Ashwagandha

Withania somnifera

Life Cycle: Perennial in tropical environments, Annual in temperate zones

Family: Solanaceae

Overview

Description

Ashwagandha grows about three feet in height with simple elliptical, dark green, blade-shaped leaves. The entire plant, including the stems and leaves are covered with soft, light hair. Its small flowers are greenish-yellow. It originates in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Africa.

Parts Used 

Roots

The roots have a strong horse-like aroma. It has bioactive compounds – steroidal lactones, withanolide glycosides and withaferins, alkaloids, acyl steryl glycosides and saponins

Berries

Orange-red fruit has been used for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. The fruits emerge from small yellow flowers.

Medicinal Uses

Actions

Tonic, rejuvenative, nervine, sedative, astringent.

Indications

General debility, fatigue, overwork, nerve exhaustion, convalescence, and rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Ashwagandha is a strengthening adaptogen herb that is high in iron content and increases hemoglobin. The berries tonify the blood, improve circulation and enhance absorption of nutrients by cells. It slows aging promoting longevity and rejuvenating  tissues throughout the body.
  • Athletes benefit from Ashwagandha because it works on muscles and nerves to increase performance as it enhances psychomotor coordination and reaction time.
  • It protects and overcomes the effects of overwork, fatigue, and anxiety. 
  • It clears the mind, strengthens the nerves and promotes restful sleep. 
  • Improves memory, cholesterol levels and sexual ability.

Dosage

  • Tincture: 30-60 drops daily.
  • Powder:  250mg- 500mg, up to 3 grams twice daily. 
  • Combines well with Panax Ginseng.

Safety 

  • Do not use if pregnant.
  • Excellent for young people as a substitute for ginseng, which may be too stimulating.

Cultivation

Growing Conditions 

  • Avoid planting Ashwagandha next to other members of the Solanaceae family or in soils that have recently held members of this family of plants. This helps to avoid spreading of diseases and pests to which plants in this family are susceptible.
  • Grows best in well-drained, dry soil.
  • Does best in full sun.

Propagation

  • Using black mulch weed paper is suggested to keep the soil hot, and eliminate weeds.
  • Germinates in 2-3 weeks in greenhouse.
  • Use hand spade
  1. Fill plug tray with commercial potting mixture.
  2. Place one seed in each plug.
  3. Push seed down in potting mixture about ¼ inch.
  4. Water as needed (Ashwagandha prefers dry soil).
  5. Check progress daily and note in log.

For Transplant 

  1. Plant seeds in plugs early spring on heat mats.
  2. Transplant after 35 days.
  3. Dig hole with spade large enough to transplant plug.
  4. Remove plant from plug by squeezing the bottom of the plug or pinching plant out of the plug.  Be careful not to damage the roots.
  5. Leave twelve inches between plants.
  6. Plant rows 28 inches apart.
  7. Place plant in hole (if there are a lot of roots be sure to loosen the roots so they can breath).
  8. Cover the roots with soil to cover roots up to stalk. 
  9. Lightly water plant to avoid root shock.

Planting

  • Move Ashwagandha from season to season within a field rotation.
  • Direct seed in the ground unless plugs were started in early spring.
  • Cover with sand to avoid damping-off.
  1. Start from seeds.
  2. Cover lightly with potting mixture.
  3. Note planting date in harvest log.
  4. Note expected germination date in order to plan ahead.
  5. Note expected transplant date.
  6. Note anticipated harvest date for planning.

Pests 

Disease

Ashwagandha is susceptible to bacteria, fungi, viruses, phytoplasma, and nematodes. 

Insects

  • Especially susceptible to the spotted beetle.
  • Raw neem oil can help eliminate beetle populations.

Companion Plants: tomatoes, basil, geraniums, marjoram, petunia, okra

Harvest

The best time to harvest Ashwagandha is in the first or second year after the lantern looking shells become dry and some of the leaves begin to turn colors this will indicate that the fruit is set and the energy of the plant is being directed to the root. 

Harvesting Tools

  • Collection Bag – cloth or paper (something that breathes so that the herbs do not grow mold)
  • Wicker Basket – breathable tool for collecting herbs
  • Narrow Spade 
  • Garden Trowel
  • Loppers
  • Hand Sanitizer – avoid transferring contaminants to the plant 
  • A small stool or sitting mat – optional. May be helpful when harvesting for a long period of time

Harvesting Procedure (for Roots)

  1. Sanitize hands and equipment. 
  2. Relax and direct regenerative thoughts toward the plants.
  3. Carefully dig around the base of the plant. Try not to cut any roots.
  4. The Roots spread out from the center, generally about 9 to 12 inches depending on the maturity of the plant.
  5. Once the feeder roots are loosened, dig deeper to access the taproot.
  6. When the soil is loosened, grasp the plant around the base and pull slowly until the whole plant is unearthed.
  7. Use the loppers and separate the root  from the plant.
  8. Separate and discard any part of the root that is green.
  9. Gather all roots into the collection container.

Drying & Production

Dried Ashwagandha for Tea

Items for Production

  • Disposable vinyl gloves
  • Clean water
  • Washing vats
  • Colander
  • Plant Dehydrator
  • Vita mix commercial blender
  • Storage bags

Procedure

  1. Put on a pair of disposable vinyl gloves.
  2. Weigh fresh Ashwagandha to be used and document the weight.
  3. Place the plant material in a vat of clean room temperature water.
  4. Wash away all dirt rubbing with the fingers or a vegetable brush
  5. Repeat this procedure again.
  6. Rinse really well.
  7. Place plant material in a colander over the sink to drain excess water
  8. Shake the colander to promote drainage.
  9. Allow to sit until heavy dripping has subsided.
  10. Chop roots into 1/4 inch pieces (as this will allow greater surface exposure to dehydrator airflow).
  11. Spread chopped root onto dehydrator trays and place in dehydrator.
  12. Set temperature to 105 degrees F for 48 hours.
  13. At the end of the first 48 hours, set the dehydrator again for another 48 hour cycle.
  14. After the root is completely dried, use a Vitamix food processor set to ”pulse” to mill the root material down to the size of lentils. 
  15. Process only a handful at a time as it will be a more efficient process that produces a higher quality product than trying to do more.
  16. After milling, place root pieces in a tightly sealed plastic storage bag or container.
  17. Weigh the contents of each bag or container and label with the plant name, weight, and date. 

Ashwagandha Tincture 

Items for Production

  • Disposable vinyl gloves
  • Alcohol 100 proof 
  • Batch jars (1 gallon wide mouth glass)
  • Lids for batch jars
  • Scale 
  • Tincture press
  • Cheesecloth or press filter bags

Procedure

  1. Put on a pair of disposable vinyl gloves.
  2. Weigh fresh Ashwagandha root to be used and document the weight.
  3. Place the plant material in a vat of clean room temperature water.
  4. Wash away all dirt rubbing vigorously with hands and/or a vegetable brush.
  5. Repeat this procedure again.
  6. Rinse well.
  7. Place plant material in a colander over the sink to drain excess water.
  8. Shake the colander to promote drainage.
  9. Allow the plant material  to sit until heavy dripping is subsided.
  10. Chop the fresh root into small 1/4 inch pieces (This increases the amount of  plant material surface exposed to alcohol for more complete extraction of minerals )
  11. Spread the chopped root out onto a flat tray to air dryer for an hour. This decreases moisture.
  12. Fill a 1 gallon wide mouth jar with the chopped Ashwagandha root to 2 inches below the top.
  13. Add 100-140 proof alcohol to the top of the jar.
  14. Cover tightly and place in a dark place for 4 weeks or more.
  15. The tincture may be left to mature for several months.
  16. Shake up the tincture batch jar periodically (Shaking daily is preferable).
  17. After the curing period, pour off the tincture through a strainer into a separate glass container.
  18. The tincture can be filtered further by pouring it through a coffee filter.
  19. Take the remaining dregs and place them in a filter bag or cheesecloth. Place this bag in the herb press.
  20. Tighten the press until all of the remaining tincture is pressed out of the dregs.
  21. Release the pressure and take out the the compressed plant material cake. Add it to your compost.