Phytochemistry Reviews

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 97–112 | Cite as

Recent advances in elucidating the biological properties of Withania somnifera and its potential role in health benefits

  • Nadia Alam
  • Monzur Hossain
  • Md. Ibrahim KhalilEmail author
  • Mohammed Moniruzzaman
  • Siti Amrah Sulaiman
  • Siew Hua Gan


Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal (Solanaceae), also known as ashwagandha, is an important medicinal plant that is widely used as a home remedy for several diseases in the Indian subcontinent and other parts of the world. W. somnifera is a dietary supplement composed of various nutrients, polyphenols and alkaloids that have free radical scavenging capacity, as well as other chemical constituents that possess anti-inflammatory, antitumor, anti-stress, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, and rejuvenating properties. The mechanism of action for these properties are not fully understood. W. somnifera also appears to influence the endocrine, cardiopulmonary and central nervous systems. Toxicity studies reveal that W. somnifera can be used without side effects. The findings presented in this review are very encouraging and indicate that this herb should be studied more extensively to confirm these results and to reveal other potential therapeutic effects.


W. somnifera Chemical constituents Antioxidant Therapeutic effects Toxicity 





Adenosine diphosphate


Alkaline phosphatase


Alanine transaminase


Aspartate transaminase


Adenosine triphosphate




Diabetes mellitus


Erythrocyte sedimentation




Gamma aminobutyric acid




Golgi-endoplasmic reticulum-lysosomes


Glucosamine sulphate


Glutathione peroxidase








Hypothalamic pituitary adrenal


Lethal dose 50%


Lipid peroxidation




Myocardial infarction


Myocardial ischemia–reperfusion injury


Nitric oxide


Superoxide dismutase


Sexually transmitted diseases






Thiobarbituric acid reactive substances


W. somnifera glycowithanolides



This study was financially supported by a Universiti Sains Malaysia RU grant (grant no. 1001/PPSP/8120201 and 1001/PPSP/815058). The authors would like to acknowledge the Department of Botany, Rajshahi University, Bangladesh and the Department of Pharmacology, School of Medical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia for facilitating for this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nadia Alam
    • 1
  • Monzur Hossain
    • 1
  • Md. Ibrahim Khalil
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Mohammed Moniruzzaman
    • 2
  • Siti Amrah Sulaiman
    • 2
  • Siew Hua Gan
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of BotanyRajshahi UniversityRajshahiBangladesh
  2. 2.Department of Pharmacology, School of Medical SciencesUniversiti Sains MalaysiaKubang KerianMalaysia
  3. 3.Department of Biochemistry and Molecular BiologyJahangirnagar UniversitySavar, DhakaBangladesh
  4. 4.Human Genome Centre, School of Medical SciencesUniversiti Sains MalaysiaKubang KerianMalaysia

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