Spotlight On: Withania (Withania somnifera)

Withania is one of my favourite herbs to use for people who are under a lot of stress or living busy lives.  It is a tonic, mild sedative, and has both immune modulating and anti inflammatory properties.  But what it is most known for is as an adaptogen which can be defined as:


“A substance that increases the body’s resistance or adaptation to physical, environmental, emotional or biological stressors and promotes normal physiological function” (1)

This means it can help the body avoid reaching a point of over-stress or collapse, which is something that is becoming quite common in society.  The interesting thing about adaptogens is the way they balance things out – and so their physical action can be contradictory depending on what the body needs. 

A simple way to explain it is if something is too high, an adaptogen will work to lower it to normal levels.  If something is too low, it will work the opposite way to bring it back up to normal levels.  What that “something” is depends on the herb and which part of the body it effects. (2)

Traditionally Withania has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of debility, emaciation, impotence and premature ageing.  It has also been used for various conditions such as asthma, inflammation, bronchitis, arthritis, rheumatic pains and to promote conception.   

Clinical trials support the use of Withania for anxiety, reducing the physiological effects of stress and improving well-being.  It works on the nervous system and is used to ease both physical and emotional stress and mental exhaustion.  In addition to its tonic and adaptogenic effects, studies have also demonstrated neuro-protective and cognition enhancing properties.  Clinical studies have also demonstrated improvements in patients taking Withania for Generalised Anxiety Disorder.  

Studies have also observed positive effects of Withania on immune function in various models of chronic stress.  The immune modulating properties work in the same way as the adaptogenic properties – rather than over or under stimulating the immune system, it works to balance it out.

Evidence also supports use of the herb for growth promotion in children and improvement in conditions associated with aging such as improving muscle function and strength.  There have also been in vivo and in vitro studies demonstrating antitumour activity as well as studies showing it has anti-anemic properties. (3)

What this all means is that if you experience stress related symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, recurring illness or fatigue then Withania may be a great herb to include as part of your treatment plan.   I love using herbal extracts, because it means I can customize a formula that is unique to you and what you’re requirements are. 

If you would like to know more about herbal medicines or other Naturopathic treatment options I’d love to hear from you – call 0410 259 273 or email  And stay tuned for more articles about some of the other herbs I love to use.

1. Bone K. The Ultimate Herbal Compendium: A Desktop Guide for Herbal Prescribers: Phytotherapy Press; 2007.

2. Dr. Marciano M. The Naturopathic Herbalist - Botanical Medicine for the Medical Student 2015 [updated 25 September 2015. Available from:
3. Bone K, Mills SY. Withania.  Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy,Modern Herbal Medicine,2: Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Churchill Livingstone; 2013. p. 949-61.

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