Withania somnifera Dunal (Ashwagandha): potential plant source of a promising drug for cancer chemotherapy and radiosensitization

Indian J Exp Biol. 1996 Oct;34(10):927-32.


Study of antitumor and radiosensitizing properties of W. somnifera (Ashwagandha), a well known medicinal plant, have yielded encouraging results. The alcoholic extract of the dried roots of the plant as well as the active component withaferin A isolated from the extract showed significant antitumor and radiosensitizing effects in experimental tumors in vivo, without any noticeable systemic toxicity. Withaferin A gave a sensitizer enhancement ratio of 1.5 for in vitro cell killing of V79 Chinese hamster cells at a non toxic concentration of approximately 2 microM. The mechanism of action of this compound is not known. The studies so far indicate that W. somnifera could prove to be a good natural source of a potent and relatively safe radiosensitizer/chemotherapeutic agent. Further studies are needed to explore the clinical potential of this plant for cancer therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / isolation & purification*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology
  • Cell Line
  • Cricetinae
  • Ergosterol / analogs & derivatives*
  • Ergosterol / isolation & purification
  • Ergosterol / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Ayurvedic
  • Mice
  • Plants, Medicinal / chemistry*
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents / isolation & purification*
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents / pharmacology
  • Sarcoma 180 / drug therapy
  • Withanolides


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents
  • Withanolides
  • withaferin A
  • Ergosterol