Antistressor Effect of Withania somnifera

Antistressor Effect of
Withania somnifera

This section is compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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FROM:   J Ethnopharmacol 1999 (Jan); 64 (1): 91–93

Archana R, Namasivayam A

Department of Physiology,
Dr ALM PG. Institute of Basic Medical Sciences,
University of Madras,
Taramani, India

Withania somnifera is an Indian medicinal plant used widely in the treatment of many clinical conditions in India. Its antistressor properties have been investigated in this study using adult Wistar strain albino rats and cold water swimming stress test. The results indicate that the drug treated animals show better stress tolerance.

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Ayurveda, the traditional system of medicine practiced in India can be traced back to 6000 BC (Charak Samhita, 1949). Withania somnifera Dunal (Solanaceae), commonly called Ashwagandha, (Sanskrit) is an Ayurvedic medicinal plant which has been widely used as a home remedy for several ailments. The root is regarded as a tonic, aphrodisiac and is used in consumption, emaciation, debility, dyspepsia and rheumatism. A decoction of the root is used for colds and chills. The plant is used in treating syphilis and a decoction of the root bark is administered in asthma (Nadkarni, 1954), It is used for all age groups, in both sexes and even during pregnancy without any side effects.

Various withanolides have been isolated from W. somnifera. Withaferin A and 3-?-hydroxy-2,3-dihydrowithanolide F show promising antibacterial, antitumour, immunomodulating and anti-inflammatory properties (Budhiraja and Sudhir, 1987). Glycowithanolides withafurin-A and sitoindosides VII-X isolated from the roots of W. somnifera significantly reversed ibotenic acid induced cognitive defecits in Alzheimer’s disease model (Bhattacharya et al., 1995). The aerial parts of W. somnifera yielded 5-dehydroxywithanolide-R and withasomniferin-A (Atta-ur-Rahman et al., 1991).

The pharmacological action of the different extracts from various parts of the plant have been studied extensively. W. somnifera has shown antitumor activity (Devi et al., 1992), anti-inflammatory activity (Al Hindawi et al., 1989), immunomodulatory activity (Ziauddin et al., 1995) and analgesic activity (Twaij et al., 1989). Studies on its antistress activity have shown that in mice, which are subjected to swimming stress, an increase in the swimming time and reduction in gastric ulcers was noted (Grandhi et al., 1994). The antistress effect of W. somnifera was manifested by the inhibition of stress induced increase in dopaminegic receptor population in corpus striatum (Sakena et al., 1988). The present study was undertaken to evaluate the antistress activity of W. somnifera on cold swimming stress.

Materials and methods

Adult Wistar strain albino rats of either sex (weighing 150–180 g) were used for the study. All the animals were maintained under standard laboratory conditions and fed with rat feed pellets and water ad libitum.

The commercially available powdered root of W. somnifera was obtained from Indian Medical Practitioners Cooperative Society, Adyar, Madras, India and its aqueous suspension was used at 100 mg/kg dosage, (derived from recommended human dosage on body weight basis) in this study.


The results indicate a significant increase in the plasma corticosterone level, phagocytic index and avidity index in rats subjected to cold swimming stress. In the rats pretreated with the drug, these parameters were near control values and an increase in the total swimming time was observed (Table 1).

Discussion and conclusion

It is known that cold swimming stress increases plasma corticosterone level (Paris et al., 1987). Cold swimming stress has also been shown to increase the phagocytic index and avidity index (Sheela Devi and Namasivayam, 1986). The present study indicates that the above stress indices have been brought back to normal in W. somnifera treated rats. In addition, the increase in the total swimming time indicates better stress tolerance in these rats.



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