Ashwagandha- Withania somnifera Benefits, Dose, Side Effects, Medicines, Research

Ashwagandha  – Withania somnifera is one of the most powerful gifts of nature and Ayurveda to the humanity. Talk about Ayurvedic treatment for anxiety, leucoderma, depression, insomnia, weight gain, weight loss, immunity, muscle strength, body building, anti oxidants, sexual stimulant and so on… The herb does it all and more. ashwagandha plant

Botanical Name: Withania Somnifera Dunal
Family- SOLANACEAE (Kantakari Kula)
Vernacular Names
Hindi name- Asgandha, Asgandh
Telugu Name- Penneru Gadda/ Dommadolu Gadda
Tamil Name- Amukura, Askulang
Malayalam name – Amukkura
Marathi name – Asandh, Doragunj
Gujarathi Name – Aasandha, Ghoda Aakun
Bengali Name- Asvagandha
Kannada Name- Ashvagandhi

Dry Ashwagandha root

Synonyms-
Hayagandha, Turagnagandha, Vajigandha, Ashwagandha – Ashwa, Haya, Vaji means horse and gandha means smell. This plant smells quite like horse dung.
Gatrakari – Gatra means body. It helps to improve body mass and strength
Turagi, Vajikari – Vaji means horse. This herb is used to improve sexual performance like that of a horse.
Balya- it improves strength
Varahakarni – Varaha means pig Karna means ear. Its leaf looks similar to ear of pig.
Kushtagandhi, Pivari

Classical Categorization
Charaka-
Balya – group of herbs to improve strength and immunity
Brimhaneeya – group of herbs to improve body mass, nourishment

Ashwagandha powder

Different varieties
There are two plants available in the trade namely
Withania somnifera (more commonly used in the name of Aswagandha)
and Withania coagulans.
The former one is denoted as Pennerugadda while the later is known as Dommadolugadda in Telugu.
There is another herb described in dhanvantari nighantu along with Asvagandha with the synonyms like Medasvi, sthoulyadhyava, Bali, Mamsi, and Rukmini. This is considered as the big variety of Asvagandha (W. coagulans ) by Sri Singaraja Kama Sastry (1932)
The cultivated variety of Asvagandha which is thin and lean is mainly brought from nagori dist. Of Madhya Pradesh. Hence, the name “Nagori Variety”. (Reference: Illustrated Dravyaguna Vijnana Vol. II, by Dr JLN Shastry)

Distribution of Withania somnifera: 
Throughout the dry and subtropical India. It is also cultivated extensively throughout India at present.
Ashwagandha plant can easily surive and grow in almost all parts of South India.

Major Chemical constituents:
Withaferin A; withanone, withanolide WS-1, withanolide A to Y; somnirol, somnitol, withasomniferin A, nicotine, preudotropine, tropine, solasodine, withasomnine, Sitoindosides VII-X, sominone, Sominolide etc.  (Reference: Illustrated Dravyaguna Vijnana, Vol. II, by Dr JLN Shastry)

Withania somnifera – medicinal qualities – 
Rasa (taste) – Katu (pungent), Tikta (bitter), Kashaya (astringent)
Guna (qualities) – Snigdha (oiliness, unctuousness), Laghu (lightness)
Veerya – Ushna – Hot potency
Vipaka – Katu undergoes pungent taste conversion after digestion.
Effect on Tridosha -Balances Tridosha, especially Kapha and  Vata.
Part Used- Ashwagandha root, Aswagandha Leaves, Alkali

Ashwagandha Dosage-
Ashwagandha Powder 3 – 6 g in divided dose per day.
Capsule – fo 250 – 500 mg – once or twice a day, based on doctor’s advice.

Withania somnifera health benefits
Balaprada, Balya – improves strength and immunity
Vaajikari – improves sexual performance, useful in premature ejaculation and in some cases of erectile dysnfuction.
Vrushya – acts as aphrodisiac
Rasayani – improves life expectancy, anti aging, elixir.
Pushtiprada – improves body nourishment
Kaasam hanti – useful in cough, cold
Anilam hanti – useful in Vata disorders – neurological and neuro-muscular disorders like paralysis
Vranaan hanti – useful to bring about quick wound healing
Shophahara – brings down inflammation
Kanduhara – relieves itching, useful in pruritis
Vishahara – anti toxic, useful in detox programs
Shvitrahara – useful in leucoderma, on internal usage and external application
Krumihara – useful in intestinal worm infestation,
Shwasahara – useful in asthma, chronic respiratory diseases
Kshatahara – useful in injury healing
Kshayahara – useful in treating muscle wasting, emaciation, post tubercular treatment to improve muscle mass and strength
Ati Shukrala – improves semen quantity and quality
It helps in reducing blood pressure on oral intake.
It is useful in relieving dysmenorrhea
It has diuretic action
Because of its anti anxiety properties, being rich anti oxidants and hypoglycemic activity, it is very useful in treating diabetes.

Withania somnifera for depression:
It is widely used in treating anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, adrenaline fatigue. Hence, it is used as an ingredient in Manasamitra vatakam and Brahmi Vati  two famous Ayurvedic tablets.

Ashwagandha sleep – Because Ashwagandha is useful in relieving anxiety and depression and because of its nerve calming effect, it is used in treating sleep disorders.
Ashwagandha for weight loss – 
Usually for weight loss, it is administered in capsule or powder form along with milk and water. it improves muscle strength, hence enables one to be more physically active, hence useful in weight loss.
It also helps to relieve depression. Many depression patients often put on weight either due to depression itself or due to anti depressant medication. In either case, Ashwagandha is useful to fight both depression and related weight gain.

Ashwagandha for weight gain –
Because it improves muscle strength and has nutritive value, when it is used along with other high nutrition foods like  large quantities of ghee, milk and sugar candy, Withania somnifera is very useful to put on weight.

Ashwagandha for muscle pain, strength and wound healing:
Its external application in the form of root paste or in the form of oil (prepared in sesame oil base) is useful to relieve pain, inflammation, useful in skin diseases and in chronic non healing wounds.
its leaf or root paste is used externally to treat painful swellings, abscesses, cellulitis and sinuses.

Legal Substitute for ashtavarga
Ashtavarga is a group of eight herbs with very high rejuvenation and anti aging qualities. Among them, Kakoli and Ksheera Kakoli – these two herbs are legally substituted with Ashwagandha, because of similar qualities.
Ashwagandha Home remedies
We have already covered a couple (and lot more to follow)
Ashwagandha remedy for easy conception for women
Boost immunity in children with Ashwagandha

Ayurvedic medicines with ashwagandha ingredient:
It is an important ingredient in the making of chyawanprash
Ajaswagandhadi lehyam  and Ashwagandhadi Leha is a non veg and vegetarian versions – in Avaleha (paste) form, used pretty much for similar purposes.
Ashwagandharishta is widely used in treating fainting disorder, mental fatigue etc.
Balaswagandhadi thailam

Usage of Ashwagandha in sexual disorders
There are some studies done which proves Withania somnifera’s testosterone boosting action. (report)
It improves muscle strength, hence quite useful in treating premature ejaculation and in few cases of erectile dysfunction.
It also relieves anxiety and depression, so helps to improve sexual performance.
It is also used in treating and improving female libido.

Withania somnifera Side effects
Increased hotness, gastritis:
If used alone, for example, Ashwagandha capsule with water, it tends to worsen gastritis in people with sensitive stomach. It also causes constipation in a few.
Because of its innate hot nature, people with Pitta dominance, feel increased hotness with Ashwagandha capsule.
But if it is taken along with milk or ghee, usually this side effect is very much nullified.

Sedative effect: In a very high dose, it may have sedative effect. Hence some experts advice to avoid it during day. But I have not seen its sedative effect so big to put someone to sleep in the day time. However, it is best to take it in the day, only if your doctor has suggested so. Its sleep promotion effect can be more attributed to its anti anxiety and anti depression properties than to its sedative effect.
It can be used safely in children and lactating mother, under medical supervision.
It is best to avoid this during pregnancy.

Research on Withania somnifera:
Double blind study on anti stress activity
Inhibition of mammary cancer metastasis
Pharmacognostic and phyto-chemical studies
Prevention and treatment of cancer
Hypotensive activity

Ashwagandha churna Vs Ashwagandha capsule
When pure uncontaminated Ashwagandha churna is available, then it is usually preferred to capsule form. But usually Churnas get contaminated easily.
When Ashwagandha needs to me formulated as a mix powder along with other powders (such as Ashwagandhadi Churna, used in indigestion), powder form has advantage over the capsule form.
Ashwagandha capsule is usually prepared with its water extract or crude extract, which retains most of its chemical constituents.
When it comes to easy dosage fixing and easy consumption, capsule is lot better than Churna form, because of bitter taste of Ashwagandha and powder dose fixing is a bit difficult task.
If Ashwagandha alone is to be used for treatment, then capsule can be preferred. But if used alone with water, it tends to cause burning sensation in stomach, hence it is advisable to use it along with milk or ghee, or a combination of both.

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