Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha)

Benefits of Ashwagandha
Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha)

Withania somnifera, also commonly known as Ashwagandha, Indian ginseng and Winter cherry1. The name Ashwagandha in Sanskrit describes the smell of its root, meaning “like a horse”. Withania somnifera, which belongs to the Solanaceae family, is an evergreen shrub that grows in India, Middle East and parts of Africa1. The flowers are green or yellow, giving rise to red globose fruits when mature 1. The name “somnifera” in Latin means “sleep-inducer”, which attributes to its use as a remedy against stress. Withania somnifera is one of the major herbal components in Ayurvedic medicine. Traditionally, it is used to promote youthful vigour, endurance, strength and for calming the mind 1.

Nutritional Facts

The leaves and roots of Withania somnifera are mainly used for medicine. The biochemical constituents being identified in Withania somnifera mainly are alkaloids and steroidal lactones. Biochemical constituents that contribute to its medicinal properties are withanolide A, withanolide D, withaferin A and withaniamides 1,2.

Published Health Benefits

1. Anti-inflammatory

Withania somnifera has potent anti-inflammatory properties and it has been shown to be effective in treating forms of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis 1,2,3.

2. Stress and Anxiety

The roots of Withania somnifera are used extensively in Ayurveda for treatment of anxiety and depression.  Withania somnifera are perfect for those battling stress, as it exerts its calming effect by inhibiting high levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone 2,4.

3. Blood Sugar Control

Withania somnifera has been shown to lower blood sugar levels. It increased insulin secretion and improved insulin sensitivity in muscle cells 4.

4. Heart Health

Withania somnifera may help improve heart health by reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels 3,4.

5. Cancer

Bioactive components of Withania somnifera such as Withaferin A, Withanolide D&E are effective in inducing apoptosis, which is the programmed cell death of cancer cells. Studies suggest that it may help in the treatment of several types of cancer including breast, lung, colon, and prostate 2,3,4.

6. Brain Function and Alzheimer’s Disease

Withania somnifera promotes antioxidant activity that protects the nerves cells from harmful free radicals and supports the growth of nerve cell dendrites, thus helping to boost brain cell function. The antioxidant enzyme together with withanamides, also showed to have protective effects against β-amyloid- induced plaques in Alzheimer’s Disease 1,4.

References:

1. John, J. (2014). Therapeutic potential of Withania somnifera:  A report on phyto-pharmacological properties. Int J Pharm Sci Res, 5(6), 2131-48. doi: 10.13040/IJPSR.0975-8232

2. Uddin, Q., Samiulla, L., Singh, V. K., & Jamil, S. S. (2012). Phytochemical and pharmacological profile of Withania somnifera dunal: A review. Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science, 2, 170–175.

3. Gavande, K., Jain, K., Jain, B., & Mehta, R. (2015). Comprehensive report on phytochemistry and pharmacological prominence of Withania somnifera. UK J Pharm Biosci, 3(2), 15.

4. Kumar, V., Dey, A., Hadimani, M. B., Marcovic, T., & Emerald, M. (2015). Chemistry and pharmacology of Withania somnifera: An update. Humanitas Med, 5(1), 1.1-1.13.

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