Withania somnifera Dunal is popularly known as Ashwagandha, Indian ginseng, or Winter cherry. The roots of plant are mainly used in preparation of medicines.
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Ashwagandha is used as adaptogen and rejuvenative tonic for both children and the elderly either as a single drug or in combination with other medicinal herbs. It is best taken as a powder mixed with ghee, milk or honey. The standard dosages vary with the most common being 1-2 grams, three times per day.
Ashwagandha has anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, cardioprotective, anti-stress, tranquilizer type sedative activity, hypoglycemic, thyroprotective activity. It is a broad-spectrum remedy useful in variety of diseases. Ashwagandha is used in treatment of sexual weakness, neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s diseases. It has neuroprotective and neuroregenerative properties.
Animal studies show it regenerates damaged neurons, reconstructs the nerve signaling network, and improves memory deficits.
Ashwagandha re-grows dendrites and therefore rebuilds brain tissue. Neuroprotective properties have shown marked improvements in motor skills, anatomical, and behavioral impairments.
Ashwagandha is widely accepted to be safe but it can have side effects in dose dependent manner. Excessive or high dosage of its powder can cause many side effects.
What are possible Side Effects of Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha appears to be well tolerated and safe according to clinical research. It is safe to take. Acute toxicity studies in animals show a good margin of safety with a high therapeutic index. But, its large doses can cause gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea and vomiting.
Ashwagandha can cause Abortion
Excessive doses of ashwagandha have been reported to cause abortions, so pregnant women should avoid this herb.
Ashwagandha interacts with Sedatives
Ashwagandha should not be takes with other sedatives or anti-anxiety drugs.
Ashwagandha can upset stomach
Ashwagandha is heavy to digest without digestive spices. Large doses of Ashwagandha can cause diarrhea, stomach upset and vomiting.
Ashwagandha should be used with caution in peptic ulcer disease as it may cause gastrointestinal irritation.
Ashwagandha may potentiate barbiturates, Benzodiazepines
Barbiturates are drug that act as a central nervous system depressant and can therefore produce a wide spectrum of effects. They reduce the activity of nerves causing muscle relaxation
and used as sedatives or hypnotics. Barbiturates are used in treatment for anxiety, insomnia, and seizure disorders. Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs primarily used for treating anxiety, but they also are effective in treating several other conditions.
Ashwagandha may potentiate barbiturates, Benzodiazepines and this additive effect can lead to increased sedation.
People taking barbiturates, benzodiazepines and Ashwagandha concurrently should be cautious.
Ashwagandha increases weight
Ashwagandha has anabolic effects and leads to weight gain. Both animal and human studies have shown significant improvements in weight gain during the growth phase with the use of withania.
Research show that withania increases testosterone levels and muscles building. Ashwagandha added to milk (2 g/day for 60
days) in children is found to induce weight gain and increase total plasma proteins and hemoglobin levels.
Ashwagandha is member of Solanaceae, the nightshade, or potato, family of flowering plants (order Solanales). The herb should not be taken in pregnancy and should be used with caution in people sensitive to the Solanaceae family of plants.