Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Asvagandha is so called because its fresh roots smell like a horse. This herb is widely consumed for its ability to impart sexual vigour and vitality. It is one of the prime important plants used as rasayana – a rejuvenator and vajikara – an aphrodisiac. (Bhavaprakasa).
The plant grows wildly in all drier parts and subtropical India. It occurs in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab plains and north western parts of India like Gujarat and Rajasthan. It is reported that the plants from different sources vary in their morphological and therapeutic properties. It is a branched erect shrub, growing up to 0.3 – 1.5 metre in height. The leaves are 5 – 10 cm long and 2.5 – 5 cm broad and ovate. The flowers are greenish of lurid yellow in colour, about 5 together in an umbellate cyme. The fruits, globose berries, orange coloured, enclosed in persistent calyx. The roots are fleshy and when dry are cylindrical, gradually rapering. The roots that have great medicinal value and the leaves are used for medicinal purpose.
The botanical name of asvagandha is Withania somnifera and it belongs to family Solanaceae. The roots contain withaferin A and several other steroidal lactones and withasomnine. The plant extract shows adaptogenic antistress activity, Presence of eight alkaloids detected b PC, somnitol, withanone isolated from leaves, detection of cystine, glycine, glutamic acid, alanine, praline, tryptophan by PC. Anaferine isolated from roots and charactirised Nine new steroidal lactones – with- anolides, E,F,G,H,I,J,K,L, and M isolated from leaves.
Asvagandha is sweet, astringent and bitter in taste, has a sweet post digestive effect and hot potency (virya). It alleviates kapha and vata dosas. It nourishes all dhatus and has a rejuvenating property. It increases the sexual vigour and vitality in both the sexes. It possesses ladhu (light) and snigdha (unctuous) attributes. (Bhavaprakasa)
Though asvagandha is popular for its aphrodisiac and rejuvenative properties, it is beneficial for a wide range of problems. It has a marked antiarthritic activity. Being a potent pain killer and an anti-inflammatory in its properties, it stands as an effective remedy in rheumatic disorders. The mild sedative effect of asvagandha has a calming effect on mind, hence promotes sound sleep and is beneficial to alleviate the mental stress in anxiety neurosis. It is one of the best rasayana to mamsa dhatu meaning an anabolic to muscle tissue. (Caraka Samhita, Cikitsa A-1) The regular intake of asvagandha will be a boon to sportsmen to improve their muscle tone and power. It is very useful as a nervine tonic and is commonly used in vata diseases like rheumatic disorders. Commonly used preparation asvagandharista is useful as an appetizer, digestant, a general tonic and an aphrodisiac. It is useful in sexual debility, in both men and women.
In bronchial asthma and spasmodic cough, the ash of its burnt roots is given with honey and ghee to liquefy the phlegm and mucous in the clogged channels to facilitate expectoration. Asvagandha also helps to maintain the heart in good condition, hrdya, as it is a mild diuretic which reduces the excessive body fluids. It is also beneficial in blood diseases as it is a blood purifier. In oedema due to anaemia, the medicated milk of asvagandha is very useful.
In sexual debility, asvagandha root powder 3 gms with 200 ml of cow’s milk and 10 gms of rock candy is extremely beneficial. It improves the sexual vigour and vitality alongwith increase in the seminal fluids. The same preparation, with the addition of ghee is useful to alleviate backache in post partum period. Asvagandha also helps in curing leucorrhea caused by uterine oedema.
Asvagandha is useful in treating glandular swellings by external application of its roots and leaves in the form of a paste. Massage with the medicated oil of its roots is very effective in weakness and illness of vata. The black root-ash of asvagandha used externally on the skin, missed with sesame oil, helps clearing off depigmentation and minor skin ailments. Asvagandhaghrta, the medicated ghee, promotes the healing of non-healing wounds and ulcers in debility, when used orally.
Classical Ayurvedic preparations
- Asvagandha curna
- Maharasnadi yoga
- Askandapaka etc.