Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as Indian ginseng, and as Indian Winter Cherry is an important ancient plant, the roots of which have been
employed in Indian traditional systems of medicine, Ayurveda and Unani. It grows in dry parts in sub-tropical regions. Rajasthan,
Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh are the major Ashwagandha producing states of the country. The
estimated production of Ashwagandha roots in India is more than 1500 tonnes and the annual requirement is about 7000 tonnes necessitating the increase in its cultivation and higher production.
Ashwagandha, the Indian ginseng or winter cherry has been used as a quiet valuable herb in the Ayurvedic
and indigenous medical system for over 4000 years. The roots, leaves and fruits (berry) possess tremendous medicinal value. A famous Ayurvedic rejuvenative
botanical used in many tonics and formulas, Ashwagandha is the best rejuvenative that helps maintain proper nourishment of the tissues, particularly muscle and
bones, while supporting the proper function of the adrenals and reproductive system.
English - Winter cherry
Latin - WITHANIA somnifera
Sanskrit - Ashwagandha
Hindi - Asgandh
Tamil - Asuragandhi, Amukkira
Kannada - Keramaddinagaddi
Telgu - Vajigandha, Pennerugadda
Malayalam- Amukkuram, Trittavu.
Marathi - Askandha
Marathi - Asgundh, Kanchuki, Askandha
Bengali - Ashvagandh
Punjabi - Asgand
Urdu - Asgandanagaori
Ashwagandha dried roots
Ashwagandha is an erect branched under shrub up to 1.25 m in height, minutely stellate tomentose. Root fleshy, tapering, whitish brown. Leaves ovate, flower greenish. It grows in dried parts in subtropical regions.
Stem: Ashwagandha stem is terate, branched, cylindrical, solid, clothed with mealy, stellate-hoarytomentun
Root: Ashwagandha roots are straight, unbranched, thickness varying with age. Its roots bear fibre like
secondary roots, outer surface buff to gray yellow with longitudinal wrinkles. Stem bases variously thickened; nodes prominent only on the
side from where petiole arises, cylindrical, greenwith longitudinal wrinkles; fracture, short and
uneven. Roots odour is characteristic;bitter and acrid. The roots when dry are cylindrical, gradually tapering down with a brownish white surface and pure white inside when broken
;Leaves: Ashwagandha leaves are cauline and ramal, simple,
exstipulate, petiolate, ovate, acute, entire and up to 10 cm long. Petioles up to 1.25 cm long.
Flowers: Ashwagandha flowers are ebracteate, pedicellate, complete, hermaphrodite,
pentamerous,actinomorphic and hypogynous, gamosepalous, 4-6 mm in diameter, lucid-yellow or greenish. Its flowering time is in Winter
Fruits : Ashwagandha fruitis a berry enclosed in the green persistent calyx, 5 mm
in diameter, smooth, more or less globose, green when unripe, orange-red coloured in ripening stage
Seeds Ashwagandha seeds are bean shaped, endospermic, yellow andorange-red coloured, some what scurfy.
The methanol, hexane and diethyl ether extracts from both leaves and roots of Ashwagandha were found.
Alkaloid percentage in roots ranges from 0.13 to 0.31%. The roots of Withania somnifera
are alterative, aphrodisiac, deobstruent, diuretic, narcotic, sedative and restorative in nature. The pharmacological activity of
the root is attributed to the alkaloids and steroidals lactones. The total alkaloid content in the roots of Indian types has been reported to vary between
0.13 and 0.3, though much high yields (up to 4.3 per cent) have been recorded elsewhere. Many bio-chemical heterogeneous alkaloids, including choline,
tropanol, pseudotopanol, cuscokygrene, 3- tigioyloxytropana, isopelletierine and several other steroidal lactories. Twelve alkaloids, 35 withanolides and several
sitoindosides have been isolated from the roots of the plant have been studied.
A sitoindoside is a biologically active constituent known as withanolide containing a glucose molecule at carbon 27. Indian ginseng’s pharmacological
activity has been attributed to two main withanolides, withaferin A and withanolide D. Withaferin-A is therapeutically active withanolide reported to be present in
leaves. In addition to alkaloids, the roots are reported to contain starch, reducing sugars, glycosides, dulcitol, withancil, an acid and a neutral
compound. The amino acids reported from the roots include aspartic acid, glycine, tyrosine, alanine, glutamic acid and cysteine.
W.somnifera grows well in sandy loam or light red soil, having pH 7.5-8.0 with good drainage. It can be cultivated between 600-1200 m altitude. The semi-tropical areas receiving 500-750
mm rainfall are suitable for cultivation of this rained crop. The crop requires dry season during its growing period. Temperature
between 200C to 350C is most suitable for cultivation. Late winter rains are conducive for the proper development of the plant roots
Ashwagandha is usually grown in fields which are not well covered by the irrigation systems. The field on which food crops cannot be taken profitably for the above reason may be used for Ashwangandha
cultivation. The soil of the field selected for Ashwagandha cultivation is well pulverized by ploughing, disking and/or harrowing. The field may be then leveled by the application pata.
The crop can be sown either by broad casting or in lines. Live to line method is preferred as it in creases root production and also helps in performing intercultural practices properly. The seeds are
usually sown about 1-3 cm deep in June- July in nursery. A light shower after shower after sowing ensures good germination. About 500-750 gm seeds are sufficient for 1 ha. field. Seeds can be treated, with Thiram or Indofil or Dithane medicinal plants - 45 (@
3 gm/kg seed), before sowing to protect seedlings from seed borne diseases. The seedling after 25-35 days after sowing can be
transplanted in the field marinating 60 x 60 cm. Spacing between the plants & the rows. It may be noted that since 'Asagnadh' is a rainy
season Kharif crop, the time of sowing is decided by date of arrival of monsoon in that area.
THINNING AND WEEDING
The seeds sown by broadcasting or in the line in furrows should be thinned out by hand at 25-30 days after sowing to maintain a plant population of about 30-60 plants per square meter (about 3.5 to 6
lakh plants/hectare). The plant density to be used may depend on the nature and fertility of the soil. On the marginal land the population is kept high. If some fertiliser (N:P:K::20:20:0) is
applied then the population should preferably be kept at a lower level. One hand weeding at an early stage is sufficient to enable the Ashwagandha plants to take over the growth of weed which get suppressed by its smothering effect.
MANURES, FERTILISERS AND PESTICIDES
The medicinal plants have to be grown without chemical fertilizers and use of pesticides. Organic manures like, Farm Yard Manure (FYM), Vermi-Compost, Green Manure etc. may be used as per requirement of
the species. To prevent diseases, bio-pesticides could be prepared (either single or mixture) from Neem (kernel, seeds & leaves), Chitrakmool, Dhatura, Cow's urine etc.
Withania somnifera is prone to several pests and diseases. Leaf spot
disease caused by Alternaria alternata is the most prevalent disease, which is most severe in the plains of Punjab , Haryana , and Himachal Pradesh.
In some cases insects or mite infestations are noticed. To spray pest repellents such as roger or nuvan 3 per cent diluted in one litre of water three times a week to control this infestation.
Damping off is a major disease in Withania somnifera at seedling stage and results in heavy seedling mortality under field condition.
However, it can be controlled by application of Dithane M-45 (0.3%) as foliar spray.
Light shower after transplantation ensures establishment of seedlings. There is no need of irrigation if rainfall is at regular
intervals. Excessive rainfall/water is harmful to the crop. Life saving irrigations may be applied, if required.
HARVESTING/ POST HARVESTING
The plants start flowering and bearing fruits from December onwards.
The crop is ready for harvest in January- March at 150 to 180 days after sowing. The maturity of crop is judged by drying out of leaves
and yellow red berries. The entire plant is uprooted for roots which are separated from aerial parts by cutting the stem 1-2 cm above the
crown. The roots are then either cut transversely into small pieces (7 to 10 cm) or dried as it is in the sun. About 650-800 kg roots
can be obtained from 1 ha on drying it comes to 350-435 kg. Berries are hand plucked separately. They are dried and crushed to take out the seeds.
The dried roots, entire or transversely cut into smaller pieces, have to be further cleaned, trimmed and graded. The roots are beaten
with a club which removes adhering soil and breaks off the thin, brittle lateral rootlets. Lateral branches, root crown and stem
remains on roots are carefully trimmed with the help of knife. Roots are collected 6 months after the sowing of crop.
Ashwagandha traditionally grown outdoors in soil, the UA team decided to use an entirely nontraditional method - aeroponics - to produce bulk amounts of withaferin A needed for biological evaluation.
In aeroponics, plants are set over enclosed chambers where their suspended roots are misted with water and nutrients, instead of growing
in soil. The withania plants grew about five times larger using this method than if they had been grown in soil.
"Using the aeroponic system for cultivation, we were able to produce more than 20 grams of withaferin A in a single greenhouse. It normally
costs around $195 for just 10 milligrams," Gunatilaka said. "Also, it usually takes two to three years to mature to sizeable roots to be commercially viable, but here it takes just six to nine months."
Not only did the aeroponic method yield bigger plants faster, with more withaferin A than usual, it also unexpectedly stimulated the plants to
produce large amounts of the new natural product - a water-soluble sulfate form of withaferin A.
Upon testing, this new form demonstrated the same bioactivity as
withaferin A. It was able to inhibit the proliferation and survival of tumor cells, disrupt tumor formation and induce the healthy cells'
heat-shock response to reduce stress and increase survival, according to the researchers.
The difference is that the sulfate form of withaferin A is slower acting and water-soluble; it can be converted to withaferin A in cell culture
media. The researchers, expecting that this withaferin A form will convert to its active form when metabolized in the body, are pursuing
further testing in animal models. The patent will be held by the UA and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
On an average, the yield from 1 hectare of commercial cultivation is approximately 3 to 5 q./ of dry roots and 50 to 75 kg of seeds. A maximum yield can be procured upto 6.5 to 7.0 q/ha. There are
instances where farmers have achieved root yields as high as 1 tonne. Commercially, 6 to 15 mm diameter and 7 to 10 cm length root species
are better. Alkaloid percentage in roots ranges from 0.13 to 0.31%. n an average yield from one hectare land under commercial cultivation is approx 3-5 quintals of dried roots and 50-75 kg seeds.
Ashwagandha is considered to be one of the best rejuvenating agents in Ayurveda. Its roots, seeds and leaves are used in Ayurvedic and Unani medicines. Ashwagandha root drug finds an important place in
treatment of rheumatic pain, inflammation of joints, nervous disorders and epilepsy. Dried roots are used as tonic for hiccup,
cold, cough, female disorders, as a sedative, in care of senile debility, ulcers, etc. Leaves are applied for carbuncles,
inflammation and swellings. Leaf juice is useful in conjunctivitis. Bark decoction is taken for asthma and applied locally to bed sores.
Ashwagandha and its extracts are used in preparation of herbal tea, powders, tablets and syrups.
Ashwagandha has anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-stress, antioxidant, mind-boosting, immune-enhancing, and rejuvenating properties.
Ashwagandha root has also been noted to have sex-enhancing properties. Ashwagandha is mentioned in the ancient Kama Sutra as an
herb to be used for heightening sexual experience. Ashwagandha has the ability to restore sexual health and improve overall vitality while promoting a calm state of mind. A 2002 laboratory study
indicates ashwagandha stimulates the growth of axons and dendrites. A 2001 study in rodents showed ashwagandha had memory boosting
ability. A 2000 study with rodents showed ashwagandha to have anti-anxiety and anti-depression effects.
The plant has been used as an aphrodisiac, liver tonic, anti-inflammatory agent, and more recently to treat asthma, ulcers,
insomnia, and senile dementia. Clinical trials and animal research support the use of ashwagandha for anxiety, cognitive and neurological disorders, inflammation, and Parkinson's disease.
Incorporation of ashwagandha in the diet may prevent or decrease the growth of tumors in human.
It helps in providing progressive, long lasting results for various health concerns like aging, anemia and slow growth, arthritis, fatigue, waning
memory, sports fitness and stress-disorders. Pharmacological studies and research so far have indicated that Ashwagandha has anti-tumour,
anti-stress, antioxid boosting, haemopoeitic and rejuvenating properties. It is also an exceptional nerve tonic and nourishes the nerves and
improves nerve function to maintain calm during stressful conditions. It also nourishes crucial mind and body connection and psychological immune response.
Ashwagandha does not have any significant side effects reported in the medical literature. Safety in pregnancy has not been fully established for Ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha benefits all parts of the body and can be used as a tonic or in oral form. Several studies have shown that Ashwagandha is useful in addressing the following health problems:
1) Osteoarthritis: A study in 2008 , scientists tested ashwagandha's effects on human cartilage and
found that the herb may help protect against inflammation and cartilage damage associated with osteoarthritis.
2) Anxiety: In an animal-based study published in 2000, researchers found that ashwagandha
had an anti-anxiety effect similar to that of lorazepam (a medication used to treat anxiety disorders). The herb also appeared to ease depression.
3) Type 2 Diabetes: Ashwagandha may help normalize high blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity,
according to preliminary, animal-based research published in 2008.
4) Cancer:: : In a 2003 study, tests on human tumor cell lines revealed that ashwagandha may
slow the growth of lung, breast, and colon cancer cells.Published in 2007, another study on human cells shows that ashwagandha may inhibit tumor growth without harming normal cells.
5) Anti-Oxident: Ashwagandha used as an anti-oxidant, as studies have shown that it can eliminate free radicals from your immune system.
Free radicals are the agents that cause the breakdown of your body’s tissue, alternatively known as aging.
6).Provide energy: Studies show that supplementing with ashwagandha can provide the energy needed to get through long workouts
while also allowing for maximum recovery and cell re-growth.
7) General tonic: Ashwagandha is a tonic, which increases sperm count and sexual potency. In the rural
areas vegetable made out of this plant is given to tuberculosis patients. It also increases the iron content in the blood.
Ashwagandha for Anxiety and Stress
Ashwagandha (Winter cherry) is a popular herb known worldwide and now
heavily used in the Western world for treatment of anxiety and stress conditions. Cortisol is a hormone that is responsible for stress in humans. Ashwagandha helps to slow down the release of Cortisol by the
adrenals, which prevents the exhaustion of adrenals. This is an anti-anxiety effect of this herb, as recognized by many scientists.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as Indian ginseng
Medicinal Plant Ginseng
Ashwagandha cure Sleeplessness
A survey conducted by Better Sleep Council (BSC) states, 65% of Americans are losing sleep due to stress, more than 32% Americans are facing
sleeplessness at least one night every week and stress induced insomnia creating trouble in almost 16% of Americans. The details further add, Women are more stressed than men.
Ashwagandha has anti-stress and adaptogenic action that helps to relieve daily stress, fatigue and sleeplessness.
Ashwagandha for athletes
Recently, athletes have discovered ashwagandha and have begun to
supplement with it to increase endurance, reduce stress, and control pain, all of which are important for optimal exercise performance.
Ashwagandha has great potential for athletes and other active people, as
well as for anyone interested in improving health. It contains many active compounds that may promote optimal performance.
Ashwagandha can treat infertility
Stress is a major factor in the modern infertility epidemic. It
increases oxidative damage, inflammation and other harmful conditions known to reduce sperm quality, researchers said in Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in September 2009.
One way to combat stress-related infertility is with a plant used in Ayurvedic and other traditional medical systems for reducing stress.
Studies have shown that Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) can treat stress- related infertility.
The unit cost for development of 1 ha transplanted Ashwagandha cultivation is Rs.22,400/-. The details of the income assumed are also presented in the given table.
From roots 35000
From seeds 3600
Total gross income 38600
Net income 16200
The estimated production of Aswagandha roots in India is more than 1,500 tonnes and the annual requirement is about 7,000 tonnes necessitating
the increase in its cultivation and higher production. The most important trade center of the country for availability of
Ashwagandha is Nimach Mandi in Madhya Pradesh and other trade centers
are Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi and Amritsar.Market for medicinal plants is volatile and the economics may vary.
HELP: For details on cultivation and marketing details some of the following institutes can be contacted:
* National Medicinal Plants Board, Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, Chandralok Building, 36,
Janpath New Delhi - 110001, Phone: 011 - 23319255,
* Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, P.O. - CIMAP, Near Kukrail Picnic Spot, Lucknow - 226 015, Indiaphone: 0522-2359623
* Medicinal Plants Unit, Horticultural College and Research Institute, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore: 641 003, phone:
* Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Research Station, Odakkali, Asamanoor post-683549, Ernakulam district, phone: 0484-2658221,
* Gandhi Krishi Vigyan Kendra, University of Agricultural Science, Bangalore-560065, phone: 080-55315598,
* Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic plants, Allalasandra, GKVK post, Bangalore- 560 065, phone: 080-28460563.
* National Research Centre for Medicinal and Aromatic plants, Boriavi-387 310, Anand, Gujarat, Phone: 0268-2578602, or 0268-2578644,
* College of Agriculture, Medicinal and Aromatic plants division, Mandsaur-458001, Madhya Pradesh., Phone: 07422- 242289.
New anti-cancer drug from Ashwagandha
University of Arizona scientists have used a new quick-growing technique to produce a water-soluble form of withaferin A compound that combats cancer
and encourages the survival of healthy cells. Research trials are under way on this sulfate form of withaferin A,
which could develop into a new anti-cancer drug.Scientifically studied since the 1960s, withaferin A reduces tumor mass
by preventing the growth of blood vessels that make a tumor malignant.
The compound is derived from the roots of a winter cherry plant, the
extracts of which have been used for more than 3,000 years in India as a general tonic to build stamina, improve mental concentration, relieve
stress and enhance health. "Finding a water-soluble analog of withaferin A is significant, especially if it turns out to be a clinically useful drug," said Leslie
Gunatilaka, director of the UA's *Southwest Center for Natural Products Research and Commercialization
Recent studies on benefits of Ashwagandha herb reports, how it is effective in the treatment of bone cancer, nerve problems, rheumatism,
diabetes, bipolar disease, constipation and impotency. Research of scholars from Banaras Hindu University shows that, elements of
Ashwagandha acts as an antioxidant, helps to increase memory power, relieve inflammation, stress and anxiety.
Ashwaganda Cure Alzheimer's
New research has revealed this herb may also fight off the devastating effects of Alzheimer's
disease. Researchers at the National Brain Research Centre (NBRC), have conducted studies on mice that suggest ashwaganda extract may reverse memory loss and improve cognitive abilities in those with
the disease. Initially, mice with Alzheimer's were unable to learn or retain what they learned, but after receiving ashwaganda for 20
days, this improved significantly. After 30 days, the behavior of the mice returned to normal.
Other research work found that
* Free radical scavenging activity of Ashwagandha root powder
was found in 15 days of experimental studies on rats.
* Liver and kidney protective roles of Ashwagandha were proved
in metal-induced toxicity in experimental studies on mice in Indore.
* Ashwagandha tablets improved the physical and mental health of pre-school children in clinical trials in Chennai.
* In a recent clinical study, people complaining of high amounts of mental stress were given 300 mg Ashwagandha root extract
twice a day for 60 days Test scores for physical-related stress symptoms (like fatigue) dropped by 76 percent, compared to only a 4.9
percent reduction in those taking the placebo. In the Ashwagandha group there was also a 70 percent reduction in anxiety and insomnia scores, a
69 percent reduction in social dysfunction scores, and a 79 percent reduction in depression scores, compared to reductions of only 11.6
percent, 3.7 percent and 10.6 percent, respectively, in the placebo group.
A is also for adaptogen
According to Spake Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council. Ashwagandha has been marketed as an adaptogen, helping the body to
better deal with life’s daily insults. The ingredient, extracted from the root of a forest plant, has been used in the Ayurvedic tradition for
promotion of general health, as a support in cases of stress and fatigue, and as an aid in sexual health.
Ashwagandha in Ayurveda
Ashwagandha is used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a number of ailments. It regenerate the hormonal system, to promote healing, and
can also be used topically on sores or wounds. The Ayurvedic system regards it as “sattvi in quality”, a rejuvenative herb that is good for
the mind, which it nurtures and clarifies. It also produces a calming effect and allows for deep, dreamless sleep. Some reports indicate that it may act as a sedative, a euphoriant, or an aphrodisiac.
The plant acts as “an immune stimulant, hypnotic, tranquilizer, sedative, narcotic, analgesic, hypotensive, respiratory stimulant, vasomotor stimulant, appetite stimulant, astringent,
brachycardiac, antirheumatic, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, antiparasitic, and anti-stress agent”.
Ashwagandha laddoos to defeat malnutrition
Ayurvedic doctors told him that laddoos prepared with Ashwagandha, Nagarmotha and Gur (Jaggery) can easily defeat malnutrition if the affected child is given one ladoo each morning and evening with
the ‘Ready to Eat’ food given to children in the age group of zero to 5 years at Anganwadis.
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