Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha is a two foot tall shrub that has been used as a medicinal herb for 3,000 years. It is related to the tomato and has small yellow flowers that turn to red fruits about the size of a raisin. This plant is native to India, parts of Africa and the Mediterranean. While it is grown commercially, much of the harvest is taken from the wild as well as being grown as a crop.
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally Ashwagandha helps boost the immune system and fights stress. It can improve memory and learning ability. This herb can reduce both depression and anxiety without causing sleepiness. It stabilizes blood sugar and lowers cholesterol, which is very helpful for diabetics and pre-diabetics. It helps reduce brain cell degeneration while it works as an anti-inflammatory. It is also used against malaria.
Studies are being done to see what effects ashwagandha has against cancer. In Ayurvedic medicine, the herb is used for debility, malnourishment, arthritis and rheumatism, nervous exhaustion, muscle weakness and senile dementia. It is also used for leucorrhea, spermatorrhea, fatigue and weakness of memory. It can be given to all ages.
Externally Ashwagandha can be made into a salve and applied for skin diseases.
Herbs to Combine/Supplement
Mix this herb with valerian root and oyster shell for insomnia. For hypoglycemia or low blood pressure, mix with goksura.
Root The root of one year old plants are harvested from January to March then dried in the sun.
Excessive doses of ashwagandha have been reported to cause abortions, so pregnant women should avoid this herb. Do not take this herb with other sedatives or anti-anxiety drugs. Avoid it if you have stomach ulcers. This tonic should not be taken if you have advanced arterial congestion or other signs of inflammation. Large doses can cause diarrhea, stomach upset and vomiting.
Preparation and Dosage
Ashwagandha is used in Ayurvedic medicine in many different ways. Some of the more common methods include as a powder, a decoction, mixed with ghee, as a medicated wine, as an oil or mixed with honey or sugar syrup. The most popular method is to take the powdered root in capsules or in an extract.
For capsules, 1 to 2 taken twice a day after a meal is a typical dosage. Otherwise 600 to 1000 mg twice a day of the powdered herb will work. Putting a dose in a cup of hot milk before bed can help insomnia and anxiety. Combined with honey or ghee, add 1 teaspoon of the powder and take twice daily.