The roots of Withania somnifera (WS) are used extensively in Ayurveda, the classical Indian system of medicine, and WS is categorized as a rasayana, which are used to promote physical and mental health, to provide defence against disease and adverse environmental factors and to arrest the aging process. WS has been used to stabilize mood in patients with behavioural disturbances. The present study investigated the anxiolytic and antidepressant actions of the bioactive glycowithanolides (WSG), isolated from WS roots, in rats. WSG (20 and 50 mg/kg) was administered orally once daily for 5 days and the results were compared by those elicited by the benzodiazepine lorazepam (0.5 mg/kg, i.p.) for anxiolytic studies, and by the tricyclic anti-depressant, imipramine (10 mg/kg, i.p.), for the antidepressant investigations. Both these standard drugs were administered once, 30 min prior to the tests. WSG induced an anxiolytic effect, comparable to that produced by lorazepam, in the elevated plus-maze, social interaction and feeding latency in an unfamiliar environment, tests. Further, both WSG and lorazepam, reduced rat brain levels of tribulin, an endocoid marker of clinical anxiety, when the levels were increased following administration of the anxiogenic agent, pentylenetetrazole. WSG also exhibited an antidepressant effect, comparable with that induced by imipramine, in the forced swim-induced 'behavioural despair' and 'learned helplessness' tests. The investigations support the use of WS as a mood stabilizer in clinical conditions of anxiety and depression in Ayurveda.