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Capsule Ashwagandha

Latin name: Withania Somnifera
Family: Solanaceae
Common name: Asgandh
English name: Winter cherry

Habitat: The plant is found in drier parts of India, ascending upto 1700m in the Himalayas. It is found in wasteland, cultivated field and open grounds throughout India; widely cultivated in areas of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Macroscopic identification: The plant is an erect shrub branching perennial upto 1.5m high. Flowers are greenish yellow and berry is red when ripe. Roots are light brown in color, uniform in appearance, smooth and straight.

Parts used: root and leaves.

Pharmacological action: The roots are alterative, aphrodisiac, tonic, deobstruent, diuretic, narcotic, hypnotic, sedative and restorative.

Action and use in Ayurveda: vranam, vrisham, aphrodisiac, bajikaran, rasayan, kas-shwas har, soola har, pandu har, kusth har, tarpan.

Indications: It is used in rheumatism, general debility, and emaciation in children, restorative tonic in old age, dropsy, cough and cold, graying hair, senile degeneration, impotency, infertility, low back pain, arthritis, joint and nerve pain, insomnia, neurasthenia, wasting disease, convalescence. Several studies over the past few years have indicated that Ashwagandha has anti-inflammatory, anti tumor, anti stress, antioxidant, mind boosting, and rejuvenating properties. Studies indicate Ashwagandha possesses anti-inflammatory, anti tumor, anti stress, antioxidant, immunomodulator, haemopoeitic, and rejuvenating properties. It also appears to exert a positive influence on the endocrine, cardiopulmonary, and central nervous systems.

Photochemical: It contains bitter alkaloid "Somniferin" having hypnotic properties; also resin, fat and coloring material. A reducing sugar, phytosterol, ipuranol, mixture of saturated and unsaturated acids and a small quantity of a basic substance supposed to be an alkaloid has been isolated. Nicotine, somniferine, somniferinine, withanine, withananine and pseudowithanine have been isolated.

Properties and action:

Rasa: tikta, kashaya
Guna: laghu, snigdh
Virya: usna
Vipaka: madhura
Karma: vatakapha hara, balya, rasayana, vajikarna.

Preparations: ghrit, arishta, pak, rasayan, leha.

Therapeutic classification index:

  • Central nervous system: it has powerful adaptogenic properties. It helps mind and body adapt better to stress. It nourishes the nerves and improves nerve function to maintain calm during stressful conditions. It is a powerful rasayan and acts as an overall tonic for greater vitality and longevity. It nourishes all the bodily tissues including joints and nerves. It nourishes crucial mind and body connection and psychoneurotic immune response (PIN). Root is used for hypnotism to cure alcoholism-induced depression.
  • Digestive system: Leaves are used as antihelmentic.
  • Respiratory system: it is a mild expectorant and vasoconstrictor. It is use in cough cold and dyspnea.
  • Skin: leaves are used as a paste to cure carbuncles. Root is used as a paste to cure obstinate ulcers.
  • Genito-urinary system: it has diuretic properties and hence is used in dysuria
  • Reproductive system: it enhances virility and has aphrodisiac properties. It is used specifically for impotency. It is used in spermatorrhea. Females to cure sterility use its decoction. It is also used in bleeding per vaginum and leucorrhoea. The root extract is used in impairment in libido, sexual performance, vigor, and penile erectile dysfunction
  • Ear nose throat: it is used as drops into nose to cure deafness.
  • Musculoskeletal system: powdered root is used in emaciation of children, general debility, senile wasting of muscles, loss of muscular energy, rheumatism.
  • Eye: it improves eyesight when taken along with Mulethi.
  • Immunity system: it is well known for its powerful immune enhancing benefits. Leaves and roots have antibacterial activity against Staph. Aureus

Rejuvenating Effect of Ashwagandha
WS purified powder was given 3 g/day for one year to 101 normal healthy male volunteers, age 50-59 years.36 All subjects showed significantly increased hemoglobin and RBC count, and improvement in hair melanin and seated stature. They also showed decreased SED rate, and 71.4 percent of the subjects reported improvement in sexual performance. In summary, these studies indicate WS may prove useful in younger as well as older populations as a general health tonic

Nervous System Effects

  1. Total alkaloid extract (ashwagandholine, AG) of WS roots has been studied for its effects on the central nervous system.37 AG exhibited a taming effect and a mild depressant (tranquilizer) effect on the central nervous system in monkeys, cats, dogs, albino rats, and mice. AG had no analgesic activity.
  2. Axon or dendrite-predominant outgrowth induced by constituents from Ashwagandha:

    Menthol extract of Ashwagandha induce dendrite extension in human neuroblastoma cell line. 6 of the 18 compounds isolated from the menthol extract enhanced neurite outgrowth in human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells. The axons are predominantly extended by withnolide A, and dendrites by withanosides IV and VI.

    (Neuroreport 2002 OCT 7; 13(14): 1715-20)

Ashwagandha as an antioxidant:

  1. Researchers conducted in Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, India, have revealed chemicals within Ashwagandha that are powerful antioxidants. They tested these compounds for their effects on rat brain and found an increase in the levels of three natural antioxidants-superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase. The antioxidant effect of active principles of W. somnifera may explain, the anti-stress, anti-inflammatory and anti-aging effects produced by them in experimental animals, and in clinical situations."
  2. Free radical damage of nervous tissue may contribute to neuronal loss in cerebral ischemia and may be involved in normal aging and neurodegenerative diseases. The active principles of Ashwagandha, sitoindosides VII-X and withaferin A (glycowithanolides), have been tested for anti-oxidant activity using the major free-radical scavenging enzymes, superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), and glutathione peroxidase (GPX) levels in the rat brain frontal cortex and striatum. Decreased activity of these enzymes leads to accumulation of toxic oxidative free radicals and resulting degenerative effects. An increase in these enzymes would represent increased antioxidant activity and a protective effect on neuronal tissue. Active glycowithanolides of Withania Somnifera (10 or 20 mg/kg intraperitoneally) were given once daily for 21 days to groups of six rats. Dose-related increases in all enzymes were observed; the increases comparable to those seen with deprenyl (a known antioxidant) administration (2 g/kg/day intraperitoneally). This implies that Withania Somnifera does have an antioxidant effect in the brain, which may be responsible for its diverse pharmacological properties

Use of Ashwagandha in stress:

  1. Ashwagandha is used in India to treat mental deficits in geriatric patients, including amnesia. Researchers from the University of Leipzig in Germany wanted to find out which neurotransmitters were influenced by Ashwagandha. After injecting some of the chemicals in Ashwagandha into rats, they later examined slices of their brain and found an increase in acetylcholine receptor activity. The researchers say, "The drug-induced increase in acetylcholine receptor capacity might partly explain the cognition-enhancing and memory-improving effects of extracts from Withania Somnifera observed in animals andhumans."
    A study done in 1991 at the Department of Pharmacology, University of Texas Health Science Center indicated that extracts of Ashwagandha had GABA-like activity. This may account for this herb's anti anxiety effects.
  2. To evaluate the anti stress effect of Withania Somnifera, an alcohol extract from defatted seeds of Withania Somnifera dissolved in normal saline was given (100 mg/kg intraperitoneally as a single dose) to 20-25 g mice in a swimming performance test in water at 28-30C.10 Controls were given saline. The extracts approximately doubled the swimming time when compared to controls The alcohol extract of Withania Somnifera (100 mg/kg, twice daily orally on day 1, 4 or 7) reduced stress-induced increases in blood urea nitrogen levels, blood lactic acid, and adrenal hypertrophy, but did not affect changes in thymus weight and hyperglycemia in rats.7 Withania Somnifera reversed the cold swimming-induced increases in plasma corticosterone, phagocytic index, and avidity index to control levels.

1.Archana R, Namasivayam A. Antistressor effect of Withania somnifera. J Ethnopharmacol1999; 6 4:91-93
2.Dadkar VN, Ranadive NU, Dhar HL. Evaluation of antistress (adaptogen) activity of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha). Ind J Clin Biochem 1987,2:101-108.

Ashwagandha in hypothyroidism:
Recent research has examined its effect on those suffering from low thyroid hormone levels. Cold hands and feet, poor tolerance to cold, sluggish bowel function and even subnormal body temperature often mark this condition, called hypothyroidism. One animal study with male mice showed orally delivered extracts of Ashwagandha to increase both thyroxin, the more abundant thyroid hormone (and a widely used prescription drug), and T3, its more potent counterpart; a similar study in female mice showed an increase in thyroxin only.

Nutrition and exercise biochemist Anthony Almada, M.S., has collaborated on more than 45 university-based studies and is founder and chief scientific officer of IMAGINutrition

Anti tumor Properties of Ashwagandha:
To investigate its use in treating various forms of cancer, the anti tumor and radio sensitizing effects of Withania Somnifera have been studied. In one study, Withania Somnifera was evaluated for its anti-tumor effect in urethane-induced lung adenomas in adult male albino mice.11 Simultaneous administration of (e Withania Somnifera thanol extract of whole plant, 200 mg/kg daily orally for seven months) and urethane (125 mg/kg without food biweekly for seven months) reduced tumor incidence significantly (tumor incidence: untreated control, 0/25; urethane treated, 19/19; Withania Somnifera treated, 0/26, and Withania Somnifera plus urethane treated, 6/24, p<0.05). The histological appearance of the lungs of animals protected by Withania Somnifera was similar to those observed in the lungs of control animals. No pathological evidence of any neoplastic change was observed in the brain, stomach, kidneys, heart, spleen, or testes of any treated or control animals. In addition to providing protection from carcinogenic effects, Withania Somnifera treatment also reversed the adverse effects of urethane on total leukocyte count, lymphocyte count, body weight, and mortality.

1. Devi PU, Sharada AC, Solomon FE, et al. In vivo growth inhibitory effect of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) on a transplantable mouse tumour, Sarcoma 180. Indian J Exp Biol. 1992; 30:169-172

Anti-inflammatory Properties of Ashwagandha:
The effectiveness of Ashwagandha in a variety of rheumatologic conditions may be due in part to its anti-inflammatory properties, which have been studied by several authors. In a study by Anbalagan et al,3 powdered root of Withania Somnifera (1 g/kg suspended in 2% gum acacia, 50 mg/mL) was given orally one hour before the induction of inflammation by injection of Freund's complete adjuvant in rats and continued daily for three days; phenylbutazone (100mg/kg) was given as a positive control. Withania Somnifera was found to cause considerable reduction in inflammation. On monitoring the Acute phase reactants of the blood by crossed immuno-electrophoresis changes were seen in the concentration of many serum proteins (a2-glycoprotein, major acute phase a1-protein, and pre-albumin) in the Withania Somnifera group. The a2-glycoprotein found only in inflamed rat serum was decreased to undetectable levels in the Withania Somnifera group

1.Anbalagan K, Sadique J. Influence of an Indian medicine (Ashwagandha) on acute-phase reactants in inflammation. Indian J Exp Biol 1981; 19:245-249
2.Anbalagan K, Sadique J. Role of prostaglandins in acute phase proteins in inflammation. Biochem Med 1984; 31:236-245

Immunomodulatory Properties of Ashwagandha:
Root extract of WS was tested for immunomodulatory effects in three myelo-suppression models in mice: cyclophosphamide, azathioprin, or prednisolone.32 Significant increases (p<0.05) in hemoglobin concentration, red blood cell count, white blood cell count, platelet count, and body weight were observed in WS-treated mice compared to untreated control mice. The authors also reported significant increases in hemolytic antibody responses toward human erythrocytes, which indicated immuno stimulatory activity.

Haemopoeitic Effect of Ashwagandha:
Administration of WS extract was found to significantly reduce leucopoenia induced by cyclophosphamide (CTX) treatment in Swiss albino mice. The major activity of WS may be the stimulation of stem cell proliferation. These studies indicated WS reduced CTX-induced toxicity and may prove useful in cancer chemotherapy

Dose: powder-3-6g
Kshar 1-2 g

Capsule Ashwagandha contains pure and concentrated Ashwagandha.
Dosage: one capsule twice a day.
Package 60 capsules

2. Dr.KM Nadkarni, The Indian Materia Medica, Vol.I, pg 1292
3. Prof P.V Sharma, Dravya Guna Vigyana, Vol II, pg 763-765
4. The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia Of India, Part I, Vol.I, pg 15-16
5. Dr. Narian Singh Chauhan, Medicinal And Aromatic Plants Of Himachal Pradesh, pg 439.

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