For those of you who picked up an Ashwagandha plant (or those wanting to grow their own) here are a few growing tips and some of the plants health benefits…
These plants need well drained soil. They do not like having soggy roots, so try putting some gravel in the bottom of the pot or the hole you will be planting in. They will like slightly alkaline soil that is poor in organic matter. If they are going into a pot, it might be a good idea to add some sand or extra perlite to the mix, so the soil drains well and isn’t too rich. I have seen suggestions for planting it in a cactus mix, but I am not completely sure about that…maybe half cactus mix and half typical potting soil would be a good idea. (Make sure your potting soil does not have too much additional fertilizers) Let the plant dry out in between watering, as it likes a drier soil.
Ashwagandha loves the heat and will need full sun. They can be susceptible to diseases that other plants in the nightshade family are prone to, so use good rotation methods and don’t plant where you have recently planted tomatoes, potatoes, etc. They will need about a 12 inch space between it and other plants, and can grow up to 3 feet tall. In commercial production, they do not use fertilizers, as it encourages leaf growth and takes away from the root development.
In most areas, Ashwagandha is grown as an annual, but here in the desert it can be grown as a perennial, depending on the severity of seasonal frosts. Root harvest typically happens when the plant dies back due to the first frost of the fall, but in a warmer climate, it can be anywhere from when the plant is 100 days to 200 days old. I have read that it is a good time to harvest when the plant has given fruit (the fruit is not used in herbal medicine and I am not sure about its toxicity) and the leaves begin to die back a little. This will be the first year I have grown this plant, so we will all be learning together. Please share your experiences (whether successful or not) so we can learn from each other’s mistakes!
Ashwagandha is a very popular herb that is beginning to be overharvested in its native environment (according to Mountain Rose Herbs.) Luckily, we have the perfect climate to grow it here in the desert and it would be so wonderful if we could supply it to ourselves, our families, and maybe someday more!
This herb is extremely important for our modern society, and helps with many stressed induced illnesses. It is a true adaptogenic herb, meaning it helps the whole body system better adapt to physical, emotional, and environmental stress. It is a rejuvenating tonic, used to replenish reproductive functions, soothe the nervous system, and calm inflammation.
It has such regenerating, energy giving qualities, without being over-stimulating. It is a long term herb, often used for months before the full benefits are felt. It has a calming effect on the mind, but in a different way than most sedative herbs. It replenishes and protects the nervous system and is great for those feeling depleted or exhausted. It is also used often to treat depression, and so is a great choice for people who tend to swing from anxiety-states to depressive-states.
Ashwagandha regulates sleep cycles. So while it may not knock you out from one dose (although that is possible) it helps to balance sleep cycles over time. It will promote deeper rest, and a regular sleep cycle.
Traditionally this herb is also used for its anti-inflammatory properties. It is helpful for people suffering with arthritis, even rheumatoid arthritis. It helps to reduce damage to cartilage, and has other anti-oxidant and immune system regulating effects.
There is so much more this herb has to offer that is just beginning to be understood. Studies are showing promise for use in cancer therapies, and it may offer exciting benefits for those undergoing treatment.
This herb is not typically recommended in pregnancy, and should be used with caution for those who are using thyroid medication, as it affects the conversion of the hormone T4 to T3. High doses have been known to cause nausea & diarrhea. They say it should not be used by people who are sensitive to foods in the nightshade family, but this is mostly theoretical.
I am sure as I grow and get to know this plant, there will be so much more that I could add. I have used this herb, but not on the long term basis necessary for the true effects. I think this is common for many people who use herbs. We try them, but do not always give them the opportunity to truly benefit in a deep and complex way. Whenever I read about the benefits of this herb, I can think of so many people in my life that would benefit from it. Hopefully, someday we will all have an abundance of this precious herb that so many of us are in need of.