Ashwagandha – Benefits & Side-effects at a glance

In Sanskrit Ashwagandha means “the smell of a horse” of the roots of the herb. Its biological name is ‘Withania Somnifera’ and it is a plump shrub with oval leaves and yellow flowers. It bears red fruit about the size of a raisin and belongs to the same family as tomato and potato.

It is one among the most popular herb in the history of Ayurvedic healing for more than 4,000 years. Ayurvedic use of Ashwagandha has been documented in the Ayurvedic texts like Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita. Whole plant is used to treat the variety of conditions – root paste, the leaves, and fruits. Chyawanprash is one among the most popular Ayurvedic blend with Ashwagandha, Amla or the Indian Gooseberry and numerous other herbs.

It grows in India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. It is cultivated in many of the drier regions of India, such as Mandsaur District of Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, and Rajasthan. It is also found in Nepal. Few sources also state that this herb is native to Africa, Australia and the Eastern parts of Asia. It is also found growing naturally in Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

[/media-credit] Dried roots of Ashwagandha

Plant prefers hot, full sun; this is why it is very hot herb. It is also called adaptogen due to its ability to survive the stress of hot and harsh environment. You can buy it in capsules, powders, or as a liquid extract from medical stores or supplement stores.

The herb is also called Indian ginseng or winter cherry, and best suited for winter seasons. Its powder is said to provide nourishing effect when taken combined with boiled milk and honey.

What is in it?

Ashwagandha itself contains a variety of medicinal chemicals, such as alkaloids, choline, saponins and steroidal lactones (withanolides and withaferins). In Western medicine, the root of the plant is the largest focus for research as it is the most abundant in choline and steroidal lactones.

Talked-about benefits of Ashwagandha:

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of ashwagandha for the following benefits, impact of this herb alone in providing these benefits is unclear. There is no long term study or enough evidence to support the benefits of Ashwagandha. There is not enough scientific information available to determine the doses for the herb. Natural products are not always necessarily safe, and one should contact a healthcare professional before using the same.

[/media-credit] Ashwagandha Fruits

Anti-Aging Benefits of Ashwagandha:

As per studies, Ashwagandha has strong antioxidants that help keep the skin smooth, moisturized, and free from wrinkles by protecting the skin from UV damage, radical damage, stress, depression and anxiety symptoms. This herb has a strong rejuvenation effects, which in turn helps in delaying signs of aging.

Improve Memory & Relax the Mind:

Ashwagandha helps improve memory in people suffering from dementia by helping to delay the damage to the brain cells responsible for memory and learning. It secretes certain neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for elevating the mood and relaxing the mind and body.

Suppresses Inflammation and Pain:

Ashwagandha helps manage swelling and inflammation in any part of the body by controlling the release of histamines that stimulate an inflammatory response in the body.

Ashwagandha is cure to Alzheimer’s:

Researchers at Newcastle University found that ashwagandha inhibits the ability to reduce the amyloid plaques responsible for the disease and improve the cases of Alzheimer’s, however, the studies were conducted in test tubes, it requires more testing.

At the National Brain Research Center (NBRC), scientists tested ashwagandha on mice with Alzheimer’s, after 20 days of treatment, performance of the mice improved significantly and amyloid plaques that had been presented in the mice’s brains were reduced. However, researchers caution that it’s too early for human trials of the herb for Alzheimer’s.

Ashwagandha is said to be helpful in the following conditions too:

  • Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Diabetes.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Male infertility
  • Arthritis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Tumors
  • Tuberculosis
  • Liver problems
  • Inducing vomiting


The long-term safety of ashwagandha is not known. In high doses, the herb has shown to have a hypnotic effect, cause drowsiness and provoke intestinal problems. It is arguably one of the most potent adaptogenic herbs available and its benefits are quite compelling, but more research is needed to dictate its efficacy.

Gautam Trehan

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