Ashwagandha

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Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as  Indian ginseng or winter cherry, is part of the nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes, datura and tobacco. In Ayurveda, it is typically used as an adaptogen, helping the body handle stress, and as a general health tonic. Like neem, it contains high levels of antioxidants and immune-boosting compounds.

The plant itself is a fast-growing perennial with attractive leaves and berries. Some reports indicate that large amounts of the leaves are toxic and the root is most often used as a medicinal herb. It is a tropical plant but does come back from the ground unless temperatures drop below about 20 degrees.

These plants are about 12 to 15 inches tall and should be planted in larger pots as soon as you receive them. Fertilize with a high-phosphate formulation (high middle number) to boost both the roots and the berries. The roots can be harvested in the fall -- save the berries to plant in the spring or they may be self-seeding in good garden soil.

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