A very famous herb used in the Indian system of medicine, ashwagandha (botanically — withania somnifera) has been described as a tonic and a rejuvenating agent.
Ashwagandha is the dried root of the plant which constitutes the main drug, but leaves and seeds of ashwagandha also have their therapeutic value. Its middle-sized shrub, nowadays it is grown commercially, and is found in abundance in the Indian subcontinent.
Modern health scientists have found ashwagandha as a good anti-stress medicine, an immune-modulator, an anti-oxidant and a hormone precursor. Ashwagandha helps to improve important body functions.It helps to treat nervous and psychiatric ailments, and is an acclaimed herb to treat conditions like arthritis, emaciation, impotency, senile debility, sleep disorders and many auto-immune diseases. The famous ayurveda text, Bhava Prakash Nighantu, has described it as “ati shukrala” — potent spermetogenic.
Ayurvedic physicians prescribe ashwagandha in a number of health problems. Since it is mildly sedative and hypnotic in action, ashwagandha effectively controls stress-related anxiety and insomnia. For this purpose one to two gm of its powder is given two times a day. In geriatric problems like nervous weakness, chronic fatigue, parkinsonism, forgetfulness, depression and irritability of the temperament the same amount of ashwagandha can be administered for a longer period.
Ashwagandha strengthens the immune system, improves blood circulation and increases the energy and concentration level. In arthritic conditions, ashwagandha helps to reduce pain and inflammation and is a good support to halt bony degeneration.
In cervical spondylitis and low backache, use of ashwagandha enhances the effect of basic treatment.
In menopausal syndrome and problems arising out of male mid-life crisis, medically known as andropause, ashwagandha overcomes symptoms of tiredness and exhaustion and improves stamina.
For underweight children, giving a half gm of ashwagandha powder mixed with a little butter helps to improve growth and strengthens overall metabolism. An equal amount of another herb, widhara, powdered with the ashwagandha root makes the famous ashwagandha churna, a well-known medicine to treat male sexual insufficiency.
Though the use of ashwagandha is generally safe, a few unsavoury symptoms like nausea, skin rashes and drowsiness are reported in rare cases. It is better to start using ashwagandha in lower dosage and then increase gradually and to avoid dependence, it should also be tapered with gradually.