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Botanical Name: Withania somnifera

Other names: Withania, Indian ginseng and Winter cherry

Family: Solanaceae (nightshade family)

Withania is a small to medium perennial shrub that grows 1-1.5m in height.

It has ovate hair-like branches with simple, alternates leaves that are up to 10cm long. The flowers are small (approx. 1 cm) and greenish yellow in color. Th grow together in short axillary clusters.

The fruit is around 6mm in width, red and smooth.

The roots are long and tuberous.

Parts Used: Root

Traditional Use: Withania has been used in Ayurvedic medicine as a tonic, a blood cleanser and an aphrodisiac. It was used to help those that had Vata or Kapha conditions.

It was used for children who failed to thrive and for elderly.

In the middle east, Withania root was used as a sedative and a hypnotic along with helping those with rheumatic pains.

Constituents: Steroidal compounds, including saponins and lactones - withanolides and withaferines. Alkaloids and nutrients such as iron.

Energetics: Warming, Sweet, Bitter, Dry and Pungent

Actions: Tonic, adaptogen, mildly sedative, anti inflammatory, immune modulating, anti anemic and relaxant

Indications: Anxiety, Adrenal depletion, reduction in the negative physical effects of stress, anti anemic, convalescence, fatigue, improvement of stamina in physical activity (sports performance), Insomnia, improvement in muscle strength and function, low testosterone and fertility in men and rheumatoid arthritis.


  • Withania can be had in a powdered form that you can add to smoothies or yoghurt

  • Can be mixed with honey to make small balls that you can eat

  • Can be added to warm drinks

  • When making bliss balls you can add withania in powdered form.

  • Usually taken in either capsule or tincture form.

  • Dosage: 3-8g of powdered root daily.


Withania is contraindicated in those who are allergic to the herb or sensitive to the Solanaceae family.

Precautions and safety:

May stimulate the thyroid gland.

May enhance the effects of benzodiazepines.

When taken in high doses may cause gastrointestinal upset, loose stools and vomiting due to saponin content.

Category B1 for pregnancy - no risk shown to fetus in animal studies, no adequate studies done in pregnant women.

Withania is considered compatible for breastfeeding. In Ayurvedic medicine withania is used to help support a healthy milk supply.


Mills and Bone (2013), Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy, 2nd edition; Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier

Ulbricht and Seamon (2010), Natural Standards Herbal Pharmacotherapy An evidence based approach; St Louis Missouri, Mosby Elsevier

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