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Withania - (L.)Dunal.

Common Name Ashwagandha - Indian Ginseng, Withania
Family Solanaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The plant is toxic if eaten[238]. Can induce dependence [301]. May decrease the effectiveness of allopathic immunosuppressant drugs. Avoid with sleeping tablets (barbiturates) [301].
Habitats Open places, disturbed areas etc[192]. An undershrub in stony places[238].
Range Mediterranean Europe, most of Africa, through W. Asia to Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (4 of 5)
Care (info)
Half Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Withania Ashwagandha - Indian Ginseng, Withania

Withania Ashwagandha - Indian Ginseng, Withania


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Withania is an evergreen Shrub growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 9 and is frost tender. It is in leaf all year. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs).
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Physalis somnifera. Withania kansuensis. Withania microphysalis

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

The seeds are used to curdle plant milks in order to make vegetarian cheeses[183, 240].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Ashwagandha is one of the most widespread tranquillising and adaptogenic herbs used in India, where it holds a position of importance similar to ginseng in China[238 ]. It acts mainly on the reproductive and nervous systems, where it improves overall physical and mental health and increases longevity and vitality, having an overall rejuvenating effect on the body, and is used to improve vitality and aid recovery after chronic illness[238 , 254 , 299 ]. Pharmaco-chemical analysis of the plant has revealed a very large number of bio-active compounds, particularly a range of alkaloids, steroidal lactones and glycosides[299 ]. An aqueous alcohol root extract showed positive cardioprotective and hepatoprotective effects[299 ]. A group of glycosides, known as sitoindosides, extracted from the roots showed significant antidepressant and anxiety-relieving properties. In a test for chronic stress, a root extract was compared with an extract from Panax ginseng; both extracts had a positive effect on several chronic stress symptoms, but the Withania somnifera extract did not cause the ginseng abuse syndrome, indicating a different mode of action[299 ]. Cognition enhancing tests of an aqueous ethanol extract containing the glycosides withaferin A and sitoindosides showed a positive effect on cholinergic signal transduction in the forebrain, which may partly explain its cognition-enhancing effect[299 ]. Tests have shown that ashwagandha can reverse memory deficits and also have a consolidating effect on the memory. Its effects upon the brain may provide leads towards treatments for Parkinson’s disease[299 ]. Aqueous alcohol extracts of the roots showed a positive effect on the cartilage of osteoarthritis patients both in vitro and in vivo[299 ]. The immunomodulatory effects of the withanolides (a group of steroidal lactones) have been studied extensively. Enhanced white blood cell counts and activity and inhibition of delayed-type hypersensitivity are among the processes reported[299 ]. Glyco-withanolides, including sitoindosides IX and X, have been shown to cause increased counts of platelets and red and white blood cells and increased activity of peritoneal macrophages and lysosomal enzymes[299 ]. The properties of the root extracts are very promising in cancer therapy; several studies indicate that they are correlated with the antioxidant effects. The extracts not only affect tumour growth but also have positive adjuvant effects in radiation and chemotherapy[299 ]. In an in-vitro experiment, the steroid lactone withaferin A inhibited growth in human cell lines of breast, central nervous system, colon and lung cancer[299 ]. A chloroform extract of the plant prevented cell proliferation by disrupting mitosis and inhibiting angiogenesis[299 ]. The addition of root powder to the diet has shown hypoglycaemic effects[299 ]. Although ashwagandha is used as an aphrodisiac, adding root powder to the diet has impaired the libido and sexual performance[299 ]. The methanolic extract of the roots has shown significant antibacterial activity against a range of bacteria[299 ]. When studying the anti-snake-venom properties of Withania somnifera, it was found that a glycoprotein isolated from an aqueous extract of the plant neutralized the toxic effects of phospholipase A2 from cobra venom. However, its mode of action may be too slow to provide a basis for pharmacological developments[299 ]. Side effects of the medicinal use of ashwagandha are rarely reported, but a case of thyrotoxicosis caused by its use was reported in the Netherlands. Symptoms disappeared when the treatment was stopped[299 ]. The whole plant, but especially the leaves and the root bark, are abortifacient, adaptogenic, antibiotic, aphrodisiac, deobstruent, diuretic, narcotic, strongly sedative and tonic[169 , 192 , 238 , 240 ]. Internally, it is used to tone the uterus after a miscarriage and also in treating post-partum difficulties[192 ]. It is also used to treat nervous exhaustion, debility, insomnia, wasting diseases, failure to thrive in children, impotence, infertility, multiple sclerosis etc[238 ]. Applied externally, the plant has been applied as a poultice to boils, wounds, swellings and other painful parts[192 , 240 , 775 ]. An ointment made from the leaves is applied to wounds and bed sores[299 ]. The root is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use[238 ]. Some caution is advised in the use of this plant since it is toxic[K ]. The fruit is diuretic[240 ]. The seed is diuretic and hypnotic[240 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

The fruit is rich in saponins and can be used as a soap substitute[169 , 192 , 299 ]. The leaves are used as an insect repellent[169 , 299 , 775 ]. The root is used in Africa to ward off large animals such as lions[775 ]. The dried root is crushed, then placed in a container and heated so that they give off smoke[775 ].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A fairly easily grown plant, it requires a warm sheltered position in full sun and a well-drained moderately fertile soil[169, K]. Prefers a dry stony soil[238]. This species is not hardy in temperate climates but it can be grown as an annual, flowering and fruiting in its first year from seed[169].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow early spring in a greenhouse. There is usually a high germination rate within 2 weeks. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle and plant them out after the last expected frost. Consider giving the plants some protection, such as a cloche, until they are established and growing away well.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Aksan, Ashwagandha, Cheese tree, Gisewa, Indian ginseng, Karama anta, Kuaak, Kuak, Kuthmithi, Winter cherry, Zafua, 'ubab, 'ubâb, a sh a ga n dha, achuvagandi, acuvakanthi, agol, ahan, ajagandha, aksan, aksin, amukkara in tamil, amukkaram kizargu, amukkaramkizangu, amukkara (root), amukkara ki?a?ku, amukkira, amukkram, amukkuram, amukkuran, angarberu, asagand, asagandh, asagandh nagori, asagandha, asan, asana, asgand, asgand asgand nagori, asgandh, asgandh nagori, asgandha, asgandnagar, asganhisrol, asgvagandha, ashuvagandhi, ashvaganadha, ashvagandba, ashvagandha, ashvakandika, ashwaganda, ashwagandha, ashwagandha root, ashwaganha, ashwahandha, askagandha, askagandha as'vagandha, askandha, askandhatilli, asoda, asugandha, asun, asundha, asunyho, asuvagandi, asvagandha, asvagandhi, aswagandha, aswal, aswgandh, asvagandha (root), babu, bitterappeliefie, bofepha, bouzidân, bufera somnifera, bâibru, cheparusiot, chepepterekiat, cherry winter, coqueret sommnifere, coqueret somnifère, dambarico, duffhro, e-gaddy, emotoe, erva moura sonífera, foakapoaka, fuqqueish, gandhrapatri, ghoda, ghodakun, ghodasan, ginseng indiano, girbah, gisawa, gizara, gizawa, gizewa, hayagandha, hayagandhã, hayagandha, heilkraut, hidi-budawa, hidigaga, hindib, hirchil, hiremaddina- gida, hiremaddina-gadday, hiremaddina-gaddy, hiremaddina-gida, hirenaddina-hire-gadday, idi, idigaga, indian ginseng, isgand, juustumari, kabarra, kakani hindi, kakanj hindi, kaknaj-e-hindi, kaknja-e-hindi, kanaje hindi, kanchuki, khasraqul, kilangee, kipkogai, kuvia, labotwit, lakri, leekurun, lesayet, lopotwo, malagueta de galinha, merjan, mgeda, mhulapori, moferangopa, morgan, mosala-marupi, mpwa, mtemua shamba, mtemua shimba, murambae, nhulapori, ofuyaendwa, ol asajet, olasaiyet, oroval, orval, oshilumembodi, otjindumbu, ouartinni, palashaparni, penneroogadda, penneru, pennerugadda, pevette, poc poc sauvage, poc-poc sauvage, poison gooseberry, pontadeira, punir, radix withaniae, samm al ferakh, samm al-far, samoah, samwah, schlafbeere, sebbere-gola, senn-el-far, serran, sim-alfirakh, simm el ferakh, sum-ul-far, sum-ul-firakh, tatdra, tchintueumbuo, techil, ti-poc-poc, ubab, ubub, ubuvimba, ubuvuma, umuhire, umuire, umuvimba, uva caneça, u’beb, vajigandha, varahapatri, vimhepe, virenaddlinagadda, vajigandha, winter cherry, winter cherry|amukkara, winter chirry, winter-cherry, witania, withania, withania somnifera root, withania somnifera root for use in thmp, xharkhardii, xoxoriko, za'o|'o, ||auemas, ||auhaib.

Africa, Arabia, Asia, Australia, Botswana, Canary Islands, China, East Africa, Ethiopia, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mediterranean, Mexico, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, North Africa, North America, Pakistan, Palestine, South Africa, Southern Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tasmania, Turkey, West Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Withania somniferaAshwagandha - Indian Ginseng, WithaniaShrub1.0 10-12  LMHNM142

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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