to boils, swellings and other painful parts. The root is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. Some caution is advised in the use of this plant since it is toxic[K]. The fruit is diuretic. The seed is diuretic and hypnotic



In Ayurveda ashwaganda is considered a rasayana herb. This herb is also considered an adaptogen which is an herb that works to normalize physiological function, working on the HPA axis and the neuroendocrine system.  In Ayurveda, the fresh roots are sometimes boiled in milk, prior to drying, in order to leach out undesirable constituents. The berries are used as a substitute for rennet, to coagulate milk in cheese making.

Ashwagandha in Sanskrit means “horse’s smell,” probably originating from the odor of its root which resembles that of sweaty horse. In Tamil language|Tamil, it is called Amukkrang Kilangu and is used in several medicines.

The species name somnifera means “sleep-inducing” in Latin, indicating that to it are attributed sedating properties, but it has been also used for sexual vitality and as an adaptogen. Some herbalists refer to ashwagandha as Indian ginseng, since it is used in ayurvedic medicine in a way similar to that ginseng is used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Seven American and four Japanese firms have filed for grant of patents on formulations containing extracts of the herb Ashwagandha. Fruits, leaves and seeds of the Indian medicinal plant withania somnifera have been traditionally used for the Ayurvedic system as aphrodisiacs, diuretics and for treating memory loss. The Japanese patent applications are related to the use of the herb as a skin ointment and for promoting reproductive fertility. The U.S based company

Natreon has also obtained a patent for an Ashwagandha extract.

Another US establishment, the New England Deaconess Hospital, has taken a patent on an Ashwagandha formulation claimed to alleviate symptoms associated with arthritis. The product called “ashwagandha oil” is a combination of ashwagandha with almond oil and rose water designed to be used as a facial toner, and should not be consumed orally.
Practitioners of Ayurveduc medicine, the traditional medicine of India, regard this root as the Indian answer to ginseng for the male libido.  Some reference do not recommend on a daily basis but others do.   It is considered to reduce vata and kapha.  It is mainly used in the West as a restorative for the elderly and the chronically ill.  For such 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.  It is a good food 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.

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By reducing overactivity and encouraging rest and relaxation, withania is useful in countering the debility that accompanies long-term stress.  Its high iron content makes it useful for anemia.  Withania has been widely researched in India.  Studies in 1965 indicated that the alkaloids are sedative, reduce blood pressure, and lower the heartbeat rate.  Research in 1970 showed that withanolides, which are similar to the body’s own steroid hormones, are anti-inflammatory.  They also inhibit the growth of cancer cells.  The herb may be of use in chronic inflammatory diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis and as a cancer preventative.  Trials in 1980 indicated that withania increases hemoglobin levels, reduces graying of hair, and improves sexual performance.  It also helps recovery from chronic illness.

Traditional use: acne, adrenal disorders, age spots, anemia, anorexia, arteriosclerosis, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammatory diseases, convalescence, debility, depression, diabetes mellitus, diarrhea, edema, endometriosis, failing memory, fatigue, frigidity, hyperlipemia, hypertension, immunodeficiency, impotence, indigestion, insomnia, multiple sclerosis, poor attention span, ulcer

Pharmacological effects
Ashwagandha is reported to have anti-carcinogenic effects in animal and cell cultures by decreasing the expression of nuclear factor-kappaB, suppressing intercellular tumor necrosis factor, and potentiating apoptotic signalling in cancerous cell lines.

Withania somnifera is prone to several pests and diseases. Leaf spot disease of Withania somnifera caused by Alternaria alternata is the most prevalent disease. It is most severe in Indian plains of Punjab, Hariyana and Himachal Pradesh. Dr. Pratap Kumar Pati research group from Guru Nanak Dev University

India, recently reported in an article of Indian journal of microbiology, on the biodeterioration of its pharmacutically active components during leaf spot disease.

Side effects
There are no listed side effects for Withania Somnifera in humans, but a study on its effects on rats found unfavorable issues in their hearts and adrenal glands in extremely high dosages taken for a duration of 180 days.Withania somnifera stimulates the thyroid leading to thyreotoxicosis in some humans  and in mice.

Other Uses

Repellent; Soap.

The fruit is rich in saponins and can be used as a soap substitute . The leaves are an insect repellent.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein ,  is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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