Background: Withania somnifera (WS), also known as Ashwagandha, is commonly
used in Ayurveda and other traditional medicine systems. WS has seen an increase in worldwide
usage due to its reputation as an adaptogen. This popularity has elicited increased scientific study of
its biological effects, including a potential application for neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative
Objective: This review aims to provide a comprehensive summary of preclinical and clinical studies
examining the neuropsychiatric effects of WS, specifically its application in stress, anxiety, depression,
Methods: Reports of human trials and animal studies of WS were collected primarily from the
PubMed, Scopus, and Google Scholar databases.
Results: WS root and leaf extracts exhibited noteworthy anti-stress and anti-anxiety activity in animal
and human studies. WS also improved symptoms of depression and insomnia, though fewer
studies investigated these applications. WS may alleviate these conditions predominantly through
modulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and sympathetic-adrenal-medullary axes, as well
as through GABAergic and serotonergic pathways. While some studies link specific withanolide
components to its neuropsychiatric benefits, there is evidence for the presence of additional, as yet
unidentified, active compounds in WS.
Conclusion: While benefits were seen in the reviewed studies, significant variability in the WS
extracts examined prevents a consensus on the optimum WS preparation or dosage for treating neuropsychiatric
conditions. WS generally appears safe for human use; however, it will be important to
investigate potential herb-drug interactions involving WS if used alongside pharmaceutical interventions.
Further elucidation of active compounds of WS is also needed.