“The nervous system and sleep inducing plant”
Other names: Ajagandha, Amangura, Amukkirag, Asgand, Asgandh, Asgandha, Ashvagandha, Ashwanga, Asoda, Asundha, Asvagandha, Aswagandha, Avarada, Ayurvedic Ginseng, Clustered Wintercherry, Ghoda Asoda, Hayahvaya, Kanaje Hindi, Kuthmithi, Physalis somnifera, Samm Al Ferakh, Samm Al Rerakh, Turangi-Ghanda, Vajigandha, Withania, Withania Coagulans, Amukkrang Kilangu (in Tamil)
Scientific name: Withania somnifera
Common names: Winter Cherry, Indian Ginseng, Poison Gooseberry
Ayurvedic names: Ashwagandha
Chinese names: Shui qie
Bangladesh names: Asvagandha
Arabic names: اشواغاندا ( Ashwagandha)
Japanese Names: Seiyouotogirisou, Sekitomehoozuki Indo chōsen ninjin Indianjinsengu
Family: Solanaceae (nightshade)
Approximate number of species known: 23
Common parts used: Root, fruit, leaf
Height: 1-1.5 metres
Actions: Adaptogen, alterative, anti-anemic, anti-inflammatory, hypnotic, mild sedative, tonic
anti-rheumatic, diuretic, anti-stress, antitumour, immunomodulator, rejuvenator, hypotensive, Hemopoetic.
Known Constituents: Calcium, Phosphorous, Protein
Steroidal compounds including lactones (withaferin A, sitoindoside IX, X (carbon-27-glycowithanolides) and acylsteryl glucosides (sitoindosides VII, VIII); alkaloids; iron
Withanolides including withanoside IV, withanoside V, withaferin A, withanolide A,
Withanolide B, Withaferin A (has been discussed for antitumour and anti-inflammatory properties.)
Bark: withasomnilide, withasomniferanolide, somniferanolide, somniferawithanolide and somniwithanolide
Withanolides are a group of secondary metabolites of the Nightshade family that are naturally occurring steroids based around ergostane (a steroid hydrocarbon) They number at least 300, are produced through oxidation of steroids with the steroidal backbone bound to lactone or a derivative of same. It is thought that the withanolides may be a deterrent for herbivores and insect larva who attempt to eat the plant.
A shrub with flowers that are greenish-yellow. The stems are thin furry. The leaves normally grow two together. The leaves are normally dark and point. The seeds start out green the size of a pea, then turn orange in colour, and resemble more of a raspberry.
The roots are brown on the outside and white on the inside, and thick at the bottom and then thin at the top. To assess the quality of the root, the length, and the shine, is assessed when picked. It grows easily in dry areas.
An Indian Ayurvedic herb used for over 3000 years, which has been taken by many Indians daily, used to rebuild the body in times of persistent stress. It’s been commonly used by Indian herbalists in many herbal preparations.
The second part of the name in Withania Somnifera in Latin means ‘sleep-inducing’ which has seen it used in some cases with the purpose of inducing sleep. In Ayurveda it’s been called a ‘Rasayana’ herb which in its literal term means “Path (ayana) of essence (rasa)” but in more literal sense is often labeled to a herb which is thought to promote longevity.
It has gotten the name ‘Indian Ginseng’ because of its use for a wide variety of ailments in Indian medicine. The name Ashwagandha literally means Ashwa “Horse” and Gandha “smell” referring to the smell of the fresh root.
It has also been associated to being strong like a horse. Ashwagandha’s use has been associated with an increase in muscle mass, and for recovery from general weakness. It has been used in cases when children aren’t growing as much as wanted. It’s been used in cases of anemia with the goal of building hemoglobin.
It is believed to be more of a sedative than a stimulant, which has seen it used as an analgesic. Sometimes it is taken with the intent of building the immune system, and as an aphrodisiac.
Withania has been purported to be used as a tonic for the brain and nervous system, as an immune modulator, and in tumours. It’s use for the brain has seen it be used with the purpose as a ‘nootropic’. That is something with the purpose of cognitive enhancement. Almost like a smart drug. It has been used for dementia.
It has been linked to the regulation of thyroid function and been suggested to be useful in cases of convulsions. The Indian’s have used it as a mood enhancer, for male sexual dysfunction (but it has been used for sexual dysfunction in both men and women). Other uses have included reducing stress-related infertility and increasing semen quality. It has application for the joints with the fresh leaves being used externally for joint pain.
It has been used in combination with other nervines, or hormonal herbs. The leaves and the seeds in India have been used in the respiratory system. It has been used as a general anti-inflammatory.
Some of the alkaloids it contains are meant to be toxic and studies on rats have been done to ascertain its toxicity.
Al-Kindi, the famous Arabian herbalist, called this herb “Henbane” and used it as part of a formula to kill mice.
It sometimes looks similar to the Golden berry plant.
Withania’s effects on anti inflammatory, antitumor, antistress, antioxidant, immunomodulation, hemopoetic and rejuvenating properties
Research in fifty-eight studies left researchers believing they found indicators in Ashwaganda of anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antistress, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, hemopoetic and rejuvenating properties, with little or no toxicity.
Preliminary studies have shown that Ashwagandha has various constituents that exhibits therapeutic effects with no toxicity.
This ingredient is best prescribed for conditions like musculoskeletal (for example arthritis, rheumatism) and always plays an important role as a tonic to energize, health improvement and longevity and helps to prevent diseases in athletes and also during pregnancy.
Withania and glutathione peroxidase copper induced lipid peroxidation and protein oxidative modification
In a study on copper induced lipid peroxidation and protein oxidative modification in rats, Withania somnifera helps to significantly decrease the activity of glutathione peroxidase in adult to aged mice.
Withania and Blood Pressure
While experimenting on animals, it was found that they have depressant actions on higher cerebral centres with bradycardia and prolonged hypotensive issues.
Withania and heavy metal protection
Glycowithanolides, consisting of equimolar concentrations of sitoindosides VII–X and withaferin A, isolated from the roots of Withania somnifera Dunal, were reported to have an antioxidant effect in the rat brain frontal cortex and striatum.
Its protective aspects on liver against heavy metals may also be due to these antioxidant effect which it contains.
Withania, anti-stress and infertility
The major cause of infertility in men is stress.Withania somnifera is famous in Ayurveda and Unani medicine system for its stress combating properties thus helps to reduce the infertility rate in men.
At a dose of five grams a day, for three months, in sixty males, semen quality improved.
Withania and recovery in motor repair
In order to study its effect on motor repair, two groups of rats had deliberately induced ischemia. No effects were seen after 15 days while after 30 days, motor impairment was significantly decreased.
Withania and infertility
Levels of four specific indicators of infertility were reversed in infertile individuals in one hundred and fifty men. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0015028209010140
Withania and thyroid function
Withaniasomnifera root extract (1.4 g/kg body wt.) and Bauhinia purpurea bark extract (2.5 mg/kg body wt.) for 20 days on thyroid function in female mice were investigated.
After 20 days of experimentation, it was concluded that plant extract is helpful in stimulating thyroid function in female mice.
Withania and the frontal cortex
Withania also developed an increase in frontal cortex markers of rats but the result came out after 20 days of experimentation. Early results were not evident.
Withania and total blood cell count
After 10 days of treatment with Withania, total WBC count and bone marrow cells were increased, with an increase in Macrophages.
Treatment with Withania extract along with the antigen (SRBC) produced an enhancement in the circulating antibody titre and the number of plaque forming cells (PFC) in the spleen. Maximum number of PFC (985 PFC/106 spleen cells) was obtained on the fourth day.
Withania and isolated neurite outgrowth activity
Withania somnifera isolates resulted in neurite outgrowth activity
Withania forebrain and cortical activity
Withania somnifera, however, led to differential effects on AChE activity in basal forebrain nuclei: slightly enhanced AChE activity was found in the lateral septum and globus pallidus, whereas in the vertical diagonal band AChE, activity was reduced following treatment with sitoindosides VII–X and withaferin-A. These changes were accompanied by enhanced M1-muscarinic cholinergic receptor binding in lateral and medial septum as well as in frontal cortices, whereas the M2-muscarinic receptor binding sites were increased in a number of cortical regions including cingulate, frontal, piriform, parietal and retrosplenial cortex.
Withania tumours and anti-inflammation
The leaves of W. somnifera were used in the treatment of tumours and inflammation in several Asian countries. Researchers isolated twelve withanolides such as withaferin A (1), sitoindoside IX (2), 4-(1-hydroxy-2, 2-dimethylcyclpropanone)-2, 3-dihydrowithaferin A (3), 2, 3-dihydrowithaferin A (4), 24, 25-dihydro-27-desoxywithaferin A (5), physagulin D (1→6)-β-D-glucopyranosyl- (1→4)-β-D-glucopyranoside (6), 27-O-β-D-glucopyranosylphysagulin D (7), physagulin D (8), withanoside IV (9), and 27-O-β-D-glucopyranosylviscosalactone B (10), 4, 16-dihydroxy-5β, 6β-epoxyphysagulin D (11), viscosalactone B (12) from the leaves of this species. Compounds 1–12 and diacetylwithaferin A (13) were tested for their antiproliferative activity on NCI-H460 (Lung), HCT-116 (Colon), SF-268 (Central Nervous System; CNS and MCF-7 (Breast) human tumor cell lines. The inhibitory concentration to afford 50% cell viability (IC50) for these compounds was determined by MTT (3-[4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl]-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide) assay. Withaferin A and its derivatives exhibited inhibitory concentrations (50%) ranging from 0.24±0.01 to 11.6±1.9 μg/mL. Viscosalactone B (12) showed the 50% inhibition at concentrations ranging from 0.32±0.05 to 0.47±0.15 μg/mL whereas its 27-O-glucoside derivative (10) exhibited IC50 between 7.9±2.9 and 17.3±3.9 μg/ml. However, Physagulin D type withanolides showed either weak or no activity at 30 μg/mL. Therefore, incorporation of withanolides in the diet may prevent or decrease the growth of tumours in human.
Withania and an anxiolytic effect
Glycowithanolides (WSG), isolated from WS roots, in rats. WSG (20 and 50 mg/kg) was administered orally once daily for 5 days.
WSG induced an anxiolytic effect, comparable to that produced by lorazepam, in the elevated plus-maze, social interaction and feeding latency in an unfamiliar environment, tests. Further, both WSG and lorazepam, reduced rat brain levels of tribulin, an endocoid marker of clinical anxiety, when the levels were increased following administration of the anxiogenic agent, pentylenetetrazole. WSG also exhibited an antidepressant effect, comparable with that induced by imipramine, in the forced swim-induced ‘behavioural despair’ and ‘learned helplessness’ tests. The investigations support the use of WS as a mood stabilizer in clinical conditions of anxiety and depression in Ayurveda.
Withania and reduction in chronic stress perturbation
Chronic stress perturbations were attenuated by Withania Somnifera when administered one hour before footshock for twenty one days.
Withania and protective properties in cardio toxicity
Withania may play a role in protection against cardiotoxicity in male Wister rats induced with necrosis and apoptosis. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10565-007-9016-z
Withania and antimicrobial activity
The protein designated WSG (Withania somnifera glycoprotein) demonstrated potent antimicrobial activity against the phytopathogenic fungi and bacteria tested. Antifungal effect has been demonstrated in that WSG exerts a fungi stastic effect by inhibiting spore germination and hyphal growth in the tested fungi. WSG showed potent antifungal activity against Aspergillus flavus, Fusarium oxysporum, F.verticillioides and antibacterial activity against Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. michiganensis. WSG is an acidic, non-toxic (trypsin-chymotrypsin) protease inhibitor. These results encourage further studies of WSG as a potential therapeutic agent for its antifungal activity.
Food consumption was increased by 70-80% in treated animals as against 41% ill control animals after 90 days. Weight gain after 45 days was 25.13% -38.16% in treated group against 8.99% in control group. After 90 days, total weight gain was 31.24%-53.02% in treated group, which was significantly more (P<O.Ol) as compared to control group i.e. 12.98% (Table II). There was an increase of 1.7-1.9 gm% ill haemoglobin which correlated with an increase of 2.0-2.1 million/cumm in RBC count. Total and differential leucocyte count did not vary much. Nothing abnormal was detected in urine microscopically or in physical characters. All biochemical parameters were found to be within normal limits in treated as well as in control group (Table III). Animals from group III and IV showed increase in liver weight after 45 days. After of spleen and kidneys.
Histopathology of brain, heart, lung, liver, spleen, kidneys, stomach, testis and ovaries was normal on gross examination as well as microscopically. All the animals appeared alert and in good health. There was no mortality in any of the drug-treated or control animals during the 90 days period of study.
Sharma et al (5) showed that Ashwagandha alone was devoid of any toxic effects even after 8 months of continuous daily administration in rats. Similarly, Trabucci (6) observed no toxicity in rats with Ginseng along after long term administration in rats.
In this study, no specific organ pathology was found except two incidental findings, wherein, one animal revealed emphysema on gross examination as well as microscopically. Similarly, one animal was found to have focal calcification in seminiferous tubules as an isolated finding. Normal bilirubin as well as serum enzyme levels indicate normal functioning of the liver. Increase in liver weight may be due to increased liver protein biosynthesis.
Alcohol extracts from the roots of W. Somnifera (‘Ashwaganda’ In Sanskrit) were screened for their acute (24 h) toxicity in conventional swiss albino mice and subacute toxicity (30 days) in wistar rats. A Single Intraperitoneal Injection Of 1100 Mg/Kg of the extract in mice did not produce any deaths within 24 hrs, but small increases led to mortality.
Withania somnifera developed an increase in the frontal cortex markers or rats but indicators were only evident after fourteen or twenty one days of treatment.
General studies: http://www.japsonline.com/admin/php/uploads/364_pdf.pdf
© 2017 Will Shannon