August 2018 Plant of the Month: Ashwagandha

August’s Plant of the Month: Ashwagandha

  • Latin name: Withania somnifera, Solanaceae 
  • Common names: Ashwagandha, Winter Cherry, Indian Ginseng*
  • Growth: About 2 feet in height, native to India. In Central Florida Ashwagandha is a nice herbaceous garden plant, rarely exceeding 3′ in height. It grows similarly to its cousin, the tomato! The root can be harvest after only one year of growth – a true gift from the plant!
  • Preparation: Root powder used in milk as a nightcap, or in “ninja balls” (2 parts nut or seed butter, 1 part honey or agave, mix with herbal powders), capsules, tincture

Ashwagandha is an herb we use in western herbalism in cases of nervous disorders. Nervines, the category of herbs, are immensely useful; ashwagandha is considered a very safe nervine. In the category of nervines, herbs that have an effect on the nervous system (think: chamomile, coffee), there’s a subcategory called adaptogen. Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen: a safe herb to use regularly that helps bring you back to center. Adaptogens help you adapt to the stress or lack thereof in your life. 

We consider ashwagandha an excellent restorer of vitality. Ashwagandha is indicated in cases of hypothyroidism, conversely it is contraindicated in cases of hyperthyroidism. 

From Herb Ralley:
“In Ayurveda, ashwagandha is considered a Rasayana: an herbal preparation that promotes a youthful state of both physical and mental health (2). Rasayanas are considered tonics and are administered to people of all ages: from young children for preventative health measures to the middle-aged and elderly for supporting longevity. Among the Ayurvedic Rasayana herbs, ashwagandha is the most prized and widely used.”

*The common name Indian Ginseng is a misnomer, as it’s not related to any Panax (Ginseng) species. The thought was that Ashwagandha acted similarly to Ginseng, but they are completely different plants. 

Further reading:
Herb Rally’s monograph on Ashwagandha
Kiva Rose’s two posts on Ashwagandha: One & Two
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