Withania somnifera: Can it be a Therapeutic Alternative for Microbial Diseases in an Era of Progressive Antibiotic Resistance?

Author's: Muhammad Naeem Iqbal, Asfa Ashraf
Authors' Affiliations
Article Type: Editorials     Published: Jan. 31, 2019 Pages: 16-18
DOI:        Views 1526       Downloads 0


Resistance to antibiotics poses a serious and sometimes deadly challenge to the treatment of severe bacterial infections, in particular in developing countries. Antibiotic resistance causes biological cost by reducing fitness of resistant strains, which can minimize the spread of resistant bacteria. Microbes that are resistant to multiple antimicrobials are called multidrug resistant (MDR) (Iqbal et al., 2015a,b).

Withania somnifera (WS), widely known as ashwagandha, is an Ayurvedic herb that has recently been investigated for its antimicrobial activity. Although used as a broad-spectrum remedy in India for centuries, WS has only recently been under investigation in laboratory settings. WS is categorized as an herbal supplement for its anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antistress, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, hemopoietic, and rejuvenating properties. These hypothesized healing properties have led to widespread use of WS in Ayurvedic medicine, and it has been studied as a treatment for various health conditions. As Ayurvedic practices, such as the administration of herbs, gradually acquire more support in primary care, the need to evaluate the use of herbal substances in the management of specific conditions becomes more acute.

The emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria must be considered one of the most frightening consequences of microbial evolution in the last 2 decades. The physicians prescribe broad spectrum antibiotics without antibiotic susceptibility test. There is no systematic national surveillance of antibiotic resistance and insufficient data is available to quantify the problem (Abdul et al., 2008). Plant derived products can be tested to determine antibacterial activity (Hussain et al., 2016; Shahzad et al., 2017) that can be used to treat infectious diseases.

In this issue, Shoaib et al. investigate the antimicrobial potential of some solvent extracts of Withania somnifera leaves against different strains of bacteria and fungi. They used agar well diffusion method to determine antibacterial activity of crude extracts of W. somnifera against gram positive, gram negative bacterial and agar diffusion method  to determine antifungal activity against fungal strains. All tested plant extracts, showed varying zones of inhibition against bacteria and fungi tested. The results demonstrated that this plant has good medicinal potential, and it needs further phytochemical exploitation to isolate phytochemical constituents having antibacterial and antifungal activities.

Although well conducted, there are some limitations to the present work. The molecular methods can be employed to detect antibiotic resistance. Moreover, the types of bacteria tested were limited to 5 strains. More attention is needed to recognize and measure trends in resistance internally. There is an immediate need to step out and test the effectiveness of plant products against the emerging pathogens. The development of non-antibiotic alternatives for mild infections is just one strategy to combat antibiotic resistance. Transition from antibiotics to non-traditional treatments poses real clinical challenges that will not be easy to solve.


Iqbal, M.N, Ashraf, A., 2019. Withania somnifera: Can it be a Therapeutic Alternative for Microbial Diseases in an Era of Progressive Antibiotic Resist- ance? Int. J. Nanotechnol. Allied Sci., 3(1): 16-18.


Abdul, J.K.P., Abdul, R.K., Abdul, H.Y.S., Sanaullah, K., 2008. Current antibiotic susceptibility in Khyber Teaching Hospital Peshawar Pakistan.  J. Res. 13, 224-229.

Hussain, F., Kalim, M., Ali, H., Ali, T., Khan, M., Xiao, S., Iqbal, M.N., Ashraf, A., 2016. Antibacterial Activities of Methanolic Extracts of Datura inoxia. PSM Microbiol., 01(1): 33-35.

Iqbal, M.N., Anjum, A.A., Ali, M.A., Wang, S., Ali, S., Muhammad, A., Irfan, M., Ahmad, A., Shabbir, A., 2015a. Characterization of Multidrug-Resistant Bacteria from Packed Fruit Juices Sold in Lahore City. 4th International Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Congress and Conference on Life Sciences  Research  2015, At Al-Nafees Medical College and Hospital, Isra University, Islamabad Pakistan, Volume: 4.

Iqbal, M.N., Anjum, A.A., Ali, M.A., Hussain, F., Ali, S., Muhammad, A., Irfan, M., Ahmad, A., Irfan, M., Shabbir, A., 2015b. Assessment of microbial load of un-pasteurized fruit juices and in vitro antibacterial potential of honey against bacterial isolates. Open Microbiol. J., 9: 26-32.

Shahzad, M.I., Ashraf, H., Iqbal, M.N., Khanum, A., 2017. Medicinal Evaluation of Common Plants against Mouth Microflora. PSM Microbiol., 2(2): 34-40.

Shuaib, M., Ali, S., Ali, K., Hussain, F., Ilyas, M., Arif, M., Hussain, F., 2019. Validation of the Ethnopharmacological Uses ofWithania somnifera. Int. J. Nanotechnol. Allied Sci., 3(1): 1-6.