Scientific Name/Common Name: Withania somnifera / Ashwagandha
Part(s) Used: Root
Constituents/Active Ingredients: Steroidal compounds (withaferin A, sitoindosides), alkaloids (tropane types and isopelletierine, anaferine)
Overview: Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng and winter cherry, has been used medicinally in India for thousands of years. The plant’s Latin name literally means, “sweat of a horse” due to the scent of the roots. In Ayurvedic medicine, its use extends back over 3000 years. It was traditionally used as a tonic herb for promoting longevity and treating emaciation and for improving reproductive functions of both men and women. Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen like ginseng, but is not stimulating. It actually has a mild sedative effect, as the somnifera part of its Latin name indicates.
Traditional Use/Benefits/Body Systems: Traditionally used for debility, nervous exhaustion, convalescence after illness, and as a general tonic; also used for reproductive health, as a nerve tonic to aid sleep, and for memory enhancement.
Clinical Studies/Scientific Research/References:
K. Bone and S. Mills, Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy, (Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone), 2000, at pp. 595-602.
Chengappa KN, Bowie CR, Schlicht PJ, Fleet D, Brar JS, Jindal R. Randomized placebo-controlled adjunctive study of an extract of withania somnifera for cognitive dysfunction in bipolar disorder. J Clin Psychiatry. 2013 Nov;74(11):1076-83.
Upton R, editor. American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and Therapeutic Compendium: Ashwagandha Root (Withania somnifera) – Standards of Analysis, Quality Control, and Therapeutics. Santa Cruz (CA): American Herbal Pharmacopoeia; 2000.
Disclaimer: This information in our Herbal Encyclopedia is intended only as a general reference for educational purposes. It is not a replacement for medical advice. This content does not provide dosage information, cautions/contraindications, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Please consult any relevant product labels for detailed information on use and with a medical practitioner for individual health advice.