• Name : Ashwagandha
  • English Name :Winter Cherry
  • Scientific Name :Withania somnifera



The herb grows throughout India, especially in the drier regions. It is found up to a height of 2000 m above sea level.


Morphology Description (Habit):

Ashwagandha is a small to medium-sized erect perennial shrub that grows up to 1.5 m in height. Its stem and branches are covered with minute hairs. The roots are 20-30 cm long and 8-12 mm in diameter with few lateral roots of slightly smaller size. The root has a characteristic odour. The stem is short, leaves are simple and ovate. Flowers are greenish yellow in colour; the fruits are smooth, red and globular, enclosed in a calyx.


Parts Used:




The main chemical constituents are alkaloids and steroidal lactones ? withanolides. Withaferin- A is therapeutically active withanolide reported to be present in leaves. In animal studies, withaferin- A has shown significant anticancer activity.

Among the various alkaloids, withanine is the main constituent. The other alkaloids are somniferine, somnine, somniferinine, withananine, pseudo-withanine, tropine, pseudo-tropine, 3-a-gloyloxytropane, choline, cuscohygrine, isopelletierine, anaferine andanahydrine. Two acyl steryl glucoside viz. sitoindoside VII and sitoindoside VIII have been isolated from root. The leaves contain steroidal lactones, which are commonly called withanolides. The withanolides have C28 steroidal nucleus with C9 side chain, with a six membered lactone ring. Twelve alkaloids, 35 withanolides, and several sitoindosides from Withania somnifera have been isolated and studied. A sitoindoside is a withanolide containing a glucose molecule at carbon 27. Much of Ashwaganda's pharmacological activity has been attributed to two main withanolides, withaferin A and withanolide D. Further chemical analysis has shown the presence of the following: Anaferine (Alkaloid), Anahygrine (Alkaloid), Beta-Sisterol, Chlorogenic acid (in leaf only), Cysteine (in fruit), Cuscohygrine (Alkaloid), Iron, Pseudotropine (Alkaloid), Scopoletin, Somniferinine (Alkaloid), Somniferiene (Alkaloid), Tropanol (Alkaloid), Withanine (Alkaloid), Withananine (Alkaloid) and Withanolides A-Y(Steroidal lactones).1


As per Ayurveda:

           Rasa (Taste)                 : Bitter, Astringent

           Guna (Property)           : Light

           Veerya (Potency)         : Hot

           Vipaka (End Result)      : Sweet


Pharmacological Actions:

As per Ayurveda, Ashwagandha is Vatakaphahara and an excellent Rasayana. The primary pharmacological actions of are summarized as under:


Central Nervous System: 

i. Possesses anti-amnesic properties whereby it significantly improves memory, concentration and learning abilities, and protects against various cognitive disorders.

ii. Exerts significant anxiolytic and anti-depressant action.

iii. Protects against neurodegeneration and allied disorders, such as Alzheimer?s disease2, Parkinson?s disease and Huntington?s chorea.


Respiratory System: 

i. Possesses significant antitussive and anti-tubercular activity.


Digestive System: 

i. Exhibits hepatoprotective effect.


Endocrinal System:

i. Significant anti-diabetic activity.

ii. Stimulates thyroid functions.


Cardio Vascular System:

i. Possesses potent antioxidant, cardioprotective and anti-hyperlipidemic activities.

ii. Improves haemoglobin level.


Reproductive System:

i. Supports fertility in both men and women as it ameliorates oxidative stress.

ii. Possesses aphrodisiac properties.

iii. Improves sperm count and motility.


Urinary System: 

i. Exerts nephroprotective activity.


Musculoskeletal System: 

i. Favours bone mineralization and protects against Osteoporosis.

ii. Facilitates Collagen Stabilization through Collagenase inhibition, counter-acting the disease progression and the irreversible extracellular matrix (cartilage and tendon) and bone destruction in Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Osteoarthritis (OA).3



i. This antioxidant and restorative herb possesses significant antiproliferative and anti-tumor activities.

ii. Exerts significant Immunostimulatory effects.4

iii. Exhibits antibacterial, anti-fungal and antitumor properties.

iv. Possesses anti-caries activity.5



Day-to-day Stress, Anxiety and Fatigue

Learning and Concentration debilities; Behavioural problems

Lowered Immunity and General weakness

Stress related disorders, such as Hypertension, Diabetes mellitus and Premature aging

Osteoporosis and Arthritis

Impaired Libido; Sexual disorders in males and females; Erectile dysfunction and seminal debilities6

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)7

Disturbed sleep and associated oxidative stress



1. Singh G, Sharma PK, Dudhe R, et al. Biological activities of Withania somnifera. Annals of Biological Research. 2010; 1(3): 56-63.

2. Sehgal N, Gupta A, et al. Withania somnifera reverses Alzheimer?s disease pathology by enhancing low-density Lipoprotein receptor-related protein in Liver. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2012; 109(9): 3510-5.

3. Ganesan K, Sehgal PK, et al. Protective effect of Withania somnifera and Cardiospermum halicacabum extracts against collagenolytic degradation of Collagen. Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology. 2011; 165(3-4):1075-91.

4. Yamada K, Hung P, Park TK, et al. A comparison of the Immunostimulatory effects of the medicinal herbs Echinacea, Ashwagandha and Brahmi. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2011; 137(1): 231-5.

5. Pandit S, Chang KW, Jeon JG. Effects of Withania somnifera on the growth and virulence properties of Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus at sub-MIC levels. Anaerobe. 2012; pii: S1075-9964(12)00148-5.

6. Shukla KK, Mahdi AA, et al. Withania somnifera improves semen quality by combating oxidative stress and cell death and improving essential metal concentrations. Reproductive Biomedicine Online. 2011; PMID: 21388887.

7. Kaurav BP, Wanjari MM, Chandekar A, et al. Influence of Withania somnifera on obsessive compulsive disorder in mice. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine. 2012 May;5(5):380-4.

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