Ayurveda is a highly recognized, well-documented, and well-accepted traditional medicine system. This system utilizes many natural products in various forms for therapeutic purposes. Thousands of plants mentioned in the Ayurvedic system are useful in disease mitigation and health preservation. One potential plant of the Ayurvedic system is “Ashwagandha” [Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal], commonly regarded as Indian Ginseng. It possesses various therapeutic activities, such as neuroprotective, hypoglycemic, hepatoprotective, antiarthritic, and anticancer effects.
Here we present a comprehensive insight on the anticancer effects of W. somnifera and mechanistic attributes of its bioactive phytocompounds. This review also provides updated information on the clinical studies pertaining to cancer, safety evaluation and opportunities for chemical modifications of withanolides, a group of specialized phytochemicals of W. somnifera.
The present study was performed in accordance with the guidelines of the Preferred Reporting Items for Systemic Reviews and Meta-Analysis. Various scientific databases, such as PubMed, Science Direct, Scopus, Google Scholar, were explored for related studies published up to May 2021.
An updated review on the anticancer potential and mechanisms of action of the major bioactive components of W. somnifera, including withanolides, withaferin A and withanone, is presented. Comprehensive information on clinical attributes of W. somnifera and its active components are presented with the structure-activity relationship (SAR) and toxicity evaluation.
The outcome of the work clearly indicates that W. somnifera has a significant potential for cancer therapy. The SAR revealed that various withanolides in general and withaferin A in particular have binding energies against various proteins and tremendous potential to serve as the lead for new chemical entities. Nevertheless, additional studies, particularly well-designed clinical trials are required before therapeutic application of withanolides for cancer treatment.

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