Withania somnifera

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Withania somnifera
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Genus: Withania
Species: W. somnifera
Binomial name
Withania somnifera
(L.) Dunal
  • Physalis somnifera L.
  • Withania kansuensis Kuang & A. M. Lu
  • Withania microphysalis Suess.

Withania somnifera, known commonly as ashwagandha,[2] Indian ginseng,[3] poison gooseberry,[3] or winter cherry,[2] is a plant in the Solanaceae or nightshade family. Several other species in the genus Withania are morphologically similar.[4] It is used as an herb in Ayurvedic medicine.


This species is a short annual shrub growing 35 to 75 centimeters tall. Tomentose branches extend radially from a central stem. The flowers are small and green. The ripe fruit is orange-red.


The species name somnifera means "sleep-inducing" in Latin.[5]


Withania somnifera is cultivated in many of the drier regions of India, such as Mandsaur District of Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat,and Rajasthan.[6] It is also found in Nepal.[7]


Withania somnifera is prone to several pests and diseases. Leaf spot disease caused by Alternaria alternata is the most prevalent disease, which is most severe in the plains of Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh. Biodeterioration of its pharmaceutically active components during leaf spot disease has been reported.[8] The Choanephora cucurbitarum causes a stem and leaf rot of Withania somnifera[9] A treehopper, feeds on the apical portions of the stem, making them rough and woody in appearance and brown in colour. The apical leaves are shed and the plant gradually dies.[10] The carmine red spider mite (Tetranychus urticae) is the most prevalent pest of the plant in India.[11]

Culinary use[edit]

The berries can be used as a substitute for rennet in cheesemaking.[6]


The main chemical constituents are alkaloids and steroidal lactones. These include tropine and cuscohygrine. The leaves contain the steroidal lactones, withanolides, notably withaferin A, which was the first to be isolated from the plant.[citation needed]

Traditional medicinal uses[edit]

The plant's long, brown, tuberous roots are used in traditional medicine.[6][7]

In Ayurveda, the berries and leaves are applied externally to tumors, tubercular glands, carbuncles, and ulcers.[6] The roots are used to prepare the herbal remedy ashwagandha, which has been traditionally used for various symptoms and conditions.[6][12][13][14][15][16][17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal". Tropicos. Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 25 Feb 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal". Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. Beltsville, Maryland: USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. Retrieved 2011-10-29. 
  3. ^ a b "Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal". PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale) [Online Database]. Wageningen, Netherlands: Gurib-Fakim A. and Schmelzer G. H. Retrieved 2012-08-07. 
  4. ^ Gupta, A.; Mittal, A.; Jha, K. K.; Kumar, A. (2011). "Nature’s treasurer: plants acting on colon cancer" (pdf). Journal of Stress Physiology & Biochemistry 7 (4): 217–231. 
  5. ^ Stearn, W. T. (1995). Botanical Latin: History, Grammar, Syntax, Terminology and Vocabulary (4th ed.). Timber Press. ISBN 0-88192-321-4. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Mirjalili, M. H.; Moyano, E.; Bonfill, M.; Cusido, R. M.; Palazón, J. (2009). "Steroidal Lactones from Withania somnifera, an Ancient Plant for Novel Medicine". Molecules 14 (7): 2373–2393. doi:10.3390/molecules14072373. PMID 19633611.  edit
  7. ^ a b Pandit, S.; Chang, K.-W.; Jeon, J.-G. (February 2013). "Effects of Withania somnifera on the growth and virulence properties of Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus at sub-MIC levels". Anaerobe 19: 1–8. doi:10.1016/j.anaerobe.2012.10.007. 
  8. ^ Pati, P. K.; Sharma, M.; Salar, R. K.; Sharma, A.; Gupta, A. P.; Singh, B. (2009). "Studies on leaf spot disease of Withania somnifera and its impact on secondary metabolites". Indian Journal of Microbiology 48 (4): 432–437. doi:10.1007/s12088-008-0053-y. PMC 3476785. PMID 23100743.  edit
  9. ^ Saroj, A.; Kumar, A.; Qamar, N.; Alam, M.; Singh, H. N.; Khaliq, A. (2012). "First report of wet rot of Withania somnifera caused by Choanephora cucurbitarum in India". Plant Disease 96 (2): 293. doi:10.1094/PDIS-09-11-0801. 
  10. ^ Sharma, A.; Pati, P. K. (2011). "First report of Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal, as a New Host of Cowbug (Oxyrachis tarandus, Fab.) In Plains of Punjab, Northern India" (pdf). World Applied Sciences Journal 14 (9): 1344–1346. ISSN 1818-4952. 
  11. ^ Sharma, A.; Pati, P. K. (2012). "First record of the carmine spider mite, Tetranychus urticae, infesting Withania somnifera in India" (pdf). Journal of Insect Science 12 (50): 1. doi:10.1673/031.012.5001. ISSN 1536-2442. 
  12. ^ Scartezzini, P.; Speroni, E. (2000). "Review on some Plants of Indian Traditional Medicine with Antioxidant Activity". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 71 (1–2): 23–43. doi:10.1016/S0378-8741(00)00213-0. PMID 10904144.  edit
  13. ^ Ven Murthy, M. R.; Ranjekar, P. K.; Ramassamy, C.; Deshpande, M. (2010). "Scientific Basis for the Use of Indian Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants in the Treatment of Neurodegenerative Disorders: Ashwagandha". Central Nervous System Agents in Medicinal Chemistry 10 (3): 238–246. doi:10.2174/1871524911006030238. PMID 20528765.  edit
  14. ^ Ahmad, M. K.; Mahdi, A. A.; Shukla, K. K.; Islam, N.; Rajender, S.; Madhukar, D.; Shankhwar, S. N.; Ahmad, S. (2010). "Withania somnifera improves semen quality by regulating reproductive hormone levels and oxidative stress in seminal plasma of infertile males". Fertility and Sterility 94 (3): 989–996. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2009.04.046. PMID 19501822.  edit
  15. ^ Cooley, K.; Szczurko, O.; Perri, D.; Mills, E. J.; Bernhardt, B.; Zhou, Q.; Seely, D. (2009). Gagnier, Joel, ed. "Naturopathic Care for Anxiety: A Randomized Controlled Trial ISRCTN78958974". PLoS ONE 4 (8): e6628. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006628. PMC 2729375. PMID 19718255.  edit
  16. ^ "Ashwagandha". About Herbs. New York: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. 
  17. ^ Lakshmi-Chandra Mishra, Betsy B. Singh, Simon Dagenais (2000). "Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): A review". Alternative Medicine Review 5 (4). 

External links[edit]

Media related to Withania somnifera at Wikimedia Commons