Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha) and Withaferin A: Potential in Integrative Oncology

Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Oct 25;20(21):5310. doi: 10.3390/ijms20215310.


Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera, WS), belonging to the family Solanaceae, is an Ayurvedic herb known worldwide for its numerous beneficial health activities since ancient times. This medicinal plant provides benefits against many human illnesses such as epilepsy, depression, arthritis, diabetes, and palliative effects such as analgesic, rejuvenating, regenerating, and growth-promoting effects. Several clinical trials of the different parts of the herb have demonstrated safety in patients suffering from these diseases. In the last two decades, an active component of Withaferin A (WFA) has shown tremendous cytotoxic activity suggesting its potential as an anti-carcinogenic agent in treatment of several cancers. In spite of enormous progress, a thorough elaboration of the proposed mechanism and mode of action is absent. Herein, we provide a comprehensive review of the properties of WS extracts (WSE) containing complex mixtures of diverse components including WFA, which have shown inhibitory properties against many cancers, (breast, colon, prostate, colon, ovarian, lung, brain), along with their mechanism of actions and pathways involved.

Keywords: Withaferin A; Withania Somnifera; cancer; mechanism of action.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / chemistry*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Withania / chemistry*
  • Withanolides / chemistry*
  • Withanolides / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Withanolides
  • withaferin A