Herb Spotlight: Winter Cherry (Ashwagandha)

Winter Cherry (known scientifically as Withania somnifera and as aśvagandhā in Sanskrit) is an amazing tonic and adaptogenic herb with a long and distinguished history in Ayurvedic medicine. Winter Cherry has a multitude of therapeutic benefits and uses and is classified in Ayurveda as a rasāyana herb, a class of anti-aging herbs which promote longevity and rejuvenation.

Among all the parts of the Winter Cherry plant, it is the roots which are highly-prized in Ayurveda and they are typically harvested and dried, and used either whole to make decoctions and teas or ground into a powder. The roots are strong-smelling and have an odor somewhat reminiscent of a horse, which is how its name in Sanskrit is derived (aśva=horse and gandhā=smell). As Winter Cherry has properties and medicinal compounds very similar to another famous tonic herb, Ginseng, it is also sometimes called Indian Ginseng.

Ayurvedic Properties of Winter Cherry

According to Ayurvedic wisdom and tradition, Winter Cherry has the following medicinal and therapeutic properties:

  • Powerful adaptogen — supports resilience of the mind and body against physical and psychological stress.
  • Nerve tonic — pacifies vāta, strengthens the nerves, relieves anxiety, improves focus & concentration and promotes restful sleep (the scientific name of Winter Cherry bears witness to this quality as somnifera literally means “sleep-inducing”).
  • Nourishing (puṣṭiprada) — nourishes the body’s tissues and promotes growth of muscle mass.
  • Strength-enhancing (balya) — enhances strength and improves athletic performance.
  • Aphrodisiac (vājīkara) — enhances virility and supports a healthy libido.
  • Anti-aging (vayas-sthāpana) — anti-inflammatory and rejuvenative, strengthens the immune system.

Winter Cherry and Ayurvedic Massage

While Winter Cherry is most often taken internally to benefit from all its rejuvenative & therapeutic properties, there is one other very important application of Winter Cherry in Ayurvedic medicine, which is its common inclusion in therapeutic massage oils of different kinds. The healing properties of Winter Cherry make it ideal for this specific application. Such massage oil formulas with Winter Cherry are most often combined with the synergistic Ayurvedic herb, bala (Sida cordifolia), also known as Country Mallow, and may include other beneficial herbs and herbal extracts.

Aśvagandhā-bala oil uses sesame oil as a base oil and carrier which allows the rejuvenative benefits of Winter Cherry and Bala to reach directly to the muscle and tendon tissues and promote relaxation, healing and pain relief. It is thus recommended by Ayurvedic practitioners to be applied in one’s daily self-massage practice (abhyaṅga) on the muscles and joints in cases of fatigue, over-exertion, injury, rheumatoid arthritis and other similar ailments. Massage oil with Winter Cherry is thus specially recommended for athletes and laborers as well as the elderly or those suffering from debilitating illnesses. Specific formulas, like dhanvantara-tailam, are traditionally recommended for use in massage during and after pregnancy.

Auromère Ayurvedic Products with Winter Cherry

Ayurvedic Massage Oil — A traditional Ayurvedic massage oil formula with Winter Cherry and bala, with cold-pressed sesame oil as a base. Including 23 additional Ayurvedic herbs and oils such as castor oil, sandalwood oil and cardamom. Deep-penetrating and effective for all types of therapeutic massage and muscle/ tendon treatments, including sports massage and daily abhyaṅga.

Ayurvedic Face, Hand & Body Lotion — An all-purpose Ayurvedic lotion (face, hand or body) with many of the same herbs and oils (including Winter Cherry) as our Ayurvedic Massage Oil. Combining the warming & nourishing properties of sesame oil with the moisturizing, soothing & rejuvenative action of almond oil and castor oil, this lotion leaves skin feeling extraordinarily soft, smooth and hydrated.

With all best wishes for your health and wellness from Auromère