Phytochemistry Reviews

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 953–987 | Cite as

Withania somnifera (Linn.) Dunal: a review of chemical and pharmacological diversity

  • Rishu Kalra
  • Nutan Kaushik


Withania somnifera Dunal, is a commonly used herb in Indian Ayurvedic medicine system. Due to its pharmacological value and an inexhaustible source of novel biologically active compounds, it has been a great interest for researchers. The plant is known to possess anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antistress, antioxidant, immunomodulatory and hemopoetic properties. Various withanolides, steroidal lactones, have been isolated from W. somnifera and were known to have high therapeutic value. Based on the differences in the substitution patterns of withanolides the species has been classified into various chemotypes. So far, three different chemotypes have been identified, which have been further classified into ecotypes based on the contents of withanolides. Present review summarizes the phytochemical variability and pharmacological advances reported in literature.


Ashwagandha Chemotypes Withanolides Withaferin A Indian ginseng 



Withania somnifera


Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy


Reversed phase high performance liquid chromatography


Lactate dehydrogenase


Creatine phosphokinase


Lipid peroxidation


Cold, hypoxia and restraint


Chronic stress


Gamma-Aminobutyric acid


Nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells


Proliferating cell nuclear antigen


Tumor necrosis factor

IL-1β, IL-6



Reactive nitrogen species


Reactive oxygen species


Activator protein 1


Human umbilical vein endothelial cell


Specificity protein 1


Vascular endothelial cell growth factor


Lung tumor cell lines


Colon tumor cell lines


Central Nervous System tumor cell lines


Breast tumor cell lines


Butylated hydroxyanisole


Butylated hydroxytoluene




Superoxide dismutase




Glutathione peroxidase


Central nervous system


White blood cells


Plaque forming cell


Sheep red blood cells


Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate diaphorase


Human neuroblastoma tumor cell lines


Neuronal nitric oxide synthase


W. somnifera glycowithanolides


Elevated plus maze


Electroconvulsive shock


Ibotenic acid


Micronucleated polychromatic erythrocytes


Dimethylbenz (a) anthracene


Ferrous sulfate


Thiobarbituric acid and reactive substances




Aspartate transaminase


Alanine transaminase


Alkaline phosphatase


Parkinson’s disease

IR injury

Ischemia and reperfusion


Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling






Luteinizing hormone


Follicle-stimulating hormone





Financial support from Department of Biotechnology, Governmnet of India is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), Darbari Seth BlockIndia Habitat CentreNew DelhiIndia

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