Potential Of Withania somnifera or Ashwagandha as Natural Herbal Remedy for Cancer
Ashwagandha or Withania is one such herb whose role as anticancer herb is widely studied. Yet while it does not possess properties like chemotherapy, it DOES: increases our immunity, is an antioxidant and is an adaptogen. Thus this botanical exerts its effect on cancer in multiple roles.
Improvement was found in general parameters like life span, hematological and histopathological parameters. It showed antiproliferative and preventive properties against many chemicals that possess carcinogenic effect.
Benefits of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha like some other natural botanicals shows anti-cancer potential. This is relatively safe, effective and having multiple benefits over conventional medicine.
There are many benefits of Withania somnifera like enhancing the cellular immune response, stimulation of cytotoxic T Lymphocytes, effective in methylcholanthrene induced fibrosarcoma, cyclophosphamide induced urotoxicity, and as a protective agent in Leucopenia.
Additionally it is found to reverse paclitaxel induced Neutropenia, to have antigranuloma activity, antioxidant activity, antiproliferative, immunosuppresive activity.
All these effects are directly related to Cancer and promise its beneficial effect as a cancer herb.
Herbal Remedies with Anti-carcinogenic Activity:
Observations of WS in Dalton’s Ascitic Lymphoma were evaluated in Swiss albino mice. Lifespan was increased, number of cancer cell decreased, tumor weight was reduced with correction in hematological criteria. This study suggested its protective role in Dalton’s Ascitic Lymphoma. (J. Ethnopharma. Aug. 2004, 93(2-3):359-61)
Herbal Remedies Inhibiting Growth of Human Tumor Cell Lines:
12 Withanolides from the leaves of withania somnifera were tested for anti-proliferative activity in lungs, colon, breast, central nervous system human tumor cell lines. Withaferin A showed inhibitory activity. Viscosalactone B (12) showed 50% inhibition. Adding WS as dietary supplement might prevent the growth of tumor in human. (Life Sci. 2003 Nov. 21:74(1) 125-32)
Indian Winter Cherry Counteracting MNNG’s Mutagenic Effect:
In another study, the leaf extract of WS was investigated against the mutagenic effects of MNNG (a highly toxic chemical). This study reported significant protection against the mutagenic effect of MNNG by Withania somnifera. (Dr Rani Kaur, Dr Nagpal et al, Dept. of Botanical & Environmental Sciences, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, India)
Ashwagandha – Herbal Remedy with Anti-proliferative Properties:
Field raised and Laboratory raised leaves of Withania somnifera was tested for anti-proliferative and anti-oxidative properties. Field raised plants showed significant anti-proliferative activity in human tumor producing cells. It was not found to protect against oxidative damage by high glucose and hydrogen peroxide to human tumor cells.
The study suggested its potential role as anti-tumor and not as anti-oxidant (of course in tumor cells alone). (Food Chem. Tox. 2004, Dec. 42(12):2015-20)
Ashwagandha As Natural Radiosensitizer Or Chemotherapeutic Agent:
Another study at Dept. Of Radiobiology, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, India was undertaken to assess the anti-tumor and radio-sensitizing effects of Withaferin A on Mouse Ehrlich Ascites carcinoma in vivo.
The phytochemical was reported to inhibit tumor growth and increase survival. The studies so far indicate that W. somnifera could prove to be a good natural source of a potent and relatively safe radiosensitizer/chemotherapeutic agent. Further studies are needed to explore the clinical potential of this plant for cancer therapy.
Ashwagandha – Herbal Remedies Useful In Ascitic Sarcoma:
Combination of Withania somnifera and Tinospora cordifolia (80:20) was found effective in the treatment of ascitic-sarcoma bearing mice. It exhibited protection towards CP-induced myelo- and immunoprotection as evident by significant increase in white cell counts and hemagglutinating and hemolytic antibody titers. These supportive treatment should further be investigated.
Ashwagandha – Herbs Useful In Melanoma Induced Metastasis:
Amala Cancer Research Center, Thrissur, India, found effect of Withania somnifera on B16F-10 melanoma induced metastasis in rats. Withania somnifera extract and Withanolide D were simultaneously administered.
Together they could significantly inhibit metastatic colony formation of melanoma in lungs. (72.5% by extract and 68.9% by Withanolide D). Histopathological analysis of the lung tissues also correlated with these findings. Prophylactic administrations of both extract as well as Withanolide were ineffective in inhibiting the metastasis of B16F-10 melanoma cells.
Ashwagandha as Supportive Herbal Remedy In Skin Carcinoma In Rats:
Ambedkar Center Of Biomedical Research, Delhi University, India, found the effect of 1-oxo-5beta, 6beta-epoxy-witha-2-enolide, isolated from the roots of Withania somnifera in the treatment of skin carcinoma in rat model.
Histopathological studies confirm that exposure of Wistar rat’s skin to UVB radiation (294nm) and to Benzoyl peroxide demonstrate the development of malignancy in 12 weeks.
Pretreatment with WS extract derived phytochemical prevents the incidence of Skin carcinoma after exposure to UVB radiation.
Ashwagandha Supports as Herbal Remedy in DMBA Induced Squamous Cell Carcinoma:
A similar study from All India Institute Of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India, found Withania somnifera extract to prevent DMBA-induced squamous cell carcinoma of skin in Swiss albino mice. The chemopreventive effect of Withania somnifera hydroalcoholic root extract (WSRE) on 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA)-induced skin cancer was investigated in Swiss albino mice.
This study indicated that WRSE possesses potential chemopreventive activity in this experimental model of cancer. The chemo-preventive activity may be linked to the antioxidant/free radical-scavenging constituents of the extract. The anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties of WSRE are also likely to contribute to its chemo-preventive action.
Ashwagandha – Herbal Remedies Enhancing Cellular Immune Response:
Amala Cancer Research Center (ACRC), Thrissur, India reported another study on the effect of Withania somnifera on cellular immune response (CMI) in normal as well as tumor bearing animals. Administration of Withania extract was found to enhance the proliferation of lymphocytes, bone marrow cells and thymocytes in responses to mitogens.
Natural killer cell activity (NK) was found to be enhanced significantly in both the normal and the tumour bearing group and it was found to be earlier than the control (48.92% cell lysis).
Antibody dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) was found to be enhanced in the Withania treated group on the 9th day (65% cell lysis). An early Antibody dependent complement mediated cytotoxicity (ACC) was observed in the Withania treated group on day 13 (47% cell lysis).
Ashwagandha – Herbs Stimulating Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes:
Still another study from the above mentioned center found stimulatory effect of Withania somnifera on cytotoxic T lymphocytes. These studies indicate that Withania somnifera could stimulate the generation of cytotoxic T lymphocyte and it may reduce tumour growth.
Ashwagandha as Herbs Supporting Methylcholanthrene Induced Fibrosarcoma:
Another study at ACRC suggested the effect of Withania somnifera on 20-methylcholanthrene induced fibrosarcoma.
Ashwagandha Helpful In Cyclophosphamide Induced Urotoxicity:
ACRC found the effect of WS extract on cyclophosphamide-induced urotoxicity.
Ashwagandha Rasayanam – Herbal Remedy Protecting Against Leucopenia:
ACRC researchers Praveenkumar et al reported that Oral administration of Brahma Rasayana (BR) and Ashwagandha/Rasayana (AR) was found to protect mice from cyclophosphamide induced leukopenia.
The results indicate the usefulness of Rasayanas in chemotherapy induced myelosuppression and leukopenia.
Ashwagandha – Herbal Remedy Reversing Paclitaxel Induced Neutropenia:
Gupta et al noticed the reversal of paclitaxel induced neutropenia by Withania somnifera in mice. The findings of the study suggest the potential of W. somnifera as an adjuvant during cancer chemotherapy for the prevention of bone marrow depression associated with anticancer drugs.
Department of Pharmacology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi-110 029.
Herbal Remedies with Anti-granuloma Activity – Ashwagandha:
Researchers at Pharmacognosy & Pharmacology Dept., Scientific Research Council, Baghdad, Iraq, found anti-granuloma acitivity in Iraqi Withania somnifera.
The granuloma-tissue formation inhibiting activity of various fractions of an extract of the aerial parts of Withania somnifera were established using subcutaneous cotton-pellet implantation in rats.
Anti-inflammatory activity was retained in the methanolic fractions of the plant extract and was comparable to that of a 5 mg/kg dose of hydrocortisone sodium succinate. Activity was attributed to the high content of biologically active steroids in the plant, of which withaferin A is known to be a major component.
Pharmacognosy and Pharmacology Department, Scientific Research Council, Baghdad, Iraq.
Herbal Remedies with Anti-oxidative & Anti-proliferative Activities – Ashwagandha leaf Extract:
researchers tried to characterize various activities of leaf extract of
Ashwagandha (Lash) raised in the field and in the laboratory. We found that the
Lash from field-raised plants has a significant anti-proliferative activity in
human tumorigenic cells. However, it did not impart any protection against the
oxidative damage caused by high glucose and hydrogen peroxide to human tumor
cells suggesting that it can be used as an anti-tumor, but not as an
Kaur K, Rani G, Widodo N, Nagpal A, Taira K, Kaul SC, Wadhwa R.
Cell Proliferation Research Team, Gene Function Research Center, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), 1-1-1 Higashi, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8562, Japan.
Growth inhibition of human tumor cell lines by withanolides from Ashwagandha leaves:
Michigan State University researchers isolated twelve withanolides from WS leaves. They were tested for their antiproliferative activity on NCI-H460 (Lung), HCT-116 (Colon), SF-268 (Central Nervous System; CNS and MCF-7 (Breast) human tumor cell lines.
This study concluded that incorporation of withanolides in the diet may prevent or decrease the growth of tumors in human.
Jayaprakasam B, Zhang Y, Seeram NP, Nair MG.
Bioactive Natural Products and Phytoceuticals, Department of Horticulture and National Food Safety and Toxicology Center, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.
Immunosuppressive activity of two plant steroidal lactones withaferin A and withanolide E:
The formation of E rosette and EAC rosette by chronic lymphatic leukemic cells were inhibited by Withaferin A and Withaferin E.
These experiments demonstrate a specific action of the compound on antigen recognition as well as proliferative capacity of T lymphocytes as well as B lymphocytes.
Biomedicine. 1978 Jan-Feb;28(1):18-24.
Ashwagandha – Herbal Remedies with Chemoprotective Activity:
Prakash J et al found the chemoprotective activity of Withania somnifera in experimentally induced fibrosarcoma tumors in Swiss albino mice. The mechanism of chemopreventive activity might be due to antioxidant and detoxifying properties.
Department of Pharmacology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi – 110029, India.