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Ashwagandha

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Withania somnifera is known as Ashwagandha in India. It is a plant in the Solanaceae or nightshade family. It is used as an herb in Ayurvedic medicine. It grows as a short shrub with a central stem from which branch extend radially in a star pattern. The flowers are small and green, while the ripe fruit is orange-red and has milk-coagulating properties. The plant is widely distributed in North- Western India, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab plains and extends to the mountainous regions of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu.
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Botanical Names
Withania somnifera i
Indian Names
Sanskrit : Ashvagandha, Ashvakandika, Vajigandha Bengali : Ashvagandha Gujarati : Ghodakun, Asan, Asoda Hindi : Asgandh Malayalam : Amukkuram Marathi : Askkuram Kannada : Angarberu, Asvagandhi Tamil : Amukkira, Asuvagandhi Telugu : Pennerugadda, Panneru, Pulivendram, Vajigandha
Chemical Constituents
Majority of the constituents are withanolides (steroidal lactones with ergostane skeleton) and alkaloids. These include Withanone, Withaferin A, Withanolides I, II, III, A,D,E, F,G,H,I,J,K,L,M,WS-I, P and S, withasomidienone, withanolide C, and alkaloids viz., cuscohygrine, anahygrine, tropine, pseudotropine, anaferine, isopellatierine, 3-tropyltigloate. Total alkaloids about 0.2%
Pesticide Limits
A limit for pesticide is one of the major issues in standardization of medicinal plants and products in view of the worldwide widespread use of pesticides in cultivated plants. The presence of pesticides in extracts increase the health risk by many folds. The pesticides can be extremely irritant on skin as well as in the internal organs, it is essential to monitor its concentration as a part of GMP. Various analytical methods for the quantitative determination of pesticides by gas chromatography coupled with mass-spectrophotometer are in use. Konark Research Foundation (KRF), a NABL certified lab is well equipped with the latest technology and instruments and monitors the pesticide limit as part of its GMP.
Chromatographic Profile
From the pharmacopoeial perspective, a better quality control of raw material can be achieved by specifying a quantitative test procedure for the determination of the range or a minimum content by specifying a quantitative test procedure for the determination of the range or a minimum content of the marker substances or the ‘active’ ingredient. A chromatographic finger profile represents qualitative/ quantitative determination of various components present in a complex plant extract irrespective whether or not their exact identity is known. Thin layer chromatographic technique is the simplest and least expensive method that provides plenty of information on the composition of raw herbs and its preparation. For quantitative analysis of active ingredients or marker substances with simultaneous separation and detection High Pressure liquid chromatography is the best technique. We use the latest model of HPLC for all its analysis.
Limits of Impurities
A test requirement for foreign organic matter would ensure the extent of contamination of extraneous matters such as filth and other parts of botanicals not covered by the definition of the herbal drug. Since sand and soil are predictable contaminants of botanicals, test requirements for ‘total ash’, water soluble ash’, ‘acid soluble ash’, residue on ignition and sulphated ash would be expected to limit such contaminants. Test requirement for heavy metals in botanical raw material are probably more relevant for parts of plants growing under ground than for the aerial parts of the plant. The presence of high levels of minerals interacts with the final product there by affecting its keeping quality.
Microbial Limits
If the raw herb is to be used directly without boiling in water prior to consumption, restrictive limits on microbial contaminants are required for pathogens such as Salmonella sp. Enterobacter and E.coli which are causative agent for various gastro-intestinal diseases. A lower level of yeasts and molds and a limit on total aerobes are considered appropriate in plant material for topical use. The presence of aflatoxins detected by chemical means is generally independent of the number of viable molds that are detected using microbiological methods. Aflatoxins in microgram quantity are capable of giving serious hypersensitivity reactions which can be extremely harmful to human health.
Pharmacology
Withania somnifera is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional medical system of India. It is used as an ingredient in many formulations prescribed for a variety of musculoskeletal conditions i.e. arthritis, rheumatism, and as a general tonic to increase energy, improve overall health and longevity. Many pharmacological studies have been conducted to investigate the properties of Ashwagandha in an attempt to authenticate its use as a multi-purpose medicinal agent. For example, anti-inflammatory properties have been investigated to validate its use in inflammatory arthritis, and animal stress studies have been performed to investigate its use as an anti stress agent. The alcoholic extract of the dried roots of the plant as well as the active component Withaferin A showed significant anti-tumor and radio-sensitizing effects in experimental tumors in vivo, without any noticeable systemic toxicity. It is a good anti stress agent. The results of clinical studies have also demonstrated the significant anti stress adaptogenic activity. Withanolides, an important component of Withania somnifera possess remarkable antibacterial and immunosuppressive properties and protective effect against carbon tetrachloride induced toxicity. HEALTH BENEFITS In Ayurveda, Withania somnifera is classified as a rasayana and expected to promote physical and mental health. It rejuvenates the body in debilitated conditions and increase longevity. It is used as anti stress agent. It is claimed that Ashwagandha has been traditionally used to treat various symptoms and conditions. It is especially beneficial in stress related disorders such as arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, general debility, etc. It shows relaxant and antispasmodic effects against several plasmogens on intestinal, uterine, bronchial, tracheal and blood vascular muscles. It is also helpful in hair nourishment and brings about the improvement in hair melanin.
Health Benefits
In Ayurveda, Withania somnifera is classified as a rasayana and expected to promote physical and mental health. It rejuvenates the body in debilitated conditions and increase longevity. It is used as anti stress agent. It is claimed that Ashwagandha has been traditionally used to treat various symptoms and conditions. It is especially beneficial in stress related disorders such as arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, general debility, etc. It shows relaxant and antispasmodic effects against several plasmogens on intestinal, uterine, bronchial, tracheal and blood vascular muscles. It is also helpful in hair nourishment and brings about the improvement in hair melanin.
Research References
www.pubmed.gov • Possible neuroprotective effect of Withania somnifera root extract against 3-nitropropionic acid-induced behavioral, biochemical, and mitochondrial dysfunction in an animal model of Huntington's disease.(Kumar P, Kumar A.J Med Food. 2009 Jun;12(3):591-600.PMID: 19627208). • Effect of Withania somnifera root extract on reserpine-induced orofacial dyskinesia and cognitive dysfunction.(Naidu PS, Singh A, Kulkarni SK.Phytother Res. 2006 Feb;20(2):140-6.PMID:16444668 ). • Effect of Withania somnifera root extract on haloperidol-induced orofacial dyskinesia: possible mechanisms of action.(Naidu PS, Singh A, Kulkarni SK.J Med Food. 2003 Summer;6(2):107-14.PMID: 12935321). • The neuroprotective effect of Withania somnifera root extract in MPTP-intoxicated mice: an analysis of behavioral and biochemical variables.(Sankar SR, Manivasagam T, Krishnamurti A, Ramanathan M.Cell Mol Biol Lett. 2007;12(4):473-81. Epub 2007 Apr 6.PMID: 17415533 • Protective effect of Withania somnifera root powder in relation to lipid peroxidation, antioxidant status, glycoproteins and bone collagen on adjuvant-induced arthritis in rats.(Rasool M, Varalakshmi P.Fundam Clin Pharmacol. 2007 Apr;21(2):157-64.PMID: 17391288). • Effect of extract of Withania Somnifera on dehydration-induced oxidative stress-related uremia in male rats.(Das K, Samanta TT, Samanta P, Nandi DK.Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl. 2010 Jan;21(1):75-80.PMID: 20061697) • Neuroprotective effects of Withania somnifera on 6-hydroxydopamine induced Parkinsonism in rats.(Ahmad M, Saleem S, Ahmad AS, Ansari MA, Yousuf S, Hoda MN, Islam F.Hum Exp Toxicol. 2005 Mar;24(3):137-47.PMID: 15901053). • Mechanisms of cardioprotective effect of Withania somnifera in experimentally induced myocardial infarction.(Mohanty I, Arya DS, Dinda A, Talwar KK, Joshi S, Gupta SK.Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2004 Apr;94(4):184-90.PMID: 15078343). • Withania somnifera root extract improves catecholamines and physiological abnormalities seen in a Parkinson's disease model mouse.(RajaSankar S, Manivasagam T, Sankar V, Prakash S, Muthusamy R, Krishnamurti A, Surendran S.J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Sep 25;125(3):369-73. Epub 2009 Aug 8.PMID: 19666100). • Systemic administration of defined extracts from Withania somnifera (Indian Ginseng) and Shilajit differentially affects cholinergic but not glutamatergic and GABAergic markers in rat brain.(Schliebs R, Liebmann A, Bhattacharya SK, Kumar A, Ghosal S, Bigl V.Neurochem Int. 1997 Feb;30(2):181-90.PMID: 9017665). • Susceptibility of hippocampus and cerebral cortex to oxidative damage in streptozotocin treated mice: prevention by extracts of Withania somnifera and Aloe vera.(Parihar MS, Chaudhary M, Shetty R, Hemnani T.J Clin Neurosci. 2004 May;11(4):397-402.PMID: 15080956). • Nephroprotective effect of Withania somnifera: a dose-dependent study.(Jeyanthi T, Subramanian P.Ren Fail. 2009;31(9):814-21.PMID: 19925290). • Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) attenuates antioxidant defense in aged spinal cord and inhibits copper induced lipid peroxidation and protein oxidative modifications.(Gupta SK, Dua A, Vohra BP.Drug Metabol Drug Interact. 2003;19(3):211-22.PMID: 14682611). 1. Indian Herbal Pharmacopoeia (Revised New Edition 2002). 2. Standardization of Botanicals, Volume 2- By Dr. V. Rajpal. 3. www.pubmed.gov
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