Withania somnifera – Ashwaghanda ‘African’ (plant)
Withania somnifera is highly regarded in Ayurvedic medicine, it is used as a general tonic and an adaptogen, in much the same way as Ginseng in Chinese medicine. Contains alkaloids (Withanolides). The common name of Ashwaghanda refers not only to a ‘horse’s smell’, but also to the strength of a horse, alluding to its adaptogenic properties.
Powdered roots are an ingredient of Ayurvedic tonic formulas and Raja’s Cup coffee substitute. Roots are lifted from plants after 1-2 years, evidently the longer the better, although I find they are great medicine after 2 years.
This selection is an ecotype of Withania somnifera from Africa. It differs slightly from the Indian type, the calyces are a little larger and more persistent, leaves are larger and it appears less prone to insect attack.
Care and Cultivation of Withania somnifera
Withania somnifera grows from 30cm tall to 1 metre. Cut back plants in early spring to encourage new basal growth. Full sun or partial shade in well drained soil. Withania somnifera is perennial and roots can be harvested after 1 year, or preferably 2-5 years.
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