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Ashwagandha Extract

What is Ashwagandha Used For

Ashwagandha is also known as Withania somnifera, and is also known as Indian ginseng, Winter cherry, Ajagandha, Kanaje Hindi and Samm Al Ferakh. It grows as a stout shrub that reaches a height of 170 cm. Like the tomato which belongs to the same family, it bears yellow flowers and red fruit, though its fruit is berry-like in size and shape. [1] In various clinical studies using rats, Ashwagandha has been shown to effectively reduce and counteract stress among a host of other health benefits.

Withania somnifera is classified in Ayurveda, the ancient Hindu system of medicine, as a rasayana, a group of plant-derived drugs reputed to promote physical and mental health, augment resistance of the body against disease and diverse adverse environmental factors, revitalize the body in debilitated conditions and increase longevity. [2] Ashwagandha is widely considered as the "Indian ginseng" and "Queen of Ayurveda", and it is classified as a rasayana (rejuvenation) in Ayurveda. Because of its wide range of use and activity, Ashwagandha is used to treat almost all disorders that affect the human health. [3]

There are many studies available that have been done to study the various health benefits and side effects of Ashwagandha. Below we made a list of the many health benefits of Ashwagandha, which we will discuss in detail in this review:

  • Ashwagandha promotes physical and mental health
  • Rejuvenate the body
  • Increase longevity
  • Acts as a mood stabilizer
  • Has the potential to act as a preventive or therapeutic drug for stress induced neurological disorders
  • Ashwagandha is a potential drug in treating oxidative damage, and it also has antioxidant properties
  • It has effects  on immune cell activation
  • Has cancer fighting benefits
  • Helps to treat diabetes
  • Has benefits in the treatment of osteoporosis


Ashwagandha for Anxiety and Stress 

One of the main uses and benefits of ashwagandha is its ability to act as a mood stabilizer, and provides significant anti-stress properties. Clinical trials have also found it to be a therapeutic drug for stress induced neurological disorders. [5] Because of its anti stress properties, Ashwagandha has been used in sexual enhancers such as Steel Libido from Irwin Naturals. In a rat model of chronic stress, Ashwagandha was found to have significant anti stress properties, where male sexual dysfunction was a major problem associated with the induced stress of the tests. See below:

Adaptogenic activity of Withania somnifera: an experimental study using a rat model of chronic stress.
Bhattacharya SK, Muruganandam AV.
Department of Pharmacology, Postgraduate Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Calcutta University, 244 B Acharya JC Bose Road, Calcutta 700 020, India.

This study evaluated the adaptogenic activity of a standardized extract of Withania somnifera root using a rat model of chronic stress tests. The stress procedure was a mild and unpredictable foot shock administered once a day for 21 days. Male sexual dysfunction was one of the several problems associated with the induced stress.

However, the negative effects of the stress was reduced by administering Withania somnifera 1 hour before the foot shocks. The study concludes that Ashwagandha has significant anti stress adaptogenic properties. [2]

Other studies have found Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) to have neuroprotective effects. Ashwagandha mediates inhibition of nitric oxide production, which is known to mediate neurodegeneration during stress. In one study involving 28 mice, the mice were exposed to restraint stress for 30 days, and were treated with Ashwagandha during the 30 day stress period. The observations from this study suggested that Ashwagandha root extract could be developed as a potential preventive or therapeutic drug for stress induced neurological disorders. [4]

Ashwagandha extract has also been found to have protective effects against prolonged social isolation induced behavior in rats, such as anxiety and depression. The rats were isolated for 6 weeks and treated with Withania somnifera. The study found that treatment with Ashwagandha showed antidepressant effects, and acted as a mood stabilizer. [5]

While there were plenty of studies showing the effectiveness of Ashwagandha in combating stress, they were all done using lab animals, and not human subjects. However, as seen in the studies listed above, stress and chronic stress had negative impact on the subjects in a number of ways, and during the stress induced periods, treatment with Ashwagandha had significant benefits.

Ashwagandha Root Extract - an Antioxidant

Along with its anti stress benefits, Ashwagandha has antioxidant properties acting as a potential drug in treating oxidative damage, has cardioprotective effects, and also helps decrease lipid profiles in patients. One study using a mouse model has also determined that Ashwagandha is a potential drug for treating oxidative damage and physiological abnormalities in mouse with Parkinson's disease. [6]

Ashwagandha extract has also been found to decrease lipid profiles in test subjects. In a rat model study using hypercholesteremic (high cholesterol) rats, the root powder of Ashwagandha was added to the diet at 0.75g and 1.5g per day. The study found that the hypercholesteremic animals registered significant decreases in total lipids (- 40.50% and - 50.69%) and cholesterol (-41.58%; -53.01%). With the decrease in total lipid and cholesterol, they also noted a significant increase in HDL cholesterol ("good cholesterol") . The study also noted a significant decrease in lipid peroxidation demonstrating the antioxidant effects of Ashwagandha. It is apparent, that Ashwagandha works to lower lipid and cholesterol levels. [7]

Ashwagandha is also known to have immune stimulating effects. In one study, 5 participants consumed 6ml of an Ashwagandha root extract twice daily for 96 hours, and blood samples were collected at 0, 24, and 96 hours. The study found that a major change in immune cell activation occurred in the subjects concluding that Ashwagandha as effects on immune cell activation. [8] Other studies have found the extracts of the leaves and root barks of W. somnifera to show parasite suppressive effect with anti-malarial activities. [9]

Ashwagandha Extract - Cancer and Diabetes

Withania somnifera is also known to have anti cancer properties, and has been used in treating diabetes. In an Indian study, a chemically standardized herbal formulation of Ashwagandha was reported to have anti cancer and immune up-regulatory activities. Taken at 150mg/kg, the Withania somnifera formulation inhibited >50% tumor growth in the mouse tumor models. The treatment also enhanced T cell activation in the tumor bearing mice. Ashwagandha was found to be safe in this rat model study when given orally up to 1500 mg/kg for 6 months period. [10]

Ashwagandha has been specifically linked to inhibiting the proliferation of human breast cancer cells. In a study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute in the USA, it was demonstrated that Withania somnifera treatment caused G2 and mitotic arrest in human breast cancer cells. Their results found that Withania somnifera has antiproliferative effects against human breast cancer cells. [11]

Ashwagandha is an Indian herbal plant that has been used in treatment of diabetes. Because of this, the herb is widely studied in India. Studies have found Ashwagandha to have a number of benefits for patients with diabetes. In a rat model study, 200 mg/kg and 400 mg/kg doses of Withania somnifera (WS) extract was administered once a day for 5 weeks in diabetic rats. The study found that treatment with WS reduced the elevated levels of blood glucose, and they also found a significant improvement in glucose tolerance in the rats treated with WS. Treatment with Ashwagandha also significantly improved insulin sensitivity index. [12]

Ashwagandha Side Effects and Treatment of Osteoarthritis

Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat arthritis. A standardized multi plant Ayurvedic drug (RA-11) containing Withania somnifera, Boswellia serrata, Zingiber officinale, and Curcuma longa is currently used to treat arthritis, and was the subject of a study to evaluate its effectiveness on treating osteoarthritis of the knee. 90 patients with chronic knee pain took part in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel efficacy, single-center, 32-week drug trial. Compared with placebo, the mean reduction in pain  at week 16 and week 32 (active = in the active group was significantly better. This controlled drug trial of RA-11 containing several herbs including Ashwagandha demonstrates the potential efficacy and safety in the symptomatic treatment of Osteoarthritis in the knees. [13]

Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) root extract contains oestrogen-like withanolides for anti-osteoporotic activity. Studies have found that Withania somnifera improves bone calcification in calcium-deficient ovariectomized rats, and may be a potential agent in the treatment of osteoporosis. [14] Ashwagandha is well tolerated and does not appear to have any significant side effects. No adverse side effects of ashwagandha was reported in any of the studies that we reviewed. Being the "indian Ginseng", and used in Ayurvedic medicine for treating a variety of ailments, Ashwagandha has been shown to provide a wide range of health benefits as we've already discussed, and these include:

  • promotes physical and mental health
  • rejuvenate the body
  • increase longevity
  • acts as a mood stabilizer
  • potential to act as a preventive or therapeutic drug for stress induced neurological disorders
  • ashwagandha is a potential drug in treating oxidative damage, and it also has antioxidant properties
  • it has effects on immune cell activation
  • has cancer fighting benefits
  • helps to treat diabetes
  • has benefits in the treatment of osteoporosis




1. Source: Wikipedia -

2. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003 Jun;75(3):547-55
Adaptogenic activity of Withania somnifera: an experimental study using a rat model of chronic stress.
Bhattacharya SK, Muruganandam AV.
Department of Pharmacology, Postgraduate Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Calcutta University, 244 B Acharya JC Bose Road, Calcutta 700 020, India.

3. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2008 Jul 1;32(5):1093-105. Epub 2007 Sep 21. L
Withania somnifera: an Indian ginseng.
Kulkarni SK, Dhir A.
Pharmacology Division, University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Panjab University, Chandigarh - 160 014, India.

4. Neurochem Res. 2009 May 15. [Epub ahead of print]
Neuroprotective Effects of Withania somnifera Dunal.: A Possible Mechanism.
Bhatnagar M, Sharma D, Salvi M.
M.L. Sukhadia University, Udaipur, 313001, India,

5. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2007 Oct-Dec;51(4):345-53.
Protective effect of Withania somnifera dunal root extract against protracted social isolation induced behavior in rats.
Gupta GL, Rana AC.
Department of Pharmacology, B.N. College of Pharmacy, Udaipur.

6. Neurosci Lett. 2009 Apr 17;454(1):11-5. Epub 2009 Feb 26.
Ashwagandha leaf extract: a potential agent in treating oxidative damage and physiological abnormalities seen in a mouse model of Parkinson's disease.
Rajasankar S, Manivasagam T, Surendran S.
Department of Anatomy, Melmaruvathur Adhi Parasakthi Institute of Medical Sciences, Tamil Nadu, India.

7. Phytomedicine. 2007 Feb;14(2-3):136-42. Epub 2006 May 18.
Hypocholesteremic and antioxidant effects of Withania somnifera (Dunal) in hypercholesteremic rats.
Visavadiya NP, Narasimhacharya AV.
Department of Biosciences, Sardar Patel University, Vallabh Vidyanagar 388 120, Gujarat, India.
Hypocholesteremic and antioxidant effects of Withania somnifera (WS) Dunal (Solanaceae) were investigated in hypercholesteremic male albino rats.

8. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Apr;15(4):423-30.
In vivo effects of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract on the activation of lymphocytes.
Mikolai J, Erlandsen A, Murison A, Brown KA, Gregory WL, Raman-Caplan P, Zwickey HL.
Helfgott Research Institute, National College of Natural Medicine, Portland, OR 97239, USA.

9. Ethiop Med J. 2006 Jul;44(3):279-85.
Anti-malarial activity of withania somnifera L. Dunal extracts in mice.
Dikasso D, Makonnen E, Debella A, Abebe D, Urga K, Makonnen W, Melaku D, Kassa M, Guta M.
Ethiopian Health and Nutrition Research Institute, P.O. Box 1242.

10, Eur J Cancer. 2009 May;45(8):1494-509. Epub 2009 Mar 5.
Immune modulation and apoptosis induction: Two sides of antitumoural activity of a standardised herbal formulation of Withania somnifera.
Malik F, Kumar A, Bhushan S, Mondhe DM, Pal HC, Sharma R, Khajuria A, Singh S, Singh G, Saxena AK, Suri KA, Qazi GN, Singh J.
Division of Pharmacology, Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research), Canal Road, Jammu 180001, India.

11. Nutr Cancer. 2008;60 Suppl 1:51-60.
Ayurvedic medicine constituent withaferin a causes G2 and M phase cell cycle arrest in human breast cancer cells.
Stan SD, Zeng Y, Singh SV.
University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.

12. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2008 Jun;102(6):498-503. Epub 2008 Mar 16.
Effect of Withania somnifera on insulin sensitivity in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus rats.
Anwer T, Sharma M, Pillai KK, Iqbal M.
Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Pharmacy, Jamia Hamdard, (Hamdard University), New Delhi, India.

13. J Clin Rheumatol. 2004 Oct;10(5):236-245.
A 32-Week Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Evaluation of RA-11, an Ayurvedic Drug, on Osteoarthritis of the Knees.
Chopra A, Lavin P, Patwardhan B, Chitre D.
From the *Center for Rheumatic Diseases, Inlaks and Budhrani Hospital, Bharati Hospital Medical College (Deemed University), Pune, India; daggerAverion, Inc., Framingham, Massachusetts; the double daggerSchool of Health Sciences, University of Pune, India; and section signBIO-VED Pharmaceuticals, Inc., San Jose, California.

14. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2006 Apr;58(4):513-9.
Withania somnifera improves bone calcification in calcium-deficient ovariectomized rats.
Nagareddy PR, Lakshmana M.
Dept. of Pharmacology, Government College of Pharmacy, Bangalore, 560027, India.


May 2009