Basic Information

Common name: Ashwaganda

Other Names: Indian Ginseng, Winter Cherry, Ayurvedic Ginseng

Latin Binomial: Withania somnifera

Parts Used: Leaves and Root


Medicinal Uses

Ashwaganda has a long history of use in India and is one of the most important herbs in the practice of Ayurveda. It is a tonic for vitality and to strengthen overall ability to resist chronic illness as well as its ability to assist in recovery from a chronic illness. It also has adaptogenic capability, which increases the threshold of stress the body can withstand before devolving into a state of inflammation or sickness. This threshold increase is observed in recovery from nervous tension, memory loss. Studies have shown that one of its triterpene chemical constituents, exhibits cholinesterase inhibition. Cholinesterase is an enzyme that dulls neurotransmission to nerve fibers. Therefore, by inhibiting this enzyme, the herb enables cognitive enhancement. For this reason, the herb is suspected to be effective for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (Grover,, 2012); studies continue.

It also has a high iron content which is essential for blood production and distribution of oxygen to the issues, therefore, making it useful in cases of anemia. There has been much evidence found of its effectiveness in inhibiting the growth of cancer cells in humans. It has also been used to increase male fertility and virility (Tahvilzadeh,, 2016), relief of stress and anxiety (Pratte,, 2014), and reduction of gray hair.


Key Constituents

  • Alkaloids (sedative, reduce blood pressure, and lower heart rate)
  • Triterpenes, consists of steroidal lactones that exhibit anti-tumor and hepatoprotective actions (Pengelly, 2004)
  • Iron 



  • Adaptogenic
  • Tonic
  • Immunomodulatory
  • Mild Sedative


Body Organs Acted Upon 

  • Nerves
  • Blood Tissue (hemoglobin) 


When and How to Use It

Ashwaganda root can be prepared as a decoction of 2-4g of the dried root in 1 cup of water, twice per day. You may also chew 1g of root for the same effect. The powdered root can be taken in capsule form of 1-2g per day with water. Although the leaves are not widely used, the dried powdered leaf may be prepared as an infusion using ½ tsp in 1 cup of water once per day. Dosage should be limited to approximately 8g per day. 


Safety Considerations

Gastrointestinal upset has been reported with large, yet undefined, doses. There is conflicting documentation regarding the safety of ashwaganda during pregnancy, therefore, erring on the side of caution, it is best not to take during pregnancy or lactation.  



Bone, Kerry and Mills, Simon (2013). Principles and practice of phytotherapy: Modern herbal medicine, 2nd ed. Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier, Ltd. China.

Chevallier, Andrew (2000). Encyclopedia of herbal medicine: The definitive reference to 550 herbs and remedies for common ailments, 2nd ed. Dorling Kindersley. New York, NY.

Devi, P. (1996). Withania somnifera Dunal (Ashwagandha): potential plant source of a promising drug for cancer chemotherapy and radiosensitization. Indian J Exp Biol. 34(10). 927-32.

Grover, A., Shandilya, A., Agrawal, V., Bisaria, V.S., and Sundar, D. (2012). Computational evidence to inhibition of human acetyl cholinesterase by withanolide a for Alzheimer treatment. J Biomol Struct Dyn. 29(4). 651-62.

Kennedy, D.O. (2014). Plants and the human brain. Oxford University Press. Oxford, UK.Lee, I.C. and Choi, B.Y. (2016). Withaferin-A–A Natural Anticancer Agent with Pleitropic Mechanisms of Action. Int J Mol Sci. 17(3). 290. doi: 10.3390/ijms17030290.

Kuboyama, T., Tohda, C., Komatsu, K. (2014). Effects of Ashwagandha (roots of Withania somnifera) on neurodegenerative diseases. Biol Pharm Bull. 37(6). 892-7.

Pengelly, A. (2004). The constituents of medicinal plants: An introduction to the chemistry and therapeutic of herbal medicine, 2nd ed. CABI Publishing. Oxfordshire, UK and Boston, MA.

Pratte, M.A., Nanavati, K.B., Young, V., and Morley, C.P.\. (2014). An alternative treatment for anxiety: a systematic review of human trial results reported for the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). J Altern Complement Med. 20(12). 901-8. doi: 10.1089/acm.2014.0177.

Rai, M., Jogee, P.S., Agarkar, G., and dos Santos, C.A. (2016). Anticancer activities of Withania somnifera: Current research, formulations, and future perspectives. Pharm Biol. 54(2). 189-97. doi: 10.3109/13880209.2015.1027778.

Tahvilzadeh, M., Hajimahmoodi, M., Toliyat, T., Karimi, M., and Rahimi, R. (2016). An evidence-based approach to medicinal plants for the treatment of sperm abnormalities in traditional Persian medicine. Andrologia. 48(8). 860-79. doi: 10.1111/and.12676.

Vyas, A.R. and Singh, S.V. (2014). Molecular targets and mechanisms of cancer prevention and treatment by withaferin A, a naturally occurring steroidal lactone. AAPS J. 16(1), 1-10. doi: 10.1208/s12248-013-9531-1.

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