Withania somniferum / Ashwagandha Root

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Withania somnifera, known commonly as ashwagandha, Indian ginseng,  poison gooseberry, or winter cherry, is a plant in the Solanaceae or nightshade family. It is a common medicinal herb in Ayurvedic medicine.

This species is a short, tender perennial shrub growing 35–75 cm (14–30 in) tall.

Withania somnifera is cultivated in many of the drier regions of India, such as Mandsaur District of Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Kerala and Rajasthan. It is also found in Nepal, China and Yemen.

The species name somnifera means “sleep-inducing” in Latin. The name, ashwagandha, is a combination of the word ashva, meaning horse, and gandha, meaning smell, reflecting that the root has a strong horse-like odour.

The berries can be used as a substitute for rennet in cheese making.

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