HERBAL GLOSSARY // Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha)
Withania or Ashwaganda as its otherwise referred to, has gained a lot of attention over recent years and its likely to have made an appearance or two in your inbox or news feed.
There is good reason for this and it’s not just a buzz word being thrown around, it in fact has a long long history of therapeutic use, and has been used for many centuries as traditional medicine in China and is certainly one of India’s most important herbs to improve vitality, relieve stress, increase energy levels, and improve concentration.
Results from studies have also shown taking Withania may enhance physical performance, including strength and oxygen use during exercise.
Traditionally in Western Herbal Medicine, it is our main go to apaptogenic herb for cases of chronic stress by reducing cortisol and over stimulation of the HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis), increasing fertility especially in men, and studies have also shown it to reduce anxiety and also sleeplessness compared to placebo.
Withania is the less stimulating member of our wonderful adaptogen gang and has some well researched health benefits from modulating the stress response, its neuroprotective, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, a treatment for iron-deficiency and also has an affinity to the thyroid and can be helpful in cases of subclinical hypothyroidism with active treatment shown to reduce serum TSH levels by 17% and increase T3 and T4 levels by 42% and 20% respectively when compared to placebo.
Its main active constituents include Steroidal compounds (withanolides) including withaferin A and sitoinosides, and tropane-type alkaloids.
In a nutshell, Withania is the one that’s going to tap you on the shoulder and tell you to chill when the stress levels go beyond a healthy level, but also making sure we don’t suffer the more severe long-term effects that prolonged stress can have on the body.
The best part is it is generally easy to find, well tolerated, and safe. As always if you have specific health requirements, always work with a practitioner when it comes to dosages.
Actions: Tonic, adaptogen, mild sedative, anti-inflammatory, immune modulating, anti-anaemic
Indications: Debility, emaciation, cachexia, anaemia, chronic immune deficiency, leukopenia, fatigue, physical stress, convalescence, failure to thrive, during chemotherapy or radiotherapy, improve physical performance, impotence, tonic for the elderly, insomnia, osteoarthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, post-viral syndromes.
Included in blends:
ALIVE & ENREGISE https://www.littlewildlingco.com/products/alive-energise
Mediherb – Full Monograph Withania (Withania somnifera)
Bone, K: The Ultimate Herbal Compendium: Withania (Withania somnifera) 2007, Pg. 70
Braun & Cohen: Herbs & Natural Supplements Vol 2, Pg 1185 - 1193, 2015