Plant Family:

Solanaceae Family with the nightshades

 

Habitat & Cultivation: 

The native habitat of Ashwagandha is the “drier subtropic regions of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and parts of Africa, cultivated as an annual in temperate climates” (Winston & Maimes). This plant needs well-drained soil and full sun.  Ashwagandha grows well in drier regions, which probably tells me that it does well in adapting and under stress. 

 

Parts Used/Collection: 

Tincture of fresh or dried root

Dried root powder, sometimes in capsules

Dried root, prepared as decoction

Ashwagandha “is native to the drier subtropic regions of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and parts of Africa. It easily is cultivated as an annual in temperate climates. It should be planted indoors like tomatoes and then set out in a garden area, with well-drained soil and full sun, after the danger of frost has passed. The roots are then gathered in the autumn and then cleaned and dried.” (Winston & Maimes, 2007).

 

Herbal Actions: 

Adaptogen, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune amphoteric/modulator, antitumor, nervine, (anxiolytic, antidepressant), antispasmodic, mildly astringent, diuretic, hepatic, neuroprotective

 

Indications:

Postpartum Herb, Holistic Health

Anxiety, stress, hyperactivity, illness, balance adrenals

 

Dose:

Tincture (1:5) 30-40 drops TID

Decoction: 1/2 tsp dried root in 8oz of water decocted for 10mins, steeped for half hour TID

Capsules: (1) 400-500mg capsule twice per day

Powder: 1/2 - 1 tsp powder mixed with water, milk or food

 

Contraindications: 

In the nightshade family, so ask about allergies and sensitivities to nightshades (This is usually seen more with above ground parts). Also, do not use the powder internally if the client has hemochromatosis (excess iron). Avoid use if you have hyperthyroidism.   Conflicting information exists on whether or not ashwagandha can cause miscarriage. The herb is regularly used in certain parts of India as a tonic during pregnancy but is also used as an abortifacient in Africa and other parts of India. This conflicting information may be due to the different phytochemical properties of the leaf and root of the plant.  (Mills & Bone, 2005) Interactions = May enhance the effects of benzodiazepines. (Romm, 2010)

 

Plant Constituents: 

Alkaloids, saponins, sitoindosides, acylsterylglucosides

 

System Affinities: 

Solanaceae family plants are generally warming, stimulating, and drying.

 

Energetics: 

Heavy, slow, stable, cloudy, warm, astringent, dry, adaptive

 

Safety: 

Pregnancy Category B1 = no increase in malformation or other harmful effects on the fetus from limited use in women. No evidence of increased fetal damage in animal studies. Lactation Category C = compatible with breastfeeding.

Ashwagandha is safe while breastfeeding and has been shown to help increase milk supply, therefore, it can actually have multiple benefits postpartum.

 

Personal Experience:

Steeped as a tea.  Mild earthy aroma with a semi-sweet and bitter flavor following. It had a soothing and calming effect and I can start to feel my body relax.  Smelled of hay, woody.  I enjoyed the relaxation effects from this herb. 

 

Research:

Alternative Medicine Review. (2004). Monograph: Withania somnifera. http://www.altmedrev.com/publications/9/2/211.pdf

 

Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press. Rochester, VT. pp 604-605.


Mills, S. & Bone, K. (2005). The essential guide to herbal safety. London, England: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone
 

 

Ashwaganda (Withania somifera)