Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 72, Issue 23, pp 4445–4460 | Cite as

Pharmacologic overview of Withania somnifera, the Indian Ginseng

  • Nawab John Dar
  • Abid Hamid
  • Muzamil AhmadEmail author


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.


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



Tumor necrosis factor-α




Nuclear factor kappa-β


Nitric oxide


Reactive oxygen species


Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-1


Permanent middle cerebral artery occlusion


Glial fibrillary acidic protein





Dr. Ahmad’s work was partly supported by Ramalingaswamy Fellowship of Department of Biotechnology and financial assistance (MLP6009) as well as logistic support from Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.   Mr. Dar is thankful to University Grants Commission, India for Ph.D. research fellowship. The contents do not represent any governmental views of India. (Institutional publication number of this article is IIIM/1823/2015).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Authors do not have any conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nawab John Dar
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Abid Hamid
    • 2
    • 3
  • Muzamil Ahmad
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Neuropharmacology LaboratoryIndian Institute of Integrative Medicine-CSIRSrinagarIndia
  2. 2.Cancer Pharmacology DivisionIndian Institute of Integrative Medicine-CSIRJammuIndia
  3. 3.Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research (AcSIR)Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine-CSIRJammuIndia

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