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Fitoterapia 81 (2010) 223230

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Fitoterapia
j o u r n a l h o m e p a g e : w w w. e l s ev i e r. c o m / l o c a t e / f i t o t e

Review

Cassia occidentalis L.: A review on its ethnobotany, phytochemical and


pharmacological prole
J.P. Yadav , Vedpriya Arya, Sanjay Yadav, Manju Panghal, Sandeep Kumar, Seema Dhankhar
Department of Genetics, M. D. University, Rohtak 124001, Haryana, India

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 27 June 2009
Accepted in revised form 5 September 2009
Available online 29 September 2009
Keywords:
Cassia occidentalis
Anthraquinones
Antimicrobial activity
Antioxidant activity
Toxicity

a b s t r a c t
Cassia occidentalis L. is an annual or perennial Ayurvedic plant which is used in several
traditional medicines to cure various diseases. This weed has been known to possess
antibacterial, antifungal, antidiabetic, anti-inammatory, anticancerous, antimutagenic and
hepatoprotective activity. A wide range of chemical compounds including achrosin, aloeemodin, emodin, anthraquinones, anthrones, apigenin, aurantiobtusin, campesterol, cassiollin,
chryso-obtusin, chrysophanic acid, chrysarobin, chrysophanol, chrysoeriol etc. have been
isolated from this plant. The presented review summarizes the information concerning the
botany, ethnopharmacologyquery, phytochemistry, biological activity and toxicity of the C.
occidentalis plant.
2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Contents
1.
2.

Occurrence, botanical description and ethnopharmacology


Phytochemistry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.
Whole plant . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.2.
Roots . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.3.
Seeds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.4.
Leaves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.5.
Flowers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.6.
Fruits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.
Bioactivity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.1.
Antimicrobial activity . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.2.
Antioxidant activity/hepatoprotective activity .
3.3.
Antimalarial activity . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.4.
Anti-inammatory activity . . . . . . . . . .
3.5.
Antimutagenic/anticarcinogenic activity . . . .
3.6.
Other activities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.
Toxicological studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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1. Occurrence, botanical description and ethnopharmacology


Corresponding author. H. No.-339, Sector-14, HUDA, Rohtak 124001,
Haryana, India. Tel.: +91 1262 272563, +919416474640.
E-mail address: yadav1964@rediffmail.com (J.P. Yadav).
0367-326X/$ see front matter 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.tote.2009.09.008

Cassia occidentalis L. (Caesalpiniaceae) is an Ayurvedic


plant with important medicinal values. It is known by various

224

J.P. Yadav et al. / Fitoterapia 81 (2010) 223230

names, e.g. Coffee senna, fetid cassia, and Negro Coffee


(English). In India it is known by its various vernacular
names, the most commonly used ones are Kasamarda,
Kaasaari (Ayurveda), Kasaundi, Bari Kasaundi (Hindi),
Kasondi (Unani), Doddaagace (Kanad), Ponnaviram, Ponnarviriam (Malyalam), Kasinda (Telgu), Paeyaavarai and Thagarai (Siddha/Tamil) [1]. Coffee senna grows throughout the
tropics and subtropics including United States from Texas to
Iowa eastward, Africa, Asia and Australia [2,3]. In India, C.
occidentalis is a common weed found throughout India (up to
an altitude of 1500 m) [1] from Jammu and Kashmir to
Kanyakumari and used for a variety of purposes in indigenous
and folk medicines [46]. In Haryana, it grows widely immediately after the rain and started disappearing in the
beginning of cold weather.
C. occidentalis is an erect, somewhat branched, smooth,
semi-woody, fetid herb or shrub, 0.81.5 m tall, taproot, hard,
stout, with a few lateral roots on mid section. This plant
species varies from a semi-woody annual herb in warm
temperate areas to a woody annual shrub or sometimes a
short-lived perennial shrub in frost free areas [79]. The stem
of the plant is reddish purple. The young ones are 4-sided,
becoming rounded with age. Leaves are alternate, even
pinnately compound, each one with 46 pairs of nearly
sessile, opposite leaets, with a fetid smell when crushed,
each leaet 46 cm long, 1.52.5 cm wide, ovate or oblong,
lanceolate with a pointed tip and ne white hairs on the
margin. The rachis has a large, ovoid, shining, dark purple
gland at the base. Stipules are 510 mm long, often leaving an
oblique scar. Inorescence is a compound of axillary and
terminal racemes. The ower is perfect, 2 cm long with 5
yellowish green sepals with distinct red veins and 5 yellow
petals. The fruit is a dry, dehiscent, transversely partitioned,
faintly recurved, laterally compressed, sickle shaped legume
(pod), 712 cm long, 810 mm wide, with rounded tip and
containing 2550 seeds. Seeds are oval shaped, 3.54.5 mm
wide, attened; pale to dark brown, slightly shiny, smooth
and with a round pointed tip [10,11]. This plant is widely
consumed by animals and humans. However, some toxicological effects of seeds and leaves of this plant have been
observed [1220]. But still this plant is widely consumed by
the local people as a coffee substitute. It is a main ingredient
of Liv. 52 a hepatoprotective polyherbal formulation [21].

C. occidentalis is regarded as Edible weeds of Agriculture


or Famine food in a study by Humphry et al. in 1993 on two
Hausa villages [22]. She reported that nearly all villagers
(93%) protect these plants and did not remove them by
hoeing [23]. In Nasik district of Maharastra, C. occidentalis is
known as Ran-tarota. The roots of this plant species along
with roots of Caesalpinia sepiaria Roxb. and Azadirachta indica
A. Juss. are kept in water. This infusion is given against the
white discharge in ladies. In Mali, an African country, C.
occidentalis is used in a malarial formulation based on a
traditional recipe comprising of three antimalarial herbs,
leaves of C. occidentalis, leaves of Lippia chevalieri and ower
heads of Spilanthes oleraces [24]. Decoction of C. occidentalis
roots with black pepper is quite useful for larial disease [25].
In the Malyagiri hills, a decoction made from 15 leaves each of
C. occidentalis, Glycosmis pentaphylla and Vitex negundo is
used for bathing the new born baby at the end of 7th, 12th
and 21st days, to make the baby almost immune to skin
diseases by the Tanla people in Dhenkanal district of
Orissa [26]. According to Bhavaprakasam, Kasamarda (C.
occidentalis) is for constipation while in Wealth of India it is
stated that leaves, roots and seeds are purgative [27]. A
detailed view of the ethnomedicinal uses of different parts of
this plant is given in Table 1.
2. Phytochemistry
The main plant chemicals in C. occidentalis include: achrosin,
aloe-emodin, emodin [33], anthraquinones (Fig. 1), anthrones,
apigenin, aurantiobtusin, campesterol, cassiollin, chryso-obtusin, chrysophanic acid, chrysarobin, chrysophanol [34], chrysoeriol, emodin, essential oils, funiculosin, galactopyranosyl,
helminthosporine [35], islandicine, kaempferol, lignoceric acid,
linoleic acid, linolenic acid, mannitol, mannopyranosyl, matteucinol, obtusifolin, obtusin, oleic acid, physcion [34], quercetin, rhamnosides, rhein, rubrofusarin, sitosterols, tannins,
and xanthorine [3436]. The study of phytochemicals of C.
occidentalis reveals that the nature and amount of phytochemicals vary according to climate. For example stems, leaves and
the root bark of the plant from Ivory Coast, Africa contain small
amount of saponins, no alkaloids, sterols, triterpenes, quinines,
tannins and avonoids. However, a large amount of alkaloids
were found in the stem, leaves and fruits from Ethiopia [37].

Table 1
Ethnomedicinal importance of C. occidentalis.
Sr. No.

Plant part used

Ethnomedicinal use

1.

Whole plant

2.

Root

3.

Leaves

4.

Seeds

5.

Pods

C. occidentalis plant extract (45 drops) is used in curing eye inammations in Ayurveda. It is also used in Jamaican folk
medicines for curing diarrhoea, dysentery, constipation, fever, cancer, eczema and venereal diseases [28].
Infusion of roots (1020 g) is considered benecial in obstruction of stomach and incipient dropsy. Roots are also used as
veterinary medicines for animal diseases, and as antidote in case of poison [29]. Roots of C. occidentalis were also used
against gastric complaints, to increase lactation, in whooping cough etc. [30]. In Nigeria, the roots of this plant were boiled with
water and taken as tea for constipation and against white discharge in ladies [30].
Leaf paste is externally applied on healing wounds, sores, itch and cutaneous diseases. Leaves are also used on bone fracture,
fever, ringworm, skin diseases, throat infection and wounds. Twigs are used as tooth brushes. Leaves are burnt and the soot
obtained is mixed with coconut oil and applied on eye-lids for cooling sleep [31].
Seeds are roasted brown, pulverized, using a small amount (3 g = 1/10th of an ounce), to make tea with brown sugar, used in
Fujian as a tea substitute for the people with high blood pressure. Mature seeds are used on ring worms and as febrifuge [32].
The 810 roasted pods of this plant are eaten for cough problems in India. Decoction of fruits and owers (10 g) are used in
the treatment of mental disorders [32].

J.P. Yadav et al. / Fitoterapia 81 (2010) 223230

225

Fig. 1. Anthraquinones glycones from C. occidentalis plant.

Researchers found that seeds and roots are rich in free and
bounded anthraquinones, but the quantities differ markedly,
in general, the anthraquinone content is more in seeds and
less in leaves. Phytochemistry of different parts of the plant is
described below.
2.1. Whole plant
From the ethanolic extract of the whole plant of C.
occidentalis, 3,2-dihydroxy-7,8,4-trimethoxyavvon-5 O-{-D-allopyranoside-2 (Fig. 3) have been isolated [38]. The
structures have been established on the basis of chemical
evidence and spectroscopic methods. Three new C-glycosidic
avonoids, cassiaoccidentalins A, B and C, were isolated
from the aerial parts of C. occidentalis, and their structures
with a 3-keto sugar were established on the basis of spectroscopic and chemical evidence [39].
2.2. Roots
C. occidentalis root samples have been reported to possess
1.9% free and 4.5% total anthaquinones. Emodin, 1,8-dihydroxyanthraquinone and the avonoid quercetin were also
identied [33]. Young roots samples have been found to
possess chrysophanol and emodin. Physcion (free, bonded,
reduced and oxidized) together with chrysophanol have also
been reported [33]. Along with these known anthraquinones,
two xanthone derivatives pinselin and pigment E have also
been observed [40]. Later on new cassiollin was shown to be
pinselin [35]. Rhein investigation yielded 1,7-dihydroxy-3methyl xanthone in addition to pinselin [41]. Several 1,4,5trihydroxyanthraquinones from the root samples like Islandicine, helminthosporine and xanthorine have been isolated
[34]. Rai and Shok in 1983 [42] shown that the roots contain
rhein and aloe-emodin, both free and glycosidic. Two new
bis (tetrahydro) anthracene derivatives, occidentalol-I (IV,
R1 = Me and R2 = H) and occidentalol-II (III, R1 = R2 = H)
were isolated (Fig. 2) from the roots of C. occidentalis along
with chrysophanol, emodin, pinselin, questin, germichrysone,
methylgermitorosone and singueanol-I (I, R1 = R2 = Me).
The structures were established on the basis of spectral
evidence [43]. Two sterols named -sitosterol and campesterol (which usually occur together in a plant) were also
found in this plant [44]. From the callus of C. occidentalis
six anthraquinones islandicine, chrysophanol, physcion,
emodin, questin and 7-methyl-physcion, the bianthraquinones chrysophanol 10,10-bianthrone, three tetrahydroanthracenes germichrysone, methylgermitorosone and 7methyltorosachrysone plus the xanthone pinselin were

Fig. 2. Structures of Occidentol-I, II and Vitexin isolated from C. occidentalis


plant.

isolated [45]. Rai and Shok [46] found chrysophanol, rhein,


emodin and aloe-emodin in material from Nigeria.
2.3. Seeds
A toxic albumin besides chrysophanol has been detected
in the seeds of C. occidentalis [47]. From the seeds, toxins are
extracted by a solution of 25 mM NaHCo3 and 250 mM Na
Citrate [48]. After centrifuging the above solution with seeds,
a pellet comes that is actually the concentrated toxin. Its
identity is still unknown. Later on, 1,4-oxazine derivative nmethyl morpholine has been isolated from the seed samples
[49]. Seeds also contain physcion, physciondianthron heterosides and physcion condensed as homodianthrone as well
as a mixture of anthraquinones [50]. 1-glucoside of physcion
(0.018%) along with physcion (0.0068%) and two new anthraquinones like 1,8-dihydroxy-2-methyl anthraquinone
(0.0014%) and 1,4,5-trihydroxy-3-methyl-7-methoxy anthraquinone (0.0016%), chrysophanol free [51,52] and as a
glycoside were also found in seed samples [42,53]. Valeri and
Gimeno [54] recorded resin, tannins, carbohydrates and fatty
acids from the seeds. A new polysaccharide galactomannan
consisting of D-galactose and D-mannose in the proportion of
1:3.1, as well as trace amount of D-xylose was also found in
the C. occidentalis seeds [55,56]. From the seeds carbohydrates:
maltose, lactose, sucrose and rafnose are also detected [57].
There is also a report from Sudan, which indicates cardenolides
in the seeds [58]. Some other compounds which were identied
from the seeds of C. occidentalis are 1,8-dihydroxy-2-methyl
anthraquinone, physcion, rhein, aloe-emodin, chrysophanol
and steroidal glucosides [59]. In an another study, C. occidentalis
seeds were found to possess 3.2% oil content, 45% fatty acids
with a 2:20 ratio of unsaturated/saturated, 32.7 mg/100 g total
tocopherol content [60].
2.4. Leaves
A mixture of C-avonoids of apigenin (Fig. 3) , among them
probably vitexin and a 7-heteroside of vitexin, chrysophanol
and emodin as well as their glycosides and free physcion have

226

J.P. Yadav et al. / Fitoterapia 81 (2010) 223230

Fig. 3. Phytochemicals isolated from C. occidentalis plant.

been reported from the leaves of C. occidentalis [42]. Bianthraquinone 1,1-bi-4,4,5,5-tetrahydroxy-2,2-dimethyl anthraquinone as well as the avone metterucinol-7-O--Lrhamnoside was also isolated from leaf samples [61,62]. Other
compounds which were observed from the leaves of C.
occidentalis plant are alkaloids, avonoids, tannins, phlobatannins, chrysophanol, emodin, physcion, tetrahydroanthracene
derivatives, germichrysone and occidentalins A and B. It is also
noted that germichrysone and occidentalins A and B are
anticancerous in nature (59). The waterethanolic leaf extract
of Nigerian plants of this species showed the presence of
alkaloids, tannins, saponins and phlobatannins while avonoids were absent [63].

occidentalis plant (59). A review of literature in China [60]


revealed that several glycosides have been isolated from this
herb. These are anthraquinone derivatives and include Nmethylmorpholine, galactomannan, Cassiollin, Xanthorin, Helminthosporin, Apigenin, Dianthrone heteroside, etc.

2.5. Flowers

C. occidentalis leaf extracts were found to be active against


different microbes (Corynebacterium diphtheriae, Mucor sp.
Neisseria sp. Salmonella sp., Aspergillus niger) [68]. The leaf
extract of this plant when tested against different pathogenic
bacteria was found to be active against Salmonella enteritidis
and Staphylococcus aureus while a negative effect was observed against E. coli and Shigella dysenteriae [69]. In another
study on C. occidentalis leaf extracts obtained in different
solvents showed high antimicrobial activity on E. coli at
concentration between 9001000 mg. However, E. coli was
found to be most susceptible to a hexane extract at concentration ranges between 5001000 mg but there was no
antimicrobial activity exhibited against other tested microorganisms (Pseudomonas multocida, Salmonella typhi, S.
typhimurium, S. pyogenes, S. pneumoniae) [77]. Extracts from
the leaves, owers, pods and bark of C. occidentalis were
tested against different bacteria (Pseudomonas aeruginosa,
B. cerus, S. aureus, Proteus mirabilis and E. coli) and fungi

An analysis of owers indicated the presence of anthraquinones, emodin, physcion and physcion-1-O--D-glucoside
as well as the ubiquitous sterol -sitosterol [64].
2.6. Fruits
At present, only the two avonoid glycosides 3,5,3,4tetrahydroxy-7-methoxy avone-3-O-(2-rhamnosyl glucoside) (rhamnetin-neohesperidoside) (I) and 5,7,4-trihydroxy-3,6,3-trimethoxy avone 7-O-(2-rhamnosylglucoside)
(II) have been isolated. The bioside is present in the form of
neohesperidoside [65]. Both glycosides were found for the rst
time as natural products [66]. 1,8-dihydroxy-2-methyl anthraquinone; 1,4,5-trihydroxy-7-methoxy-3-methyl anthraquinone, physcion, rhein, aloe-emodin, chrysophanol and
steroidal glycosides were also reported from pods of C.

3. Bioactivity
C. occidentalis has been found to possess signicant antibacterial, antifungal, laxative, analgesic, chloretic and diuretic
properties [67].
3.1. Antimicrobial activity

J.P. Yadav et al. / Fitoterapia 81 (2010) 223230

(Candida albicans, Aspergillus niger, A. avus and Fusarium


oxysporum). It was found that the plant extract showed
signicant antimicrobial activities against all microorganisms
and inhibition zones were comparable to that of ampicilin
and gentamycin [7072]. When the ethanolic extract and
metabolite rich fractions of different parts of calli of C.
occidentalis were examined, it was observed that anthraquinones were more effective against E. coli and S. aureus
(22 mm) while sennosides were more effective against A.
avus (28 mm). However, when antiviral and antitumor
activity was tested, no activity of the extract was detected
[73]. The seeds of C. occidentalis possess a strong antibacterial
activity against S. aureus, B. subtilis, B. proteus and Vibrio
cholerae and against fungi A. avus, A. niger and Trichophyton
mentagrophytes [7476]. It was reported that an antibacterial
study of C. occidentalis on tested microorganisms like S.
aureus, S. typhi showed that these bacteria are sensitive to the
extract across all concentrations but S. typhi responded
maximally with a 16 mm zone of inhibition [7880]. When
antibacterial activity of plants used in the traditional
medicines of Ghana with particular reference to MRSA
(methicillin-resistant S. aureus) was studied, it was found
that C. occidentalis possesses signicant antibacterial activity
[35].
At the same time, mechanistic aspects of the antimicrobial
nature of C. occidentalis was also observed [80]. Ethanolic and
hot water extract of C. occidentalis was investigated for their
capacity to release sodium and potassium ions for some
selected pathogenic bacteria in the genera Bacillus subtilis,
Staphylococcus, Escherichia, Streptococcus, Klebsiella, Pseudomonas and Salmonella using ame photometer. It was found
that the aqueous extract was most effective in the leakage of
Na and K ions than the ethanolic extract of all organisms
except Salmonella. The aqueous extract released 2.66 ppm Na
ions on Pseudomonas aeruginosa, whereas ethanolic extract
released 13.3 ppm while the K ions released are 9.282 and
49.980 ppm for ethanolic and aqueous extracts respectively
[81]. In a further study the same group of researchers studied
the amount of protein, sodium and potassium ions released
by some pathogenic bacteria in broth cultures containing
methanolic extract from leaves of six Cassia species that
were investigated using absorption spectrophotometer. It
was observed that the amount of proteins released by C.
occidentalis greatly varies between B. subtilis (56 mg/ml) to S.
faecalis (0.6 mg/ml). Similarly, the amount of potassium ions
varies from Clostridium diphtheriae (11.50 ppm) to S. dysenteriae (1 ppm). Likewise the amount of sodium ions varies
from Bacillus subtilis (42 ppm) to S. marcense (3 ppm) [82].
The mechanism of action of the antimicrobial activity of the
family Caesalpiniaceae to which Cassia belongs may be
explained in terms of their ability to induce leakage of these
ions [83]. The antimicrobial [84] efcacy of the C. occidentalis
may result from damages and inactivation of enzymes
due to their ability to induce leakage of these ions [85].
Sodium ions and potassium ions have been known to affect
osmotic balances in the cell and their leakage might cause cell
lyses and eventual death. These ions are also known to
activate enzymes which are organic catalysts that mediate
biochemical reactions [82]. Most cell activity including
respiratory and biosynthetic functions are under the control
of enzymes.

227

3.2. Antioxidant activity/hepatoprotective activity


The hepatoprotective activity of aqueousethanolic (50%
v/v) extract of leaves of C. occidentalis was studied on rat liver
damage induced by paracetamol and ethyl alcohol by
monitoring serum transaminase, alkaline phosphatase,
serum cholesterol, serum total lipids and histopathological
alterations. The extract of leaves of the plant produced
signicant hepatoprotection [86]. Few observations have
demonstrated that C. occidentalis seed extracts reduced the
DNA degradation caused by iron (II)-driven Fenton reaction.
They also noted that inhibition of DNA damage may be due
to their strong ferrous ion chelation capability. In addition,
they also proposed that it may be due to their very good
scavenging activity towards free radicals. Himoliv is a
polyherbal ayurvedic formulation in which C. occidentalis is
an ingredient (20 mg/5 ml). Investigations have suggested
that this preparation prevents the carbon tetra chloride
induced hepatotoxicity in rats [87]. They suggested that this
formulation decreases the end products of lipid peroxidation
or MDA in liver of rats which are elevated by CCl4. They also
observed that Himoliv also enhanced the protective enzymes
superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase in liver homogenate of rats [87].
C. occidentalis is also used in another polyherbal formulation Liv.52 tablet and syrup used extensively in the
management of Hepatitis A (HA). In this syrup, several plants
along with C. occidentalis are used like Capparis spinosa, Cichorium intybus, Solanum nigrum, Terminalia arjuna, Achillea
millefolium and Tamarix gallica etc. A meta analysis of 50
clinical studies over 30 years in 4490 patients was performed
to evaluate the efcacy and short and long term safety of
Liv.52 in Hepatitis A [21]. This study concluded that Liv.52
tablets and syrups are effective and quite safe in the
management of hepatitis A. The cumulative data analysis
revealed clinical and biochemical improvements with significant symptomatic control. In addition, there was a highly
signicant reduction in the mean recovery period. There were
no reported or observed signicant adverse events in all trials
and the overall drug compliance was excellent [21].

3.3. Antimalarial activity


The C. occidentalis plant extract has a signicant antimalarial activity [8890]. The ethanolic, dichloromethane and
lyophilized aqueous extracts of C. occidentalis root bark was
evaluated for their antimalarial activity in vivo, in 4-day,
suppressive assays against Plasmodium berghei ANKA in mice
[88]. No toxic effect or mortality was observed in mice
treated, orally, with any of the extracts as a single dose, of
500 mg/kg body weight, or as the same dose given twice
weekly for 4 weeks (to give a total dose of 4 g/kg). At doses of
200 mg/kg, all the ethanolic and dichloromethane extracts
produced signicant chemosuppressions of parasitemia of
>60% for C. occidentalis root bark when administered orally.
The C. occidentalis was active and cause 60% chemosuppression. It is also observed that the lyophilized aqueous extract
was less active than the corresponding ethanolic extract [88].
Ethanol and chloroform extract of the C. occidentalis leaves
have been found to have good antimalarial activity. These

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J.P. Yadav et al. / Fitoterapia 81 (2010) 223230

extracts produce more than 60% inhibition of the parasite


growth in vitro at a concentration of 6 g/ml [89,90].

3.4. Anti-inammatory activity


The C. occidentalis leaves have good anti-inammatory
activity as assayed by Sadique et al. in 1987 [91]. They have
used Carrageenan induced paw edema and cotton pellet
granuloma assay and found that C. occidentalis was maximally
active at a dose of 2000 mg/kg. They have also noted the
ability of these extracts to lower the lipid peroxide content,
gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase and phospholipase A2 activity in the exudates of cotton pellet granuloma, resulting in
the reduced availability of arachidonic acid, a precursor of
prostaglandin biosynthesis, and/or by stabilization of the
lysosomal membrane system [91].
3.5. Antimutagenic/anticarcinogenic activity
A research effort on the search for the inhibitors of Srcfamily kinases because of their involvement in many srconcogene modulated signal transduction pathways have
shown that C. occidentalis (a Chinese antitumor medicinal
plant) is quite active in this bioassay. They have selected Lck
(p56lck) protein tyrosine kinase as their initial target for
identication of Src-family kinase inhibitors [92]. Ethanolic
extract of Senkot tablets (Cassia senna concentrate used as
vegetable laxative), was found to be non-mutagenic while it
inhibited the mutagenicity of benzopyrene, aatoxin B1 and
methyl methanesulfonate in the Ames histidine reversion
assay using Salmonella typhimurium tester strain TA98 and
TA100 [93]. They have also found Senkot extract completely
inhibited the mutagenicity of promutagens. Antimutagenic
effects of Senkot extract could be largely due to an interaction
with the metabolic process involved in the activation of
procarcinogens. The C. occidentalis extract is found to be
effective against the chromosomal aberrations produced by
benzopyrene and cyclophosphamide in mice [94].
3.6. Other activities
Herbolax is a polyherbal formulation that is commonly
used in treating constipation. C. occidentalis is one of the
ingredients of this preparation. A study of 30 subjects showed
the anticonstipation effect of Herbolax. It was noted that
all the patients reported smooth evacuation without any
strain and none of the patient reported purging, griping or
abdominal pain in addition, no subject complained of watery
stools, weakness, lethargy or cramps and no reoccurrence of
constipation at the end of 2 weeks [95]. C. occidentalis has an
immunostimulant activity. A new indigenous metabolic
corrective for newborns and infants called Bonnisan is also
made up of C. occidentalis (0.5 mg/5 ml). In this formulation
C. occidentalis, Piper longum, Elettaria cardamomum and Dill
oil help to bring immediate relief from discomfort caused by
gastric wind [96]. The effect of Bonnisan on new born children
indicate that babies on Bonnisan take their feeds vigorously,
digest and assimilate them and grow and become healthier
than other babies.

4. Toxicological studies
The toxic effects of C. occidentalis in the case of animals
were found mainly on skeletal muscles, liver, kidney and
heart. In animals the toxicity dose of beans varies from as
small as 0.05% to 0.5% of body weight. The acute liver and
muscle degeneration was chiey observed in animals [12,13].
Signs of intoxication in the chicken were weight loss,
weakness, diarrhea, hypothermia, occasionally ataxia, recumbency, and death. Gross lesions included paleness of skeletal
and cardiac muscles and congestion of the liver [48]. In
another study, signs of toxication were found in chickens as
focal swelling, fragmentation, and necrosis of myobers of
the semitendinosus muscle in histological sections [14].
Toxicological studies on liver mitochondria demonstrated
lower phosphorylation ratios, respiratory control ratios, and
rates of oxygen use in treated 3- to 4-week-old chicks [15].
Seeds of C. occidentalis were found to be toxic in pigs as they
developed ataxia and other signs of neuromuscular dysfunction within 6 or 8 weeks. Toxicological studies showed
lethargy, weakness, recumbency, depression, and emaciation
in rats when fed with 1%, 2%, and 4% of seeds [16,17].
Experiments showed the toxic effects of C. occidentalis on
rabbits. The histopathological examination of rabbits revealed
that the heart and liver were the most affected organs with
myocardial necrosis and centrolobular degeneration. They
also found a reduction in cytochrome oxidase activity in the
glycogenolytic bers, together with muscle atrophy, conrmed by the morphometric studies [18]. Many outbreaks of
acute childhood illnesses with severe brain dysfunction
(other than Japanese encephalitis (JE) due to consumption
of seeds of C. occidentalis occur in different parts of India. They
may be at different times and at different places [19,20,97,98].
The C. occidentalis poisoning in children seems to affect
mainly three systemshepatic, skeletal muscles and brain
[20]. C. occidentalis pods causes poisoning and results in fatal
coma in the children of Western Uttar Pradesh. Toxicity of the
Cassia beans is dose dependent. The consumption of 12 pods
by a young child may not have any deleterious impact; a large
binge can lead to serious disease and death [99]. Leaves of
the C. occidentalis plant have also been found to contain
toxic phytochemicals that may be toxic to humans. A detailed
study on brine shrimps for the investigation of toxicity of
Methanolic-chloroform extract of leaves of C. occidentalis
revealed that this plant extract possesses a LC50 value at
99.5 g/ml [100]. In another study, leaf extracts of the C.
occidentalis plant have exhibited lethality on brine shrimps at
a LC50 value of more than 1000 g/ml [101]. In further
investigations, the aqueous leaf extract of this plant has been
found to possess hypoproteinaemic effects and the levels of
the enzymes alanine amino transferase, aspartate amino
transferase and alkaline phosphatase are signicantly elevated which show C. occidentalis leaves may be slightly toxic as a
concoction for liver ailments [102]. However, in contrast, the
root, leaves and stems were found to be toxic for cattle only
when large amounts are consumed but in rats toxicity of the
leaves were observed at the dose of 12.5 g/kg body weight in
rats [103]. Arago et al., [104] studied the reproductive toxicity
of the C. occidentalis plant extract on pregnant female rats. In
this study, three groups of pregnant rats were treated orally
from the 1st to the 6th day (pre-implantation period) and

J.P. Yadav et al. / Fitoterapia 81 (2010) 223230

from the 7th to the 14th day (organogenic period) of


pregnancy, with doses of 250 and 500 mg/kg. They reported
that there was no signicant difference between the control
and treated groups in terms of offspring/dam relationship,
placenta and ovary weights etc. However, they observed the
presence of dead fetuses in both doses of 250 and 500 mg/kg
of C. occidentalis. Badami et al., [105] studied the reproductive
toxicity of an ethanolic extract of this plant along with Derris
brevipes and Justicia simplex in rats and it was observed that
the ethanolic extract possesses a more abortifacient type
effect than the anti-implantation activity. The ethanolic
extract also exhibited weak estrogenic activity when given
alone and tested in immature ovariectomized female albino
rats.
5. Conclusion
The scientic research on C. occidentalis suggests a huge
biological potential of this plant. It is strongly believed that
detailed information as presented in this review on the
phytochemical and various biological properties of the
extracts might provide detailed evidence for the use of this
plant in different medicines. The phytochemical variations
and efcacy of the medicinal values of C. occidentalis is
dependent on geographical locations and seasons. Roasted
seeds of this plant are very commonly used by local people of
Haryana as a coffee substitute and in curing several diseases.
However, raw seeds might have some toxicological side
effects. Further work, however, still needs to be carried out on
the toxicity of the raw seeds. There is a demand to
standardize the toxic properties of C. occidentalis and their
detailed clinical trials. After proper processing, identication
and removal of the harmful properties of seeds, they may be
utilized to prepare a good, nourishing and Ayurvedic coffee.
At the same time, the organic and aqueous extract of C.
occidentalis could be further exploited in the future as a
source of useful phytochemical compounds for the pharmaceutical industry.
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