Natasha Richardson & Claire Goulding
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha is probably my most used adaptogen because not only does it help people recover from long term stress and burnout but it is one of the rare adaptogens that doesn't over-stimulate at the same time. I found this particularly helpful in my practice when dealing with people who had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.
Names: Winter cherry, Asgandh
Magical uses: Love and Romance
Actions: Adaptogen, Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, Immune support, Anti-tumor, Nervine, Antispasmodic, Mild astringent, Diuretic.
Physical Uses: Malnutrition, Gastric ulcers, Debility, Fatigue, Paralysis, Calming adaptogen, Anaemia, Cloudy thinking, Anxiety, Coughs, Asthma, Fevers, Infertility, Oedema.
Emotional Uses: Builds stamina and inner strength, Emotional resilience. Turns over-active ego into humility. Confidence.
Parts used: Root
Known constituents: Steroidal lactones, Alkaloids.
Legend & Tradition
Asgandh in hindi meaning ‘horse sweat-like odour’ (Winston & Maimes, 2007). Gives stamina of a horse, enhancing vigour (Choudhary, B., Shetty, A., & Langade, D. G. 2015).
Although I like to favour British herbs that I can get hold of locally or grow myself, Ashwagandha is an exception. It is wonderful for helping with the debility* and fatigue that I see all too often in practice (Kuboyama, T. et al., 2014; M. Umadevi, 2012; Choudhary, B et al., 2015; Candelario, M. et al., 2015). It is a natural side effect of our modern lives it seems.
Another side effect is lowered immunity. Although Ashwagandha isn’t effective in killing bacteria or viruses that are the cause of most colds it does help us to battle against these by supporting immunity (Khanal, P,. 2020).It’s probably best used preventatively than during a cold (Winston & Maimes, 2007).
Though I haven’t used it for this myself the herb is wonderful for malnutrition (Salvadori, L. 2020). Not a surprise for a herb that builds up energy such as this (Winston & Maimes, 2007).
It is mostly used as an adaptogen where it helps to calm the system (Winston & Maimes, 2007; Umadevi, M. et al., 2012). However, I have found that for some who are particularly run down even Ashwagandha can be too stimulating! For them it’s best to start with a long course of nervines and tonics instead. My particular favourite use of Ashwagandha is its ability to improve the quality of eggs in a woman (Tandon, N. and Yadav, S.S., 2020). To do this you need to consume it for 3 months before trying to get pregnant, as it takes 3 months to take full effect, brilliant for supporting people through IVF.
Possible sensitivity to its plant family; solanacea (deadly nightshade family). May not suit people with hyperthyroidism (Meher, S. K, et al., 2016).
Choudhary, B., Shetty, A., & Langade, D. G. (2015). Efficacy of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera [L.] Dunal) in improving cardiorespiratory endurance in healthy athletic adults. Ayu, 36(1), 63–68. https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-8520.169002
Kuboyama, T., Tohda, C. and Komatsu, K. (2014) 'Effects of Ashwagandha (Roots of Withania somnifera) on Neurodegenerative Diseases', Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, vol. 37, no. 6, pp. 892-89710.1248/bpb.b14-00022.
Candelario, M., Cuellar, E., Reyes-Ruiz, J. M., Darabedian, N., Feimeng, Z., Miledi, R., Russo-Neustadt, A., & Limon, A. (2015). Direct evidence for GABAergic activity of Withania somnifera on mammalian ionotropic GABAA and GABAρ receptors. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 171, 264–272. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2015.05.058
Pukar Khanal, Rupesh Chikhale, Yadu Nandan Dey, Ismail Pasha, Sharad Chand, Nilambari Gurav, Muniappan Ayyanar, B. M. Patil & Shailendra Gurav (2021) Withanolides from Withania somnifera as an immunity booster and their therapeutic options against COVID-19, Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics, DOI: 10.1080/07391102.2020.1869588
Salvadori, L., Mandrone, M., Manenti, T., Ercolani, C., Cornioli, L., Lianza, M., Tomasi, P., Chiappalupi, S., Di Filippo, E.S., Fulle, S., Poli, F., Sorci, G. and Riuzzi, F. (2021) Identification of Withania somnifera-Silybum marianum-Trigonella foenum-graecum Formulation as a Nutritional Supplement to Contrast Muscle Atrophy and Sarcopenia.
M. Umadevi, R. Rajeswari1 , C. Sharmila Rahale1 , S. Selvavenkadesh1 , R.Pushpa1 , K.P.Sampath Kumar2 , Debjit Bhowmik3 (2012) 'Traditional And Medicinal uses of Withania Somnifera ', 7725, vol. 1, no. 9, pp. 1-9. [Online]. Available at https://www.thepharmajournal.com/archives/2012/vol1issue9/PartA/11.1.pdf .
Tandon, N. and Yadav, S.S. (2020) 'Safety and clinical effectiveness of Withania Somnifera (Linn.) Dunal root in human ailments', Journal of Ethnopharmacology, vol. 255, pp. 112768. [Online]. Available at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874119330880 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2020.112768.
Meher, S. K., Das, B., Panda, P., Bhuyan, G. C., & Rao, M. M. (2016). Uses of Withania somnifera (Linn) Dunal (Ashwagandha) in Ayurveda and its pharmacological evidences. Research Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacodynamics, 8(1), 23-29.