Withania somnifera, Ashwagandha, Indian Ginseng seeds
Withania somnifera belongs to the family of the Solanaceae, the nightshades. W. somnifera is native to China, India, the Mediterranean and Africa. It is also known as Ashwagandha, Indian Ginseng, poison gooseberry and winter cherry. The winter cherry grows as an herbaceous, perennial plant that reaches a height between 1 and 1,5 m. Rarely it reaches a height of 2 m. The shoot is pubescent. The leaves are ovate. The upper side of the leaf is dark green; the bottom side is a little lighter and pubescent. The midrib of the upper side is also pubescent. The leaf of the poison gooseberry get 7 cm long and 4,5 cm wide. The flower is inconsiderable small, greenish to yellowish. The flowers of W. somnifera are clustered in inflorescences mad of 4 to 6 flowers. They are bell- shaped. The flowering time starts in July and ends in September. The fruit of the Indian Ginseng is an orange to red fruit that is protected by the calyx that gets bigger when the fruit is ripe. The calyx looks like a lampion just like it is known from physalis. The berry reaches 8 mm in diameter and includes the small yellowish to brownish seeds. The root gets 30 cm long and has many lateral roots. The roots of the winter berry have a characteristically aroma and taste slightly like licorice. Ashwagandha is used in the ayurvedic medicine, a traditionally Indian art of healing. Mainly the root is used. An extract of the root shall have an aphrodisiac effect in both genders. In former times it was consumed as love potion. Furthermore the winter berry helps people that are stressed. It calms down the nerves and balances the hormones. Because of these properties the Indian ginseng is used to heal diseases that are based on stress. In addition Ashwagandha has a juvenescent effect and shall help against gray hair. The winter berry has a calming effect and promotes a recreative sleep All in all the effects of W. somnifera are comparable to those of the Ginseng, which is used in the traditionally Chinese medicine. Due to that fact W. somnifera is called Indian Ginseng. In Germany the winter berry is not rated as a medicament, it is sold as a dietary supplement. However there are no studies concerning the side effects. W. somnifera belongs to the nightshades that are known for their poisonous members. The winter berry contains several alkaloids for example mainly Withanoliden. Today the research does not known in detail how they act exactly. One should take the extracts carefully.
The seeds of W. somnifera do not need a pretreatment. They can be planted directly into the substrate. Thereby they should be only covered slightly with substrate. The seeds need light to germinate. At a temperature of about 24°C and constantly moist substrate germination occurs after 3 to 6 weeks. The winter berry can tolerate dry periods. It is not winter hardy.
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