Pharmacologic overview of Withania somnifera, the Indian Ginseng

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2015 Dec;72(23):4445-60. doi: 10.1007/s00018-015-2012-1. Epub 2015 Aug 26.


Withania somnifera, also called 'Indian ginseng', is an important medicinal plant of the Indian subcontinent. It is widely used, singly or in combination, with other herbs against many ailments in Indian Systems of Medicine since time immemorial. Withania somnifera contains a spectrum of diverse phytochemicals enabling it to have a broad range of biological implications. In preclinical studies, it has shown anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-stress, neuroprotective, cardioprotective, and anti-diabetic properties. Additionally, it has demonstrated the ability to reduce reactive oxygen species, modulate mitochondrial function, regulate apoptosis, and reduce inflammation and enhance endothelial function. In view of these pharmacologic properties, W. somnifera is a potential drug candidate to treat various clinical conditions, particularly related to the nervous system. In this review, we summarize the pharmacologic characteristics and discuss the mechanisms of action and potential therapeutic applications of the plant and its active constituents.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Anti-arthritic; Anti-bacterial; Anti-cancer; Anti-diabetic; Anti-inflammatory; Anti-stress; Cardio-protective; Parkinson’s disease; Stroke hypoxia; Withania somnifera.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy
  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / chemistry
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Cardiotonic Agents / chemistry
  • Cardiotonic Agents / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • India
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Medicine, Ayurvedic
  • Neuroprotective Agents / chemistry
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy
  • Plants, Medicinal / chemistry*
  • Withania / chemistry*
  • Withanolides / pharmacokinetics
  • Withanolides / pharmacology
  • Withanolides / toxicity


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Cardiotonic Agents
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Withanolides
  • withaferin A