Ashwagandha is sometimes called
Indian ginseng, not because it's related botanically (it's closer to potatoes and tomatoes), but because its traditional uses were similar. Like ginseng, ashwagandha was thought to be a "tonic herb" capable of generally strengthening the body. On this basis it has been used in hopes of prolonging life, improving overall health, enhancing mental function, increasing fertility and libido, augmenting physical energy, and preventing infections.
In addition, as its species name
suggests, ashwagandha been used traditionally for inducing sleep.
Modern herbalists classify ashwagandha as an adaptogen, a substance said to increase the body's ability to withstand
of all types. (See the article on
Ginseng for more information on adaptogens.) However, the evidence for an adaptogenic effect is limited to test tube and animal studies.3,4,6,7,9-13
Other proposed uses of ashwagandha are based on even weaker evidence, including: preventing cancer,1,2,14-17 improving immunity,8,18 enhancing mental function,19,20,
Some traditional uses of ashwagandha are also invoked today, such as
enhancing sexual function in men, increasing fertility in
aiding sleep, and enhancing sports performance; however, there is no supporting scientific evidence for these uses.
A typical traditional dosage of ashwagandha is 1 to 2 g of the root (boiled in milk or water for 15-20 minutes) taken 3 times daily.
Ashwagandha is believed to be safe; however, formal safety studies have not been reported. Therefore, it should not be used by pregnant or nursing women, young children, or those with severe kidney or liver disease.
According to one study in animals, ashwaghanda may raise thyroid hormone levels.5
For this reason, it should not be used by people with
hyperthyroidism. In addition, based on traditional beliefs that ashwagandha has sedative effects, interactions with sedative drugs are a potential concern.
If you are taking
sedative drugs, you should not take ashwagandha at the same time except under your doctor's supervision.
Devi PU, Sharada AC, Solomon FE, et al. In vivo growth inhibitory effect of
(Ashwagandha) on a transplantable mouse tumour, Sarcoma 180.
Indian J Exp Biol. 1992;30:169-172.
al-Hindawi MK, al-Khafaji SH, Abdul-Nabi MH. Anti-granuloma activity of Iraqi
J Ethnopharmacol. 1992;37:113-116.
Kupparanjan K, et al. Effect of ashwaganda (
Dunal) on the process of aging in human volunteers.
J Res Ayurveda Siddha. 1980;1:247-258.
Bone K. [No title available].
MediHerb Professional Review. 1998;30.
Panda S, Kar A. Changes in thyroid hormone concentrations after administration of ashwagandha root extract to adult male mice.
J Pharm Pharmacol.
Archana R, Namasivayam A. Antistressor effect of
Withania somnifera.J Ethnopharmacol.
Dhuley JN. Therapeutic efficacy of ashwagandha against experimental aspergillosis in mice.
Ziauddin M, Phansalkar N, Patki P, et al. Studies on the immunomodulatory effects of Ashwagandha.
Dhuley JN. Effect of ashwagandha on lipid peroxidation in stress-induced animals.
J Ethnopharmacol. 1998;60:173-178.
Singh N, Nath R, Lata A, et al.
(ashwagandha), a rejuvenating herbal drug which enhances survival during stress (an adaptogen).
Int J Crude Drug Res. 1982;20:29-35.
Dadkar VN, Ranadive NU, Dhar HL. Evaluation of antistress (adaptogen) activity of
Indian J Clin Biochem. 1987;2:101-108.
Dhuley JN. Adaptogenic and cardioprotective action of ashwagandha in rats and frogs.
J Ethnopharmacol. 2000;70:57-63.
Singh B, Saxena AK, Chandan BK, et al. Adaptogenic activity of a novel, withanolide-free aqueous fraction from the roots of
Phytother Res. 2001;15:311-318.
Davis L, Kuttan G. Effect of
on DMBA induced carcinogenesis.
Prakash J, Gupta SK, Kochupillai V, et al. Chemopreventive activity of
in experimentally induced fibrosarcoma tumours in Swiss albino mice.
Phytother Res. 2001;15:240-244.
Russo A, Izzo AA, Cardile V, et al. Indian medicinal plants as antiradicals and DNA cleavage protectors.
Singh DD, Dey CS, Bhutani KK. Downregulation of p34cdc2 expression with aqueous fraction from
for a possible molecular mechanism of anti-tumor and other pharmacological effects.
Gupta YK, Sharma SS, Rai K, et al. Reversal of paclitaxel induced neutropenia by
Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2001;45:253-257.
Dhuley JN. Nootropic-like effect of ashwagandha (
Withania somnifera L.) in mice.
Phytother Res. 2001;15:524-528.
Jain S, Shukla SD, Sharma K, Bhatnagar M. Neuroprotective effects of
Withania somnifera Dunn. in hippocampal sub-regions of female albino rat.
Phytother Res. 2001;15:544-548.
Bhattacharya SK, Bhattacharya A, Sairam K, et al. Anxiolytic-antidepressant activity of
glycowithanolides: an experimental study.
Ahmad MK, Mahdi AA, Shukla KK, et al. Withania somnifera improves semen quality by regulating reproductive hormone levels and oxidative stress in seminal plasma of infertile males.
Khanna D, Sethi G, Ahn KS, et al. Natural products as a gold mine for arthritis treatment.
Curr Opin Pharmacol.
Winters M. Ancient medicine, modern use: Withania somnifera and its potential role in integrative oncology.
Altern Med Rev.
Mishra LC, Singh BB, Dagenais S. Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): a review.
Altern Med Rev.
As of 6/7/2011, additional research published on ashwagandha does not warrant any changes to this article.
Last reviewed September 2014 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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