Ashwagandha, one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic healing, has been used since ancient times for a wide variety of conditions, and is most well-known for its restorative benefits. In Sanskrit Ashwagandha means the smell of a horse, indicating that the herb imparts the vigor and strength of a stallion, and has traditionally been prescribed to help people strengthen their immune system after an illness. Ashwagandha is frequently referred to as Indian ginseng because of its rejuvenating properties, even though botanically, ginseng and Ashwagandha are unrelated. Belonging to the same family as the tomato, Ashwagandha is a plump shrub with oval leaves and yellow flowers. It bears red fruit about the size of a raisin. The herb is native to the dry regions of India, northern Africa, and the Middle East, and today is also grown in more mild climates, including the United States.
HOW TO GROW
Sprinkle tiny seeds onto the surface and rake in lightly.
- Supply water by misting regularly or by watering from the bottom.
- Surface must not dry out at any time until the seedlings have developed a deep root system, but must also never be wet as this will encourage fungal rot.
- High humidity is advantageous for initial germination, but will encourage fungal problems soon after.
- Seedlings may be transplanted when 10cm tall.
- Germination should be expected within two weeks.
- Water generously while young and more sparingly when older.
Keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged during the ashwagandha’s germination period, which takes two to three weeks. After germination, allow the soil to dry between waterings. Water the plant during a shady time of day, such as near sunrise or sunset, moistening the soil down to about the second knuckle of your index finger.
No serious pest is reported in this crop. Whenever the crop is damaged by insects, two or three sprays Neem Astra as foliar spray at 10 days interval was found highly useful against aphids, mites and insect attack.
Diseases like seedling rot and blight are observed. Seedling mortality becomes severe under high temperature and humid conditions. Incidence of disease can be minimized by use of disease free seeds and by giving proper seed treatment before sowing as stated earlier. Neem cake also can be applied. It will save root damage caused by nematodes and insects. Further, adoption of crop rotation, timely sowing and maintaining proper soil drainage will also protect the crop.
A research study has termed Ashwagandha as an emerging and novel alternative in the field of oncology because of its cancer killing properties, in association with radiation therapy and chemotherapy. It is also of interest because it is known to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy without interfering with the tumor cell-killing activity.
- Ashwagandha has been found to be effective in dealing with a variety of rheumatologic problems.
- Ashwagandha is effective in urinogenital, gastrointestinal, and respiratory tract infections when consumed orally.
- Ashwagandha, with its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and antistressor properties, is good for cardiovascular health problems. It strengthens the heart muscles and can also control cholesterol.
- Ashwagandha has been traditionally used in Ayurveda to improve both physical and mental health. The effects of Ashwagandha on mental health, particularly in depression, were studied at the Institute of Medical Sciences at Banaras Hindu University in India. The study supported the benefits of Ashwagandha in relation to anxiety and depression.
- Ashwagandha has long been used as a remedy for diabetes in Ayurvedic medicine. Experiments showed that blood sugar levels during fasting and post-lunch decreased significantly when Ashwagandha was comsumed for a period of four weeks.
- In cases of hypothyroidism, Ashwagandha can be used to stimulate the thyroid gland. A study on Ashwagandhas effects on the thyroid gland revealed that the root extract, if given on a daily basis, would increase the secretion of thyroid hormones.
- Ashwagandha is also believed to possess anti-stress properties.
- Ashwagandha is a very good source of antioxidants. These antioxidants are very effective in scavenging and neutralizing free radicals produced during the process of metabolism.