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Ashwagandha

Also indexed as:Withania somniferum
Ashwagandha: Main Image© Steven Foster
Botanical names:
Withania somniferum

How It Works

The constituents believed to be active in ashwagandha have been extensively studied.19 Compounds known as withanolides are believed to account for the multiple medicinal applications of ashwagandha.20 These molecules are steroidal and bear a resemblance, both in their action and appearance, to the active constituents of Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) known as ginsenosides. Indeed, ashwagandha has been called “Indian ginseng” by some. Ashwagandha and its withanolides have been extensively researched in a variety of animal studies examining effects on immune function, inflammation, and even cancer. Ashwagandha stimulates the activation of immune system cells, such as lymphocytes.21 It has also been shown to inhibit inflammation22 and improve memory in animal experiments.23 Taken together, these actions may support the traditional reputation of ashwagandha as a tonic or adaptogen24—an herb with multiple, nonspecific actions that counteract the effects of stress and generally promote wellness.

How to Use It

Some experts recommend 3–6 grams of the dried root, taken each day in capsule or tea form.25 To prepare a tea, 3/4–1 1/4 teaspoons (3–6 grams) of ashwagandha root are boiled for 15 minutes and cooled; 3 cups (750 ml) may be drunk daily. Alternatively, tincture 1/2–3/4 teaspoon (2–4 ml) three times per day, is sometimes recommended.

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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.

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