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Withania Somnifera, the strength and virility of a horse



Ashwagandha, botanically known as Withania somnifera Dunal, is a member of the Solanaceae family. It is commonly known as Indian Ginseng or Winter Cherry. The literal meaning of the word “Ashwagandha” is “smell of horse”. The herb is so named for two reasons. One reason is that the fresh roots of the herb emit the smell of horse. The second reason is that there is a commonly held belief that a person consuming extracts of the herb may develop the strength and vitality similar to that of a horse. It is a multipurpose herb that acts on various systems of the human body: the neurological system, the immune system, the energy-production system, the endocrinal system and the reproductive system.

Being the most commonly used and extensively studied adaptogen, a large volume of literature is available for Withania somnifera. This herb has been studied as adaptogenic, antioxidant, anticancer, anxiolytic, antidepressant, cardioprotective, thyroid modulating, immunomodulating, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, cognitive enhancing and hematopoietic agent. Ashwagandha contains a range of constituents like withanolides, sitoindosides and other alkaloids that are pharmacologically and medicinally important. These chemicals protect cells from oxidative damage and disease. Results from a battery of tests, conducted to identify the anti-stress activity of sitoindoside VII and sitoindoside VIII implied that both sitoindosides produce anti-stress activity. Sitoindoside IX and X were tested in rats for immunomodulatory and central nervous system effects related to stress, memory and learning. A significant reduction was noticed in the incidence of stress-induced gastric ulcers.

While controlling the catabolic HPA axis; Withania supports and enhances the HPT (Thyroid) and HPG (Gonadal / reproductive) axes to maintain healthy metabolic rate and anabolic growth, regeneration and repair.


Withania modulates the HPA axis to help you deal efficiently with stress before switching off the survival response and rebooting the HPA axis. Studies have shown Withania to be able to support effective negative feedback inhibition of cortisol release post stress and have a sparing effect on the adrenal gland; preserving adrenal cortisol and adrenal vitamin C levels.


While controlling the HPA axis; Withania allows and encourages the HPG axis to fire for reproduction, regeneration and repair.


While controlling the HPA axis; Withania enhances thyroid hormone production and activity.


By controlling the HPA axis; Withania can efficiently switch of our nervous system’s stress response induced the sympathetic nervous system dominance and boost up the parasympathetic nervous system activity to promote:

• Healthy digestion
• Efficient detoxification and elimination of toxins
• Quality sleep
• Anabolic muscle growth and repair
• Enhance cognition i.e. short term memory, concentration span and focus
• Immune stimulant and immune modulator

Some interesting new research to track down

Recent Pat CNS Drug Discov. 2016 Jun 14. Neuropharmacological properties of Withania somnifera – Indian Ginseng: An overview on experimental evidence with emphasis on Clinical trials and patents. Yenesetti SC, Manjunath MJ, Muralidhara C1.


Owing to the increasing aged population globally, disorders and diseases of the CNS are anticipated to increase and heavily impact the health care. As these neurodegenerative diseases (NDD) are complex, multifactorial and do not have identified etiological factors, unfortunately drugs developed for the purpose have not met with the expected success. Hence, there has been a constant demand for development of natural therapeutic adjuvants which are safe and possess the potential to attenuate multiple pathways. METHODS Numerous herbal/natural products have been used as therapeutics in ayurvedic system of medicine to treat NDD and other memory related disorders. Withania somnifera (Aswgandha, WS), popularly called as “Indian Ginseng” is one such plant which possesses a variety of beneficial neuro-pharmacological properties. In this review, we have attempted to critically review the existing literature related to the neuroprotective efficacy of WS roots and the underlying mechanism/s. RESULTS Standardized extracts of Withania somnifera have been demonstrated to possess multidimensional neuromodulatory effects in a variety of in vitro and experimental animal models. The spectrum of effects evidenced comprise of attenuation of oxidative damage by enhancing the antioxidant defense system with concomitant enhancement of the expression of marker proteins responsible for growth, differentiation and communication of neural cells. The wide range of effects of WS on neurotrophic factors, cytoskeletal elements, cell adhesion molecules and synaptic proteins clearly suggest its multipotent neuromodulatory attributes CONCLUSION In order to realize the full therapeutic potential of WS extracts/its bioactives, systematic contemporary approaches such as bioinformatics, molecular docking studies, identification of specific gene targets as well as understanding the post-translational and epigenetic regulation of the various effects are necessary. Further, well designed clinical trials are required to exploit the neuromodulatory propensity of WS extract/bioactives in specific neurodegenerative diseases such as AD and PD.

Pharmacogn Mag. 2016 May;12(Suppl 2):S121-8. doi: 10.4103/0973-1296.182170. Epub 2016 May 11. Effect of Withinia Somnifera and Shilajit on Alcohol Addiction in Mice. Bansal P1, Banerjee S1.

Alcohol addiction is a social problem leading to both loss of health and economic prosperity among addicted individuals. Common properties of anti-addictive compounds include anti-anxiety, anticonvulsants, anti-depressant, and nootropic actions primarily through modulation of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and serotonergic systems.


Both ashwagandha and shilajit were found to reduce alcohol withdrawal anxiety in a dose-dependent manner. These herbs alone or in combination also decreased ethanol intake and increased water intake significantly after 21 days of chronic administration. Chronic administration of ashwagandha was found to significantly increase GABA and serotonin levels whereas shilajit altered cortico-hippocampal dopamine in mice.


These central nervous system active herbs alone or in combination reduced both alcohol dependence and withdrawal thus showing promising anti-addictive potential.


Withinia Somnifera alone and in combination with Shilajeet prevented ethanol withdrawal and alcohol addiction Abbreviations used: GABA: Gama aminobutyric acid, CNS: Central Nervous System, CPP:Condition place preference, DA: Dopamine, 5-HT: 5-hydroxytryptamine, NMDA:N-methyl-D-aspartate.

J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015 Nov 25;12:43. doi: 10.1186/s12970-015-0104-9. eCollection 2015. Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial. Wankhede S1, Langade D2, Joshi K3, Sinha SR4, Bhattacharyya S5.


Withania somnifera (ashwagandha) is a prominent herb in Ayurveda. This study was conducted to examine the possible effects of ashwagandha root extract consumption on muscle mass and strength in healthy young men engaged in resistance training.


Compared to the placebo subjects, the group treated with ashwagandha had significantly greater increases in muscle strength on the bench-press exercise (Placebo: 26.4 kg, 95% CI, 19.5, 33.3 vs. Ashwagandha: 46.0 kg, 95% CI 36.6, 55.5; p = 0.001) and the leg-extension exercise (Placebo: 9.8 kg, 95% CI, 7.2,12.3 vs. Ashwagandha: 14.5 kg, 95 % CI, 10.8,18.2; p = 0.04), and significantly greater muscle size increase at the arms (Placebo: 5.3 cm(2), 95% CI, 3.3,7.2 vs. Ashwagandha: 8.6 cm(2), 95% CI, 6.9,10.8; p = 0.01) and chest (Placebo: 1.4 cm, 95% CI, 0.8, 2.0 vs. Ashwagandha: 3.3 cm, 95% CI, 2.6, 4.1; p < 0.001). Compared to the placebo subjects, the subjects receiving ashwagandha also had significantly greater reduction of exercise-induced muscle damage as indicated by the stabilization of serum creatine kinase (Placebo: 1307.5 U/L, 95% CI, 1202.8, 1412.1, vs. Ashwagandha: 1462.6 U/L, 95% CI, 1366.2, 1559.1; p = 0.03), significantly greater increase in testosterone level (Placebo: 18.0 ng/dL, 95% CI, -15.8, 51.8 vs. Ashwagandha: 96.2 ng/dL, 95% CI, 54.7, 137.5; p = 0.004), and a significantly greater decrease in body fat percentage (Placebo: 1.5%, 95% CI, 0.4%, 2.6% vs. Ashwagandha: 3.5%, 95% CI, 2.0%, 4.9%; p = 0.03).


This study reports that ashwagandha supplementation is associated with significant increases in muscle mass and strength and suggests that ashwagandha supplementation may be useful in conjunction with a resistance training program.

J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Aug 2;171:264-72. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2015.05.058. Epub 2015 Jun 9. Direct evidence for GABAergic activity of Withania somnifera on mammalian ionotropic GABAA and GABAρ receptors. Candelario M1, Cuellar E1, Reyes-Ruiz JM2, Darabedian N3, Feimeng Z3, Miledi R2, Russo-Neustadt A1, Limon A4.

Withania somnifera (WS) has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine as a remedy for debility, stress, nervous exhaustion, insomnia, loss of memory, and to enhance cognitive function. This study provides an empirical evidence to support the traditional use of WS to aid in mental process engaging GABAergic signaling.


We evaluated the effect of aqueous WS root extract (aqWS), and its two main components, withaferin A and withanolide A, on the main inhibitory receptors in the central nervous system: ionotropic GABAA receptors.


Our results provide evidence indicating that key constituents in WS may have an important role in the development of pharmacological treatments for neurological disorders associated with GABAergic signaling dysfunction such as general anxiety disorders, sleep disturbances, muscle spasms, and seizures. In addition, the differential activation of GABA receptor subtypes elucidates a potential mechanism by which WS accomplishes its reported adaptogenic properties.


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