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Ashwagandha and Breast Cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, almost 13 percent of American women will develop breast cancer in their lifetimes.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a frequently utilized adaptogen in Ayurvedic medicine, one of the oldest healing systems in the world, practiced in India for over 5,000 years. Practitioners of Ayurveda incorporate diet, meditation, breathing, yoga, purification (detox), massage and herbal extracts in their treatment plans to restore patients to a state of balance and good health.

The name ashwagandha comes from the Sanskrit word used to describe the smell of a horse, referring to the scent of the plant’s roots after harvesting, but also to the feeling of strength and vitality that all those using the herb experienced as well.

But ashwagandha is more than an adaptogen for balancing moods and energy levels. This review found that the herb also has a diverse array of anti-cancer actions – stopping tumor formation and growth, preventing the spread of cancer, and reducing the inflammatory states that can lead to cancer. The researchers in this review found that ashwagandha was useful for fighting cancer with estrogen and progesterone receptors (ER-positive/PR-positive), or for tumors with neither. They concluded that the botanical may become a focus in the future for both treatment and prevention of the disease.


Vashi R, Patel BM, Goyal RK. Keeping abreast about ashwagandha in breast cancer. J Ethnopharmacol. 2021 Apr 6;269:113759. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2020.113759. Epub 2020 Dec 25. PMID: 33359916.

Ethnopharmacological relevance: Ashwagandha has been used as an ayurvedic medicine in the form of 'Rasayana' (as a tonic) even before 3000 BCE in India. As per Ayurveda, it has long been used traditionally for the treatment of inflammation, weakness, impotence, pulmonary tuberculosis. This plant is also beneficial in lumbago and leucorrhea in the female. In the recent past, Withania has shown its anti-cancerous activity in various experimental models. In addition, Withania also possesses many other properties such as antioxidant, anti-stress, adaptogenic, and regenerative which will eventually be beneficial and safe in treating cancer patients.

Aim of the study: This review aims to provide experimental evidence along with a deeper insight into molecular mechanisms of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) through which it acts as a chemotherapeutic agent against different types of breast cancer.

Materials and methods: Literature searches with the help of electronic online databases (Elsevier, Google Scholar, Scopus, Springer Link, ScienceDirect, ResearchGate, PubMed) were carried out. The timeline for collection of data for the review article was from 2000 to 2019. The plant name was validated from The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on 21st March 2020).

Results: Various forms of Withania somnifera were used and several in vitro, in vivo, and clinical studies were reported by researchers. They found ashwagandha to exhibit anti-apoptotic, anti-metastatic, anti-invasive and anti-inflammatory properties and gave the evidence that ashwagandha has a capability for averting and treating breast cancer.

Conclusion: Various in vitro and in vivo studies suggested Ashwagandha may possess a potential for treating breast cancer, especially ER/PR positive breast cancer and triple-negative breast cancer. A clinical trial has also been conducted in the past that suggested its potential in refining quality of life in breast cancer patients. Studies directed towards molecular pathways have helped in unravelling the key mechanisms of ashwagandha. Future research should be directed towards translational studies involving breast cancer patients. These will reinforce the ancient power of our Ayurvedic medicine.

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Terry is happy to provide his opinion on diet and nutrition, supplements and lifestyle choices. This information is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the advice of your physician and is not to be considered medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Should you have any concerns please contact your physician directly.
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