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What is Withania Somnifera | Ashwagandha Uses | Herbal Remedy | Herb

Withania somnifera is a perennial shrub from the Solanaceae family. It is also known as 'Ashwagandha'. The herbal root extract has been extensively used as a natural tonic for various health problems. The main constituents are the Withanolides which have been found to have regenerative properties on the human body. Withanolides are similar in function to Ginsenosides. Withania somnifera is considered as the best herbal remedy for the treatment of various ailments.

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Angiospermae
Class: Dicotiledoneae.
Order: Tubiflorae.
Family: Solanaceae.
Genus: Withania.
Species: somnifera
Parts used: Roots

Indian names: Ashwagandha, In Sanskrit, 'horse smell'

English name: Winter Cherry and Indian Ginseng

As per studies, 35 withanolides and 12 alkaloids have been isolated from Withania somnifera. Other important constituents are anahygrine, tropine, pseudotropine, anaferine and isopellatierine.

Effects: The roots of Withania somnifera contain substances with GABA-mimetic effect. In other words, it is used as a tranquilizer and anti-convulsive. It also improves the cognitive capabilities of the brain. It can stimulate the thyroidal gland in an indirect way and can be useful to treat hypothyroidism. Research studies have demonstrated that the plant possess a powerful immunomodulator effect.

Withania somnifera possesses hypolipidemic effect. It helps to reduce the plasmatic concentration of triglycerides and increases the synthesis of HDL. The roots of the plant are diuretic, hypocholesterolemic and hypoglycemic. It aids to control the glucose level in blood.

Withanolides help to increase the radio sensitivity in 'in vivo' malign tumors. They also stop the development of Pharyngeal Carcinoma and Breast Adenocarcinoma, as they reduce the concentration of Glutathione in malign cells. Withania somnifera sensitizes cancer forming tumor cells and increases the tolerance of normal cells.

Withania somnifera helps in the significant improvement in the levels of hemoglobin and erythrocytes in blood. It also increases the concentration of melanin in the hair and increases the presence of calcium in nail fingers.

Distribution: Withania Somnifera grows abundantly in India and all parts of South Asia. It is found naturally growing in dry areas, waste areas and sandy loam to light red soils. The required climate is dry climate, having 65-75 cm per annum of rain and temperature ranging between 20-38 degrees centigrade. It can grow up to 1500 m above sea level and the cultivation time is when the leaves are dry. The roots are separated from the aerial parts. None of the fertilizers is required for the growth of the plant.

Uses of Withania Somnifera: The berries and tubers of Withania somnifera have been in use since ancient times in India as an herbal remedy. The root extract is an important part of Ayurvedic medicine. It has been used as a general tonic and adaptogen. It helps the body adapt to stress and promotes strength and vigor. It is also used as a sedative for insomnia and tends to cause sleep. It is beneficial as a liver tonic, anti-inflammatory and coagulant agent. Withania somnifera is useful in the treatment of asthma and as a uterine sedative. Its alkaloids showed anti-spasmodic effects against several agents on intestinal, uterine, bronchial and blood vascular muscles. It is a powerful rasayana agent in Ayurveda. Its regular use helps in increasing the sense of well being and enhances sexual performance.