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.
Ashwagandha dried roots
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 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. 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 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.