Withania somnifera

Withania somnifera, also known as Ashwagandha, Indian ginseng, Winter cherry, Ajagandha, Kanaje Hindi, Amukkara in Tamil and Samm Al Ferakh, is a plant in the Solanaceae or nightshade family.

Description

It grows as a short shrub (35–75 cm) with a central stem from which branch extend radially in a star pattern (stellate) and covered with a dense matte of wooly hairs (tomentose).[2] The flowers are small and green, while the ripe fruit is orange-red and has milk-coagulating properties.[2] The plant also has long brown tuberous roots that are used for medicinal purposes. It is cultivated in many of the drier regions of India such as Manasa, Neemuch, and Jawad tehsils of the Mandsaur District of Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Sind. and Rajasthan.[2]

Claimed medicinal uses

Ayurveda

In Ayurveda, the roots of W. somnifera are used to prepare medicinal Ashwagandha. It is claimed to possess aphrodisiac, sedative, rejuvenative and life prolonging properties[citation needed]. It is traditionally used to treat the following symptoms and conditions, although there are few scientific studies of the health benefits of Ashwagandha:[2][3]

The berries can be used as a substitute for rennet, to coagulate milk in cheese making.[2] The berries and leaves are traditionally used a topical treatment for tumors and tubercular glands, carbuncles and ulcers.[2][6][7]

While Ashwagandha is claimed to have a wide variety of health benefits, there have been few clinical trials to test these claims. Studies completed so far support that W. somnifera may possibly be beneficial for:

In addition, there are registered clinical trials in progress to determine if W. sominifera is useful for treating:

Naturopathy

In a randomized control trial examining the use of naturopathic care for anxiety,[20] a “naturopathic care” group who received W. somnifera (along with “dietary counseling, deep breathing relaxation techniques, a standard multi-vitamin”) showed significant improvements in anxiety (as measured by the Beck Anxiety Inventory) compared to a psychotherapy group (who received “psychotherapy, and matched deep breathing relaxation techniques, and placebo”) after 8 weeks. No attempt was made to examine the differing contributions of W. somnifera, dietary counselling and a “standard multi-vitamin” in the first group, or psychotherapy in the second group, toward the outcomes for each group.

Side effects

In at least two published clinical trials of Withania somnifera, the side effects experienced by W. somnifera treated individuals were not significantly different than the side effects experienced by placebo treated individuals.[9][10]However, there has been one report that Withania somnifera can stimulate the thyroid and lead to thyrotoxicosis in some people.[21]

Recent Research

Shown to increase semen quality and reduce oxidative stress.[22]

Potential preventive or therapeutic drug for stress induced neurological disorders[23]

Withania somnifera extract protects from the structural changes induced by morphine withdrawal[24

{Information courtesy Wikipedia}