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ashvagandha - Withania somnifera Dunal

ashvagandha :

ashvagandha : Withania somnifera Dunal
It can help in the treatment of cancer and addresses stress-related issues. It also acts as an anti-oxidant and helps induce sleep. Additionally, it also is known to be effective in memory-related conditions and insomnia.

Withania somnifera (Ashawagandha) is very revered herb of the Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine as a Rasayana (tonic). It is used for various kinds of disease processes and specially as a nervine tonic. Ashwagandha is one of the most powerful Ayurvedic herbs and is commonly known as the Indian ginseng. Ashwagandha can be loosely translated to mean the ‘strength of ten horses’. It can be used to treat a number of diseases, relieve stressand fatigue, helps heal injuries and may also be used as an aphrodisiac and can help prevent male infertility.

Taxonomical Classification

Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Streptophyta
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Genus: Withania
Species: somnifera


Sanskrit: aswagandha
English: winter cherry
Hindi: ashgandh
Urdu: asgandanagori
Telugu: penneru
Bengali: dhuppa
Marathi: askandha
Gujarathi: asod
Tamil: amukkura
Malayalam: amukkuram
Kannada: keramaddinagaddi
Arabic: hajarat el dib


Synonyms in Ayurveda: aswagandha, ashwagandha, ashvagandha, balada, gandhanta, vajinama, vajini, pushtida, punya, vataghni, balya, hayahya, vrusha, hayagandha

Rasa: Kashaya Katu Tikta
Guna: Laghu Snigdha
Veerya: Ushna
Vipaka: Katu
Prabhava: Medhya
Karma: Hridya Krimighna Vatahara

Ashwagandha helps rejuvenate the body: This herb not only calms a person down, but also restores the balance of their body. Hence, it is also known as rayasana or a herb that rejuvenates. Ashwagandha stimulates the immune system and boosts the production of white blood cells thereby, elevating levels of antioxidants such as superoxide dismutase and glutathioneperoxidase. The effects of this herb on a person’s nervous system and endocrine system can also harmonise the body, mind and spirit.
It increases positivity: Stress and anxiety can lead to negative thinking and ultimately to depression. By fighting stress Ashwagandha helps negate these problems and instead boosts positive thinking. It may also be used to treat depression itself.
It helps regenerate nerve cells: Along with diseases such as asthmatic bronchitis, emphysema and gynaecological disorders, Ashwagandha can also be used to treat neuro-degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s. It helps regenerate nerve cells and dendrite growth and even improves communication between nerve cells. This stimulates the body’s ability to heal any damage to the nervous system.

It enhances memory and treats insomnia: Ashwagandha is one of the best Ayurvedic remedies to treat insomnia. It not only helps you fall asleep faster but can also improve your sleep quality. A restful sleep increases a person’s ability to concentrate and prevents drowsiness through the day. Ashwagandha also increases the levels of acetylcholine in the brain. This has a direct effect on boosting memory and elevating brain functioning and intelligence. Ashwagandha also increases the production of nitric oxide that helps regulate blood flow and blood pressure thus elevating the brain’s oxygen levels.
It boosts libido: Ashwagandha helps optimise the functioning of the thyroid and adrenal glands and helps deal with both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Similarly, this Ayurvedic herb also benefits the adrenal glands and thus influences the overall mental and physical health of a person. The functioning of the thyroid and adrenal glands have a direct effect on a person’s sexual health and libido. Thus by enhancing the functioning of these glands, Ashwagandha improves sexual health and boosts libido. The nitric oxide produced by Ashwagandha also helps improve fertility.


The methanol, hexane and diethyl ether extracts from both leaves and roots of Ashwagandha were found. Alkaloid percentage in roots ranges from 0.13 to 0.31%. The roots of Withania somnifera are alterative, aphrodisiac, deobstruent, diuretic, narcotic, sedative and restorative in nature. The pharmacological activity of the root is attributed to the alkaloids and steroidals lactones. The total alkaloid content in the roots of Indian types has been reported to vary between 0.13 and 0.3, though much high yields (up to 4.3 per cent) have been recorded elsewhere. Many bio-chemical heterogeneous alkaloids, including choline, tropanol, pseudotopanol, cuscokygrene, 3- tigioyloxytropana, isopelletierine and several other steroidal lactories. Twelve alkaloids, 35 withanolides and several sitoindosides have been isolated from the roots of the plant have been studied. A sitoindoside is a biologically active constituent known as withanolide containing a glucose molecule at carbon 27. Indian ginseng’s pharmacological activity has been attributed to two main withanolides, withaferin A and withanolide D. Withaferin-A is therapeutically active withanolide reported to be present in leaves. In addition to alkaloids, the roots are reported to contain starch, reducing sugars, glycosides, dulcitol, withancil, an acid and a neutral compound. The amino acids reported from the roots include aspartic acid, glycine, tyrosine, alanine, glutamic acid and cysteine.


The biochemical composition of Withania somnifera has been widely studied and researched. Some 35 compounds had been analyzed in the laboratory. 
Alkaloids: About 13 alkaloids are known as Isopelletierine, Anaferine, Cuseohygrine, Anahygrine, Tropine etc. 
Somniferin: It is a bitter alkaloid with some hypnotic activity.  Steroidal Lactones: Withanolides, Withanoferins. 
Saponins: These are with an additional acyl group (Sitoindoside VII and VIII. 
Withanolides With Carbon At 27th Position: Sitoindoside IX and X. 
Iron. Others: resin, fat, coloring matters, a reducing sugar, phytosterol, Ipuranol and a mixture of saturated and unsaturated acids.

Parts used for medicinal purpose

Flower, Heart wood (Kanda Sara), Leaves, ,


powder- 3-6 gms
capsule 250500 mg 


Macas taste is arguably the most pleasant of all the ashwagandha substitutes; it is mildly nutty with a slight earthiness. Because its flavor is not as bitter as that of ashwagandha, some people may consider it a better option.


It grows as a short shrub (35–75 cm) with a central stem from which branches extend radially in a star pattern (stellate) and covered with a dense matte of wooly hairs (tomentose). The flowers are small and green, while the ripe fruit is orange-red and has milk-coagulating properties. The plants long, brown, tuberous roots are used for medicinal purposes.

Geographical distribution:

It is cultivated in various regions of India such as NEEMUCH, MANASA, JAWAD TEHSILS of the MANDSAUR district of Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan. It is also distributed in Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Sri Lanka, Mediterranean regions, the Canneries and Cape of Good Hope.a

General Use:

Withania somnifera, commonly known as Ashwagandha (winter cherry), is an important medicinal plant that has been used in Ayurvedic and indigenous medicine for more than 3,000 years. Some herbalists refer to Ashwagandha as Indian ginseng. The plant extract has many bioactive compounds and thereby exerts antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory activities. The plant extract and its bioactive compounds are used in the prevention and treatment of many diseases, such as arthritis, impotence, amnesia, anxiety, cancer, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases, and others.Ashwgandha has long been considered as an excellent rejuvenator, a general health tonic and a cure for a number of health complaints. It is a sedative, diuretic, anti-inflammatory and generally respected for increasing energy, endurance, and acts as an-adaptogen that exerts a strong immunostimulatory and ananti-stress agent. Ashwagandha is taken for treating cold and coughs, ulcers, emaciation, diabetes, conjunctivitis, epilepsy, insomnia, senile dementia, leprosy, Parkinson’s disease, nervous disorders, rheumatism, arthritis, intestinal infections, bronchitis, asthma, impotence and a suppressant in HIV/AIDS patients. According to Indian Herbal System (Ayurveda), Ashwagandha is considered one of the most important herbs and the best adaptogenic. It contains constituents like cuseohygrine, anahygrine, tropine, and anaferine, glycosides, withenolide with starches and amino acid. Withanolide consists of steroidal molecules which is said to fight inflammation.Ashwagandha stimulates the immune system, combats inflammation, increases memory, and helps maintain general health and wellness. Ashwagandha is known to increase the production of bone marrow, semen, and acts anti-aging. Ashwagandha anti-tumor and antiinflammatory agents are approved in several studies. Its steroidal is much higher than that of hydrocortisone which is a common treatment in cancer cases. Diseases like TB, chronic upper respiratory diseases and HIV have been added to the list of Ashwagandha due to its strong immunostimulatory activity, and it is recognized as a blood tonic, especially in gynecological disorders including anemia and menorrhagia

Therapeutic Uses:

Medicinal values
This herb is considered an adaptogen which is a nontoxic herb that works on a nonspecific basis to normalize physiological function, working on the HPA axis and the neuroendocrine system.
Ashwagandha is effective for insomnia but does not act as a sedative.its rejuvenative and nervine properties produce energy which in turn help the body to settle and sleep. Thus it helps the body to address a stress related condition rather than masking it with sedatives. A herb that rejuvenates the nervous system, erases insomnia and eases stress.
Ashwagandha has also been shown to lower blood pressure and is highly effective in stopping the formation of stress induced ulcers.
In arthritis, which involves joints that are painful, dry, swollen and inflamed, Ashwagandha would be the herb of choice
One of the special properties of Ashwagandha is that it will enhance ojas. Ojas is the most subtle, refined level of the physical body and is the end result of healthy food which is properly digested. It is responsible for a healthy immune system, physical strength, lustrous complexion, clarity of mind and sense of Well-being. It allows consciousness to flow within the body. With decreased ojas, we are less in touch with ourselves and more prone to diseases and having a feeling of disharmony. Ojakshaya (decreased ojas) is a condition similar to AIDS/HIV
Research on Ashwagandha has concluded that extracts of the plant has a direct spermatogenic influence on the seminiferous tubules of immature rats presumably by exerting a testosterone-like effect.
Ashwagandha increases hemoglobin (red blood count) and hair melanin.It stabilizes blood sugar and lowers cholesterol.

Systemic Use:

Ashwagandha benefits all parts of the body and can be used as a tonic or in oral form. Several studies have shown that Ashwagandha is useful in addressing the following health problems: 

1) Osteoarthritis: A study in 2008 , scientists tested ashwagandhas effects on human cartilage and found that the herb may help protect against inflammation and cartilage damage associated with osteoarthritis. 
2) Anxiety: In an animal-based study published in 2000, researchers found that ashwagandha had an anti-anxiety effect similar to that of lorazepam (a medication used to treat anxiety disorders). The herb also appeared to ease depression. 
3) Type 2 Diabetes: Ashwagandha may help normalize high blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity, according to preliminary, animalbased research published in 2008. 
4) Cancer:: : In a 2003 study, tests on human tumor cell lines revealed that ashwagandha may slow the growth of lung, breast, and colon cancer cells.Published in 2007, another study on human cells shows that ashwagandha may inhibit tumor growth without harming normal cells. 
5) Anti-Oxident: Ashwagandha used as an antioxidant, as studies have shown that it can eliminate free radicals from your immune system. Free radicals are the agents that cause the breakdown of your body’s tissue, alternatively known as aging. 
6).Provide energy: Studies show that supplementing with ashwagandha can provide the energy needed to get through long workouts while also allowing for maximum recovery and cell re-growth. 
7) General tonic: Ashwagandha is a tonic, which increases sperm count and sexual potency. In the rural areas vegetable made out of this plant is given to tuberculosis patients. It also increases the iron content in the blood. 

GABA-mimetic activity having anxiolytic effect. 
Inhibiting Cholinesterase and thereby retaining Acetylcholine for longer time. 
Slowing down of tolerance of the analgesic effects of morphine.
Induction of axon and dendrite outgrowth, there by resulting in neuritis regeneration and synaptic reconstruction. 

Immunity stimulating effect through Macrophages. 
Raised antibody titer against Bordetella pertusis strains (Combats Diphtheria). 
Protective effect in Cyclophosphamide induced myelosuppression. 
Beneficial in Ageing and Copper induced lipid peroxidation. 
Ashwagandha helping in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. 

Respected as Ginseng in Chronic stress models. 
Protective effect in stress induced neuronal degeneration.
Helping to achieve better state to fight against stress.
Prevents stress related ulcer. 

Increases libido and sexual function. 
Supports female reproductive system, and increases ovarian weight and folliculogenesis. 
Ashwagandha is approved as a greatest rejuvenative herb in Indian Herbal System. 
Useful in treating arthritis, diabetes and hypertension. 
Ashwagandha is a potent inhibitor of angiogenesis and it is respected for its phytochemical 

Acts as anti-carcinogenic. 
Growth inhibitor of human tumor cell lines.
Counteracting mutagenic effect.
Ashwagandha possesses anti-proliferative agent
Respected as a natural source of potent radiosensitizer in chemotherapy.
Recommended in Ascitic Sarcoma.
Useful in Melanoma induced metastasis
Supports DMBA induced Squamous cell carcinoma.
Enhances cellular immune response to mitogens. 
Reversing Paclitaxel induced Neutropenia.


A paste of Ashwagandha leaves when applied on a local inflammation acts as anti-inflammatory.  The herbal massage oil which includes Ashwagandha herb is useful in many conditions like paralysis, epilepsy, sleeplessness etc.  The preparation of Ashwagandha which is processed with ghee, sugar and honey is a very good aphrodisiac and increases semen quantity, sperm count and mobility. It is effectively used in Erectile dysfunction, low libido and premature ejaculation.  Ashwagandha churna when used regularly helps to improve the conditions like senile debility, rheumatism, in all cases of general debility, nervous exhaustion, brain-fag, low of memory, loss of muscular energy and spermatorrhoea. It increases body energy and vigor. It helps to rebuild the body system which is worn out due to chronic diseases like syphilis, rheumatism etc. It also replenishes the lowered energy of body due to over-work, mental exertion thus preventing early ageing.  A good remedy to balance sweet cravings for vata can be prepared using Ashwagandha. Roast an ounce of Ashwagandha in ghee and add a tablespoon of date sugar. Store in a screw top glass jar in the refrigerator. This can be eaten in the morning about twenty minutes before breakfast, in the mid afternoon— if sweet cravings arise— and at bed time with a cup of hot milk.  Ashwagandha when used regularly, is very useful in emaciated children. It increases body weight and body energy.

Clinical trials:


Ven Murthy MR, Ranjekar PK, Ramassamy C, Deshpande M.; (2010)Scientific basis for the use of Indian Ayurvedic  medicinal plants in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders: Ashwagandha.  Cent Nerv Syst Agents Med Chem. Sep 1;10 (3):238 - 246. 2. Sangwan RS, (2004)et al Phytochemical variability in commericial herbal products and preparations of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha). Curr. Sci. 86:461–465. 3. Proff.K. Nishteswar, K.Hemadri, Dravyaguna Vijnana, Chaukhambha Samskrit Pratishthana, First edition , P-121. 4. Bone K. et al; Clinical applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese herbs- Monographs for the Western Herbal Practitioner. Australia: Phytotherapy Press; 1996:137-141.  5. Anonymous, The Ayurvedic Pharmacopeia of India, part I and I vol I, Dept. of Ayush, Ministry of health & family welfare, New Delhi., 200. 6. Anonymous, The Ayurvedic formulary of India, Part 1, Dept. of Ayush, Ministry of health & family welfare, New Delhi., 2004. 7. Anonymous, Database on Indian medicinal plants CCRAS, New Delhi vol-3, P- 88. 8. Ibidem (11) and (12) The API and The AFI, 2003. 9. Elsakka M, E Grigoreseu, U Stanescu, V Dorneanu; New data referring to chemistry of  Withania somnifera species, Rev Med Chir Soc Med Nat lasi, 1990, 94(2) , 385-387. 10. C. P. Khare, Indian Medicinal Plants - An Illustrated Dictionary. ISBN: 978-0-387-70637-5 Springers edition. 2007-p.-717. 11. Anonymous, Database on medicinal plants used in Ayurveda.  CCRAS, New Delhi vol-3, 2001 P- 88. 12. Santvani khyati et al  -  A preliminalry physicochemical assay of Ashwagandha granules–Apilot study., IJRAP-2011, 2(4) 1026-1032. 13. Anti-oxidant effect of Withania somnifera glycowithanolides in chronic footshock stress-induced perturbations of oxidative free radical scavenging enzymes and lipid peroxidation in rat frontal cortex and striatum. Journal of Ethanopharmacology. Volume 74, Issue 1, January 2001, Pages 1–6. 14. Russo. A.,Lzzo A. A. Cardile, V., Borrelli, G., Vanella, A., 2001. Indian medicinal plants as antiradicals and DNA cleavage protectors.Phytomedicine.2001Mar;8(2):125-32. 15. Bahr V. and Hansel R, Immunomodulating Properties of 5,20α(R) - Dihydroxy - 6α, 7α  -epoxy-1-oxo-(5α)-  with  α-  2,24-dienolide and Solasodine. J. Meal. Plant Res.  1982; 44, 32-33. 16. Immune response modulation to DPT vaccine by aqueous extract of Withania somnifera in experimental system. International Immunopharmacology  June 2004,4(6),  841–849. 17. Bahr V. and Hansel R, Immunomodulating Properties of 5,20α(R) - Dihydroxy - 6α, 7α  -epoxy-1-oxo-(5α

Ayurvedic Formulations:

Common Ayurvedic Formulations of ashvagandha with their Indications

Ashwagandhadi Lehyam
Sukumaram Kashayam
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