Withania, Winter Cherry, Ashwagandha, Ashwaganda
Withania somnifera F. Solanaceae
A hardy, easy to grow, perennial bush 40-150cm; ellipticshaped, bitter-flavoured leaves 3-6cm long; small, yellow flowers followed by several seeds, forming within the pulp of a glossy, bright-red 1/2cm wide berry, covered with a membrane forming a 1cm calyx, like a miniature cape gooseberry or Chinese lantern (all three plants belong to the Solanaceae family). These attractive berries are not edible. Children need to be educated not to eat the berries, as they can cause severe gastro-intestinal upset.... ... see How can I use HERBS in my daily life? for full text.
tonic, aphrodisiac, nervine, sedative, astringent, diuretic, immune enhancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant
Highly regarded in Indian (Ayurvedic) medicine, being a primary strengthening tonic, used for the treatment of debility and inflammation conditions, strengthening the nervous system, premature ageing, low libido, impotence and infertility. It should not surprise us that the plant has been called ginseng. Some say, the plant is not considered as powerful in action as Panax ginsengs’, however it is very similar in action, and easier to grow. This for many people, is considered an advantage, having a milder stimulating effect, with a mild sedative action that promotes deep sleep (with this use obvious from its given specific name of ‘somnifera’). Recently, I had a phone call from a man interstate, who shared with me that he ordered a plant from the herb farm and grew it. He found that when he started eating 10 leaves he experienced sound sleep. He said, he had not slept so well in 10 years. Personally, I find the taste of the leaves bitter-sweet, intensifying to very bitter the longer they are chewed; but, no doubt, better for the body, than sleeping pills for insomnia.
Being an official herb, in the Indian Pharmacopoeia, and used in Indian folk medicine for over 2000 years, it has been revered as a rejuvenating tonic. Uses have included: anemia, pain relief, fatigue, glandular swelling, weak muscles, coughs, neuralgia, multiple sclerosis, paralysis, convulsions, lumbago, gout, arthritis, rheumatism, hiccups, fevers, Alzheimer’s disease, liver disease, to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, stomach and respiratory complaints, as a tissue and wound healing herb, physical endurance, sexual debility, for weak eyes, to delay hair greying, and other ageing symptoms. Recent pharmacological research shows the herb’s action of stimulating the appetite, and also with benefits as a mild sedative, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. The plant has also shown benefits to mental health, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, phobias, delusions, severe nervous agitation, incoherent verbal expression, manic depression, memory loss, and for promoting clear thinking and memory. It is said, that when Indian ginseng is taken for the memory, adding gotu kola and ginko biloba is beneficial, and for increasing the tonic benefits to the body, ginger is sometimes added to the daily dose of Indian ginseng.
The highest content of withaferin is found in the leaves. This alkaloid gives antimicrobial action on certain pathogenic fungi, bacteria, and tumours. Traditionally the leaves were used to treat cancerous growths. Research, over the last twenty years, shows that Indian ginseng, has potential as a strengthening tonic and as a stimulator of immune function, of definite benefit in improving memory, and strong adaptogen action that can counter the negative effects of stress and promote a feeling of well being. The herb has been recommended during and after radiation therapy. It has been found to significantly increase white blood-cell count, reducing leucopenia caused by radiation and immune suppressive drugs. It also has a normalising effect on red blood-cell count, hemoglobin, and platelet count.... ... see How can I use HERBS in my daily life? for full text.