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Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera)
SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal, also W. coagulans Dunal Family:Solanaceae (nightshade family)
COMMON NAME(S): Withania, Ashwagandha, Aswaganda, winter cherry, Indian ginseng, Ajagandha, Kanaje Hindi, Samm Al Ferakh, Asgand (Hindi), Amukkirag (Tamil), Amangura (Kannada), Asvagandha (Bengali), Ashvagandha (Sanskrit), Asundha (Gujarati), Kuthmithi, clustered wintercherry
Ashwagandha has been a prized top notch adaptogenic tonic in India for 3000 - 4000 years. It is under-rated by the commercial industry here in the United States, and seems to mostly promoted at a sexual and energy tonic. It is said to work mainly on the reproductive and nervous systems coupled with rejuvenating qualities.
HistoryThe root of W. somnifera is used to make the Ayurvedic sedative and diuretic "Ashwagandha," which is also considered an adaptogen. Other parts of the plant (eg, seeds, leaves) are used to relieve pain, kill lice, and make soap. The fresh berries have been used as an emetic.
W. somnifera is an erect, grayish, slightly hairy evergreen shrub with fairly long tuberous roots. It is widely cultivated in India and throughout the Middle East, and is found in eastern Africa. The flowers are small and greenish, single or in small clusters in the leaf axils. The fruit is smooth, round, fleshy, and has many seeds, orange-red when ripe, enclosed in a membranous covering.
Uses of WithaniaWithania has adaptogenic, immunomodulatory, and anti-inflammatory effects in animals; it also has been studied in animals as a cytotoxic agent and has different CNS applications.
Side Effects of WithaniaAcute toxicity of W. somnifera is modest. A 180-day study involving rats found unfavorable increases in catecholamine content of the heart and decreases in the adrenal glands
3-6 gms drug in powdered form and 4- 8 ml of ashwagandha liquid extract.
Acute toxicity of W. somnifera is modest. In mice an LD-50 was determined to be 1750 mg/kg PO in one study and 1260 mg/kg by the intraperitoneal route. Subacute IP toxicity studies at 100 mg/kg/day for 30 days led to decreased spleen, thymus, and adrenal weights, but no mortality or hematological changes. A longer-term study (180 days) in rats at a dose of 100 mg/kg PO found no lethality but unfavorable increases in catecholamine content of the heart and decreases in the or adrenal glands.
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