Small evergreen shrub with tuberous roots used for their medicinal effects on the reproductive and nervous system.
- Botanical Name: Withania somnifera
- Plant Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade)
- Synonyms: Withania, Indian Ginseng
- Form: Evergreen shrub
- Lifecycle: Perennial (cultivated as an annual in colder areas)
- Use 1. Medicinal: This plant has a long history in Ayurvedic medicine, where it is used for its abortifacient, adaptogen, antibiotic, diuretic, narcotic, sedative and tonic actions, contained in all parts, but in particular in the leaves and root bark. It is said to have a rejuvenitive effect, aiding recovery from illness, and to lower blood sugar levels, reduce cortisol, boost brain function and help fight symptoms of anxiety and depression. Care is required as all parts are toxic if eaten.
- Use 2. Saponins: The fruit contains saponins and can be used as a soap substitute.
- Use 3. Curdling Agent: The seeds can be used to curdle plant milks in order to make vegetarian cheeses.
- Growing Conditions: Prefers well drained stony soil but will succeed in ordinary garden soil. Requires full sun or very light shade and a sheltered spot. Can be grown in pots so it can be brought inside to overwinter.
- Height: 75 – 100 cm
- Hardiness: Frost tender
- Flowering time: Small yellow-green bell shaped flowers in summer followed by red berries inside a brownish papery calex (like the cape gooseberry, to which it is related).
- Pollination: Self-fertile
- Biodiversity value:
- Native to: drier regions of India
- Food Forest Fit: Herbaceous layer in frost-free spots only.
- Fun Fact: Somnifera means “sleep-inducing” in Latin, whilst the name ashwagandha is a combination of the Sanskrit words ashva (horse), and gandha, (smell), telling us that the root has a strong horse-like odour!
- Pot size: 9cm