[Overcoming several neurodegenerative diseases by traditional medicines: the development of therapeutic medicines and unraveling pathophysiological mechanisms]

Yakugaku Zasshi. 2008 Aug;128(8):1159-67. doi: 10.1248/yakushi.128.1159.
[Article in Japanese]


Ashwagandha (root of Withania somnifera) has been used for many purposes, it is mainly considered a tonic in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. This review focuses on the effects of compounds isolated from Ashwagandha on dementia models and on the spinal cord injury model. Our study demonstrated that the active constituents, withanolide A, withanoside IV, and withanoside VI, restored presynapses and postsynapses, in addition to both axons and dendrites in cortical neurons after Abeta(25-35)-induced injury. In vivo, oral withanolide A, withanoside IV, and withanoside VI (10 micromol/kg/day for 12 days) improved Abeta(25-35)-induced memory impairment, neurite atrophy, and synaptic loss in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus in mice. Since spinal cord injury (SCI) is also difficult to treat, and therefore practical and curable strategies for SCI are desired. Oral treatment with withanoside IV improved locomotor functions in mice with SCI. In mice treated with withanoside IV (10 micromol/kg/day for 21 days), the axonal density and peripheral nervous system myelin level increased. The loss of CNS myelin and increase in reactive gliosis were not affected by withanoside IV. Additionally, sominone, an aglycone of withanoside IV, was identified as the main metabolite after oral administration of withanoside IV in mice. Withanolide A, withanoside IV, and withanoside VI are therefore important candidates for the therapeutic treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. In particular, withanoside IV was shown to control neurons as well as glial cells for reconstruction neuronal networks. To clarify key events in overcoming neurodegeneration, we are now studying the molecular targets and signal cascades of sominone.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy
  • Animals
  • Axons / drug effects
  • Axons / physiology
  • Dendrites / drug effects
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Ergosterol / analogs & derivatives*
  • Ergosterol / isolation & purification
  • Ergosterol / pharmacology
  • Ergosterol / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Ayurvedic
  • Memory Disorders / drug therapy
  • Mice
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / drug therapy
  • Stimulation, Chemical
  • Synapses / drug effects
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Withania / chemistry*
  • Withanolides


  • 3-rhamnopyranosyl(1-4)-glucopyranosyl-12-diacetoxy-20-hydroxywitha-5,24-dienolide
  • Plant Extracts
  • Withanolides
  • withanoside IV
  • Ashwagandha
  • Ergosterol