Withania Somnifera

Botanical Name: Withania Somnifera

Sanskrit Name: Aswa Gandha

Family Name: Solanaceaea


Vernacular names :

Common name – Indian Ginseng

  1. Hindi – aswagandha
  2. Kannada –asvagandhi
  3. Malayalam –amukkuram
  4. Tamil –ammukura, amukulang
  5. Punjab – asgand


Gatrakari, Turagi , pivari, Balyd, Vajikari, Vajigandha, Varahakarni, Turagnagandha, Hayagandha, Kusthagandhi,

Ganas in classical texts:

Charaka: balya, brimhaniya, madhuraskandha


According to Paippalada Samhita, Agvagandha root juice is given as Nasya to achieve conception (P.S.1/89/3). It is a well documented herb in ancient Indian medicine and is considered as panacea.

Among the Brihat Trayi texts, Charaka and Vagbhata have called it is a Hayagandha or Hayahvaya whereas Susruta did not. Similarly, Vajigandha is the synonym used by Susruta and Vagbhata but not by Charaka. Twice Susrutaalone used another synonym Turangagandha’ (S.S.Ut. 41/41 & 43). Charaka considered it as Balya and Brimhana whereas Susruta and Vagbhata have not described it in their ganas/vargas.

On review of literature on Vrisya drugs Brihat Trayi did not emphasize Asvagandhaas Vrisya (When used individually ) in their works. It is Sarangdhara who highlighted the Sukrala property of Asvagandha along with Muali and Satavari (k. Sam. Pu, Kha. 5). BrihatTrayiinfact have emphasized asvagandha as a Vajikaranadravya but not Agvagandha.

From medeival period onwordsAsvagandha emerged asageneral tonic and aphrodisiac agent. However, it is used by the author traditionally as a wonder remedy for Amavata and Sandhivata. In the classical literature it is also used for Vatavyadhi, Kasa, Svasa, Sotha, Svitra, Ksaya etc.

Varieties :

In the literature we do not come across the descriptions regarding two kinds of Asvagandha but there are two plants available in the trade viz., W. somnifera and W. coagulans. The former one is denoted as Pennerugadda while the later is known as Dommadolugadda in Telugu. But both the names are commonly used as vernacular to Asvagandha.

There is another herb described in Dhanvantarinighantu along with Asvagandha with the synonyms like Medasvi, Sthoulyadhava, Bali, Mamsi and Rukmini. This is considered as the big variety of Asvagandha (W. coagulans) by Sri SingarajaKama Sastry (1932).

The cultivated variety of Asvagandha which is thin and lean is mainly brought from Nagori dist. of Madhya Pradesh. Hence, the name ‘Nagori variety’.

The presently cultivated varieties are Poshita; WS-27-7; WS- 23-55; WS-10-28; WS-27-58 etc

Botanical details

Withania Somnifera is a under shrub, erect stem, 0.5-2 m high. Leaves – entire, obovate, subacute; Flowers – axillary, sessile or shortly pedicled, fascicled or solitary, hermaphrodite; calxycampanulate, acutely 5-6-toothed, fruit-calyx inflated, larger than the berry; corolla campanulate, 3-6 lobed, short, greenish or lurid yellow; stamensattached at the base of corolla. Fruits- berries, globox. Seeds – many, descoid.


Throughout the drier and subtropical India.Being cultivated extensively throughout India at present.

Chemical constituents

Withaferin A; withanone, withanolide WS-1, withanolideA to Y; somnirol, somnitol; withasomniferin A , nicotine, preudotropine, tropine, solasodine, withasomnine, sitoindosidesVII-X, sominone, sominolide etc.


Rasa –kayu, tikta, kasya

Guna –snigdha, laghu

Virya – usna

Vipaka –katu

Karma –vata- kaphahara, balya, rasayana, sukrala


Sopha, Svitra, Kshaya, Nidranasa, Granthi, Gandaroga, Apachi, Klaibya, Vandhyatva

Part used

Root , leaf, alkali


Powder 3-6g

Therapeutic uses

(1) VatajaHridroga— Kalka of Asvagandha and powder of Vibhitaki are mixed with jaggery and given with leukwarm water

(2) Svasa— AsvagandhaKsara is given with honey & ghee

(3) Mutraghata— Decoction of Asvagandha will be a useful remedy

(4) Nidranasa— Powder of Asvagandha shall be taken with ghee and sugar





Research, studies and other information

(I) In a double blind study shade dried roots of the plant (as 500 mg tab. 2 tabs 2-3 times daily) is given with milk to healthy volunteers for 1 year. Results showed significant increase in Hb%, RBC, hair melanin and in seated stature in the treated group compared to control groups. Serum cholesterol and calcium levels of nails have been decreased in the treated group (Kappurajanet al., 1980).

(2) Its powder provided significant relief from symptoms of anxiety neurosis besides a quantitative reduction anxiety level and neuroticism (Singh et al., 1977).

(3) In a clinical study the efficacy of Asvagandha in chronic rheumatoid arthritis, OA and periarthritis of shoulder are reported (Rector et al., 1976).

(4) The alcoholic extract on i.p. showed a significant anti-pyretic activity also (Annual Report CCRAS, 1976-77).

(5) Alcoholic extract from defatted seeds showed significant antipyretic, analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity (Singh et al., 1978).

(6) Root powder showed barbiturate hypnosis potentiation effect and decrease in locomotive activity in rats (Singh al., 1979).

(7) Root powder (1g/kg body wt) caused considerable reduction in inflammation in rats (Anbalagan&Sidique, 1981).

(8) The anti-inflammatory activity (in rats) is marked and compared to that of prednisoline (Sharma & Singh, 1980).

(9) Root powder showed significant anti-anxiety effects. It has also shown the reduction of plasma cortisol and urinary catccholaminc by improved mental function (Shukla, 1981).

(10) Insecticidal activity is reported with PE extract (Harish Chander& Ahmed, 1982).

(11) Total withanolide inhibited the proliferation of murine spleen cell cultures in vitro. The results indicated that it has significant immunosuppressive activity (Bahr & Hansel, 1982).

(12) Being Balya, when used as adjuvant, has shown relapsing frequency and lasting relief (Nisteswar&Rao, 082),

(13) G. glabra and W. sommfera root powder administered to 91 patients were found to be more potent drugs in the management of Amlapitta with least untoward side-effects (Shaw &Maithy, 1982).

(14) Adaptogenic properties— Pretreatment with this drug increased the swimming endurance in mice. It prevented gastric ulcers induced chemically or by stress in rats. Milk-induced leucocytosis was also prevented in mice. The drug prevented increase in adrenal weight and decrease in ascorbic acid and cortisol content of adrenals during stress. It appears to induce a state of non-specifically increased resistance (SNIR) during stress (Singh et al., 1982).

(15) Root powder, decoction and alcoholic extract, exhibited anti convulsant activity in albino rats (Raiet ,a1., 1983).

(16) The leaves found to possess marked effects in sub acute inflammation and hepatotoxicity. The extract at 1 g/kg dose was found to be as active as 50 mg/kg of phanylbutazone and 10 mg/kg of hydrocortisone. The protective effects of the extract of 1 g/kg dose against CC14 induced hepatotoxicity was comparable to 10 mg/kg of hydrocortisone (Sudhir et al., 1986).

(17) Unlike non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, it resulted in a specific reduction in the synthesis of alpha-2-macroglobulin and increase in the synthesis of total serum proteins suggesting the basis for its wide spectrum of pharmacological activities (Anabalgam&Sidique, 1985).

(18) It was seen that oral administration of Asvagandha (200 mg/kg daily) along with urethane (125 mg/kg) protected the animals from tumor-inducing effect. It also prevented reduction in body weights raise in mortality and leucopaenic and lymphopaenic effects of urethane (Singh et al., 1986).

(19) The leaf extract has both preventive and curative activity against CC14 induced liver damage (Montilla et al., 1990).

(20) Methanol extract of roots inhibited the specific binding of {3H) GABA and {35S} TBPS, and enhanced the binding of {3H) flunitrazepam to their putative receptor sites. The extract also increased 36-C1-influx in the absence of GABA. Presence of an ingredient in the extract having GABA-mimetic activity has been suggested (Mehta et al.,         1991).

(21) W. somnifera revealed promising narcotic analgeric activity, mediated through opioidergic receptors (Vohora&Dandiya, 1992).

(22) The effects of root powder (0.7 and 1.4 g/kg b.w./day) when administered for 15 days and 30 days was investigated on lipid peroxidation (LPO), superoxide dismutase (50D) and catalase

(CAT) activities in mice. 30 days treatment produced a significant decrease in LPO, and an increase in both 50D & CAT (Sunanda Panda &AnandKar,       1997).

(23) The study showed that both aqueous and organic extracts showed antibacterial activity against mycobacterium tuberculae in vitro. Use of this plant for PTB (in vivo) is yet to be established in further studies (Saroja et al.,    1997).

(24) The antidepressant and psychotropic activity of W.somnifera is reported (GurpreetKaur&Kulkarni,      1998).

(25) The extracts from green shoots showed anti-bacterial activity on staph. aureus andMicrococusHavers (Furmanowa et al, 1998).

(26) Crude leaf extracts of W. somnifera and W. coagulansshowed significant nematocidal activity against root-knot nematodes (Qamar et al., 1998).

(27) Aswagandha extract may prove useful in regulation of metal-induced clinical toxicity (Panda et al., 1998).

(28) The mechanism of chemopreventive activity or W. somnifera extract has been attributed to its anti-oxidant and detoxifying properties (Jai Prakash et al., 2001).

(29) The immunomodulatory and immunosuppressive activity are estasblished (Furmanowa et al., 2001).

(30) The anti-tumor activity of Agvagandha is reported by Amala Cancer Institute, Trissur (Davis &Kuttan, 2001).

(31) W. somnifera and V. negundo are found to reduce acute inflammatory reaction (Srivastava et al., 2000-2001)

(32) The total alkaloids of roots have a variety of pharmacological actions. They exhibited prolonged hypotensive, bradycardiac, and respiratory-stimulating action in dogs. The hypotensive effect is due mainly to autonomic ganglion-blocking action. The depressant action on the higher cerebral centres also contributes to the hypotension. The total alkaloids produced a taming and a mild depressant effect (tranquillizer – sedative type) on the central nervous system in several experimental animals. The neuro-pharmacological activity was accredited to the acetone-soluble fraction of the total alkaloids. In an other experiment, the depressive effect was attributed to the basic alkaloids in the roots, the neutral alkaloids (3-tropyltigloate and an unidentified alkaloid) showing no depressive effect on spontaneous locomotive activity (Malhotra et al., Indian J. med. Res.. 1961, 49, 448;Indian J. Physiol. Pharnzacol., 1965, 9, 127; Prasad &Malhotra, ibid., 1968, 12, 175; C’hem. Abstr., 1963, 58.10514; Schwarting et al., loc. cit.).

(33) Aswagandha is useful in the treatment of inflammatory conditions, ulcers and scabies when applied locally. It deserves further trials for its utility in arthropathies, such as rheumatoid arthritis. internally, it is given in marasmus in children. The root is given in Rajasthan for dyspepsia and it is prescribed for lumbar pain in Punjab. In Pakistan, it is credited with abortifacientpropertree. It was found to prolong the oestrus period of experimental mice and reduce their fertility by 25 per cent. The leaves are bitter and given in fever. They are bruised told applied to lesions, painful swellings, and sore eyes. A paste made from the leaves is prescribed for syphilitic sores (Bector et al., Indian J. med. ,Res., 1%8, 56, 1581; Garg; and Parashar, Planta med., 1965, 13, 46; Kira&Basu. III. 1774-76, Chopia, 1958, 437).