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Schwabe News Volume 3 | Issue 2 | April 2012

Withania somnifera

It is found throughout in India. It is an erect branching shrub up to 1.5 m high with densely tomentose branches, greenish or lurid yellow flowers (1).   It is remembered for its ability to: (a) Restore vitality in those suffering from overwork or nervous exhaustion; (b) counters debility that accompanies long-term stress and (c) because of the high iron content, it is also useful for anaemia and related weakness.

In Indian medicine, its root extract is considered alterative, aphrodisiac, diuretic, and debility from old age and considered useful in rheumatism (2).  A homoeopathic tincture is made from its roots (3).  It was introduced in to homoeopathy by S. C. Ghose (4). Many active phytochemicals have been isolated and studied.  The main constituents are nicotine, somnifer, somniferincine, withanine, withananine, along with other alkaloids, sugars, ß-sitosterol etc.  The root extract showed prolonged hypotensive, bradycardiac, respiratory stimulant activity by at autonomic ganglion blocking action augmented by depressive action on higher cerebral centers (5).  One of its constituent showed antitumor activity and immuno-suppressive properties (6). 

Double-blind clinical trial was carried out to study effect of plant on prevention of ageing in 101 normal healthy males in 50-59 years age group.  Root powder (0.50g.) was given orally three times a day for one year.  Results showed statistically significant increase in haemoglobin, R.B.C., hair melanin and seated stature in treated group in comparison to placebo group.  Decrease in serum cholesterol was more and erythrocyte sedimentation rate much higher in treated group than in placebo group (7); withanolide D exhibited significant anti-tumor activity in vivo against sarcoma 180 and Ehrlich ascites carcinoma and in vitro against cells from human epidermoid carcinoma of nasopharynx (KB) (8,9).

The drug has recently attracted a lot of attention because of its evaluation in middle cerebral artery occlusion and mechanism of cardio protective effect of the hydro-alcoholic extract (tincture) in rats at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi; adaptogenic activity at PGI of Basic Medical Sciences, Calcutta University; antioxidant defense in aged spinal cord at Kurukshetra University (Haryana); growth inhibition of human tumor cells at Michigan State University; and immunoprotection in chemotherapy at A. G. College – Pune.

These scientific work support in a big way the previously documented data and opens new vision regarding the action and uses. It is commonly called as Indian substitute for Ginseng.

Recommended dose: Mother tincture, 20-30 drops thrice daily with water.


  1. Encyclopaedia of Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia by Varma & Vaid
  2. Glossory of Indian Medicinal Plants - CSIR
  3. Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia of India
  4. Drugs of Hindoosthan by S. C. Ghose.
  5. Indian Journal of Med. Research 1968, 49, 448
  6. Biomedicine, 1978, 28, 18
  7. J. Res. Ayurveda & Siddha 1980, 1, 247
  8. Indian J. Cancer Chemother. 1985, 7, 59
  9. Chem. Abstr. 1987, 106, 131323