Ashwaghanda Summary:

Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) is commonly referred to as Indian ginseng. Although it's used very similarly to Panax ginseng, it isn't as stimulating, and completely different chemical profile to ginseng.

Ashwaghanda is slightly sedative, which makes it perfect for anybody weak from over stimulation. This can include things like exhaustion due to overwork, ADHD, stress induced weakness, and hyperactive thyroid conditions. It's a perfect herb to take on a daily basis for these types of conditions, and as a general tonic for people who are naturally a bit anxious or overstimulated. 

In the Ayurvedic medical system, where ashwaghanda is well used, it's mainly indicated for impotence and age related conditions. It is considered a rasayana, which is a tonic herb thought to have a high level of safety and efficacy, especially with long term use. 

Ashwaghanda can be made into a decoction, taken as a tincture or liquid extract, or powdered and mixed in with smoothies or packed into capsules. 


Botanical Name

Withania somnifera

Withania coagulans

Family

Solanaceae

Part Used

Root

Herbal Actions:

  • Adaptogen
  • Mild sedative
  • Tonic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Immunomodulator
  • Anti-anaemic
  • Antitumor
  • Nervine
  • Thyroid modulator

Dosage

Decoction

3 - 8 g/day

Liquid Extract (1:2)

5 - 13 ml/day

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Common Names

  • Ashwaghanda (Sanskrit)
  • Indian ginseng
  • Withania
  • Winter cherry
 

Indications:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Debility/convalescence
  • Insomnia
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Athletic support
  • Support during natural progression of aging
  • Pregnancy support
  • Anaemia (children)
  • Arthritis
  • Chronic inflammatory diseases
  • Hypothyroidism
  • To promote healthy growth in children
  • Improving learning and concentration
  • Immune dysfunctions
  • Senile dementia
  • Recovery after illness (children)

Traditional uses

Ashwaganda is an improtant Ayurvedic herb for conditions involving debility, emanciation, impotence, bronchitis, wasting (children), insomnia, leukoderma, lumbago arthritis, rheumatism, lumbar pains, to promote conception, and premature aging. It was also used as a nutrient for pregnant women, and to improve energy for any constitutional diseases. [1, 2]. 

 

Botanical Description

Ashwaganda is a member of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family. This is the same family as such plants as tomato, and eggplant. This perennial shrub grows to about 1.5 m in height [1]. 

 

Distribution

Still compiling research.

 

Harvesting Collection, and Preparation:

Still compiling research. 


Constituents:

Ashwaganda contains lactones (withaferin A, sitoindoside IX, X), and acylsteryl glucosides, as well as alkaloids (tropane) including tropine, pseudotropine, and other alkaloids such as isopelletierine and anaferine. [1, 2]. 

Alkaloids, steroid lactones (withanolides and withaferins), iron. 


Pharmacology and Medical Research:

+ Adaptogen

Adaptogens increase the bodies ability to recover from and resist stress. There have been a number of studies investigating the adaptogenic activities of ashwaganda. Many of these studies have found evidence of this action in various forms of stress induced damage. [1].

+ Cancer

Ashwaganda has been demonstrated to produce an antitumoral activity using a few different mechanisms: [1, 2, 4-7]

  1. Regulation of cell cycle proliferation [1, 7-9]
  2. Increased tumor apoptosis [1, 4, 6, 7]
  3. Inhibition of angiogenesis [1]
  4. Suppression of NF-kB [1, 2]
  5. Increased immune activity [1] Much of the scientific research in this area has been on withaferin A, which is generally regarded as the most significant component in this area [1, 2, 7].

+ Inflamation

Withaferin A was shown to inhibit IL-1beta production in the dendritic cells through regulation of Nf-kB and NLRP3 inflammasome activation induced by H. pylori. This has significance in the prevention of H. pylori induced gastric cancer development. [2].

 

Toxicity

Ashwaganda has a very high level of safety, with no reported side effects. [10].  

 

Cautions:

Due to recent worries involving lead contamination in parts of India, caution is advised for herbs such as withania that have been grown in India. 


Synergy:

Still compiling research. 


Author:

Justin Cooke

The Sunlight Experiment


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References:

  1. Bone K, Mills S. (2013). Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy. Elsevier health. China. (Pg. 949-959). 
  2. Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: Herbal formulations for the individual patient. Edinburgh [u.a., MO: Churchill Livingstone.
  3. Kim, J., Lee, J., Kang, M., Jeong, Y., Choi, J., Oh, S., … Park, J. (2015). Withaferin A Inhibits Helicobacter pylori-induced Production of IL-1β in Dendritic Cells by Regulating NF-κB and NLRP3 Inflammasome Activation. Immune Network, 15(6), 269. doi:10.4110/in.2015.15.6.269
  4. Vyas, A.R.; Singh, S.V. Molecular targets and mechanisms of cancer prevention and treatment by withaferin a, a naturally occurring steroidal lactone. AAPS. J. 2014, 16, 1–10.
  5. Choudharymy, M.I.; Yousuf, S.; Atta-Ur-Rahman. Withanolides: Chemistry and antitumor activity. In Natural Products; Ramawat, K.G., Merillon, J.M., Eds.; Springer-Verlag: Berlin, Germany; Heidelberg, Germany, 2013; pp. 3465–3495.
  6. Ichikawa, H.; Takada, Y.; Shishodia, S.; Jayaprakasam, B.; Nair, M.G.; Aggarwal, B.B. Withanolides potentiate apoptosis, inhibit invasion, and abolish osteoclastogenesis through suppression of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) activation and NF-kappaB-regulated gene expression. Mol. Cancer Ther. 2006, 5, 1434–1445.
  7. Turrini, E., Calcabrini, C., Sestili, P., Catanzaro, E., De Gianni, E., Diaz, A., … Fimognari, C. (2016). Withania somnifera Induces Cytotoxic and Cytostatic Effects on Human T Leukemia Cells. Toxins, 8(5), 147. doi:10.3390/toxins8050147
  8. McKenna, M.K.; Gachuki, B.W.; Alhakeem, S.S.; Oben, K.N.; Rangnekar, V.M.; Gupta, R.C.; Bondada, S. Anti-cancer activity of withaferin A in B-cell lymphoma. Cancer Biol. Ther. 2015, 16, 1088–1098.
  9. Yu, Y.; Hamza, A.; Zhang, T.; Gu, M.; Zou, P.; Newman, B.; Li, Y.; Gunatilaka, A.A.; Zhan, C.G.; Sun, D. Withaferin A targets heat shock protein 90 in pancreatic cancer cells. Biochem. Pharmacol. 2010, 79, 542–551.
  10. Gupta GL, Rana AC (2007) Protective effect of Withania somnifera dunal root extract against protracted social isolation induced behavior in rats. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 51: 345–353.