Ashwagandha – Withania somnifera is a powerful gift of nature and Ayurveda. Talk about Ayurveda treatment for anxiety, leucoderma, depression, insomnia, weight gain, weight loss, immunity, muscle strength, body building, anti oxidants, sexual stimulant and so on. The herb does it all and more.
Botanical Name: Withania Somnifera Dunal
Family- SOLANACEAE (Kantakari Kula)
Hindi name- Asgandha, Asgandh
Telugu Name- Penneru Gadda/ Dommadolu Gadda
Tamil Name- Amukura, Askulang
Malayalam name – Amukkura
Marathi name – Asandh, Doragunj
Gujarathi Name – Aasandha, Ghoda Aakun
Bengali Name- Asvagandha
Kannada Name- Ashvagandhi
Hayagandha, Turagnagandha, Vajigandha, Ashwagandha – Ashwa, Haya, Vaji means horse and gandha means smell. This plant smells quite like horse dung.
Gatrakari – Gatra means body. It helps to improve body mass and strength
Turagi, Vajikari – Vaji means horse. This herb is used to improve sexual performance like that of a horse.
Balya- it improves strength
Varahakarni – Varaha means pig. Karna means ear. Its leaf looks similar to ear of pig.
Balya – group of herbs to improve strength and immunity
Brimhaneeya – group of herbs to improve body mass, nourishment
There are two plants available in the trade namely
Withania somnifera (more commonly used in the name of Aswagandha)
and Withania coagulans.
The former one is denoted as Pennerugadda while the later is known as Dommadolugadda in Telugu.
There is another herb described in dhanvantari nighantu along with Ashwagandha with the synonyms like Medasvi, sthoulyadhyava, Bali, Mamsi, and Rukmini. This is considered as the big variety of Ashwagandha (W. coagulans ) by Sri Singaraja Kama Sastry (1932). The cultivated variety of Asvagandha which is thin and lean is mainly brought from nagori dist. Of Madhya Pradesh. Hence, the name “Nagori Variety”. (Reference: Illustrated Dravyaguna Vijnana Vol. II, by Dr JLN Shastry)
Legal Substitute for ashtavarga
Ashtavarga is a group of eight herbs with very high rejuvenation and anti aging qualities. Among them, Kakoli and Ksheera Kakoli – these two herbs are legally substituted with Ashwagandha, because of similar qualities.
Withania somnifera health benefits
Balaprada, Balya – improves strength and immunity
Vaajikari – improves sexual performance, useful in premature ejaculation and in some cases of erectile dysfunction.
Vrushya – acts as aphrodisiac
Rasayani – improves life expectancy, anti aging, elixir.
Pushtiprada – improves body nourishment
Kaasam hanti – useful in cough, cold
Anilam hanti – useful in Vataja disorders – neurological and neuro-muscular disorders like paralysis
Vranaan hanti – useful to bring about quick wound healing
Shophahara – brings down inflammation
Kanduhara – relieves itching, useful in pruritis
Vishahara – anti toxic, useful in detox programs
Shvitrahara – useful in leucoderma, on internal usage and external application
Krumihara – useful in intestinal worm infestation,
Shwasahara – useful in asthma, chronic respiratory diseases
Kshatahara – useful in injury healing
Kshayahara – useful in treating muscle wasting, emaciation, post tubercular treatment to improve muscle mass and strength
Ati Shukrala – improves semen quantity and quality
It helps in reducing blood pressure on oral intake.
It is useful in relieving dysmenorrhea(painful menstruation)
It has diuretic action
Distribution of Withania somnifera:
Throughout the dry and subtropical India. It is also cultivated extensively throughout India at present.
Ashwagandha plant can easily survive and grow in almost all parts of South India.
Major Chemical constituents
Withaferin A; withanone, withanolide WS-1, withanolide A to Y; somnirol, somnitol, withasomniferin A, nicotine, preudotropine, tropine, solasodine, withasomnine, Sitoindosides VII-X, sominone, Sominolide etc. (Reference: Illustrated Dravyaguna Vijnana, Vol. II, by Dr JLN Shastry)
Withania somnifera – medicinal qualities –
Rasa (taste) – Katu (pungent), Tikta (bitter), Kashaya (astringent)
Guna (qualities) – Snigdha (oiliness, unctuousness), Laghu (lightness)
Veerya – Ushna – Hot potency
Vipaka – Katu undergoes pungent taste conversion after digestion.
Effect on Tridosha -Balances Tridosha, especially Kapha and Vata.
Ashwagandha root, Aswagandha Leaves, Alkali
Ashwagandha Powder 3 – 6 g in divided dose per day.
Capsule – 250 – 500 mg – once or twice a day, based on doctor’s advice.
Before food or after food?
Some people feel burning sensation if Ashwagandha is consumed before food or on empty stomach. Hence, it is best to take it, 30 minutes after food.
If Ashwagandha milk remedy is made, then it can be taken before food, based on your doctor’s advice.
Because of its anti anxiety properties, being rich in anti oxidants and hypoglycemic activity, it is very useful in treating diabetes.
Ashwagandha is frequently used in cognitive impairment disorders and bipolar disorder. In such cases, it is made into combination with other nontropical herbs such as Gotu Kola.
Use in depression
Withania somnifera for depression:
It is widely used in treating anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, adrenaline fatigue. Hence, it is used as an ingredient in Manasamitra vatakam and Brahmi Vati two famous Ayurveda tablets.
Use for numbness
Ashwagandha for numbness –
It improves blood circulation, a very good anti oxidant, acts as a nervine tonic and soothes nerves. Hence, it is useful to relieve numbness.
Ashwagandha for sleep
Because Ashwagandha is useful in relieving anxiety and depression and because of its nerve calming effect, it is used in treating sleep disorders.
For weight loss
Usually for weight loss, it is administered in capsule or powder form along with milk and water. it improves muscle strength, hence enables one to be more physically active, hence useful in weight loss.
It also helps to relieve depression. Many depression patients often put on weight either due to depression itself or due to anti depressant medication. In either case, Ashwagandha is useful to fight both depression and related weight gain.
For weight gain
Because it improves muscle strength and has nutritive value, when it is used along with other high nutrition foods like large quantities of ghee, milk and sugar candy, Withania somnifera is very useful to put on weight.
For this purpose, usually 3 grams of Ashwagandha powder is mixed with a teaspoon of ghee and administered at night, before food for a month time.
For heart care
Ashwagandha is a very good anti oxidant and acts as a heart tonic. It improves strength of muscles of heart (cardiac muscles).
It can also be useful in high BP and to relieve stress.
Muscle pain, strength, wound healing
Its external application in the form of root paste or in the form of oil (prepared in sesame oil base) is useful to relieve pain, inflammation, useful in skin diseases and in chronic non healing wounds.
its leaf or root paste is used externally to treat painful swellings, abscesses, cellulitis and sinuses.
Usage in sexual disorders
There are some studies done which proves Withania somnifera’s testosterone boosting action. (report)
It improves muscle strength, hence quite useful in treating premature ejaculation and in few cases of erectile dysfunction.
It also relieves anxiety and depression, so helps to improve sexual performance.
It is also used in treating and improving female libido.
Use in auto-immune disorders
Can Ashwagandha be used in Hashimoto thyroidits? I have heard that it should not be used?
A false concept is there, that immune boosting herbs like Ashwagandha cannot be taken in auto-immune disorders. I do not approve of this concept.
Ashwagandha in Hashimoto thyroidits / hypothyroidism would effectively address to the symptoms of stress, weight gain, muscle pain, joint pains, depression etc.
The regular dose (needs approval by consulting Ayurvedic doctor) for this is – half a teaspoon (3 g) at night, with a cup of milk or water, 10 minutes after food.
Ashwagandha – stress reliever, anti oxidant, stimulates thyroid – Decreases TSH and improves T3 and T4. – placebo-controlled study
It is not directly indicated in the treatment of hyperthyroidism.
But it is useful in treating below symptoms which are associated with hyperthyroidism.
Fatigue, muscle weakness
more frequent bowel movements
For boosting immunity
Stimulate immunological activity in mice.
Enhances the total WBC count (17125 cells/mm(3)) on 10th day.
Bone marrow cellularity (27×10(6) cells/femur) as
Administration of Withania extract also showed an enhancement in phagocytic activity of peritoneal macrophages (76.5 pigmented cells/200) when compared to control (31.5/200 cells) in mice. (research)
- Active paw anaphylaxis and delayed type hypersensitivity (DTH). Immunomodulatory effect was assessed.
- A significant increase in white blood cell counts and platelet counts was observed in animals treated with Ashwagandha extract.
- A protective effect in cyclophosphamide-induced myelo suppression was observed in animals treated with WST and WS2, revealing a significant increase in white blood cell counts and platelet counts.
- Significant increase in hemagglutinating antibody responses and hemolytic antibody responses towards sheep red blood cells. (research)
Preliminary evidence suggests potent anxiolytic effects in the context of chronic stress, with lesser potency in standard forms of anxiety not related to stress. There may be more benefit to social anxiety as well with Ashwagandha relative to other anxiolytics
For high C reactive protein
The reduction seen in C-reactive protein over the course of 60 days has been noted to reach 31.6% with standard oral doses of ashwagandha supplementation.
High CRP levels can indicate that there is inflammation in the arteries of the heart, which can mean a higher risk for heart attack.
For muscle power output
Improvements in power output have been noted in trained persons subject to a sprint test and in sedentary persons who simply took the supplement as well as untrained people who began strength training.
Ashwagandha in children
Ashwagandha can be useful in children to improve growth etc. But it should only be taken if your doctor prescribes it. Without doctor’s consultation if Ashwagandha is given in children, it may lead to constipation, loose stools, abdominal cramps, drowsiness, excess sleepiness or even anxiety episodes.
If taken for immunity and health improvement, how long can it be continued?
Ashwagandha can be continued for a period of 4 – 8 weeks time.
Ashwagandha Home remedies
How long does Ashwagandha stay in the body? In what ways it is eliminated out?
The effect of one dose of 500 mg of Ashwagandha capsule or tablet or 1 dose of 5 grams of Ashwagandha churna is seen for a period of 2 – 3 days. Though much pharmacokinetic data is not available, in an experimental study on rats, it was noted that extracts of Ashwagandha remained for 45–60 minutes. (half life) – 0.046% Withaferin A and 0.048% Withanolide A.
It is eliminated largely through liver, bowels and urine.
Withania somnifera Side effects
Increased hotness, gastritis: If used alone, for example, Ashwagandha capsule with water, it tends to worsen gastritis in people with sensitive stomach. It also causes constipation in a few.
Because of its innate hot nature, people with Pitta dominance, feel increased hotness with Ashwagandha capsule.
But if it is taken along with milk or ghee, usually this side effect is very much nullified.
Sedative effect: In a very high dose, it may have sedative effect. Hence some experts advice to avoid it during day. But I have not seen its sedative effect so big to put someone to sleep in the day time. However, it is best to take it in the day, only if your doctor has suggested so. Its sleep promotion effect can be more attributed to its anti anxiety and anti depression properties than to its sedative effect.
It can be used safely in children and lactating mother, under medical supervision.
It is best to avoid this during pregnancy.
Who should not take Ashwagandha?
It, being a Rasayana herb (anti ageing), as such there are no definitive contra-indications. Below ones are the symptoms to watch when you take Ashwagandha.
Excess body heat (give it 2–3 days to settle, if not stop)
If you take it and then develop severe anxiety or unrest (stop it and consult doc)
If it makes you drowsy ( if so, avoid it in the morning)
If it upsets your stomach (can give a try for a couple of days to see if it settles down)
If it causes diarrhea or constipation (can continue for a couple of days to see if it settles down)
If it causes Irregular heart beat (very rare)
If it lowers blood pressure / sugar excessively (stop immediately and consult doc)
Interaction with medicines, supplements
Can this be used while taking Homeopathic medicine?
Yes. This product does not react with homeopathic medicine.
Can this medicine be continued while taking supplements like multivitamin tablets, Omega 3 fatty acids etc?
Yes. Generally, this product goes well with most of the dietary supplements. However, if you are taking more than one product per day, please consult your doctor for an opinion.
With western medicines
Seek your doctor’s advice if you are taking this product along with other western (allopathic / modern) medicines. Some Ayurvedic herbs can interact with modern medicine.
If both Ayurvedic and allopathic medicines are advised together, then it is best to take Allopathic medicine first, wait for 30 minutes and then take the Ayurvedic medicine.
Ayurvedic medicines with ashwagandha ingredient:
It is an important ingredient in the making of chyawanprash
Ajaswagandhadi lehyam and Ashwagandhadi Leha is a non veg and vegetarian versions – in Avaleha (lickable) form, used pretty much for similar purposes.
Ashwagandharishta is widely used in treating fainting disorder, mental fatigue etc.
Time taken to show results
How long does Aswagandha take to show results?
It depends on the purpose of your usage.
As an anti ageing herb, Ashwaganadha is given in low doses for a few months time. So, it takes several months to bring about this action, gradually.
As an anti depressant, anti stress and sleep aid, usually Ashwagandha starts showing results in about 7 days time.
As an energy boosting herb, it starts showing results in about 3 – 5 days time.
For weight gain, it may take 1–2 months time
As a sexual stimulant, it may take about a week time to show good results.
Research on Withania somnifera
Anti stress activity:
To evaluate the anti-stress effects of Withania somnifera, an alcoholic extract from roots & seeds dissolved in normal saline was given (100mg/kg intra peritoneal as a single dose) to 20-25 g mice in a swimming performance test in water at 28’-30’ C. It is seen that the extracts approximately double the swimming time when compared to control. It suggested that Withania somnifera induced a stage of nonspecific increased resistance during stress. Glycosides of Withania somnifera exhibited significant anti stress activity in forced swimming induced immobility in mice, restraint stress induced gastric ulcer & auto analgesia in rats. Further clinical studies should be conducted as well as studies in multiple animal based models using a variety of suitable biochemical markers to understand its mechanism of action.
Inhibition of mammary cancer metastasis:
Withaferin A showed dose-dependent inhibition of tumor growth and metastatic lung nodule formation with minimal systemic toxicity.
The main objective of the study was to analyze the efficacy of Ashwagandha root powder with water and with milk in treatment of hypertension. The experiment was conducted on 51 stress-oriented hypertensive subjects in the age group of 40 to 70 years. Subjects were divided into group I and group II. Supplementation of 2gm of Ashwagandha root powder was given to group I and group II with milk and water respectively in morning. Blood pressure was also recorded over a period of three months. Overall decrease in systolic blood pressure was found though it was non- significant. Further, decrease in systolic blood pressure was significant in group I, whereas decrease in diastolic blood pressure was significant in both the groups. Hence, supplementation of Ashwagandha with milk is recommended in treatment of stress- oriented hypertension
Uses as per research
Ashwagandha Uses documented as per research
- Diabetes – reduces sugar, anti oxidant, relieves stress
- High cholesterol – reduces bad cholesterol, anti oxidant,
- Male infertility – improve sperm quality in infertile men.
- Arthritis – There is preliminary research that ashwagandha taken in a particular supplement (Articulin-F) along with other ingredients might improve arthritis symptoms.
- Parkinson’s disease. research suggests that a combination of herbs including ashwagandha improves Parkinson’s symptoms.
- Tumors and cancer
- Tuberculosis – relieves muscle wasting, weight loss
- Liver problems (hepato-protective) – Gentamicin Intoxicated Rats – animal study
- Swelling (inflammation).
- Ulcerations – non healing wounds, abscess
- Altering immune system function.
- Anti ageing
- Fibromyalgia – body ache
Ashwagandha churna Vs capsule
Ashwagandha churna Vs Ashwagandha capsule
When pure uncontaminated Ashwagandha churna is available, then it is usually preferred to capsule form. But usually Churnas get contaminated easily.
When Ashwagandha needs to be formulated as a mix powder along with other powders (such as Ashwagandhadi Churna, used in indigestion), powder form has advantage over the capsule form.
Ashwagandha capsule is usually prepared with its water extract or crude extract, which retains most of its chemical constituents.
When it comes to easy dosage fixing and easy consumption, capsule is lot better than Churna form, because of bitter taste of Ashwagandha and powder dose fixing is a bit difficult task.
If Ashwagandha alone is to be used for treatment, then capsule can be preferred. But if used alone with water, it tends to cause burning sensation in stomach, hence it is advisable to use it along with milk or ghee, or a combination of both.
Administration in Ama condition
Q: I was taught not to give it in ama conditions, or Kapha vikruti, and that agni needs to be strong when taking Ashwagandha lehyam.
- Ashwagandha is Ushna veerya – hot -> Agni promotion. So, Ashwagandha alone is good to use in such a condition, in the form of powder, capsule or tablet.
- Ashwagandhadi Lehyam contains jaggery etc that are heavy to digest ingredients -> So, avoid it if you have low Agni (digestion strength).
Does Ashwagandha for anxiety cause addiction?
Q: I took Ashwagandha capsule for 10 days. I missed on the 11th day and felt anxiety. Will I be dependant on Ashwagandha forever?
Usually Ashwagandha is advised for at least 24 – 6 weeks. After that, gradually the dose is reduced and stopped over a period of 2 – 3 months time.
In your case, I would advice to take Ashwagandha capsule – 1 capsule at night after food for 1 month continuously. For the second month, take it on alternate days for next 4 – 6 weeks and then finally stop it.
It is not habit forming. Meaning, it will nto cause you to stay addicted to Ashwagandha.
Ashwgandha with milk
Ashwagandha with milk is a very good combination. There is a dosage form called Ksheerapaka, in which these two are cooked together. This combination can be taken in all seasons. Hotness of Ashwagandha nullifies the coldness of milk. This combination makes the milk more digestible.
Ashwagandha with Amla
Both Ashwagandha and amla are potential ingredients in ayurveda which is used in the preparation of several formulation. Both these have a wide range of actions on the body. Thus its action on the body varies between individuals.
Here it is to be noted that Amla juice can be taken on daily basis as the constitution easily suits with the internal body system at its best. Ashwagandha on the other hand is powerful in action and hence it shall be used only for a limited period of time.
Basically Ashwagandha is used to relieve stress and secondly as an aphrodisiac. Most of the formulations in Ayurveda which is meant for treating mental conditions have ashwagandha as one of the prime ingredients. When used as an aphrodisiac it shall be used by those above 23 years of age as on an average it is only after this age that means body becomes suitable enough to handle the action of ashwagandha. When both Ashwagandha and amla are used together, ashwagandha acts as a chief ingredient and amla acts as a medium and catalyst in enhancing the action of ashwagandha.
Test for purity
How to know if Ashwagandha is genuine?
If you buy it from a reputed brand, there is no need to worry about its quality. I
There are no tests that can be done at home to prove the authenticity of the product.
f you have purchased it and unsure, then send the sample to a nearby analysis laboratory to test for purity and identity.
Addison’s disease is a disorder of the hormonal system. It is caused due to failure of adrenal glands to produce normal amounts of cortisol and aldosterone hormones.
Though there is no definitive role of Ashwagandha, established in curing the Addison’s disease, it is very useful to improve many symptoms of the disease such as fatigue, muscle weakness, lack of strength, loss of appetite, weight loss, etc.