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Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha

Botanical Description / Habitat

Withania somnifera

Family

Solanaceae

Common Names

Aswagandha
Ashwaganda
Ashwagandha
Withania

Habitat

Found throughout the drier regions of India as far west as Israel.

Description

An erect evergreen shrub, related to the tomato and potato as well as Nightshade.

It produces berries.

Medicinal Parts

Fresh berries, dried fruits and roots are used.

Historical Properties & Uses

Ashwagandha has long held a prominent place in ancient Indian systems of medicine, notably Ayurveda.

It has been called the "Indian ginseng", being a general tonic especially for men. (The name refers to the horse.)

The fresh berries have been used as an emetic.

Dried fruits and roots are reputed to be: anti-inflammatory diuretic and sedative.

Dried fruits and roots have been used specifically for liver complications.

Leaf extracts have also been effective against inflammation in animal studies.

Ashwagandha has been used for tuberculosis and tumors.

Ashwagandha has been used, topically, for swelling and ulcerations.

Method of Action

Ashwagandha contains an essential oil (ipuranol) and a number of steroid lactones: withanolides e.g. beta-sitosterol.

No diuretic activity has been demonstrated with animals.

Animal experiments have confirmed anti-inflammatory activity.

The leaves have demonstrated antibacterial action. (Das, 1964)

There may also be a protective effect on the liver. (Sudhir, 1986)

Recent interest has surrounded its immunosuppressant activity. (e.g. Bahr, 1982 and Shobat, 1978)

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Extracts of Ashwagandha potentiated the sleeping time induced by pentobarbitone (see under barbiturates).

Extracts also increased the lethal effects of amphetamine.

Various effects have been produced experimentally with animals: CNS depressant (i.e. sedative), hypotensive activity, respiratory stimulation and smooth muscle relaxant.

This involved an acetone extract.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Alcoholic and aqueous extracts have had no reported neurologic effects.

Various effects have been produced experimentally with animals: CNS depressant (i.e. sedative), hypotensive activity, respiratory stimulation and smooth muscle relaxant. This involved an acetone extract.

Preparation & Administration

In America and Europe, this herb is usually obtained in a commercial product.

A typical herbal supplement in the US may comprise:

One 300 mg standardized capsule (1.5% Withanolides & 1% alkaloids) daily.

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.

Abstracts

References

References:

Bahr, V & Hansel, R: Planta Med. 1982, 44:32.

Battacharya, SK et al., Phytotherap. Res. 1987, 1:32.

Budhiraja, RD et al., Planta Medica, 1977, 32:154.

Chakraborti, SK et al., Experientia, 1974, 30:852.

Das, JM & Kurup, PA: Indian J. Biochem. Biophys. 1964, 1:157.

Fontaine, R & Erdoes, A: Planta Medica, 1976, 30:242.

Shobat, B et al., Biomed. 1978, 28:18.

Sudhir, S et al., Planta med. 1986, 36:61.