Ashwagandha Introduction

Withania is a member of the Solanaceae family of plants, along with Nightshade and Potato, it reaches a height of 1-1.5 meters and blooms with small yellow-green flowers. Ashwagandha has been used for centuries in Ayuervedic medicine for its reputed tonic and balancing properties. [1]

Ashwagandha Food Sources

Parts used

The Ashwagandha root is primarily used in the majority of applications for this herb, however there are some traditional uses for the entire plant, as well as the leaves.

Ashwagandha Uses

Adaptogen and Tonic

The many chemical constituents of Withania have been a topic of interest in various studies. Researchers are trying to understand this herb’s mechanism of action, within its ability to protect animals (primarily rats) from the various negative physiological changes that are associated with physical and emotional stressors. Results from preliminary studies show an overall protective and tonifying effect in the experimental animals.

Among the parameters that have been measured and shown to have improved include; less inflammation and bony degeneration, increases in blood sugar, stress induced increased adrenal weight, and increased levels of creatinine, lactic acid, and urea. Withania also showed a significant ability to protect experimental animals from cyclophosphamide induced neutropenia, which can be a major problem in patients that are undergoing various types of chemotherapy. One of the constituents of Ashwagandha has shown promise in protecting against stress induced stomach ulcers as well. [2-5]

Immune Function

Ashwagandha has also demonstrated an ability to protect against the suppression of immune function that is associated with treatment with chemotherapeutic agents. Other parameters such as hemoglobin concentration, red blood cell count, white blood cell count, platelet count, and body weight were also improved by administration of an alcoholic extraction of Ashwagandha. [6, 7]

Anti tumor

The activities that have been demonstrated by the chemical constituents of Ashwagandha seem to center around producing mitotic arrest in cancer cells, and by increasing the radio sensitivity of cancerous cells to radio therapy. Among cells that have been studied with regard to their reaction to withaferin A and withanolide D (a constituent of Ashwagandha) include both ascities carcinoma and sarcoma cells (in mice). There have also been studies where Ashwagandha extracts have produced complete tumor regression in mice that were inoculated with cancer cells. Other measures of health such as weight, number of tumors, and size of tumors were also improved in groups of mice treated with Ashwagandha. [8-11]

Anti inflammatory

Extracts of Withania have demonstrated certain anti-inflammatory abilities that are comparable to hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone. Studies were conducted in mouse models of disease that included arthritis and granuloma formation. [12-14]

Nervous System

Among Ashwagandha’s basic effects on the central nervous system: heart slowing, lowering blood pressure, and respiratory stimulation. One of the more interesting effects that Ashwagandha seems to be within its ability to mitigate some of the side effects of withdrawal from morphine drugs, and also to attenuate the tolerance that can be developed during the use of such drugs.

The central nervous system properties of Ashwagandha could make it a useful adjunct for treatment of pain syndromes where morphine is used, as this herb may help stave off reduced efficacy of the drug due to tolerance and dependency. Often the therapeutic use of morphine-like drugs is often limited by development of drug resistance and the physiological dependency on pain medications that are being employed as part of therapeutic protocols. [15-18]

Ashwagandha Dosages

  • 3-6 grams per day of dried decocted root.
  • 2 milliliters (ml) of liquid extract per day. [19]

Ashwagandha Toxicities

Ashwagandha has been tested in mice to determine its LD50, or a single dose of 1260 milligrams per kg body weight. This represents what would be an enormous dose in humans. Even so, there are no reported contraindications or side effects from use of Ashwagandha. There are also no adverse effects expected from Ashwagandha use in pregnant and lactating women, though it is recommended that women consult their healthcare professional regarding personal use of this herb. [20]


[1] Mills and Bone, Principles and practice of Phytotherapy (London: Churchill-Livingston, 2000), 595-601.

[2] Dadkar VN, Ranadive NU, Dhar HL. Ind J Clin Biochem 1987;2:101-108.

[3] Begum VH, Sadique J. Indian Exp Biol 1988;26:(11);877-882.

[4] Thatte UM, Chhabria SN,Karandikar SM et al . JPostgrad Med 1987;33(4):133-139.

[5] Ghosal S,Lah J, Srivastava R et al. Phytother Res 1989;3(5):201-206.

[6] Dhuley JN. Ethnopharmacol 1997; 58(1):15-20.

[7] Ziauddin M, Phansalkar H Patki P et al. J Ethnopharmacol 1996;50(2):69-76.

[8] Shohat B, Joshua H. Int J Cancer 1971;8(3):487-496.

[9] Singh N,Singh SP,Nath E et al. Int J Crude Drug Res 1986;24(2):90-100.

[10] Devi PU, Sharada AC, Solomon FE. Indian J Exp Biol 1993;31(7):607-611.

[11] Shohat B, Kirson I, Lavie D. Biomed 1978;28(1): 18-24.

[12] Begum VH, Sadique J. Biochem Med Metab Biol 1987; 38(3):272-277.

[13] Anbalagan K. Sadique J. Int J Crude Drug Res 1985; 23(4):177-183.

[14] Al-Hindawi MK, Al-Khafaji SH, AbdulNabi MH. J Ethnopharmacol 1992;37(2):113-116.

[15] Malhotra CL, Mehta VL, Prasad K et al. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 1965;9:9-15.

[16] Malhotra CL, Das PK, Dhalla NS et al. Indian J Med Res 1961;49: 448-460.

[17] Kulkarni SK, Ninan I. J Ethnopharmacol 1997;57(3):213-217.

[18] Ramarao P,Rao KT,Srivastava RS et al. Phytother Res 1995;9(1):66-68.

[19] Mills and Bone, Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy (London: Churchill Livingston, 2000), 595-601.

[20] Mills and Bone, Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy (London: Churchill Livingston, 2000), 595-601.


Top Ten Reviews