Authored by: Emily Cuthbert

Latin Name: Withania somnifera

Standardized Common Name: Ashwagandha 

Sanskrit Name: Ashwagandha-smell of the horse (Vajigandha- Vaji-meaning “horse” + “gandha”– smell)

Other Common Names: Indian Ginseng, Sweat of a Horse

Family: Solanaceae

Parts Used: Root, sometimes leaves

Botanical Description:

Withania somnifera is a woody, evergreen, perennial shrub that grows native to India, Africa and the Mediterranean. The yellow to green stem of the plant is covered in very fine, frosty hairs, and typically grows no more than three feet tall. The yellow-green star-shaped flowers form as umbellate cymes, and typically flower over the winter months. When mature, this herb will develop bright red-orange round fruits that are covered by a sheer brown paper-like covering of the calyx. It will typically be in fruit around November to February. The simple, ovate leaves are also covered with these soft, frost like hairs giving them a soft appearance and texture. The leaves are typically 2-6 inches and grow alternately up the stem. The seeds from the fruit are tiny, yellow-orange-brown in color, and look like a grain. Although withania is native to more dry climates, it can grow in temperate climates like the United States as well.


  • Taste (Rasa): Pungent, bitter, astringent
  • Potency/Action (Virya): Hot, warm
  • Post-digestion effect (Vipaka): Pungent
  • Doshas: VPK=, potentially P+


  • Steroidal lactones
    • Withanolides — 35 types from the roots have been studied. Withaferin-A is responsible for most pharmacological activity.
    • Withaferins
  • Alkaloids — 12 types from the roots have been studied
  • Glycosides — Responsible for the anti-stress activity
  • Iron
  • Starch
  • Reducing sugars
  • Amino Acids — Glycine, tyrosine, alanine, glutamic acid, cystine

Actions: Withania somnifera overall has a warming, drying, yet rejuvenating effect which can be beneficial to all doshas, specifically for Vata and Kapha types. It is a rasayana herb, restoring physical and mental wellbeing. It also promotes healthy sleep patterns and assists against insomnia, without being a sedative.

  • Rejuvenative
  • Nervine tonic
  • Adaptogen
  • Anxiolytic
  • Immune-modulator
  • Hypoglycemic effect- Glucose regulator
  • Anti-rheumatic
  • Aphrodisiac
  • Anti-tumor

Indications: Insomnia, diabetes, stress management, anxiety, depression, asthma, ulcers, aging, memory

Safety/Contraindications: No known contraindications. Can be too heating long-term for Pitta constitutions.

Preparations and Doses:

  • Tea: 3-5 grams of herb/ cup of water or ½ of the dried root per cup of water, simmered no less than 20 minutes
  • Powder: 3-6 grams/day


  • Government of Canada HC. Monograph. Monograph: Ashwagandha. Published May 8, 2007. Accessed May 6, 2021.
  • Marciano M, Vizniak NA. Evidence Informed Botanical Medicine. Canada: Professional Health Systems Inc.; 2015.
  • Umadevi M, Rajeswari R, Rahale CS, et al. Traditional And Medicinal Uses of Withania Somnifera. The Pharma Innovation Journal. Published February 11, 2016. Accessed May 6, 2021.