Withania somnifera – Ashwagandhav

Family: Solanaceae


This small shrub (about 2m in height) occurs naturally mostly in the drier areas of many countries and regions including: the Meditterannean, Africa, the Canary and Cape Verde Islands, the Middle East, Arabia, India, Sri Lanka and southern China. It has also been successfully cultivated elsewhere. It is a resilient and versatile plant that survives in various conditions. The plant (except the fruit) is covered in fine pale hairs, the stem is brown and has simple, alternate leaves of between three and eight centimetres. The fruit is a small, smooth, round berry that is orange-red to red in colour. The fruits are encased in a larger, inflated, green calyx that becomes brown and papery in maturity similar to a gooseberry (to which the species is closely related) It is known to have an unpleasant smell, particularly the roots.

Herb uses

Ashwagandha is an important and well-known medicinal plant in ayurveda and is considered a general tonic used for a wide variety of ailments. The main usage for for relaxation and stress. A paste is made from the leaves to treat topical ailments like open or septic wounds, abscesses, inflammation and more. The roots are dried and taken as decoctions, infusions and tinctures. Studies on the plant have demonstrated antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, cytotoxic, anti-tumour and cholesterol-lowering activities. Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen, appropriate for soothing long-term stress and resulting hormone imbalances. It is considered a narcotic, sedative and diuretic useful for combating stress.

Common Names: Winter cherry, Indian ginseng (English); bitterappelliefie, geneesblaarbossie, koorshout (Afrikaans); bofepha (Sotho); ubuvuma (Xhosa); ubuvimbha (Zulu); ashwagandha (Hindi).