Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root is one of many herbs supporting adrenal and immune function. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for fatigue, general debility, nervous exhaustion, wasting in children, anaemia, loss of memory and muscular energy, convalescence, insomnia, impotence, spermatorrhoea, inflammatory conditions; as an aphrodisiac and a nutrient and tonic for pregnant women and the elderly. The plant has the Sanskrit common name of ashwagandha.1-3 As a rasayana herb, it promotes physical and mental health, augments resistance of the body against disease and adverse environmental factors, revitalizes the body in debilitated conditions and increases longevity.4 Rasayanas (restorative tonics) are regarded almost as nutrients in their effect on the body.5 Research with experimental models have confirmed that ashwagandha has some adaptogenic properties.6-10
Ashwagandha has been called Indian Ginseng, perhaps because of the similarity of the pharmacological properties.9 In Ayurveda, ashwagandha is also regarded as a medhya rasayana – a promoter of learning and memory retrieval. The medhya rasayana herbs may provide a therapeutic effect by reducing stress, facilitating mental health, and reducing anxiety and tension.11, 12 Withania somnifera root contains steroidal compounds including with anolides which are regarded as quality markers.13
Licorice root contains triterpenoid saponins, especially glycyrrhizin, the pharmacology of which has been extensively studied.26 The first documented traditional use of licorice can be traced back to ancient Assyrian, Egyptian, Chinese, and Indian cultures.27 It is well known in western herbal medicine as an expectorant for bronchitis and as a demulcent, useful for relieving irritation of mucous membranes.28
Rehmannia glutinosa unprocessed root is used in traditional Chinese medicine to reduce heat in the blood, to nourish yin, and promote the production of body fluid. Indications for this type of Rehmannia include febrile diseases, skin eruptions, nosebleed, and to prolong life.37, 36 A very old, Chinese herbal text also recommends Rehmannia to promote growth and to prevent senility.31 In Vietnam, Rehmannia is used for general debility.38 In western herbal medicine, Rehmannia is regarded as an adrenal tonic, due mainly to the activity demonstrated in experimental models.
Herbs supporting adrenal and immune function also includes the species of echinacea and the part of the plant used is very important to product quality and the effect on the body. The roots of Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea are considered the most efficacious, particularly when known to contain a certain amount of important constituents called alkylamides. The Eclectic physicians, a group of practitioners who were prominent around the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States, recognized good quality echinacea root as “leaving a persistent tingling sensation” when chewed.43 Scientific work later determined that this is caused by the presence of the alkylamides.44