Ashvagandha (Winter cherry)

Family name: Solanaceae
Latin name: Withania somnifera
Sanskrit name: Ashvagandha
English name: Winter cherry
It is a popular medicinal plant being used in Ayurveda medicine to treat diverse range of diseases. This is a shrub attaining a height of 1-2 meters and its leaves are round and hairy. Fruits are small, round, juicy, capsulated, bright red. Roots are 1/3 to 1/2 meters long and as thick as finger, grey from outside and white from inside. Tender wet roots smell like horse so it is called ashvagandha, ashva means a horse in Sanskrit.

Chemical Composition: In the roots of wild variety there is somniferin which is hallucinogen. Cultivated variety has sugar (sucrose), gum, resin and many alkaloids like cuseohygrine, anahygrine, anaferine etc.
In Ayurveda, its roots are considered as Kapha-Vata pacifying.
Locally, it reduces pain and edema that is why leaves or root paste is applied on swollen body parts. Oil blended with Ashvagandha can be used for massage in Vata related diseases and weakness. The juice of ashvagandha leaves are used as eardrops in ear discharge.

Internally, it is a sedative and nervine tonic, it helps in atonic nerves, seizures and insomnia. The root powder is appetizer, carminative and antihelminthic. It can be used in weakness of heart and its decoction is used in rheumatoid arthritis. The ash(Ksaara) is expectorant and has antiasthmatic property, so useful in cough. Ashvagandha is well known for its aphrodisiac property. It is used in semen disorders and leucorrhea caused due to endometritis. It is used in vitiligo and it increases weight, improves immunity.
Several recent studies have provided evidence for its adaptogenic, immunomodulatory, immunostimulant and antioxidant activities. The diverse biological actions of the W. somnifera roots can be owed to its constituent steroidal alkaloids and steroidal lactones.
It’s used parts are roots, leaves. It dosage is 3-5gms for powder form and 1-2gms for ashes and salts.

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