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).
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.
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.
To cope up with back pain, Ashwagandha powder should be taken along with hot water and sugar it helps in relieving back pain.
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.
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.
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.
Tribesmen in Patalkot prescribe equal proportion of powder of Ashwagandha roots, Aonla (Emblica officinalis) fruit to the patient twice a day.
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.
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.
- 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.
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- 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.
He is Director (R & D) at Abhumka Herbal Pvt Ltd in Ahmedabad, India. He has been documenting ethnobotanical knowledge of tribals of Central and Western India for more than 15 years. His company validates herbal practices of indigenous herbal healers and converts it into finished products and also rewards the knowledge holders by sharing part of the profit. Dr Acharya’s work and dedication for the tribal welfare has been well appreciated by The Wall Street Journal. He is a Feature Writer/ Member- Editorial Board for many magazines. He has written 4 books and more than 1000 popular and scientific articles on tribal’s traditional herbal knowledge.