Botanical Name: Withania somnifera
Indian Name: Ashwagandha
English Name: Winter Cherry
Origin, Distribution and Composition
Winter cherry is a small or middle-sized, erect shrub, growing upto 1.5 metres tall. Its stems and branches are covered with minute star-shaped hairs.
It has egg-shaped, hairy leaves upto 10 cms long, small, pale green flowers in clusters of about 25; and smooth, spherical, red fruits with yellow seeds.
Its trade name ashwagandha is based on its Indian name.
Winter cherry is indigenous to India. It is also found in Afganistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The herb contains an alkaloid somniferine. Its roots contain traces of an essential oil. The water soluble portion of root extract contains indefinite amorphous substances and a quantity of sugar.
The water soluble extract consists chiefly of a black resin, which contains besides other constituents,a mixture of some fatty acids. lt also contains potassium nitrate, tannin, coloring matter, glucose and some alkaloids.
The shrub as a whole is employed for several medicinal applications for its hypnotic and sedative properties. It promotes libido. The root of the plant is a tonic and stimulant.
It increases the secretion and discharge of urine and also other forms of secretion or excretion by opening the natural pores of the body. Recent experiments have shown that its roots and leaves possess antibiotic and antibacterial properties.
The root of the plant is used for treating digestive disorders like dyspepsia and loss of appetite. It corrects the disordered processes of nutrition and restores the normalcy in the system.
Its root finds its use in treating general debility. It is taken in 2 gram doses for this purpose.
The root is effective in the treatment of rheumatic affections. It should be taken in 3 gram doses in treating this condition.
The root finds its efficacy in treatment of tuberculosis. A decoction of the root is used with long pepper and honey.This decoction is also beneficial in the treatment of scrofula, that is, tuberculosis of lymph glands, especially in the neck.
The root is also a narcotic, inducing deep sleep and hence beneficial in treating insomnia.
Cold and Cough
Ashwagandha is beneficial in the treatment of chest diseases such as cough and cold. The root can be taken either in the form of powder in 3 gram doses or in the form of decoction. Berries and seeds can also be taken for chest complaints with beneficial results.
The herb helps to cure female sterility. Powder of the roots in 6 gram doses can be taken with milk for 5 to 6 successive nights after menstruation.
The leaves of the plant are beneficial in treating sever disorders. Fomentation of the leaves is good for boils and swollen hands and feet.
A paste of the Ashvagandha leaves is locally applied to kill lice infesting the body and on carbuncles (painful swelling inside skin) and syphilitic sores.
An ointment prepared by boiling the leaves in fat such as ghee can be applied in case of bedsores and wounds. A paste made of its roots and leaves is also a usefull application over carbuncles, ulcers and swellings.
For sore eyes, a fomentation of the leaves can be applied to get relief.
The drug possesses properties that can abort a fetus and hence must be avoided by pregnant women.
Other Uses Aphrodisiac: Two to four grams of the root with milk or ghee can be taken as an aphrodisiac to enhance libido. The drug is beneficial in the treatment of spermatorrhoea or involuntary ejaculation.
Two to four grams of the powdered root can also be taken daily with sugar, honey, long pepper and ghee in the treatment of these conditions.