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Herbs from India's Tribal Pouch: Ashwagandha

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Herbs from India's Tribal Pouch: Ashwagandha

Winter Cherry (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) is the member of family Solanaceae, locally known as Ashwagandha or Asgandh in India. This plant is erect, much-branched undershrubs, few-flowered with orange-red berries. The plant commonly grows in moist, shady places along the roads, often abundant near habitations. Ashwagandha is cultivated commercially for its fruits and roots in many parts of India.  The therapeutic values of the roots of this plant have been mentioned in age-old texts and also in Ayurveda. Tribesmen in Patalkot (Madhya Pradesh) and Dangs (Gujarat) largely practice Ashwagandha and its different parts in preparation of traditional herbal formulations (Acharya and Shrivastava, 2008, 2011).

In India, the bruised leaves and ground roots of Ashwagandha are applied on painful swellings, carbuncles and ulcers for its sedative action (Arseculeratne et al., 1985). The roots and leaves are also used to cure fever, chills, rheumatism, colic etc. The juice of the plant is a diuretic and emmenagogue (Saha et al., 1961). The roots have an antifertility activity in females. It has shown antibacterial, antifungal and antitumour activity. The fruits are emetic, sedative, and diuretic, useful in liver complaints. The dried fruits are used in intestinal disorders particularly of the liver. Fruits are also used in asthma and in preventing atherosclerosis.

Plant is used as an aphrodisiac (Al-oarawi et al., 2000). Aerial part is used as a diuretic, vulnerary and as an anti-rheumatic (Al-khalil, 1995). Leaves are used in wounds (Dafni and Yaniv, 1994), tumors (Chakraborti et al., 1974), boils (Sharma et al., 1992), carbuncles, skin ulcers (Bajpai et al., 1995), swellings (Bajpai et al., 1995), and as anti-epileptic (Dafni and Yaniv, 1994). Root is used as an abortifacient, aphrodisiac (Bally, 1937; Suwal, 1970) and amnesia in geriatric patients (Schliebs et al., 1997). Fruit is used to induce sleeping, as a galactogogue (Zargari, 1992) and in wounds (Dafni and Yaniv, 1994).

Traditional Herbal Formulations based on Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha plays a vital role in different formulations prepared by the indigenous tribesmen of remote areas in India (Acharya, 2004, 2012; Acharya and Shrivastava, 2008, 2011). The local herbal healers use different part of this plant for curing range of human health (Acharya, 2012).   

Low Sperm Count

To increase sperm count, Ashwagandha powder should be taken along with milk or ghee (clarified butter) and sugar.

Patalkot tribals perform a unique practice for increasing sperm counts. For this, they prepare a mixture of Ashwagandha powder (5g), Elephant Creeper (Argyreia speciosa) (5g), Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) seeds (1g) and boil it in milk (200ml) and to it, they add sugar to taste and give it to the patient. The formulation should be taken at least two months.

In case of low sperm count and sterility, take equal amount of Ashwagandha root, Asian Water Chestnut (Trapa natans) fruit powder, Indian Asparagus (Asparagus racemosus) roots and Indian Kudju (Pueraria tuberosa) tubers. Crush and mix it thoroughly, take it twice a day for a month along with sugar and milk.

Nocturnal Emission

In case of nocturnal semen emission, mix Ashwagandha powder (3g), Long Pepper (Piper longum) (0.5g), ghee (1 teaspoonful) and honey (1 teaspoonful) along with milk (150ml) and mix it thoroughly. Take it everyday for 15 consecutive days. According to the tribal healers, this formulation checks nocturnal seminal emission.

Vitality and Fitness

As per healers from Dang- Gujarat, Ashwagandha powder and Aonla (Emblica officinalis) fruits should be taken in equal quantity and taken along with  ghee and honey for maintaining physical fitness and vitality.

Back Pain

To cope up with back pain, Ashwagandha powder should be taken along with hot water and sugar it helps in relieving back pain.

Sleeplessness

In sleeplessness (insomnia), Ashwagandha powder (3g) and Long Pepper (Piper longum) fruit powder (2g) should be taken along with milk or water.

Weak Eye Sight

For improving weak eye sight, equal proportion of Ashwagandha roots, Aonla (Emblica officinalis) fruit, Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root should be taken along with ghee everyday.

Heart Ailments

Powder of Ashwagandha (3g) roots and Belleric Myrobalan (Terminalia bellirica) fruits (2g) should be taken along with jaggery (unrefined sugar) or honey every day. According to the tribesmen, it works as a tonic for heart.

Gastric Trouble

In gastric pain, powder of Ashwagandha roots, Indian Asparagus (Asparagus racemosus) should be mixed thoroughly in equal quantity and should be taken along with  ghee and honey.

Diabetes

Tribesmen in Patalkot prescribe equal proportion of powder of Ashwagandha roots, Aonla (Emblica officinalis) fruit to the patient twice a day.

Galactogogue

To cure the non lactation problems among new mothers, indigenous healers prescribe a wonderful formula. According to them, mix Ashwagandha powder (5g), Indian Asparagus (Asparagus racemosus) root powder (5g), Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root powder (2g), Cork Swallow-Wort (Leptadenia reticulata) aerial part (10g) and boil in 250ml. Take it twice a day, it works wonderfully as a galactogogue and helps in achieving maximum and a regular milk flow.

Arthritis

To treat arthritis, powder of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Kali mushli (Curculigo orchioides) root and Gokhru (Tribulus terrestris) seeds are taken in equal amounts and given to the patient along with milk.


References

  • Acharya, D. 2004. Medicinal plants for curing common ailments in India. Positive Health 102: 28-30.
  • Acharya, D. 2012. Adivasiyon ki Aushadhiy Virasat,  Aavishkar Publishers Distributors, Jaipur. ISBN: 978-81-7132-706-5.
  • Acharya, D. Shrivastava, A. 2008. Indigenous Herbal Medicines (Tribal Formulations and Traditional Herbal Practices). Aavishkar Publishers Distributors, Jaipur. ISBN: 978-81-7910-252-7.
  • Acharya, D. Shrivastava, A. 2011. Ethnomedicinal Plants of Gujarat State. Forest Department, Gujarat State, Gandhinagar. ISBN: 8190311484. pp 1 – 414.
  • Al-khalil, S. 1995. A survey of plants used in Jordanian traditional medicine. Int J Pharmacog. 33(4): 317-323.
  • Al-oarawi, AA, Abdel-rhaman, HA, El-badry, AA, Harraz, F, Razig, NA, Abdel-magied, EM. 2000. The effect of extracts of Cynomorium coccineum and Withania somnifera on gonadotrophins and ovarian follicles of immature wistar rats. Phytother Res. 14(4): 288-290.
  • Arseculeratne, SN, Gunatilaka, AAL, Panabokke, RG. 1985. Studies on medicinal plants of Sri Lanka. Part 14: toxicity of some traditional medicinal herbs. J Ethnopharmacol. 13(3): 323-335.
  • Bajpai, A, Ojha, JK, Sant, HR. 1995. Medicobotany of the Varanasi district. Int J Pharmacog. 33(2): 172-176.
  • Bally, PRO. 1937. Native medicinal and poisonous plants of east Africa. Bull Misc Information Roy Bot Gard. 1(1): 10-26.
  • Chakraborti, SK, Barun, K, Bandyopadhyay, T. 1974. Variations in the antitumour constituents of Withania somnifera. Experientia 30: 852-853.
  • Dafni, A, Yaniv, Z. 1994. Solanaceae as medicinal plants in Israel. J Ethnopharmacol. 44(1): 11-18.
  • Saha, JC, Savini, EC, Kasinathan, S. 1961. Ecbolic properties of Indian medicinal plants. Part 1. Indian J Med Res. 49: 130-151.
  • Schliebs, R, Liebmann, A, Bhattacharya, SK, Kumar, A, Ghosal, S, Bigl, V. 1997. Systemic adminstration of defined extracts from Withania somnifera (Indian ginseng) and Shilajit differentially affects cholinergic but notglutamatergic and gabaergic markers in rat brain. Neurochem Int. 30(2): 181-190.
  • Sharma, MP, Ahmad, J, Hussain, A, Khan, S. 1992. Folklore medicinal plants of Metwat (Gurgaon district), Haryana, India. Int J Pharmacog. 30(2): 129-134.
  • Suwal, PN. 1970. Medicinal plants of Nepal. Ministry of Forests, Department of Medicinal Plants, Thapathali, Kathmandu, Nepal.
  • Zargari, A. 1992. Medicinal plants. Vol 3, 5th Ed, Tehran University Publications, No 1810/3, Tehran, Iran, 889 pp.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.
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