Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

Sometimes the best medicine grows from weeds.


(Withania Somnifera)

Native to India and grown as an annual in the USA, Ashwagandha is one of the most revered herbs in Ayurvedic medicine for its’ wide ranging health benefits.

 In the USA Ashwagandha is used in a similar way as ginseng is used in Asia. An adaptogenic herb, known to increase the body’s ability to adapt to and resist stress. Considered to be a male sexual tonic, it is also useful for women as well, having tonifying effects on the reproductive system. Ashwagandha strengthens and invigorates, increasing performance and fertility. Helps to restore strength and vigor to those lacking in energy and general debilitation.

It builds energy and stamina, supports healthy sleep, and is a strong anti-inflammatory specifically indicated for arthritis. Also supportive of immune function, ashwagandha is antimicrobial, antiseptic and a deep immune rejuvenator.

Ashwaganda is a Hindi name meaning "horse's smell." 

The term refers to the smell of a horse but also to the strength of a horse.

Latin Name: Withania Somnifera

Family: Solanaceae

Common Names: Ashwagandha, Indian Ginseng, Winter Cherry

Parts Used: Root

Plant Type: A small woody shrub/herb which grows to about 2’. Dull green leaves with yellow-green flowers that surround a reddish-orange berry.

Properties:  Antimicrobial, antiseptic, antibiotic, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, aphrodisiac, and a deep immune rejuvenator. 

Constituents: Withanolides, Glycosides, Alkaloids

Medicinal Uses:  Acts as a mild sedative, promoting restful, deep sleep. Known as the Indian version of Ginseng because it is revered as a non-specific tonic & adaptogen. The root rejuvenates without being over stimulating, making it more useful in weakened and debilitated people than Ginseng.

Relaxes blood vessels & stimulates circulation and has an anti-inflammatory & tonic effect in rheumatic and autoimmune conditions

Foraging: Collect leaves in the spring, fruit in the fall, and root after berries have dropped.

Flavor: Bitter, earthy, slightly sweet & astringent in flavor.

Preparation Methods: Dried roots are used in teas (decoctions) or milled into a powder to add to formulas, tinctured or encapsulated.

Suggestions for Preparation

 Tea (Decoction): 

Boil 1 teaspoon of dried root in 1 cup of water, then bring to a simmer for 20 to 45 minutes. Drink two to three cups a day. 

Powder the root, blend with more flavorful herbs, (such as cinnamon and/or ginger) make a tea and combine with milk or almond milk for a more traditional Indian drink.


Use finely cut herbal material.

Fill jar 1/4 to 1/3 with dried roots & cover with 90 proof grain alcohol to the very top of the jar ( Cover plants completely).

Roots and berries will double in size when reconstituted!

Store your tincture in a cool, dark, dry place. Shake several times a week, and check your alcohol levels. Allow the mixture to extract for 6 to 8 weeks.

Safety & Contraindications

Not recommended during pregnancy, Not recommended if you have an acute infection or severe congestion. May potentially increase the effects of pentobarbital and barbiturates. Avoid with digoxin medications. Avoid if you have an allergy or sensitivity to plants in the nightshade family (ie tomato, eggplant).

Plant Identification

Ashwagandha is a short, tender perennial shrub growing 35–75 cm (14–30 in) tall. Tomentose (covered with dense, matted, woolly hairs) branches extend radially from a central stem. Leaves are dull green, elliptic, usually up to 10–12 cm (4 to 5 in) long. The flowers are small, green and bell-shaped. The ripe fruit is orange-red.

Look Alikes

Husk Cherry

Husk Cherry (Physalis pruinosa)

Tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica)

Tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica)