Genus; species: Withania somnifera

CAM Type: biologically based

Common Names: Ashwagandha Root, Winter Cherry, Indian Ginseng, Ajagandha, Kanaje Hindi, Samm Al Ferakh

Introduction to Ashwagandha:

Ashwagandha is a plant in Solanacea or nightshade family. It grows as a shrub, reaching a height of 170cm. As with the tomato, which also belongs to this family, Ashwagandha bears yellow flower and red fruit, though its fruit is berry-like in size and shape. It grows in India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.

Ashwagandha is widely used in Ayurveda, an Indian system of holistic medicine. The root is primarily recognized for its adaptogenic properties. An adaptogen is a physiological agent with the ability to naturally increase the body’s resistance to emotional and physical stresses. Ayurvedic practitioners traditionally use Ashwagandha to promote gentle relaxation and emotional balance.

Common uses:

Occasional panic attacks or anxiety, mild to moderate mood changes, mental or physical fatigue, immune-system support, depression

All of the plant is used in herbal medicine. In Ayurveda, often the roots are boiled in milk, prior to drying them, in order to leach out undesirable elements.

Ashwagandha is used as for sexual vitality, as an adaptogen, and as a sedative. As well, some herbalists refer to Ashwagandha as Indian ginseng, as it is used in ayurvedic medicine similar to how ginseng is used in traditional Chinese medicine.

The product known as “Ashwagandha oil” is a combination of almond oil, Ashwagandha, and rose water, and is designed for use as a facial toner, and not consumption.

Pharmacology and Phytochemicals:

There are several groups of phytochemical components thought to contribute to the pharmacological activity of Ashwagandha, such as Withanolides, Alkaloids, and Sitoindosides.

According to scientists, Ashwagandha most likely affects multiple body systems to promote emotional well-being, mental sharpness, and physical endurance. Pharmacologicla studies indicate the mechanism of action is Withaferin-A, a primary Withanolide in Ashwagandha, which stimulates neurotransmitter pathways in the brain. This effect enhances memory and other cognitive processes.

Mechanisms of Action:

Scientists have yet to pinpoint the specific functions supporting immune system response and other regulatory body systems, though it is believed that all the active glycowithanolides that derive from the plant work together to alleviate anxiety and panic, mild mood swings, lack of mental clarity/focus, and mental/physical fatigue.

Usage:

Mild to moderate adult dosages range from 75 to 250mg per day.

Safety, Side Effects and Warnings:

Reviews of clinical studies and lab tests for Ashwagandha suggests it is safe to use and possesses little to no toxicity.

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