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Concept: Withania


Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint which occurs due to difficulty in falling asleep or maintaining it. Most of currently available drugs for insomnia develop dependency and/or adverse effects. Hence natural therapies could be an alternative choice of treatment for insomnia. The root or whole plant extract of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has been used to induce sleep in Indian system of traditional home medicine, Ayurveda. However, its active somnogenic components remain unidentified. We investigated the effect of various components of Ashwagandha leaf on sleep regulation by oral administration in mice. We found that the alcoholic extract that contained high amount of active withanolides was ineffective to induce sleep in mice. However, the water extract which contain triethylene glycol as a major component induced significant amount of non-rapid eye movement sleep with slight change in rapid eye movement sleep. Commercially available triethylene glycol also increased non-rapid eye movement sleep in mice in a dose-dependent (10-30 mg/mouse) manner. These results clearly demonstrated that triethylene glycol is an active sleep-inducing component of Ashwagandha leaves and could potentially be useful for insomnia therapy.

Concepts: Sleep, Alternative medicine, Circadian rhythm, Rapid eye movement sleep, Insomnia, Withania somnifera, Withania, Ashwagandha


Subclinical hypothyroidism, a thyroid disorder without obvious symptoms of thyroid deficiency, occurs in 3%-8% of the global population. Ashwagandha [Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal], a traditional medicine in Ayurveda, is often prescribed for thyroid dysfunctions.

Concepts: Ayurveda, Hypothyroidism, Alternative medicine, Withania somnifera, Withania, Ashwagandha


Withania somnifera (L.) is one of the most valuable medicinal plants used in Ayurvedic and other indigenous medicines. Pharmaceutical activities of this herb are associated with presence of secondary metabolites known as withanolides, a class of phytosteroids synthesized via mevalonate (MVA) and 2-C-methyl-D-erythritol-4-phosphate pathways. Though the plant has been well characterized in terms of phytochemical profiles as well as pharmaceutical activities, not much is known about the genes responsible for biosynthesis of these compounds. In this study, we have characterized two genes encoding 1-deoxy-D-xylulose-5-phosphate synthase (DXS; EC and 1-deoxy-D-xylulose-5-phosphate reductase (DXR; EC enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of isoprenoids. The full-length cDNAs of W. somnifera DXS (WsDXS) and DXR (WsDXR) of 2,154 and 1,428 bps encode polypeptides of 717 and 475 amino acids residues, respectively. The expression analysis suggests that WsDXS and WsDXR are differentially expressed in different tissues (with maximal expression in flower and young leaf), chemotypes of Withania, and in response to salicylic acid, methyl jasmonate, as well as in mechanical injury. Analysis of genomic organization of WsDXS shows close similarity with tomato DXS in terms of exon-intron arrangements. This is the first report on characterization of isoprenoid biosynthesis pathway genes from Withania.

Concepts: Protein, Medicine, Gene expression, Amino acid, Acid, Metabolism, Withania somnifera, Withania


This work deals with optimisation of adventitious root suspension culture of Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal (Solanaceae) for the production of biomass and withanolide A and we investigated the effect of carbon source and the initial medium pH on growth and production of withanolide A in adventitious root cultures of Withania somnifera. A 2% sucrose concentration was found to be best for both biomass (113.58 g L(-1) fresh weight (FW) and 11.33 g L(-1) dry weight (DW)) and secondary metabolite accumulation (8.93 mg g(-1) DW) in the tested range of concentration (1-8%). The biomass of adventitious roots was optimal when the initial medium pH was 5.8 (113.26 g L(-1) FW and 11.33 g L(-1) DW) but the withanolide A production was highest at the medium pH level of 5.5 (9.09 mg g(-1) DW).

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Carbon, Culture, Optimization, Withania somnifera, The Medium, Withania


Withanolide is one of the most extensively exploited steroidal lactones, which are biosynthesized in Withania somnifera. Its production from cell suspension culture was analyzed to defeat limitations coupled with its regular supply from the plant organs. In order to optimize the different factors for sustainable production of withanolides and biomass accumulations, different concentrations of auxins or cytokinins and their combinations, carbon sources, agitation speed, organic additives and seaweed extracts was studied in cell suspension culture. Maximum biomass accumulation (16.72 g fresh weight [FW] and 4.18 g dry weight [DW]) and withanolides production (withanolide A 7.21 mg/g DW, withanolide B 4.23 mg/g DW, withaferin A 3.88 mg/g DW and withanone 6.72 mg/g DW) were achieved in the treatment of Gracilaria edulis extract at 40 % level. Organic additive L-glutamine at 200 mg/l in combination with picloram (1 mg/l) and KN (0.5 mg/l) promoted growth characteristics (11.87 g FW and 2.96 g DW) and withanolides synthesis (withanolide A 5.04 mg/g DW, withanolide B 2.59 mg/g DW, withaferin A 2.36 mg/g DW and withanone 4.32 mg/g DW). Sucrose at 5 % level revolved out to be a superior carbon source yielded highest withanolides production (withanolide A 2.88 mg/g DW, withanolide B 1.48 mg/g DW, withaferin A 1.35 mg/g DW and withanone 2.47 mg/g DW), whereas biomass (7.28 g FW and 1.82 g DW) was gratefully increased at 2 % level of sucrose in cell suspension culture. This optimized protocol can be utilized for large scale cultivation of W. somnifera cells in industrial bioreactors for mass synthesis of major withanolides.

Concepts: Glucose, Cell culture, Carbon, Food additive, Extract, Withania somnifera, Capital accumulation, Withania


Previous studies have reported that some of the central effects of morphine are counteracted by the administration of the methanolic extract of the root of Indian ginseng, Withania somnifera Dunal (WSE). The present study sought to determine whether WSE affects acquisition and expression of morphine-elicited conditioned place preference (CPP) in CD-1 mice. In CPP acquisition experiments, WSE (0, 25, 50, and 100 mg/kg) was administered, during conditioning, 30 min before morphine (10 mg/kg), whereas in expression experiments, WSE (0, 25, 50, and 100 mg/kg) was administered 30 min before the postconditioning test. The results demonstrate (i) that WSE was devoid of motivational properties; (ii) that WSE (100 mg/kg) was devoid of effects on spontaneous and morphine-stimulated motor activity and on spatial memory; and (iii) that WSE (50 and 100 mg/kg) significantly prevented the acquisition and expression of CPP. Further, to characterize the receptor(s) involved in these effects, we studied, by receptor-binding assay, the affinity of WSE for µ-opioid and γ-aminobutyric acid B receptors. These experiments revealed a higher affinity of WSE for γ-aminobutyric acid B than for µ-opioid receptors. Overall, these results point to WSE as an interesting alternative tool, worthy of further investigation, to study opiate addiction.

Concepts: Time, Morphine, Addiction, Cultural studies, Ginseng, Withania somnifera, Conditioned place preference, Withania


Withania somnifera commonly known as Ashwagandha, is held in high repute in traditional Indian medicine, largely due to the presence of steroidal lactone phytocompounds collectively known as withanolides, such as withanolide A, withaferin A and withanone. These withanolides have diverse pharmacological properties and are prospective high-value drug candidates. To meet the ever-increasing demands of these compounds, plant cell technology offers a viable alternative. In this study, a key enzyme in the isoprenoid biosynthetic pathway, namely squalene synthase, was over-expressed in W. somnifera using Agrobacterium tumefaciens as a transformation vehicle. The cell suspension cultures were developed to assess its effect on withanolide synthesis. The study demonstrated that a significant 4-fold enhancement in squalene synthase activity and 2.5-fold enhancement in withanolide A content were observed in the suspension cultures, as compared to the non-transformed cell cultures. Further, the transformed cell suspension cultures also produced withaferin A, which was absent in the non-transformed cell cultures.

Concepts: Cell, Ayurveda, Cell culture, Agrobacterium, Agrobacterium tumefaciens, Withania somnifera, Withania, Ashwagandha


Root extracts of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) are known to possess analgesic, anti-inflammatory and chondroprotective effects. An aqueous extract of roots plus leaves of this plant has shown to yield higher percentages of withanolide glycosides and, accordingly, may possess better analgesic, anti-inflammatory and chondroprotective effects than root alone extracts.

Concepts: Plant, Effectiveness, Knee, Joint, Root, Ginseng, Withania somnifera, Withania


Abstract Objective: To assess existing reported human trials of Withania somnifera (WS; common name, ashwagandha) for the treatment of anxiety. Design: Systematic review of the literature, with searches conducted in PubMed, SCOPUS, CINAHL, and Google Scholar by a medical librarian. Additionally, the reference lists of studies identified in these databases were searched by a research assistant, and queries were conducted in the AYUSH Research Portal. Search terms included “ashwagandha,” “Withania somnifera,” and terms related to anxiety and stress. Inclusion criteria were human randomized controlled trials with a treatment arm that included WS as a remedy for anxiety or stress. The study team members applied inclusion criteria while screening the records by abstract review. Intervention: Treatment with any regimen of WS. Outcome measures: Number and results of studies identified in the review. Results: Sixty-two abstracts were screened; five human trials met inclusion criteria. Three studies compared several dosage levels of WS extract with placebos using versions of the Hamilton Anxiety Scale, with two demonstrating significant benefit of WS versus placebo, and the third demonstrating beneficial effects that approached but did not achieve significance (p=0.05). A fourth study compared naturopathic care with WS versus psychotherapy by using Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) scores as an outcome; BAI scores decreased by 56.5% in the WS group and decreased 30.5% for psychotherapy (p<0.0001). A fifth study measured changes in Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) scores in WS group versus placebo; there was a 44.0% reduction in PSS scores in the WS group and a 5.5% reduction in the placebo group (p<0.0001). All studies exhibited unclear or high risk of bias, and heterogenous design and reporting prevented the possibility of meta-analysis. Conclusions: All five studies concluded that WS intervention resulted in greater score improvements (significantly in most cases) than placebo in outcomes on anxiety or stress scales. Current evidence should be received with caution because of an assortment of study methods and cases of potential bias.

Concepts: Anxiety, Clinical trial, Systematic review, Randomized controlled trial, Clinical research, Placebo, Withania somnifera, Withania


Cognitive decline is often associated with the aging process. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) has long been used in the traditional Ayurvedic system of medicine to enhance memory and improve cognition.

Concepts: Psychology, Ayurveda, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Ginseng, Withania somnifera, Traditional medicine, Withania