Ayurvedic Herbs: Ashwagandha

Five-Prana_Ayurvedic-Herbs-Ashwagandha.JPG

Ayurvedic Herbs

Ayurvedic herbs are one of the many chikitsas or treatments used in Ayurvedic medicine. These herbs are used as part of an herbal protocol recommended by an Ayurvedic professional. Thusly, all the Ayurvedic herbs should not be self-administered and Ayurvedic herbs should only be taken under-advisement of your Ayurvedic Counselor/Practitioner/Doctor and approved by your Primary Care Physician. The information on the Ayurvedic herb of Ashwagandha is only meant to educate you on the ways in which it is traditionally used in Ayurveda and is presented for educational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for the diagnosis, treatment, or advice of a qualified, licensed medical professional. The facts presented are offered as information only, not medical advice, and in no way should anyone infer that we are practicing medicine. Seek the advice of a medical professional for proper application of this material to any specific situation. Do not use the information found within this post to self-diagnose any medical conditions or treat any health problems or diseases. The information provided is not intended to prescribe or be taken as medical advice. If you have or suspect that you have a medical condition please contact your health care provider immediately.

The essence of all beings is Earth. The essence of Earth is Water. The essence of Water is plants. The essence of plants is the human being.

Esam bhutanam prthivi rasha, prthivya apo raso-pam osadhayo rasa, osadhinam puruso rasah.
— Chandogya Upanishad I.1.2
Five-Prana_Ayurvedic-Herbs-Ashwagandha.JPG

Ashwagandha

  • Latin Name: Withania somnifera; sominfera means sleep promoting

  • Plant Family: Solanaceae

  • English Name: winter cherry; Indian ginseng

  • Sanskrit Name: Ashwagandha - that which has the smell of a horse, as it gives the vitality and sexual energy of a horse

  • Part Used: root

  • Botanical Description: shrub attains a heigh of 1-2 meters; branches distribute in all directions and are rounded; leaves alternate 5-10 centimeters long and are rounded and hairy; flower are inflorescence in a bunch like an umbrella erupting from the base of the leaves; fruits are small, round, juicy, capsulated, and bright red; seeds are small, slimy and flat; roots are 1/3 to 1/2 of a meter long and as thick as a finger, grey from the outside and white from the inside

  • Taste (Rasa): bitter, astringent, sweet

  • Energetics (Virya): heating

  • Post-Digestive Effect (Vipaka): sweet

  • Quality (Guna): light, unctuous, sattvic

  • Dosha: VK-, P+ (in excess), high ama+ (in excess)

  • Tissues (Dhatu): blood (rakta), muscle (mamsa), fat/adipose tissue (meda), bone (asthi), nerve/bone marrow (majja), reproductive tissue (shukra [male]/artava [female])

  • Systems (Srotamsi): respiratory (prana vaha srotas), nervous (majja vaha srotas), reproductive (shukra/artava vaha srotas)

  • Constituents: alkaloids (ashwagandhine, withanine, isopelietierine, anaferine); steroidal lactones (withanolides, withaferins); phytosterols (sitoindosides, withaferins); saponins; iron

  • Actions: tonic, rejuvenative, aphrodisiac, nervine, sedative, astringent

  • Ayurvedic Actions: increases sexual potency (visaya); increases strength (balya); promotes intelligence (medhya); increases ojas (ojas vardhana); promotes sleep (nidrajanana); increases sperm production (sukrala); prevents wasting diseases (sothahara); rejuvenative (rasayana); reduces kapha and vata (vatakaphahara); reduces pain (vedanasthapana); benefits breathing (svasa)

  • Biomedical Actions: adaptogen, tonic, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulator, antitumor, nervine, mild sedative, analgesic, reproductive tonic, aphrodisiac, antianaemic

  • Indications: tissues, immunity, lungs, nerves, reproductive, gynecology, thyroid

  • Precautions: high Ama, severe congestion, excess Pitta, although traditionally used in India during pregnancy to strengthen the uterus and health of the mother, its spasmolytic activity on the uterus has led to many to restrict its use in pregnancy, ashwagandha has some hypoglycemic activity and it is advisable to monitor blood glucose in people susceptible

  • Preparations: decoction, milk decoction, powder, paste, medicated ghee, medicated oil

  • Formulations: ashwagandhadi churna, ashwagandha rasayana, ashwagandhaghrut, ashwagandharishta, askandpak, maharasanadi, sukumarghrut, saubhagyasunthipak

Ashwagandha is similar to ginseng in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is especially beneficial for Vata prakruti (constitution) and vikruti (imbalances). Ashwagandha is a tonic for the body, mind and spirit and is considered an immune booster. It has a special affinity for the bones and muscles.

References

Frawley D. Yoga & Ayurveda: Self-Healing and Self-Realization. Twin Lakes, Wisconsin: Lotus Press; 1999.

Frawley D, Lad V. The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine. Twin Lakes, Wisconsin: Lotus Press; 2001.

Gogte VM. Ayurvedic Pharmacology & Therapeutic Uses of Medicinal Plants: Dravyagunavignyam. New Delhi, India: Chaukhambha Publications; 2016.

Pole S. Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice. Philadelphia, PA: Singing Dragon; 2013.