Herb: Ashwagandha

Latin name: Withania somnifera

Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade Family, Potato Family)

Medicinal use of Ashwagandha:

Ashwagandha is one of the most widespread tranquillisers used in India, where it holds a position of importance similar to ginseng in China. It acts mainly on the reproductive and nervous systems, having a rejuvenative effect on the body, and is used to improve vitality and aid recovery after chronic illness. The plant is little known in the West. The whole plant, but especially the leaves and the root bark, are abortifacient, adaptogen, antibiotic, aphrodisiac, deobstruent, diuretic, narcotic, strongly sedative and tonic. Internally, it is used to tone the uterus after a miscarriage and also in treating post-partum difficulties. It is also used to treat nervous exhaustion, debility, insomnia, wasting diseases, failure to thrive in children, impotence, infertility, multiple sclerosis etc. Externally it has been applied as a poultice to boils, swellings and other painful parts. The root is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. Some caution is advised in the use of this plant since it is toxic. The fruit is diuretic. The seed is diuretic and hypnotic.

Description of the plant:


100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

Habitat of the herb:

Open places, disturbed areas etc. An undershrub in stony places.

Edible parts of Ashwagandha:

The seeds are used to curdle plant milks in order to make vegetarian cheeses.

Other uses of the herb:

The fruit is rich in saponins and can be used as a soap substitute. The leaves are an insect repellent.

Propagation of Ashwagandha:

Seed - sow early spring in a greenhouse. There is usually a high germination rate within 2 weeks. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle and plant them out after the last expected frost. Consider giving the plants some protection, such as a cloche, until they are established and growing away well.

Cultivation of the herb:

Open places, disturbed areas etc. An undershrub in stony places.

Known hazards of Withania somnifera:

The plant is toxic if eaten.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.