Withania

“Withania”

A mainstay for managing high cortisol yet at the same time, improving “stores” of vitality.  

In Ayurvedic medicine it is known as a rejuvenating botanical; improving the body’s ability to maintain physical effort and help the body adapt to various types of stress.  Withania is reputed to impart the vigour and strength of a stallion.  

It is also a key herb for adrenal and sexual health, by supporting healthy testosterone levels and DHEA levels.

The species name; ‘somnifera’, comes from the herb’s use as a sleep aid and sedative. 

Ashwagandha is one of the rasayana herbs in Ayurveda — one of the herbs that purportedly promotes youth and longevity and alleviates suffering. 


Botanical Name: Withania somnifera

Common name: Withania, Ashwaganda, Winter Cherry, Indian ginseng

Family: Solanaceae

Parts Used: Root (leaves and berries are also used)


Active Constituents: 

  • Alkaloids
  • Steroidal lactones (withanolides and withaferins, sitoindosides)
  • Iron; not enough to restore but to provide tonic to decrease fatigue
  • Amino acids — improve brain function/neurotransmitter support

Qualities:

Bitter, sweet, warm and relaxing

Phase of Life & Emotional Connections: Fulfilment. Tonic for the nerves and brain.


Actions: 

  • Adaptogen
  • Tonic
  • Nervine
  • Mild sedative (on an unregulated nervous system)
  • Nervous system tonic
  • Neuroprotective
  • Blood tonic / antianaemic
  • Antitumour
  • Antiinflammatory
  • Immune modulating
  • Thyroid modulating – appears to improve T4 conversion to T3 
  • Antiarrhythmic (Hechtman, 2012)
  • Aphrodisiac
  • Chondroprotective
  • Hepatic
  • Antistress – via modulation of GABA and a reduction in plasma corticosterone levels

 Indications: 

  • Stress (physical and emotional stress)
  • Anxiety
  • Debility / convalescence (especially immune deficient/depleted individuals as an immune adaptogen)
  • Post viral syndrome and fatigue
  • Insomnia (sleep maintenance and onset) – balances natural sleep cycles in those who are “wired and tired”; taken at night, it can help reduce elevated cortisol levels and support sleep
  • Sleep deprivation – can reverse anxiety and improve locomotor activity that can be induced by sleep deprivation and also improve all biochemical parameters of oxidative stress
  • Nervous exhaustion where sleep issues are prominent
  • Drug and alcohol withdrawal
  • Erectile dysfunction and male infertility – a human clinical trial found that treatment with Withania (five grams per day for three months) resulted in a decrease in stress and significant decrease in cortisol levels in a group of men with stress-induced infertility
  • May prevent cancer / cancer therapy adjunct to reduce conventional treatment side-effects (must check for interactions)
  • Athletes
  • Elderly as a tonic
  • Recurrent infections and chronic immune deficiency
  • Recovery after illness in children
  • Anaemia
  • Leukopaenia
  • Failure to thrive in children
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Pernicious anaemia
  • Chronic inflammatory disease (i.e. arthritis)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Lead-induced toxicity (Kumar, P. et al. Glioprotective Effects of Ashwagandha Leaf Extract against Lead Induced Toxicity, BioMed Research International, 2014: 182029)

Contraindications: None known

Cautions: 

  • Those individuals with a Solanaceae sensitivity
  • High doses may cause gastrointestinal upset, diarrhoea or vomiting (alkaloids)
  • Hyperthyroidism – monitor closely due to reported thyroid stimulating activity

Was used traditionally during pregnancy although caution should be used, with dosage and length of treatment carefully considered


Dosage:

5 -14ml of 1:2 liquid extract/day

35 – 98ml of 1:2 liquid extract/week 20- 50ml of 1:1 liquid extract/week

Dried Herb Equivalent
3 – 6 g / day dried root (decoction)


Combinations:

  • Siberian Ginseng for immune dysregulation and stress
  • Passiflora for anxiety and sleep issues

POINTS OF NOTE:

  • The alkaloids present in Withania are understood to be responsible for the sedative and hypotensive actions
  • Used in convalescence, it contains iron and has been shown to increase haemoglobin
  • A mild sedative, Withania is used in many conditions exacerbated by stress, including insomnia and male sexual dysfunction
  • Anti inflammatory, in conditions including asthma, psoriasis and rheumatic pains
  • Used in convalescence due to its immune modulating effects
  • May promote learning and memory as well as senile dementia


    References & Links to Articles:

    Bone, K. (2003) Guide to blending liquid herbs

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