Milena Połumackanycz, Aneta Forencewicz, Marek Wesołowski, Agnieszka Viapiana
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera L.) – the plant with proven health-promoting properties
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) belongs to the Solanacae family and is also known as gooseberry, Indian ginseng and winter cherry. It is a plant that has played a significant role in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Its natural habitat is south-east Asia. It has the form of a small or medium sized semi-shrub covered with characteristic very short hairs of silver-grey color. The chemical composition of the plant is very rich, but its main active ingredients are vitanolids, which are naturally occurring steroid lactones and alkaloids. It is an important ingredient in many Ayurvedic formulations, which are currently commercialized in India and other countries of the world. Ayurvedic formulations containing W. somnifera are prescribed as analgesic for a variety of musculoskeletal disorders, hypertension, in gynecological practice for vaginitis, for stimulating sexual impulses and during pregnancy for breast development. The plant is also applied as dietary supplement and in the form of decoction that is used as nutrient and health restorative to pregnant and old people. In Ayurvedic systems of medicine, the leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds and roots of W. somnifera are used for a therapeutic purposes. Moreover, W. somnifera is also known as a powerful adaptogen that enhances the body’s resilience to stress, function of the brain and nervous system. Futhermore, Ashwagandha improves memory and function of the reproductive system promotes a healthy sexual and reproductive balance, amends the cell-mediated immunity and increases the body’s defense against disease and possess anti-inflammatory, anticancer and anti-arthritic activities. W. somnifera has also other multipurpose medicinal uses which are supported by different clinical and preclinical trials including immunomodulatory, antidiabetic, neurological inflammatory disorders, hemopoietic and Parkinson’s disease. Additionally it is also useful as antibiotic, antioxidant, deobstruent, aphrodisiac, abortifacient, diuretic and sedative agent. Moreover, this plant is also useful to treat bronchitis, asthma, ulcer, cancer, emaciation, insomnia, and senile dementia. However, the best known and most frequently used action is its toning effect on the nervous system. Contemporary research confirms that it is a strong adaptogen, i.e. it can effectively support increasing resistance to stress. Many of Ashwagandha’s therapeutic actions still need to be studied. Moreover, this study will allow to discover new potential applications of this plant.
Keywords: ashwagandha, phenolic compounds, health propriety.
© Farm Pol, 2020, 76 (8): 442–447