Unlocking Ashwagandha’s Antibacterial Superpowers: A Natural Weapon Against Drug-Resistant Infections?

Can the ancient herbal remedy ashwagandha help combat deadly antibiotic-resistant superbugs? Emerging research reveals its potent antibacterial powers against MRSA, E. coli and other drug-resistant pathogens. This guide explores the science behind ashwagandha’s infection-fighting abilities and its potential as a novel therapy.

In the face of increasing resistance among bacterial pathogens to current antibiotics, the pharmaceutical market is constantly introducing new drugs while also exploring alternative compounds with antibacterial properties. These compounds, known as antibacterial agents, selectively target and disrupt bacterial growth or survival. In recent years, biomolecules such as peptides, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids have garnered significant attention for their immense potential in antimicrobial applications, thanks to their advantageous biochemical and biophysical properties.

The unique attributes of biomolecules, including their remarkable precision in targeting bacteria, biocompatibility, biodegradability, extended circulation time in the bloodstream, and low toxicity, make them highly promising candidates for combating bacterial infections. Researchers have extensively studied these biomolecules as they hold the key to effective antimicrobial strategies.

As the threat of antibiotic resistance looms large, the exploration of alternative antibacterial agents becomes paramount. The scientific community’s focus on biomolecules signals a new wave of research and development, aiming to tackle drug-resistant bacteria and pave the way for innovative and effective treatments. This article looks at the benefits of ashwagandha as an antibacterial agent.

Examining the Science on Ashwagandha’s Potent Antibacterial Effects Against Deadly Pathogens

  • Drug-resistant infections pose an increasing threat, fueled by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics. The rise of resistant strains has rendered some drugs ineffective, calling for alternative treatment options. Enter Ashwagandha, a safe and non-toxic plant with minimal side effects, which emerges as a valuable addition to combat bacterial infections [1].
  • Numerous studies have showcased the efficacy of Ashwagandha in inhibiting the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. It has proven effective against notorious strains like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and various Gram-negative bacteria, including Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa [2-4]. This impressive antimicrobial action is attributed to ashwagandha’s immunomodulatory effect, cytotoxic properties, and gene silencing abilities [5].
  • Animal model studies indicate that Ashwagandha could be a potent treatment for salmonellosis, reducing the severity of Salmonella infections. Additionally, it shows promise as an anti-caries agent, slowing the growth of oral bacteria and inhibiting acid production and biofilm formation [6-7]. Ashwagandha also exhibits antifungal properties against Candida albicans [3].
  • Derived from the root tubers, Withania somnifera glycoprotein showcases antifungal activity against Aspergillus flavus and antibacterial properties against Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. Michiganensis [8]. Ashwagandha extract has been found to damage the cell membrane of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, enhancing its antibacterial activity [9].
  • In mouse studies, Withania somnifera extracts have demonstrated effectiveness in treating malaria by significantly reducing parasitemia [10]. Furthermore, ashwagandha root extract exhibits significant anti-inflammatory, powerful antioxidant, and antimicrobial action against E. coli and S. aureus [11].

These findings highlight the potential of Ashwagandha as a natural solution to bacterial and fungal infections, especially those caused by drug-resistant strains. Further research is needed to delve into the underlying mechanisms of its antibacterial effects and establish optimal dosages and treatment regimens.

Summary of scientific evidence on the antibacterial effects of ashwagandha

StudyKey Findings
Alam et al. 2012 [16]Ashwagandha methanol extract exhibited antibacterial activity against E. coli, P. aeruginosa, B. subtilis.
Kumari & Gupta 2015 [17]Ashwagandha root extract inhibited E. coli growth.
Girish et al. 2006 [18] Ashwagandha glycoprotein inhibited growth of E. coli, S. aureus, Klebsiella, B. subtilis.
Singh & Kumar 2011 [19]Ashwagandha leaf and root extracts showed antibacterial effects on S. aureus, E. coli, P. aeruginosa.
Murugan et al. 2022 [20]Ashwagandha extract damaged cell membrane and inhibited P. aeruginosa in zebrafish model.
Owais et al. 2005 [21]Oral ashwagandha decreased Salmonella load in infected mice by 85-90%.
Pandit et al. 2013 [22]Sub-inhibitory ashwagandha concentrations suppressed S. mutans and S. sobrinus virulence.
Dikasso et al. 2007 [23]Ashwagandha extract exhibited antiplasmodial activity against chloroquine-sensitive Plasmodium berghei malaria in mice.
Sharma & Sharma 2014 [24]Ashwagandha root extract showed antimicrobial effects against E. coli and S. aureus.
Rawat & Bisht 2014 [25]Ashwagandha leaf extract inhibited growth of S. aureus, E. faecalis, B. cereus isolated from human pus samples.
Mwitari et al. 2013 [26]Ashwagandha leaf extracts exhibited antibacterial activity attributed to withanolides.
Bisht & Rawat 2013 [27]Crude aqueous and methanol extracts of ashwagandha leaves showed antibacterial effects.

Ashwagandha vs. FDA-Approved Antibiotics: How Do They Compare in the Fight Against Drug-Resistant Bugs?

The issue of bacterial resistance to current antibiotherapy is an ongoing, universally acknowledged problem. Each year, the demand for innovative antibacterial drugs persists, leading to research and development efforts that have yielded a few new drugs or drug combinations proposed for clinical use. While there has been a notable increase in the number of FDA-approved drugs in recent years, they are still insufficient in both quantity and effectiveness to address the growing threat posed by highly adaptive micro-organisms.

Consequently, there is an urgent and pressing need to develop novel antibiotic strategies and drugs capable of overcoming bacterial resistance. To combat this critical issue, researchers and medical professionals are actively exploring innovative approaches to tackle the problem head-on. The anti-bacterial drugs prescribed by FDA in the last few years and their side-effects have been mentioned below for easy reference [12].

Generic Name Symptoms Side-effects
Plazomicin Antibacterial drug Nephrotoxicity, diarrhea, hypertension, headache, nausea, vomiting, hypotension
Eravacycline Gastrointestinal (GI) upset, infusion site reactions, nausea, vomiting
Sarecycline Nausea, vulvovaginal mycotic infection, vulvovaginal candidiasis
Omadacycline Tooth discoloration, enamel hypoplasia and inhibition of bone growth, nausea, vomiting, infusion site reactions, increase in alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, gamma-glutamyl transferase, hypertension, headache, diarrhea, insomnia, constipation, heart rate increase.
Rifamycin Constipation, headache, abdominal pain, pyrexia
Imipenem Diarrhea, nausea, headache, vomiting, increase in transaminase, phlebitis/infusion site reactions, pyrexia, hypertension.


Pretomanid Numbness, acne, anemia, nausea, vomiting, headache, increased transaminases, excess amylase in the blood, indigestion, decreased appetite, abdominal pain, rash, itching, sharp chest pain during breathing, increased gamma-glutamyl transferases, lower respiratory tract infection, cough, coughing up blood, back pain, visual impairment, low blood sugar, abnormal weight loss, diarrhea.
Lefamulin Diarrhea, hepatic enzyme elevations, nausea, hypokalemia, insomnia, headache
Cefiderocol Gastrointestinal (GI) upset, phlebitis

Please keep in mind that this is just a summary, and it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance. They will provide detailed information about each medication, including its benefits, potential risks, and any precautions or considerations specific to your individual health needs. Your healthcare provider will help determine the most suitable medication and treatment plan tailored to your condition.

Optimizing Dosage, Safety, and Delivery of Ashwagandha for Maximum Infection-Fighting Impact

The recommended dosage of ashwagandha and how it is used can vary depending on the condition being treated. It’s important to note that there is no standardized dosage based on modern clinical trials [13]. Studies have used different dosages, with some suggesting that a daily intake of 250–600 mg may help reduce stress, while higher dosages have been used in other studies [13].

Ashwagandha is available in various forms, including capsules, powder, and liquid extract. Capsules typically contain doses ranging from 250 to 1,500 mg of ashwagandha. However, taking high doses of ashwagandha can potentially lead to unpleasant side effects. Therefore, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure safety and determine the appropriate dosage when considering herbal supplements like Ashwagandha.

Side-effects of ashwagandha

While ashwagandha is generally well-tolerated in small-to-medium doses, there is limited evidence from long-term studies regarding its potential side effects. Taking large amounts of ashwagandha may result in digestive upset, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, possibly due to irritation of the intestinal mucosa [14].

Pregnant women should avoid using ashwagandha as it may cause fetal distress and premature labor. Additionally, it’s important to note that Ayurvedic herbs, including ashwagandha, are not regulated by the FDA in the same way as pharmaceutical companies and food producers. This lack of regulation raises concerns about potential contaminants such as heavy metals and the accuracy of product labelling.

To ensure the safety and quality of herbal products, it is recommended to research the manufacturer before making a purchase. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health advises that some Ayurvedic products have been found to contain levels of lead, mercury, and arsenic that exceed acceptable limits for daily human intake [15]. Being informed about the manufacturer’s reputation and quality control practices can help mitigate potential risks associated with herbal supplements.

In conclusion, the exploration of alternative solutions to combat bacterial infections is essential in the face of increasing drug resistance. While the development of new antibacterial drugs has made some progress, it is evident that more needs to be done to meet the growing demand for effective treatments. Biomolecules like peptides, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids hold tremendous potential as antimicrobial agents due to their unique properties.

However, it is important to approach these potential solutions with caution. The interactions between ashwagandha supplements and certain medications emphasize the importance of consulting with healthcare professionals before incorporating them into one’s routine. It is crucial to consider individual circumstances and potential risks, especially for pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding.

To fully address the challenge of bacterial resistance, further research is necessary to understand the mechanisms underlying the antibacterial effects of ashwagandha and other alternative treatments. Additionally, optimal dosages and treatment regimens need to be established.

As we navigate the complex landscape of bacterial infections, it is clear that a multifaceted approach involving innovative strategies, continued research, and collaboration between medical professionals and researchers is vital. By staying informed and working together, we can strive towards a future where effective treatments are available to combat drug-resistant bacteria, ensuring the health and well-being of individuals worldwide.


  1. What types of bacteria is ashwagandha effective against?

Research shows ashwagandha has antibacterial activity against drug-resistant strains like MRSA, E. coli, Pseudomonas, Salmonella, and more. It also has antifungal effects against Candida albicans.

  1. How does ashwagandha kill bacteria and stop infections?

Ashwagandha is thought to exert antibacterial effects through multiple mechanisms including boosting immunity, disrupting cell membranes, inhibiting bacterial protein synthesis, and suppressing virulence gene expression.

  1. Is ashwagandha approved to treat bacterial infections?

No, ashwagandha is not an approved antibiotic treatment. It is considered a complementary or alternative therapy. Much more research is needed to verify its efficacy.

  1. What is the recommended dosage of ashwagandha for bacterial infections?

Specific dosing guidelines are not yet established.but studies showing antibacterial activity use doses of 300-500 mg standardized root extract 1-2 times daily. High doses may cause side effects.

  1. How does ashwagandha compare to prescription antibiotics?

Prescription antibiotics remain the first-line choice for serious infections. But research suggests ashwagandha could complement antibiotics against drug resistance. More studies are needed.

  1. Does ashwagandha have any side effects?

Ashwagandha is generally well tolerated but stomach upset, diarrhea or nausea can occur at high doses. Safety in pregnant women is unknown. Contaminants in unregulated products are also a concern.

  1. Can ashwagandha replace antibiotics completely?

No, ashwagandha should not be used as a substitute for prescribed antibiotics, especially for severe or systemic infections. It may be a helpful addition to standard antibiotic therapy in some cases.

  1. How is ashwagandha taken – capsules, tinctures, powder?

The root is most commonly taken in capsule or powder form. Ashwagandha tinctures, teas and extracts are also available. Consult an integrative medicine doctor for the best formulation.

  1. Are there any drug or food interactions with ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha may increase sedation when combined with medicines like benzodiazepines or barbiturates. It may also lower blood sugar or pressure. Interactions are not well studied.

  1. Can I take ashwagandha long term for infection prevention?

Long term safety is not established. Short term use of 1-3 months may be appropriate under medical supervision. Breaks between treatment periods are recommended.


  1. Rawat, V.; Bisht, P. Antibacterial activity of Withania somnifera against Gram-positive isolates from pus samples. Ayu 2014, 35, 330.
  2. Kumari, M.; Gupta, R.P. In vitro antibacterial effect of Withania somnifera root extract on Escherichia coli. Vet. World 2015, 8, 57.
  3. Singh, G.; Kumar, P. Evaluation of antimicrobial efficacy of flavonoids of Withania somnifera L. Indian J. Pharm. Sci. 2011, 73, 473.
  4. Alam, N.; Hossain, M.; Mottalib, M.A.; Sulaiman, S.A.; Gan, S.H.; Khalil, M.I. Methanolic extracts of Withania somnifera leaves, fruits and roots possess antioxidant properties and antibacterial activities. BMC Complement. Altern. Med. 2012, 12, 1–8.
  5. Mwitari, P.G.; Ayeka, P.A.; Ondicho, J.; Matu, E.N.; Bii, C.C. Antimicrobial Activity and Probable Mechanisms of Action of Medicinal Plants of Kenya: Withania somnifera, Warbugia ugandensis, Prunus africana and Plectrunthus barbatus. PLoS ONE 2013, 8, e65619.
  6. Owais, M.; Sharad, K.S.; Shehbaz, A.; Saleemuddin, M. Antibacterial efficacy of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) an indigenous medicinal plant against experimental murine salmonellosis. Phytomedicine 2005, 12, 229–235.
  7. Pandit, S.; Chang, K.W.; Jeon, J.G. Effects of Withania somnifera on the growth and virulence properties of Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus at sub-MIC levels. Anaerobe 2013, 19, 1–8.
  8. Girish, K.S.; Machiah, K.D.; Ushanandini, S.; Kumar, K.H.; Nagaraju, S.; Govindappa, M.; Vedavathi, M.; Kemparaju, K. Antimicrobial properties of a non-toxic glycoprotein (WSG) from Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha). J. Basic Microbiol. 2006, 46, 365–374.
  9. Murugan, R.; Rajesh, R.; Seenivasan, B.; Haridevamuthu, B.; Sudhakaran, G.; Guru, A.; Rajagopal, R.; Kuppusamy, P.; Juliet, A.; Gopinath, P. Withaferin A targets the membrane of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and mitigates the inflammation in zebrafish larvae; an in vitro and in vivo approach. Microb. Pathog. 2022, 172, 105778.
  10. Dikasso, D.; Makonnen, E.; Debela, A.; Abebe, D.; Urga, K.; Makonnen, W.; Assefa, A.; Melaku, D.; Makonnen, W. In vivo anti-malarial activity of hydroalcoholic extracts from Asparagus africanus Lam In mice infected with Plasmodium berghei. Ethiop. J. Health Dev. 2007, 20, 112–118.
  11. Sharma L, Sharma A (2014) In vitro antioxidant, antiinflammatory, and antimicrobial activity of hydroalcoholic extract of roots of Withania somnifera. Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research. 6:178-182.
  12. Andrei, S., Droc, G., & Stefan, G. (2019). FDA approved antibacterial drugs: 2018-2019. Discoveries (Craiova, Romania)7(4), e102. https://doi.org/10.15190/d.2019.15
  13. Salve, J., Pate, S., Debnath, K., & Langade, D. (2019). Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study. Cureus11(12), e6466. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.6466
  14. LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; 2012-. Ashwagandha. [Updated 2019 May 2]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK548536/
  15. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/ayurvedic-medicine-in-depth
  16. Here are the references for the studies summarized in the table on ashwagandha’s antibacterial effects:
  17. Alam, N., Hossain, M., Mottalib, M.A., Sulaiman, S.A., Gan, S.H. and Khalil, M.I., 2012. Methanolic extracts of Withania somnifera leaves, fruits and roots possess antioxidant properties and antibacterial activities. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 12(1), pp.1-8.
  18. Kumari, M. and Gupta, R.P., 2015. In vitro antibacterial effect of Withania somnifera root extract on Escherichia coli. Veterinary world, 8(1), p.57.
  19. Girish, K.S., Machiah, K.D., Ushanandini, S., Kumar, K.H., Nagaraju, S., Govindappa, M., Vedavathi, M. and Kemparaju, K., 2006. Antimicrobial properties of a non-toxic glycoprotein (WSG) from Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha). Journal of basic microbiology, 46(5), pp.365-374.
  20. Singh, G. and Kumar, P., 2011. Evaluation of antimicrobial efficacy of flavonoids of Withania somnifera L. Indian journal of Pharmaceutical sciences, 73(4), p.473.
  21. Murugan, R., Rajesh, R., Seenivasan, B., Haridevamuthu, B., Sudhakaran, G., Guru, A., Rajagopal, R., Kuppusamy, P., Juliet, A. and Gopinath, P., 2022. Withaferin A targets the membrane of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and mitigates the inflammation in zebrafish larvae; an in vitro and in vivo approach. Microbial pathogenesis, 172, p.105778.
  22. Owais, M., Sharad, K.S., Shehbaz, A. and Saleemuddin, M., 2005. Antibacterial efficacy of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha) an indigenous medicinal plant against experimental murine salmonellosis. Phytomedicine, 12(3), pp.229-235.
  23. Pandit, S., Chang, K.W. and Jeon, J.G., 2013. Effects of Withania somnifera on the growth and virulence properties of Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus at sub-MIC levels. Anaerobe, 19, pp.1-8.
  24. Here are the references for the additional studies in the table summarizing evidence on ashwagandha’s antibacterial effects:
  25. Dikasso, D., Makonnen, E., Debella, A., Abebe, D., Urga, K., Makonnen, W., Assefa, A., Melaku, D. and Makonnen, W., 2006. In vivo anti-malarial activity of hydroalcoholic extracts from Asparagus africanus Lam. in mice infected with Plasmodium berghei. Ethiopian Journal of Health Development, 20(2), p.112.
  26. Sharma, L. and Sharma, A., 2014. In vitro antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activity of hydroalcoholic extract of roots of Withania somnifera. Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research, 6(8), pp.178-182.
  27. Rawat, V. and Bisht, P., 2014. Antibacterial activity of Withania somnifera against gram-positive isolates from pus samples. Ayu, 35(3), p.330.
  28. Mwitari, P.G., Ayeka, P.A., Ondicho, J., Matu, E.N., Bii, C.C. and Kareru, P.G., 2013. Antimicrobial activity and probable mechanisms of action of medicinal plants of Kenya: Withania somnifera, Warbugia ugandensis, Prunus africana and Plectrunthus barbatus. PLoS One, 8(6), p.e65619.
  29. Bisht, P. and Rawat, V., 2013. Antibacterial efficacy of Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal (Solanaceae) against the gram positive cocci isolates from clinical samples. Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, 2(2), pp.153-158.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *