Ashwagandha is botanically known as Withania somnifera and is a member of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family.
Ashwagandha is also commonly called Indian ginseng and winter cherry. The root and leaves of the plant are most commonly used for their medicinal properties, and it’s the presence of withanolides, a group of steroidal lactones, that contribute to the herb’s health benefits.
The literal meaning of the word ashwagandha is “smell of horse” because the fresh roots of the herb are said to smell like a horse. Some believe that when you consume ashwagandha, you may develop the strength and vitality of a horse as well.
In Latin, the species name somnifera can be translated as “sleep-inducing.”
Ashwagandha is used for arthritis, anxiety, trouble sleeping, tumors, tuberculosis, asthma, backache, fibromyalgia, menstrual problems, hiccups, stress, hormone imbalance and chronic liver disease.
Ashwagandha contains many beneficial elements, including Flavonoids and antioxidants such as catalase, superoxide dismutase and glutathione, which is known as the “mother of all antioxidants.” It also contains alkaloids, amino acids (including tyrptophan), neurotransmitters, sterols, tannins, lignans and triterpenes.
Ashwagandha is used as an “adaptogen” to help the body cope with daily stress, and as a general tonic. It contains iron, calcium carotene and vitamin C. It also has antibacterial and anticonvulsant properties.
Ashwagandha plant and root are used in both traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda.
In Ayuryedic medicine because it serves many purposes and benefits many body systems, including the immune, neurological, endocrine and reproductive systems. The primary goal of Ayurvedic medicine is to help people stay healthy without the need for suffering, prescription drugs or complicated surgeries.
In Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha has been used as a natural aphrodisiac that can help to improve sexual dysfunction.
Ashwagandha is also used to boost testosterone levels and improve male fertility.
Research shows that Ashwagandha may be useful in supporting adrenal function and helping you to overcome adrenal fatigue. Your adrenals are endocrine glands that are responsible for releasing hormones, specifically cortisol and adrenaline, in response to stress.
One of the most incredible aspects of adaptogenic herbs like Ashwagandha is that they can help people with both under-active and overactive thyroid problems.
Precautions: Some possible side effects of Ashwagandha include upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea. If you notice any of these side effects, stop taking the herb right away. People using diabetes medications, blood pressure medications, medications that suppress the immune system, sedatives or medications for thyroid problems should not use Ashwagandha unless they’ve consulted with their doctor first.
An old Ayurvedic remedy – the classic combination of Ashwagandha root, milk and honey, taken before bed to promote restful sleep. Best enjoyed an hour or so before bed. More recipes.
Ashwagandha is a low growing perennial that grows up to 3 feet tall. Its leaves are long and elliptical, yellowish green. Its flowers are tiny bell shaped followed by bright orange-red berries.
The plant originated in India and it grows best in dry regions. It is a robust plant that can survive in very high and low temperatures too, 70 F – 95 F (20 – 35 C) and grows from sea level to an altitude of 1500 meters above sea level.
Choose a wind-sheltered planting site that receives plenty of direct sunlight. Use a well-drained sandy, loamy or clay soil with an acidic or neutral pH level and well-draining soil in a way that water will drain out quickly. Select a soil with dry, nutrient-rich, stony qualities for best results
Plant Ashwagandha in dry and sunny location of your garden. If the soil is poor add manure to enrich it and remove weed and debris from the planting site. Keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged during the Ashwagandha’s germination period, which takes two to three weeks.
After germination, allow the soil to dry between waterings. Water the plant during a shady time of day, such as near sunrise or sunset, moistening the soil down to about the second knuckle of your index finger.
Similar to ginseng, Ashwagandha plant is not fertilized usually due to medicinal uses of its roots. However, organic fertilizers are used. You can apply aged manure or compost near the base of plant.
Ashwagandha is ready to harvest in 150 – 180 days when flower and berries starts to form and leaves begins to dry out.
Harvest Ashwagandha roots by digging carefully using small tool, careful, not to damage the plant when digging up and make sure soil has some moisture while doing this.
After harvesting, roots and barriers are separated from plant. Roots are washed and cleaned and cut into small pieces of 7-10 cm and dried in sun or shade.
Berries are also separated from plant, dried and crushed to take out seeds.
You can store the dried small pieces of Ashwagandha roots in a glass jar or any airtight jar. You can also grind these root pieces when dried to make powder and then store the powder in air tight containers.
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