In Ayurveda, Asvagandha, which means "smelling like a horse or mare" in Sanskrit, was used as an aphrodisiac and geriatric tonic and treatment of rheumatism, cough, consumption, etc. The Greek physician Theophrastus, described this plant, which was recorded in the Arabic 'Kaknaj-el-manoum'. Rheede called it 'peVetti' and stated that a vulnerary ointment was prepared from the leaves. In the late 1880s, Dr. Trebut investigated its reputation for hypnotic properties. P.L. Simmonds1 stated that the plant was used at the Civil Hospital, Alger, as a sedative and hypnotic.
It is tomentose under-shrub. The taproot is well developed, stout and fleshy. The leaves are ovate, sub-acute and pubescent. Flowers are greenish or lirud yellow. Corolla is divided rather more than ½ way down. Berry is red enclosed in the inflated calyx. The seed are reniform and yellow.
W.somnifera is an erect, evergreen, tomentose shrub. The roots are stout, fleshy and whitish brown; the leaves are simple ovate, glabrous; the flowers are inconspicuous, greenish or lurid-yellow, in axillary, umbellate cymes; the berries are globose, orange-red when mature, enclosed in the persistent calyx and have yellow, reniform seeds.
Biochemically heterogeneous alkaloids including cuscohygrine, anahygrine, tropine, pseudotropine, anaferine. The plant has steroidal lactones - withanolides, withaferin, which are estrogenic compounds.
Aswagandha is used in asthma and as a uterine sedative. The total alkaloids showed relaxant and antispasmodic effects against several spasmogens on intestinal, uterine, bronchial, tracheal and blood-vascular muscles.
- Amer. J. Pharm. Feb. 1891.