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Herb Highlight: Ashwagandha


Scientific Name: Withania Somniferum Common Name: Winter Cherry

Ashwagandha is a semi-woody, 1-to-6-foot evergreen shrub, covered with dense hairs and oval leaves, little greenish or yellow flowers, and red berries. The plant also has long brown tuberous roots that are used for medicinal purposes along with the berries. It is cultivated in many of the drier regions of India, Africa, and the United States.

Stress: Ashwagandha is probably best known for helping individuals through stressful situations. Ashwagandha is used as an “adaptogen” to help the body cope with daily stress. It decreases the level of circulating cortisol (a stress hormone) and reduces cortisol’s immune-suppressing effects, while improving physical functioning under psychological stress.

General Health Use: Ashwagandha is also used as a general tonic. Research shows that its active ingredients, withanolides, may bolster the bone marrow, increase stamina, reduce pain, inflammation, infections, fatigue. It has also been reported to revive libido, protect the liver, reduce joint pain, and sooth the nerves and anxiety. In validated animal models of anxiety and depression, ashwagandha has been demonstrated to be as effective as some tranquilizers and antidepressant drugs.

Diabetes: Ashwagandha may assist in type 2 diabetes as it may help lower blood glucose levels.

Brain: Ashwagandha improves the antioxidant enzymes in the front brain. On a cellular level, ashwagandha components can induce neurogenesis (production of neurons) and prevent select neurotoxins from suppressing neurogenesis. The concentration at which this occurs is low enough that it may occur following oral ingestion of the supplements. Since it increases BDNF (Brain derived neurotrophic factor; a neurological growth factor) which promotes synaptic sprouting, and helps protect the neurons, some studies suggest Ashwagandha extract supports the reconstruction of synapses, the junctions where nerve cells communicate with other cells.


150 to 600 mg of a standardized, organic extract daily, or 1 tsp. powder.


  • Stick with standardized extract or powdered herb dosing.

  • Ashwagandha’s has a high iron content.

  • Do not take with alcohol, sedatives, or other anti-anxiety drugs as it may increase the effects of these drugs.

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