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The Incredible Power of Ashwagandha

AKA: Withania somnifera L. Family: Solanaceae; winter cherry, Indian ginseng.


Propagation/Description: Native to India, Nepal, and Northern Africa, ashwagandha is a herbaceous shrub from the nightshade family. In USDA zones 7 and higher, these slowly growing plants are perennials and grow up to 3 feet tall. It is easy-to-grow indoor and requires little upkeep. It doesn't mind using soil and fertilizers, although it does appreciate a dry, sunny environment. If you reside in a lower climate, start Ashwagandha seeds indoors, then when the temperature reliably rises over 59°F, transplant the plant to your garden. Zones 7 and up can be grown as a perennial depending on your winter but zones 4-8 it can be grown as a summer annual. It loves sandy or well drained soil but thrives in arid, dry areas with typically deficient, rocky soils. Start by sewing the seeds indoors, keeping their temperature around 70 degrees Fahrenheit for germination. It can take 10 to 14 days for ashwagandha seeds to sprout. Up until the seedlings emerge, make sure the soil is kept consistently moist. When the baby ashwagandha plants are at least 4 inches tall, you can transplant them into the garden soil. Aphids and spider mites are two common pests for Ashwaganda so keep an eye out or them when plants are young. It can take up to 6 months for ashwagandha to mature because to its slow development rate. It is time to harvest when the papery husk that protects the berries starts to dry up.

 

Folklore/History: It is is a subtropical undershrub commonly used in Indian and African traditional medicines for more than 3000 years and can be traced back to 6000 BC. It translates to “smell of the horse” for a good reason. If you’ve ever held some to your nose you would understand why. It is also believed that it would impart the stamina, strength, and virility of a horse.

 

Medicinal: The active components include alkaloids (ashwagandha, cuscohygrine, anahygrine, topine, etc.), steroidal compounds, including ergostane type steroidal lactones, withaferin A, withanolides A–Y, withasomniferin A, withasomnidienone, withasomnierose A–C, withanone, etc. This, boiled down means it is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and has immunomodulatory activities. It is used in the prevention and treatment of many diseases, such as arthritis, diabetes, impotence, amnesia, anxiety, cancer, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases. It improves the body's defense against disease by improving cell-mediated immunity and is regarded as tonic, aphrodisiac, narcotic, diuretic, anthelmintic, astringent, thermogenic and stimulant. It can treat various CNS disorders, specifically Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, cerebral ischemia, epilepsy, tardive dyskinesia, stress and even help manage drug addiction and assist as a sleep aid! It is a warming herb and as such is not recommended for women experiencing hot flashes. It is recommended to consult with your doctor before incorporating a long-term regiment.

 

Spiritual: Ashwagandha, or Withania somnifera, aids in the physical, mental and spiritual. In Ayurvedic practices it can assist in Third Eye Awakening experiences but is mainly used to assist with the opening and balancing of the Chakra centers. More traditionally it is used to strengthen and unblock the Root Chakra. More modern attributions are that it helps in the stability of relationships, boundaries and clarity of mind and emotions. It helps to balance mind, body, and spirit, allowing one to act calmly and rationally in high-stress situations. Use this herb in rituals and spells for bringing harmony into fractured or strained relationships, or to help bring compassion and affection into one's heart. It has a metaphysical reputation as a herb of longevity and an elixir of life making it ideal to strengthen one’s Chi (the vital energy of the body.) It sharpens mental powers and enhances memory making it a valuable aid to those who are studying.

 

Summary: Ashwagandha, Withania somnifera, is a strong and powerful herb both physically and spiritually. As humans we strive every day to make sense of the world as it is now. It is a very stressful environment to be living in today. If there is one thing that can help us navigate and survive this human experience, I believe incorporating this natural, Gaia given, herb is one saving grace we can rely on. Whether using it for the physical or enhancing our spiritual journey, Ashwagandha, is a gift our world has given us to help move through life in a healthier  and happier/peaceful way.

 

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