Pharmacology of Pterocarpus marsupium Roxb  

Hilal Ahmad , Kalyanaraman Rajagopal
Department of Biotechnology, School of Life Sciences, Vels University (VISTAS), Pallavaram, Chennai - 600117, India
Author    Correspondence author
Medicinal Plant Research, 2015, Vol. 5, No. 3   doi: 10.5376/mpr.2015.05.0003
Received: 06 Apr., 2015    Accepted: 12 Jun., 2015    Published: 02 Jul., 2015
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This is an open access article published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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Hilal Ahmad and Rajagopal K., 2015, Pharmacology of Pterocarpus marsupium Roxb, Medicinal Plant Research, 5(3) 1-6 (doi: 10.5376/mpr.2015.05.0003)


The plant Pterocarpus marsupium Roxb., belonging to the family Leguminosae commonly grows in the hilly regions of central and peninsular India. It has a long history of numerous traditional and ethno-botanical applications in diverse cultures. It is now considered as a valuable source of unique natural products for development of medicines against various diseases and for the development of industrial products. Aqueous extract of the wood of this plant has a long history to be used in treatment of diabetes mellitus. Literature suggests that Pterocarpus marsupium is useful in treating leprosy, skin diseases, diarrhoea, asthma, bronchitis, grayness of hairs, and other common problems. It is also considered as a potential source of drugs used as an anti-inflammatory, nootropic, astringent, anthelmintic, hypolipidemic, hepatoprotective, anti-ulcer, antioxidant, cardiotonic activities. The diverse pharmacological observations are supposed to be due to the presence of important contents like glycosides, saponins, tannins and flavonoids in it. This review addresses the experimentally authenticated facts and also suggests the need for research on chemical and pharmacological properties of Pterocarpus marsupium.

Pterocarpus marsupium; Diabetes mellitus; Anti-inflammatory; Nootropic; Glycosides; Flavonoids

The pharmacological information of medicinal plants has immensely contributed to health care, and scientific studies have shown that the evaluation of traditionally used medicines may provide leads towards effective drug discovery. Knowledge of the medical concepts in traditional system of medicine and its practice has lead to true innovation in drug development. It is approximated that more than 9,500 plant species are used for their therapeutic potentials (Narayana D.B.A et al., 1998). Moreover, FDA has even set up an exclusive department of complementary medicine to look for their role in health and diseases. Pterocarpus marsupium (PM) is one such plant that has been used for over thousands of years as a treatment of different diseases. It is used in 'Ayurveda' as 'Rasayana' for the management of various metabolic disorders. It has a long history of numerous traditional and ethnobotanical applications in diverse cultures. Many tribes considered it as a cure for all ailments. As per the traditional claim heartwood of Pterocarpus marsupium is the potential source of drugs used as an astringent, anti-inflammatory, anthelmintic, leprosy, skin diseases, diarrhea, asthma, bronchitis and grayness of hairs (Prajapati N.D. et al., 2000). It has been scientifically reported for hypolipidemic (Jahromi M.A. and Ray A.B., 1993), hepatoprotective (Mankani K.L. et al., 2005), anti-ulcer (Joshi M.C. et al., 2004), anti-inflammatory (Remsberg C.M. et al., 2008), and anti-diabetic activity (Karanjit N. et al., 2008). Extensive phytochemical studies have been carried out for this plant. Phytochemical testing showed that the methanol extract of P. marsupium contains carbohydrates, glycosides, saponins, tannins and flavonoids. The plant has been found to possess diverse number of biological activities. The P. marsupium tree has some medicinal property and is thus commercially exploitable. During the last five decades, apart from the chemistry of the P. marsupium compounds, considerable progress has been achieved regarding the biological activity and medicinal applications of P. marsupium. It is now considered as a valuable source of unique natural products for development of medicines against various diseases and for the development of industrial products. This review reveals the pharmacology of this valuable medicinal plant that ultimately provides the description, phytochemistry, and its activity in different medicinal ailments.

1 Plant description
Pterocarpus marsupium Roxb. is a moderate to large deciduous tree, 30 meters high commonly found in hilly regions.It belongs to Family: Fabaceae, Subfamily: Faboideae, Tribe: Dalbergieae, Genus: Pterocarpus and Species: marsupium. It is called Bibla or Vijayasar/ Bijasar in Hindi and Indian Kino in English. It is native to India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, where it occurs in parts of the Western Ghats in the Karnataka-Kerala region (Figure 1). It is also known by the names Malabar Kino, Benga, Bijiayasal (in western Nepal), Piasal (Oriya), Venkai, and many others. Its bark is brownish-grey, coming off in flakes, rough, longitudinally fissured and scaly, blaze pink with whitish marking (Mankani K.L. et al., 2005). Leaves are abundant, alternate without stipules, unequally pinnate with round petioles.

Figure 1 Geo-Distribution Map for Pterocarpus marsupium ROXB. in India (Ved D.K. et al., 2002-2004)

2 Phytochemistry of Prerocarpus marsupium
Extensive phytochemical studies have been carried out on the trunk and other parts especially the bark of this tree because of its medicinal value. Preliminary phytochemical screening of P. marsupium extract was done to test the presence of the active chemical constituents such as alkaloids, flavonoids, tannins, phenolic compounds, saponins, fixed oils and fats (Khandelwa K.R., 2004). Moreover, a variety of flavonoids and their derivatives have been isolated from various parts of the plant. It is also a rich source of polyphenolic compounds (Mayura R., 2004). Epicatechin (Figure 2) (Mol. formula-C15H14O6), a flavonoid isolated from bark (Akhtar Hussain., 2004) is assumed to be the main compound responsible for anti-diabetic effect (Ahmad F et al., 1989). However, recently three important phenolic constituents from the heartwood of P marsupium extracted are; marsupsin (Figure 3), pterosupin (Figure 4), and pterostilbene (Figure 5). Marsupsin and pterostilbene significantly lowered the blood glucose level of hyperglycemic rats (Manickam M et al., 1997). Rastogi and Mehrotra (1982) isolated 5, 7, 2-4 tetrahydroxyisoflavone 6-6 glucoside, which is a potent antioxidant and believed to prevent cardio vascular diseases. Some other compounds like Stilbene, pterostilbene (Mathew J et al., 1997), β-eudesmol, triterpene alcohol, erythrodiol-3-monoacetate (Adinarayana, D et al., 1982), catechin, epicatechin (Chakravarthy B.K et al., 1981) (Figure 2), pseudobaptigenin, liquiritigenin, garbanzol, 5-deoxykaempferol, chalcone, isoliquiritigenin, dihydrochalcone, pterosuprin and aromatic aldehyde, p-hydroxybenzaldehyde (Adinarayana, D. and Syamasundar, K.V., 1982), marsupol (4,4` dihydroxy-L-methylhydrobenzoin) (Subba Rao et al., 1982), and pterocarpols A and B (Bhargava P.N. 1946), also had known medicinal values. It consists of 4,6,4-trihydroxyaurone-6-O-rhamnopyranoside (I) and 4,6,4-trihydroxy-7-methylaurone-4-O-rhamnopyranoside (II) (Mohan P. and Joshi T, 1989), Kinotannic acid (70-80%) (Dr. Nadkarni’s, 2002). Recently eight compounds have been detected in ethanol extracts of Pterocarpus marsupium wood and bark respectively (Maruthupandian A. and MohanV.R., 2011). The compounds of the Pterocarpus marsupium wood extract were found to be 3-O-Methyl-d-glucose (73.31%), n-Hexadecanoic acid (9.19%), 1, 2-Benzenedicarboxylic acid, di Iso octyl ester (7.56%), Tetradecanoic acid (3.47%) and 9, 12-Octadecadienoic acid (z, z)-(2.49%). However they found that in its bark, D-Friedoolean-14-en-3-one (40.29%) was the predominant constituent followed by Lupeol (33.24%), 3-0 Methyl-d-glucose (10.97%), 1, 2-Benzene - dicarboxylic acid, di-iso-ortyl ester (6.96%), n- Hexadecanoic acid (4.42%) and 9, 12-octadecedienoic acid (z,z)-(3.03%).

Figure 2 Epicatechin

Figure 3 Marsupsin

Figure 4 Pterosupin

Figure 5 Pterostilbene

3 Pharamacological profile of Pterocarpus marsupium
3.1 Antidiabetic Activity
Many plants have been used for the treatment of diabetes mellitus in Indian system of medicine and in other ancient systems of the world. Out of these, only a few have been evaluated as per modern system of medicine. Pterocarpus marsupium is one such plant that has been used for over thousands of years as a treatment of diabetes mellitus (Warrier P.K. et al., 1995). The water kept in tumblers made out of the wood of this plant is said to be beneficial for chest pain and diabetes in several parts of North India (Satyavati G.V. and Gupta A.K., 1987). The bark is traditionally used in Indian Ayurveda system of medicine as an anti-diabetic drug (Abu Zaid M et al., 2002). An active principle (-) epicatechin was isolated from the ethanolic extract of the bark by Chakraborty BK et al in 1982. They reported the presence of three phenolic principles, pterostilbene {4-[b-(3, 5-dimethoxyphenyl)-(E)-ethenyl]-phenol}, marsupsin {2,6-dihydroxy-2-[(4-hydroxyphenyl) methyl]-4-methoxy-3(2H)-benzofuranone}, and pterosupin {1-(2,4-dihydroxy,3-b-d-glucopyranosyl- phenyl)-3-hydroxy-3-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-1-propanone)}, as antidiabetic agents, in the ethyl acetate-soluble portion of aqueous extracts of the heartwood. However, marsupsin and pterostilbene significantly lowered blood glucose in hyperglycemic rats and effect was comparable to Metformin (Manickam M et al., 1997).
3.2 Antidiarrheal activity
Diarrhea is a common cause of death in developing countries and the second most common cause of infant’s death worldwide. Previous investigations reveal the anti-diarrheal property of Pterocarpus marsupium (Grover R.K et al., 2004). While the leaves were used in gastrointestinal diseases (Rout S.D et al., 2009). At a dose of 250 and 500 mg/kg, ethanolic heartwood extract of Pterocarpus marsupium significantly reduced the frequency and severity of diarrhea. The research is in fact supported by the assumption that flavonoids are the key sources to inhibit the intestinal secretary response induced by prostaglandins E2 (Sanchez de Medina F et al., 1997). In addition, flavonoids present antioxidant properties which are presumed to be responsible for the inhibitory effects exerted upon several enzymes including those involved in the arachidonic acid metabolism (Mora A. et al., 1990). Therefore, they concluded that these constituents may be responsible for the anti diarrheal activity of the ethanolic extract of P. marsupium.
3.3 Anti-inflammatory activity
Several plant species have been traditionally used as anti-inflammatory agents. The use of P. marsupium to cure boils, gleet (a watery discharge from the urethra caused by gonorrhoeal infection), urethrorrhea, odontalgia, psoriasis, and wounds has long history in Indian medicine (Rastogi and Mehrotra.,1982). However, the aqueous extract of P. marsupium was reported to possess anti-inflammatory activity (Salunkhe V.R et al., 2005). The research work to check the anti-inflammatory effect of this plant was carried out by Mohammed Rageeb et al. (2012). They subjected the aqueous and methanol extracts to assess anti-inflammatory effect by acute inflammation model using carrageenan induced rat paw Odema technique. Their results indicated that methanol extract (50mg/kg) showed good significant (p<0.001) reduction in paw Odema from 2nd to 4th hour when compared to control group and near similar aqueous extract was significant after 1st hour at 100mg/kg concentration. Thus, they concluded that both extracts (100mg/kg) of treated group showed good significant anti-inflammatory activity.
3.4 Cardiotonic activity
The phytochemical analysis of P. marsupium reveals that there is a minute concentration of phenolic contents in it. According to research these are main antioxidants, which are believed to prevent degenerative diseases including cardiovascular diseases. The phenolic flavonolaglycone and other glycosides exhibit a wide range of biochemical effects including vasodilatoryactions (Duarte J et al., 1993) and also inhibit the platelet aggregation (Tzeng S.H et al., 1991). According to Mohire N.C et al (2009), an antioxidant isoflavone C-glycoside macrocarposide isolated from the heartwood of P. marsupium characterized as 5, 7, 2-4 tetrahydroxyisoflavone 6-6 glucoside (Rastogi and Mehrotra., 1982), prevents cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, using isolated frog heart perfusion technique (IFHP), they studied that its aqueous extract having wide therapeutic window imparts good cardiotonic activity when compared to digoxin (0.5 mg/ml), a drug with narrow therapeutic window.
3.5 Memory enhancing activity
Dementia is a mental disorder characterized by loss of intellectual ability sufficiently severe as to interfere with one’s occupational or social activities and it invariably involves impairment of memory. Centrally acting anti-muscarinic drugs (e.g. scopolamine) impair learning and memory both in animals (Higashida A. and Ogawa N., 1987) and human beings (Sitaram N et al., 1978). Because of the harmful effects of these so used drugs, in the recent years, there has been a phenomenal rise in the interest of scientific community to explore the pharmacological action or to confirm veracity of claims made about herbs. However several plants have been reported to possess nootropic activity (Nadkarni A.K., 1976). The phytochemical tests of methanol extract of P. marsupium showed the presence of saponins, tannins and flavonoids. It is known that saponin compounds have nootropic activities (Chintawar S.D et al., 2002) which partially explain the mechanism of action of extract. Bhupendra C. and Amrendra K.C. (2011), investigated the effects of methanol extract of P. marsupium Roxb. on learning and memory in albino mice. The mice administered with 25 mg/kg of the extract could significantly maintain the equilibrium on the rotating rod. Administration of P. marsupium significantly ameliorated scopolamine induced amnesia in elevated plus maze test as indicated by increase in inflexion ratio and reduction in transfer latency. In a way they investigated that P. marsupium can be a promising memory-enhancing agent.
4 Conclusion
Pterocarpus marsupium is popularly known as Vijaysar in Hindi and Indian malabar or Indian Kino in English. It is a moderate to large deciduous tree, 30 meters in height, commonly found in hilly regions. It has a long history of numerous traditional and ethnobotanical applications in diverse cultures. This plant has many pharmacological actions. As per the traditional claim heartwood of Pterocarpus marsupiumis the potential source of drugs used as an astringent, anti-inflammatory, anthelmintic, leprosy, skin diseases, diabetes, diarrhea, asthma, bronchitis and grayness of hairs. It has been scientifically reported to induce hypolipidemic, hepatoprotective, anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory, cardiotonic, and anti-diabetic activities. Aqueous extract of its wood is used in treatment of diabetes mellitus. This plant also shows nootropic activity. The phytochemical tests of methanol extract of P. marsupium showed the presence of various phyto-contents like, carbohydrates, glycosides, saponins, tannins and a variety of flavonoids and their derivatives have been isolated from various parts of the plant. It is also a rich source of polyphenolic compounds. Thus, we concluded that this Asian plant can be treated as a best remedy to cure many ailments and it can better act as an alternative source to cure most dominant health problems like diabetes mellitus, heart disease, lose of memory and diarrhea, which needs further advanced research to make it a better drug of future.
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