Seven Herbs for the Modern Woman :: Withania

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Photo from Kyle at Hot Botany
Do you ever feel as though you are running on empty?  Grapsing at any source of energy you can get your hands on?  Your 'to do' list may be longer than you are.  The time to do it all in seems to be passing by at the speed of light.   Life feels as though it is demanding every element of you.  Your shoulders are beginning to tighten, your sleep is becoming disturbed, you're beginning to hold on by a thread.  You know that if this doesn’t slow down, something’s gotta give...either your sanity or your health.

Feel familiar at all?

I have the pleasure of introducing you to withania.

Withania is a close friend that I reach for when going through those periods of being saturated with life’s chaos. Even delightful and pleasurable chaos can be exhausting!  Withania, like tulsi, comes from India and holds a very esteemed place in Ayurvedic medicine.  Its sanskirt name “ashwaganda” translates to “strength of a horse” and implies just that.  It helps you to access your own inner reserves of strength so that you take the world on with sustained vigour.  Lovely.  

From “Flora Graeca” 1819 
From my experience with withania, I feel it is a plant that mobilises and distributes that very pure energy that resides within all of us.  It harmonises the body and mind in unexpected ways by simply helping you to operate from a calmer source of energy.  For those who need sleep, it will help them sleep.  For those who need energising and moving, it will lighten and inspirit them.  For the student who needs to do long stretches of study, withania will bring focus and endurance.  For those frantic times, grace and strength are offered.

The beauty of withania is its gentleness and intelligence.  

Just as it has a nourishing effect on the nervous and musculoskeletal systems, withania also nourishes the blood.   Being iron rich (if grown in high quality soils), it promotes the formation of red blood cells, (very important for women whose diet is lacking in iron, have heavy periods and experience fatigue, foggy thinking and hair loss).

Withania is a member of the Solanacae (tomato) family, and forms a characteristic red fruit that reminds me of the power ball in those washing powder ads.  Casualty to subliminal advertising aside, it’s quite an apt comparison!  Bringing the medicinal virtues of withania is like bringing the power pack. (Photo source unknown)

Withania also builds immune blood cells and gives them clear direction.  Unlike many other immune stimulating herbs that are not recommended for autoimmune conditions (with the theory why strengthen the army that is attacking you?), withania is very useful for balancing the immune response and redirecting the war effort away from the self, and to actual immune threats.  This also applies to allergies.  It harmonises by imparting intelligence.  

This plant is best taken over a long period of time to reap its benefits.  Luckily it has a mild, sweet, earthy flavour with only the slightly hint of bitterness.  It makes a great base to layer with aromatics  (such as cardamom, cinnamon and star anise), smooth and fruity plants (such as vanilla and wood betony) and lighter florals (such as rose and lavender).

My favourite way to prepare withania however, which is such a luscious treat, is as a warm milky drink.  Add 1/2 cup of your preferred milk to 1/2 cup of water with 1 tablespoon of withania, 2-3 cardamom pods crushed, and a pinch of saffron.  Warm the milk until it is steaming.  Pass through a strainer and add 1 teaspoon of rosewater and honey if you like. To be drunk before bed for a deep, restful sleep.  It’s really worth a try.

This is a plant to consider incorporating into your life during particularly stressful periods such as deadlines, exams or periods where you reschedule is overflowing with work and/or family commitments.  Withania will just gently lend you that bit more strength.  I’m a tad in love. 


About the Author

Naturopath Clara Bitcon is endlessly inspired by nature.  Her days are mostly filled by following the curiosities nature ignites and using its wisdom to help people feel better.  Her private practice is based in Melbourne, Australia and she runs a little herbal company conceived from a marriage between scientist, healer and artisan called Elm Botanicals.


  1. Thank you for introducing me to this lovely herb (ashwashanga, sounds vaguely familiar). I will now be on the look out for it. With the stresses of raising a book and a toddler, I think I need a little withania in my life. Love the recipe that you included too. And what a beautiful site you have! Good luck with the Etsy shop!

  2. Hi Ava, it really does sound like withania/ashwaganda could lend quite a helpful hand....raising books and toddlers, aye! Delightful, rewarding and somewhat exhausting I imagine! Thank you for stopping by xo


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