Withania somnifera

Withania somnifera

Synonyms

No documentation.

Vernacular Name

Asgandh, ashvagandha, winter cherry, aasoganda, amukkara, asgandh valaiti, ba-dzi-gandha, amurkkuralckizhangu, bahman. [1]

Description

Withania somnifera is a perennial woody shrub of the family Solanaceae. The stout shrub usually grows no more than 170cm in height. W. somnifera is said to resemble the tomato plant, to which it is related. The hardy stem is covered in a dense pubescence, and can range from light green to brown in color, depending on the age of the stem. From the stem grow numerous broad leaves with the lamina ranging from 4cm to 10cm in length and 3cm to 7cm in width. Though initially covered in a relatively dense pubescence, the leaves of W. somnifera gradually become glabrous over time. The leaves are ovate with a cuneate base. Between late spring and early fall, W. somnifera produces numerous apical clusters of small, inconspicuous flowers. The flowers are pale green to white in color and number four to ten flowers per cluster. It was originally cultivated in India for its rejuvinative properties. Asgandh literally translates to “horse smell”, which is indicative of its strong odor. [2]

Origin / Habitat

Asgandh is a shrub-like plant native to the drier areas of India that is both found growing wild and cultivated. In the wild, it grows at elevations of about 5,500 meters.

Chemical Constituents

3-alpha-tigloyloxytropane, alkaloids, anaferine, anhygrine, beta-sitosterol, choline, cuscohygrine, isopelletierine, nicotine, pseudotropine, pseudowithanine, somniferiene, somniferinine, tropine, withananine, withanone [2][5]

Plant Part Used

Roots, leaves, or a combination of the two. [3]

Traditional Use

Traditionally, Asgandh is used as a rasayana herb, indicating that it is used for its invigorative properties, both physically and mentally. It has been indicated for use in general fatigue as well as muscle fatigue. Asgandh is also used in Ayurveda as a remedy for sexual dysfunction, specifically in males. Additionally it has been noted for its anti-inflammatory properties. Asgandh is comprised of the madhura (sweet) kasaya (astringent) and tikta (bitter) rasas. Asgandh is used to pacify the Vata dosha. [1] 

According to the Indian Materia Medica its actions include Titka, kashaya, rasam ushna verryam, katu vipakam, kapha vata haram. Roots and leaves are used as a therapy in alcoholism, for Vranam, vishnam, in kasam, swasam pandu and fatigue. [2] The leaves and roots are considered narcotic, while the root alone is considered deobstruent, tonic and aphrodisiac. [3] 

Dosage

3-6 g powder crude dried herb [1]

Standardization Dosage

450mg 2-3 times a day standardized to at least 1.5% withanolides per dose.

Pharmacology

Pre-clinical

Asgandh or W. somnifera, is an adaptogen, or substance that helps protect the body against various emotional, physical and environmental stresses. [4] W. somnifera is reported to have tonic or adaptogenic properties that are similar to panax ginseng. [5] In one study, the levels of corticosterone in the adrenal glands of stressed (5 h constant swimming) male albino mice treated with W. somnifera and panax ginseng preparations were compared with non-treated stressed and normal controls. [6] The herbal therapies increased the corticosterone levels in all the groups. However, the physical endurance (increased survival time) of swimming mice in this study was not affected by W. somnifera administration (500mg/kg p.o).

W. somnifera is rich in iron, which may increase hemoglobin and red blood cell count in treated individuals. [7] This agent should be used in moderation in men with known cardiovascular risk because as additional iron intake may potentially accelerate the cardiovascular risk. W. somnifera is anabolic, containing substantial amounts of the amino acids arginine and ornithine. These amino acids are needed for proper nervous system function. [8] W. somnifera was reported to increase the sexual performance in 71 percent of men involved in a study with the herb. [9] Also, W. somnifera has been reported to be useful in opiate withdrawal and addiction treatment. [10] 

W. somnifera has been studied for possible tumor inhibitory effects, as well as a radiosensitizer when administered with radiation therapy. [11][12] The gentle application of heat has been reported to enhance the radiosensitizing effects of W. somnifera. [13] A recent laboratory animal study reported that W. somnifera extract administration (20mg/dose/animal given intraperitoneal) was found to inhibit 20-methylcholanthrene induced sarcoma development in mice and increase the life span of tumor bearing animals. [14] Another animal study reported that administration of an W. somnifera extract enhanced the levels of Interferon gamma (IFN-gamma), Interleukin-2 (IL-2) and granulocyte macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) in mice. [15] 

W. somnifera has been used in the treatment of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. [16][17] W. somnifera is a potent antioxidant, inhibiting lipid peroxidation and increasing enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT) and glutathione peroxidase (GPX). [18][19] In one animal study, an aqueous suspension of the root extract of W. somnifera was evaluated for its effect on lipid peroxidation in stress-induced animals. [20] Simultaneous oral administration of W. somnifera (100 mg/kg) prevented the rise in lipid peroxidase in rabbits and mice. The antioxidant effect of active components of W. somnifera may explain, at least in part, the reported antistress, immunomodulatory, cognition-facilitating, anti-inflammatory, and antiaging effects produced in experimental animals and in clinical studies. 

Clinical

A recent human study of 6 individuals with mild NIDDM and six mild hypercholesterolemic subjects were treated with the powder of roots of W. somnifera for 30 days. [21] A decrease in blood glucose was comparable to that of an oral hypoglycemic drug. Significant increase in urine sodium, urine volume, significant decrease in serum cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL and VLDL cholesterol were observed indicating that root of W. somnifera is a potential source of hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic agents. 

Of interest is a recent report that W. somnifera administration in laboratory animals may stimulate thyroid function by enhancing serum T4 concentration. [22] The authors report also that the W. somnifera plant extract showed an increase in hepatic glucose-6-phosphatase (G-6-Pase) activity and antiperoxidative effects, as indicated either by a decrease in hepatic lipid peroxidation and/or by an increase in the activity of antioxidant enzyme(s). 

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.

Interaction with Drugs

Based on pharmacology as determined in animal studies, W. somnifera should not be used in individuals with thyroid disorders or taking thyroid medication. [22]

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

No documentation.

Pregnancy

While generally considered safe for used, this herb should not be used by pregnant women as it may have abortifacient properties. 

Not to be used by nursing women unless directed by a physician.

Age limitation

Not to be used by children unless directed by a physician.

Adverse reaction

No documentation.

Read More

  1) Medicinal Herbs

References

  1. Kapoor, LD. CRC Handbook of Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1990.
  2. Premila, M.S. Ayurvedic Herbs: A Clinical Guide to the Healing Plants of Traditional Indian Medicine. Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Press; 2006.
  3. Nadkarni AK, Indian Materia Medica, Volume 1. 3rd Edition. Bombay:Popular Prakashan Pvt. Ltd;1982.
  4. Archana R, Namasivayam A. Antistressor Effect of Withania somnifera. J Ethnopharmacol. Jan 1999;64(1): 91-93.
  5. A. Grandhi, et al. A Comparative Pharmacological Investigation of Ashwagandha and Ginseng. J Ethnopharmaco. Dec1994.44(3):131-135.
  6. Singh A, Saxena E, Bhutani KK. Adrenocorticosterone Alterations in Male, Albino Mice Treated with Trichopus zeylanicus, Withania somnifera and Panax ginseng Preparations. Phytother Res. Mar2000;14(2): 122-125.
  7. Boone K. Withania – The Indian Ginseng and Antiaging Adaptogen. Nutrition and Healing. Jun1998;5(6):5-7.
  8. M. Elsakka, et al.New Data Referring to Chemistry of Withania Somnifera Species. Rev Med Chir Soc Med Nat Lasi. Apr1990;94(2):385-387.
  9. Boone K. Withania – The Indian Ginseng and Antiaging Adaptogen. Nutrition and Healing. Jun1998;5(6):5-7.
  10. S. K. Kulkarni, I. Ninan Inhibition of morphine tolerance and dependence by Withania somnifera in mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 1997 Aug;57(3): 213-17.
  11. G. Kuttan. Use of Withania Somnifera Dunal as an Adjuvant during Radiation Therapy. Indian J Exp Biol. Sept1996; 34(9): 854-856.
  12. A. C.Sharad, et al.,Antitumor and Radiosensitizing Effects of Withaferin A on Mouse Ehrlich Ascites Carcinoma In Vivo.Acta Oncol. 1996;35(1):95-100.
  13. P. U. Devi, et al. Withaferin A: A New Radiosensitizer From the Indian Medicinal Plant Withania Somnifera. Int J Radiat Biol. Feb1996; 69(2): 193-197.
  14. Davis L, Kuttan G. Effect of Withania somnifera on 20-methylcholanthrene Induced Fibrosarcoma. J Exp Clin Cancer Res. Jun2000;19(2):165-167.
  15. Davis L, Kuttan G. Effect of Withania somnifera on Cytokine Production in Normal and Cyclophosphamide Treated Mice. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. Nov1999;21(4): 695-703.
  16. V. H. Begum, et al. Long Term Effect of Herbal Drug Withania Somnifera on Adjuvant Induced Arthritis in Rat. Indian J Exp Biol .Nov1988; 26(11):877-882.
  17. K. Anbalagan, et al. Influence of An Indian Medicine (Ashwagandha) on Acute-Phase Reactants in Inflammation.Indian J Exp Biol.Mar1981;19(3):245-249.
  18. S. K. Bhattacharya, et al. Antioxidant Activity of Glycowithanolides from Withania Somnifera,” Indian J Exp Biol. Mar1997;35(3): 236-239.
  19. Bhattacharya A, Ghosal S, Bhattacharya SK. Antioxidant 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. J Ethnopharmacol. Jan2001;74(1): 1-6.
  20. Dhuley JN. Effect of Ashwagandha on Lipid Peroxidation in Stress-induced Animals. J Ethnopharmacol. Mar1998;60(2): 173-178.
  21. Andallu B, Radhika B. Hypoglycemic, Diuretic and Hypocholesterolemic Effect of Winter Cherry (Withania somnifera, Dunal) Root. Indian J Exp Biol. Jun2000;38(6): 607-609.
  22. Panda S, Kar A. Withania somnifera and Bauhinia purpurea in the Regulation of Circulating Thyroid Hormone Concentrations in Female Mice. J Ethnopharmacol. Nov1999;67(2): 233-239.