Combinations of Ashwagandha leaf extracts protect brain-derived cells against oxidative stress and induce differentiation

PLoS One. 2015 Mar 19;10(3):e0120554. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0120554. eCollection 2015.


Background: Ashwagandha, a traditional Indian herb, has been known for its variety of therapeutic activities. We earlier demonstrated anticancer activities in the alcoholic and water extracts of the leaves that were mediated by activation of tumor suppressor functions and oxidative stress in cancer cells. Low doses of these extracts were shown to possess neuroprotective activities in vitro and in vivo assays.

Methodology/principal findings: We used cultured glioblastoma and neuroblastoma cells to examine the effect of extracts (alcoholic and water) as well as their bioactive components for neuroprotective activities against oxidative stress. Various biochemical and imaging assays on the marker proteins of glial and neuronal cells were performed along with their survival profiles in control, stressed and recovered conditions. We found that the extracts and one of the purified components, withanone, when used at a low dose, protected the glial and neuronal cells from oxidative as well as glutamate insult, and induced their differentiation per se. Furthermore, the combinations of extracts and active component were highly potent endorsing the therapeutic merit of the combinational approach.

Conclusion: Ashwagandha leaf derived bioactive compounds have neuroprotective potential and may serve as supplement for brain health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Glutamic Acid / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / toxicity
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Neuroprotective Agents / chemistry
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Leaves / chemistry
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Withania / chemistry
  • Withania / metabolism


  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Plant Extracts
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Ashwagandha

Grants and funding

The study was supported by Department of Biotechnology (India)-National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science & Technology (Japan) Bilateral Project Grant. Navjot Shah and Rumani Singh were supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology (MEXT) Scholarships, Japan. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.