The potentiality of Withania somnifera for human health: A mini review
Dr. Poonam Yadav
Withania somnifera is an important herb from the Ayurvedic medical system used for the treatment of debility, emaciation, impotence and premature ageing. Not surprisingly, it has been dubbed the ‘Indian ginseng’. Its Indian name, ashwagandha, is said to refer to the ‘smell and strength of a horse’ and possibly alludes to its reputed aphrodisiac properties, although it could also relate to the smell of the root. Pharmacological research on Withania has stressed its antitumour and adaptogenic actions, reinforcing its comparison with Panax ginseng. However, Withania occupies an important place in the herbal materia medica because, while it is not as potent as Panax, it lacks the potential stimulating effects of the latter. In fact, it has a mild sedative action as indicated by its specific name ‘somnifera’. It is therefore ideally suited to the treatment of overactive but debilitated patients, in whom Panax might tend to aggravate the overstimulation. Many parts of the plant have been used in traditional medicine, including the leaves, bark and root. Except where specified in this monograph, ‘Withania’ refers to use of the root.