Greetings fellow gardener!
As promised this week's feature is on the adaptogenic herb from India commonly known as Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera).
But first off I've got an e-mail special for any earlybirds that might want some beautiful new planters.
We just got our new Gardman displays and I have to say they look great! These are high quality powder coated (won't ever rust) metal "hayrack" style planters and flowerboxes.
The e-mail special is 20% off any planters or replacement coco fiber liners from any of these three Gardman displays. It's a great opportunity to get a jump on the spring season and maximize the garden buck at the same time! Special expires Feb. 17th and since it's subscriber only make sure to mention this e-mail when checking out, ok?
There's also another great special if you'd like to take advantage of the warmth & moisture to plant some spring flowering bulbs. These may flower a little behind schedule but will still bloom this coming spring and they're half price :)
For spring of '08 we have finally found two good lines of glazed ceramic containers for that extra touch of pretty on the porch, patio or deck. One of them is on the higher end of the price scale but is of very heavy construction and beautiful detail.
The other is very pretty, of very good quality, somewhat plainer in detail, but is priced very attractively as well. :)
Another line we've not handled for several years that we've brought back into the store for 2008 is Neptune's organic fertilizer.
It's good stuff and it is organic for those who wish to stay purely natural in their garden practice. Recent requests for organic alternatives prompted us to bring this line back in. If support is there we'll expand our organic selection. If it isn't we'll drop it the way we did 6 years ago when demand dropped off. Yes, we go above and beyond the call the average garden store for our customers on many fronts but spending thousands to take back hundreds is something a business simply cannot do. Let's face it, we all do stupid things from time to time but as I grow older my goal is to increase the interval between the events that I look back on and and say to myself "what was I thinking?!" :)
Yes, spring is around the corner and were getting it all ready for you. :)
Seeds, roots, cuttings, all part the preparartions that go into it. Here's a couple of pix I snapped in our propagation house this morning.
In the 2nd picture are boxes of fruit roots, blueberries, blackberries, grapes, etc. They'll get potted up this week. :) You may be aware, perhaps not, that any edible plants we grow here are handled without the use of chemicals. Personally, I don't want that stuff in my food so we don't put it in yours either. :)
Spring is indeed on the way!
If you'd like a breath of it stop on out and poke around a bit. There's some nice sitting benches in the first aisle amongst the ferns & tropicals and you're always welcome to bring a book or just sit & relax :)
Now, back to Ashwaganda.
In case you're not familiar with the term "adaptogen", as I was when I began researching the new line of herbs we're getting into, it's pretty straightforward in that adaptogens adapt when digested into the body and are used where needed to promote vitality and longevity by balancing whatever is encountered that needs restoration.
In many of the sources I reviewed Ashwaganda was often referred to as "Indian ginseng" since it is used in the ancient Ayurvedic practice of medicine in a similar fashion to how Ginseng is used in traditional Chinese medicine.
The word Ashwaganda translates from the Sanskrit as "horse's smell". This is attributed to the smell of the root but one author I encountered while browsing suggested that it may also have something to do with a horse's strength and vitality since the herb is often used by men as a form of "natural viagra".
Ayurveda roughly translates to "knowledge of life" and is practiced extensively by the people of India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal as a way to ensure longevity, health, and overall well being.
Ashwaganda (sometimes spelled Ashwagandha) is considered to be in the Rasayana group of herbs within Ayurvedic practices.
Rasayana loosely translates from the sanskrit as "path of the juice"
I found the following quote on wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rasayana
"Ayurveda, the oldest health science has eight branches. Rasayana (rejuvenation) is one of them. Rasa has different meanings like "taste, essence", "flavor, juice, or emotion", but is not limited to any of these. In therapeutic process Rasa is concerned with the conservation, transformation, and revitalization of energy. Rasa nourishes our body, boosts immunity and helps to keep the body and mind in best of health. Rasayana describes an herbal preparation that promotes a youthful state of physical and mental health and expands happiness. Rasayana herbs have high levels of both safety for daily use and effectiveness. They are given to small children as tonics, and are also taken by the middle-aged and elderly to increase longevity. "
That article also mentions that ancient Rasayana texts use preperations centering around the use of mercury so it is extremely important for modern would be herbalists to remember that many ancient "medicines" could be quite toxic and potentially lethal if mishandled by the unwary.
Ashwaganda is a tropical shrub that grows to about 5 1/2' tall and wide. It is a member of the Solanaceae family the same as the Tomato and Potato. Since it takes about one calendar year to produce a plant ready for harvest one would have to plan for an overwintering space or purchase good sized starter plants in the spring and harvest the roots at first frost to grow them here in the midwest US.
The part of the plant that is most often used and is the source for commercially available dietary supplements is the root. Some sources said that in the Indian countryside other parts of the plant including the leaves are used as well.
The plant bears yellow flowers followed by small red fruit. One warning I encountered was not to eat the fruit or you'd wind up with a bellyache that would make you wish you hadn't tried to eat the fruit of Ashwaganda. :)
The primary active ingredient found in Ashwaganda root is a group of steroidal lactones called withanolides.
I found a very intersting article at the American association for Cancer Research about some initial findings of a study funded by "Clayton Foundation for Research, Department of Defense-U.S. Army Breast Cancer Research Program grant BC010610, NIH Lung Chemoprevention PO1 grant CA91844, and NIH P50 Head and Neck Specialized Programs of Research Excellence grant P50CA97007 (B.B. Aggarwal)."
Obviously Ashwaganda has attracted some pretty serious attention from the medical community. The full article is located at http://mct.aacrjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/5/6/1434
Although it is quite technical in the details of how the withanolides accomplish it, I found it very interesting indeed that compounds found in the root of this herb are apparently effective in molecular cancer therapeutics. It appears to me that they've done their homework. I would greatly appreciate feedback from anyone with an advanced knowledge of molecular biology as to precisely how well they have done so :) I guess I should've hung around a little longer with that molecular biologist I dated briefly back in the late 90's :)
I also found references to studies that I did not examine in detail purely for reasons of time constraints that suggested Ashwaganda root as a source in treatment of Arthritis.
Apparently this root is very much an adaptogen.
For the herbalist wishing to grow, dry & powder the root of Ashwaganda, the Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India recommends 3 6 grams daily of powdered root.
Several sources I encountered during my exploration of Ashwaganda including Llewellyn's 2003 herbal almanac listed an aphrodisiac recipe commonly used in India.
It goes as follows:
"one part ashwagandha to ten parts milk and one part ghee (clarified butter). You boil the mixture down until only ghee remains. This end product is called Ashwagandha Ghrita. You take about a heaping tablespoon of this mixture in the morning and in the evening, and according to ancient texts, you will experience a significant boost in libido and sexual stamina."
I also found information that Chlorogenic acid, also found in coffee is present in the leaves of Ashwaganda.
In Norway and the UK this compound is marketed under the trade name Svetol, which is used to promote weight loss.
One commercial site marketing this product as "coffee slender" can be found here http://www.coffeeslender.co.uk/ingredients.htm The page also includes a video describing the benefits of Chlorogenic acid.
I typically stay away from commercial sites because they are trying to sell stuff and at times make claims that are unfounded as was the case with "bloussant" marketed to women as an herbal bust enhancer.
The Chlorogenic acid info was part of a trail I followed briefly after reading an article that Ashwaganda was high on the patent hunters list of medicinal plants.
My own personal feeling on all that is why bastardize, synthesize, extract, condense, liquify and tabletize in concentrations far exceeding anything nature ever intended.
We are children of nature.
When one begins to examine the infinitely dynamic nature of nature itself right down the subatomic level it is not hard to realize that our very bodies are an integral part of the biosphere itself.
Upon closer examination of that nature of nature I stand in awe of the "God level" technology that makes our feeble attempts at understanding it infantile at best.
In short, nature is far smarter than we can ever dream of being so why screw it up with wantan arrogance and blind complacency of accepting the status quo.
In all the research I've been encountering on the journey to understand healing herbs I see very little funding applied or studies done of using these herbs in their natural form from the mainstream medical community, although, as is the case with Ashwaganda, compounds within the plant do apparently promote health and longevity as evidenced by the study of withanolides.
I also firmly believe that scientific examination of preconceptions is absolutely essential in separating fact from fiction.
My own personal "test for truth" jotted down in one of my notebooks in college while momentarily bored or inspired whichever the case may have been at that moment. :)
"If something is indeed true it will remain true when applied in all applications, if not, then the observation is only a part of the truth for the truth itself remains to be discovered"
I don't remember if my inspiration came out of observation of science, religion or philosophy since at that time in my life all were intertwined like the Celtic knot in the grand interwoven connectivity all things that exist within creation.
Challenging my own preconceptions and use of a term like "creation", allow me to clarify..
My personal experience with life, and as Deepak Chopra put it so poetically, "all of the elements and forces that structure the field of existence" has led me to believe that the multiverse is driven by an intelligent and understanding consciousnous that is beyond my full comprehension at my current level of understanding.
Further, that there are as many ways of describing that consciousness as there are obsevers to formulate descriptions.
What I really don't understand is that since we're all basically just using different words to describe the same observed effect why do we fight and kill each other over what merely boils down to semantics?
Since we've just about wiped out every predator that would control our numbers in the balance of the biosphere is this tendency part of nature's way of controlling our population? I don't know.
What I do know is that I choose to live in balance to the best of my ability and understanding, and call this my own practical application of the K.I.S.S. theory (keep it simple stupid), because that's what nature does and she's way smarter than I am! :)
If I were an herb I would chose to be an adaptogen :)
Well since I've been at this for about two days now I think that's about as good a point to close with as any and hit the send button :)
Hopefully you'll find the info useful in your own quest for understanding, fulfillment and a healthy life through gardening.
Thank God & Nature that we live in a society which permits us the freedom to share information with each other for though our similarities may draw us together it is our differences that keep us learning. :)
'til next time,
Your garden pal,