A Beginner's Guide to Ashwagandha

A Beginner's Guide to Ashwagandha

Latin name: Withania somnifera
Origin: India and Africa
Alternative names:
Winter cherry
Parts used: Roots


Immune System

Ashwagandha is a powerful herb for the immune system, which as an antioxidant, supports overall immune system function. The main chemical constituents of the root activate enzymes and macrophages (Th1 helper cells), that can engulf disease before it manifests - defending the body against parasitic, bacterial and viral infections. It can also reduce the harmful suppressive effects of chemotherapeutic drugs on the immune system.

Research studies have shown that ashwagandha increases white blood cell counts, platelet counts, stem cells in the bone marrow and the amount and diversity of antibodies produced in the body. This is why it has been especially used in Ayurveda to support patients’ recovery from illness.

Sexual Health

Ashwagandha’s amorous reputation is legendary, producing an increase in sexual desire and satisfaction in both men and women. Its extracts have the ability to stimulate the production of nitric oxide in the body. This causes a dilatation of the blood vessels that carry blood to the genitals, leading to increased sexual desire.

Its stabilising effect on male hormones is well documented, with studies showing that it increases luteinising hormone (which stimulates testosterone production) and significantly raises serum testosterone levels.

Also a powerful herb for male and female fertility, ashwagandha’s stress busting qualities help to create a more optimal environment for fertility and conception. Studies show that consuming ashwagandha can reduce the body’s level of the stress hormone, cortisol, by up to 26%.

Ashwagandha provides menopausal support to women, acting on the endocrine system by encouraging hormonal balance. In a recent study of 51 menopausal women, a significant reduction in symptoms such as hot flashes, anxiety and mood was noted as a result of supplementation with ashwagandha.

Brain Health

There are several studies showing that ashwagandha slows, stops or reverses neuritic atrophy (loss of neurons), and synaptic loss (the connections between them).

These neuro-protective qualities are due, in part, to the antioxidants present in ashwagandha – repelling free radicals and preventing them from damaging cells in the brain. Age related degenerative diseases can be prevented and longevity increased.

Heart Health

Ashwagandha helps to maintain heart health through its regulation of blood circulation. It helps to prevent blood clots, stabilises blood sugar and controls cholesterol levels in the body. It also helps to keep blood pressure within the normal range.


Ashwagandha is one of those rare herbs which is both energising and calming at the same time. It works holistically on the entire body to bring it back to homeostasis and help it to function efficiently. For example it could provide energy to someone feeling sluggish or it can have a calming effect on the nerves of someone feeling tense and anxious. .

Folklore and history

The appearance of this small, woody shrub belies its potency - it is a strong and vigorous plant, thriving where other plants wither and die. 

Use of this root can be traced back for over 3,000 years and in the Indian system of Ayurveda it is highly prized. It is classified as a "rasayan", a rejuvenating and life extending herb. The rasayan are the most esteemed of Ayurvedic herbs, thought to imbue the user with life itself!

The name "somnifera" alludes to its use as a sedative, however ashwagandha was used traditionally as a remedy for anything from arthritis, bronchitis and dropsy to ringworm, scabies and senility. 

Traditional use

Ashwagandha has long been revered in the Far East for its healing, aphrodisiac and immune boosting properties.

Meaning “the smell of a horse”, the ashwagandha root is renowned for imparting the strength and vigour of a stallion! It is named so due to the odour of horse sweat the roots seem to emanate, and although all parts of the ashwagandha plant are believed to hold medicinal properties, it is the root that is regarded to be the best for therapy.

Considered “nature’s gift to mankind”, Ayurveda has used ashwagandha for centuries to promote physical and mental health, improve vitality, longevity and resistance against infections and diseases.

Typical use

Ashwagandha tincture - 2-3ml taken 2-3 times per day.

Ashwagandha powder - 2-6 grams taken 2-3 times per day.


Withanoloids and alkaoids.


Do not take if congested. No significant side effects have been reported with ashwagandha.The herb has been used safely by children in India. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not take ashwagandha.

Always consult your healthcare professional if you are taking other medications.

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