Scientific Name: Withania somnifera
- Steroidal Saponins & Lactones: withanolides (mainly A & B) & withanosides I-VII (mainly V), withaferin A & sitoindosides VII–X
- Alkaloids (withasomine, cuscohygrine and anahygrine)
- Nutrients & Minerals (iron)
- Cytotoxic (Anti-cancer)
- Nervine Tonic & Relaxant
- Reproductive Tonic
Mechanism of Action & Pharmacology:
- Potent antioxidant effects may be largely responsible for Withania’s diverse pharmacological properties.
- Steroidal Lactones & Saponins (Sitoindosides & Withanolides e.g. withaferin A) have been widely studied and found to possess strong free radical scavenging properties, and significantly reduce lipid peroxidation, increase levels of the superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase, and ascorbic acid activity, as well as enhance levels of interferon-γ, interleukin-2, and the activity of macrophages to destroy pathogens.
- Withanolides have anti-inflammatory and immunomodulating effects similar to glucocorticoid drugs, and act as anti-inflammatory agents by inhibiting lymphocyte proliferation, complement system, and delayed-type hypersensitivity. They can also inhibit COX-2 and possess antimicrobial activity. Withanoside VI and withanolide A facilitate the regeneration of axons and dendrites by reconstructing pre and post-synapses in neurodegenerative diseases, and preventing pathogenesis and neuronal death. Withanolides and their glycosides (withanosides) possess neuroprotective effects and reversed behavioral deficits, plaque pathology, and accumulation of β-amyloid peptides in animal models of Alzheimer disease.
- Withaferin A has anti-tumor, apoptotic, anti-angiogenesis, radiosensitizing and anti-inflammatory activity. Is also considered an effective neurological, immunological and anti-stress agent, and has exhibited specific immunosuppressive effects on human B and T lymphocytes. Sitoindosides VII & VIII and withaferin A have exhibited significant anti‐stress activity.
- Sedative properties of alkaloids have been confirmed in a number of animal models. Have also demonstrated hypotensive, spasmolytic, bradycardic, respiratory stimulant, and a depressant effect on higher cerebral centres in high doses.
- High iron content helps increase RBC, WBC and platelet counts.
Safety & Toxicity Concerns:
- Avoid in patients with known allergy to Nightshades (Solanaceae family).
- May cause digestive discomfort.
- Pregnancy & lactation (controversial).
- High doses may cause hypotension, bradycardia, and respiratory stimulant actions, and may have a depressant/sedative effect upon the nervous system and higher cerebral centers.
- Potential additive effects with CNS depressants (e.g. barbiturates), and may cause drowsiness and reduced coordination.