The main constituents of Aswagandha are alkaloids and steroidal lactones. Among the various alkaloids, withanine is the main constituent. Ayurveda Aswagandha is considered a rasayana herb. This herb is also considered an adaptogen which is an herb that works to normalize physiological function, working on the HPA axis and the neuroendocrine system. In Ayurveda, the fresh roots are sometimes boiled in milk, prior to drying, in order to leach out undesirable constituents. The berries are used as a substitute for rennet, to coagulate milk in cheese making.
It is used in several medicines. The species name somnifera means “sleep-inducing” in Latin, indicating that to it are attributed sedating properties, but it has been also used for sexual vitality and as an adaptogen. Some herbalists refer to Aswagandha as Indian ginseng, since it is used in ayurvedic medicine in a way similar to that ginseng is used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Fruits, leaves and seeds of the Indian medicinal plant withania somnifera have been traditionally used for the Ayurvedic system as aphrodisiacs, diuretics and for treating memory loss. The Japanese patent applications are related to the use of the herb as a skin ointment and for promoting reproductive fertility. The U.S based company Natreon has also obtained a patent for an Ashwagandha extract. Ashwagandha is reported to have anti-carcinogenic effects in animal and cell cultures by decreasing the expression of nuclear factor-kappa B, suppressing intercellular tumor necrosis factor, and potentiating apoptotic signalling in cancerous cell lines. Another US establishment, the New England Deaconess Hospital, has taken a patent on an Ashwagandha formulation claimed to alleviate symptoms associated with arthritis. The product called “ashwagandha oil” is a combination of ashwagandha with almond oil and rose water designed to be used as a facial toner, and should not be consumed orally.