Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) is a plant with known ethnomedicinal properties and its use in Ayurvedic medicine in India is well documented. The present investigation reports on immunomodulatory efficacy of aqueous-ethanol extracts of roots of three selected Withania somnifera chemotypes designated as NMITLI 101R, NMITLI 118R and NMITLI 128R. Each chemotype was administered 10-100 mg/kg orally to BALB/c mice once daily for 14 days. The immunomodulatory consequences were recorded by determining the humoral immune response with the help of hemagglutination, plaque forming cell assay and cellular response by measuring delayed type hypersensitivity reaction. Additionally, other immune parameters such as proliferation of T and B cells, intracellular and secreted Th1 and Th2 cytokines along with modulation in ROS production by peritoneal macrophages were monitored after feeding with lower doses (3-30 mg/kg/day) of these three chemotypes individually. NMITLI 101R incited both humoral and cellular immune response in terms of higher number of antibody producing cells and enhanced foot pad swelling at the 10mg dose as also dose dependent B and T cell proliferations. Levels of intracellular and secreted cytokines post-NMITLI 101R treatment illustrated generation of mixed Th1/Th2 response that remained more polarized towards Th1. This chemotype also generated maximum reactive oxygen species. NMITLI 118R provoked comparatively reduced immune response in all humoral and cellular parameters at lower doses but induced highly polarized Th1 cytokine response. In contrast, NMITLI 128R led to enhanced antibody production with minimal cellular response demonstrating marginally Th2 dominance at a lower dose. Taken together, it may therefore be concluded that there were distinct modulation in the immune response exhibited by the three chemotypes of Withania somnifera and NMITLI 101R appeared to possess a better immunostimulatory activity than the other chemotypes at lower doses.
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