Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera)
Ashwagandha – Indian ginseng
Ashwagandha is one of those ayurvedic herbs which have attracted worldwide attention for its salutary effect on the human body. Popularly known as asgandh and scientifically called With ania somnifera, it has been held in high esteem by the leading lights of Ayurveda.
Described in ancient texts as balya (tonic), rasayan (rejuvenating) and atishukrala (potent spermatogenic), ashwagandha is sweet, bitter and astringent in taste; and light, unctuous and hot in effect. Its small plant grows wild throughout drier regions of India but to meet the increasing demand in the domestic as well as international market, better varieties of ashwagandha are favoured for cultivation. Though all parts of the plant have medicinal properties, it is the root which constitutes the main drug.
Ashwagandha is a highly acclaimed herb for its tonic effect on the brain and the nervous system. Detailed clinical investigations have shown that it acts as an anti-stress and adaptogenic medicine. Ayurvedic texts describe it as having anti-inflammatory, diuretic, analgesic, aphrodisiac, diuretic and mildly sedative properties. Modern research has found several types of alkaloids in it of which somniferin and withaniol are responsible for its multiple actions.
Ashwagandha is also a proven immune-modulator, antioxidant and hormone precursor which tends to regulate important physiological functions. It is used to cure a number of ailments like nervous and psychiatric disorders, arthritis, low backache, emaciation, impotency, hypertension and insomnia. Ashwagandha improves general alertness and prevents all types of weakness. It increases one’s strength and stamina.
By virtue of its uses ashwagandha is often referred to as the Indian ginseng and assuredly prescribed by experts for all people — young but tired or old and retired.
The present-day competitive and fast lifestyle subjects us to tremendous mental and physical stress resulting in disturbed psychosomatic equilibrium, the loss of energy and reduced body resistance. Similarly, in middle age problems, the menopausal syndrome and conditions involving chronic fatigue and senile debility, there is no better natural remedy than ashwagandha. Scientific studies have found it to be endowed with anti-tumour, anti-ulcer properties and also a good adjunct in wasting diseases. The use of ashwagandha during the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis also helps one to gain fast relief from inflammation, stiffness and pain in the joints.
Ashwagandha is best used in its powder form. Readily available as a classic medicine called Ashwagandha Churna, this powder can be taken in the dose of one to three grams at bed time preferably with warm milk. This helps induce sound sleep besides giving other therapeutic benefits. In weak and emaciated children, a small dose of ashwagandha is given mixed with butter, sugar and a few pieces of peeled-off almonds.
There are several other classic ayurvedic medicines which include ashwagandha as an important ingredient. For example, in Ashwagandhadi Churna, another herb called vidhara is equally mixed with ashwagandha and it is an effective medicine for male sexual insufficiency. Ashwagandha ghrit and Ashwagandharishta are well-known medicine which have been used since ancient times. Though the therapeutic use of ashwagandha is generally safe, for its long-term utilisation patients are advised to consult a physician.