Ashwagandha is a member of the nightshade family and is grown in northern New England, India, northern Africa, and the Middle East. It is a hardy evergreen shrub that can even be grown in the Himalayas. Another name for Ashwagandha is Winter Cherry, and it has greenish-yellow flowers that can be easily missed as they are tiny and blend in with the rest of the plant. The bright red berries can be collected in the fall and the seeds saved for the next yearís planting. The roots can also be dried for tea or tincture.
To grow your own Ashwagandha, it is easy to start from seeds. The seeds need warm soil for good germination, and it is helpful to place the seed trays on a heat mat. Watering the plants with warm water will encourage germination also. The seedlings will not germinate and grow vigorously unless they are warm enough. Once you are sure the last frosts have passed, you can replant them into a sunny patch of the garden in June.
Ashwagandha benefits a variety of conditions: anxiety, insomnia and mild depression to name a few.
It can be calming and rejuvenating for people who feel exhausted, have difficulty concentration, or just feel ungrounded. Ashwagandha also benefits muscle tone and has been used to help patients regain physical strength after an illness. A good mixture is 1/2 to 1 tsp. of root powder mixed with warm milk, and a touch of honey. Taken once or twice daily will help anyone who feels chronically tired, anemic or just needs a pick-me-up. A tea or tincture can be made from the root if you do not want to use milk.
Another suggestion to calm and quiet nerves, mind and spirit is to use warm milk with ashwagandha, honey, a pinch of cardamom powder and just a touch of rose water. Menopause symptoms such as stress, depression, insomnia and hot flashes may benefit from daily use of this warm concoction prior to bedtime. Women in their menstruating years will benefit from regular use of ashwagandha.
There are studies that have shown ashwagandha to have anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties, as well as strong antioxidants that reduce damage from free radicals in the body. This root is an adaptogenic herb that enables the body to adapt to various stressors.
For cancer patients, ashwagandha is being used to help reduce the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy. It is also being used to treat the side effects of multiple sclerosis, asthma, systemic lupus, stress-induced ulcers, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Tonic herbs like ashwagandha, along with a healthy diet and lifestyle choices offer a great way to prevent illnesses and promote physical strength. As always, keep your doctor informed of any herbs or over the counter treatments you are using.