Journal of Medicinal Plants Research Vol. 5(9), pp. 1508-1511, 4 May, 2011
Available online at http://www.academicjournals.org/JMPR
ISSN 1996-0875 ©2011 Academic Journals
The pharmacological activities of prunes: The dried
Qaiser Jabeen* and Naveed Aslam
Department of Pharmacy, the Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Pakistan.
Accepted 28 February, 2011
Prunes are dried plums and consumed as food or medicine. Prunus domestica, Prunus salicina and
Prunus americana are the important sources of prunes. Prunes are highly reputed in folk medical
practices for nutritive, laxative and digestive properties and used for treatment of hypertension,
diabetes, jaundice and fever. The recent studies showed that it has antioxidant, anticancer, anti-
hyperglycemic, anti-hyperlipidemic, antihypertensive, anti-osteoporosis, laxative and hepatoprotective
activities. Prunes contain dietary fibers, carbohydrates, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and antioxidant
polyphenolic phytochemicals. Therapeutically active constituents and their possible mechanisms of
actions are also been discussed.
Key words: Prunes, antioxidant, anticancer, antihypertensive, antihyperlipedimeic, osteoporosis, laxative,
Prunes are considered as healthy food because of lower
fat contents and contain considerable amount of
important nutrients like carbohydrates, vitamins and
minerals. Prunes and prune products also possess
medicinal value. Consumption of fruits, like plums and
prunes, is useful in blood circulation problems, measles,
digestive problems (Li, 2008), in prevention of cancer,
diabetes and obesity. Prunes are high in potassium
contents and have beneficial effects in cardiovascular
problems. Prunes increase the motility of the
gastrointestinal tract and have been found to possess
laxative activity. A 100 g serving of prunes fulfill, daily
requirement of boron. Prune consumption does not
immediately raise blood glucose, therefore, beneficial in
diabetes (Stacewicz et al., 2001).
Regular consumption of amygdalin containing fruits
was considered to have anticancer action (Ferrel, 1998).
Recent studies demonstrated that the cancer preventing
actions of prunes are associated with its polyphenolic
contents and antioxidant activity, which have inhibitory
effects on mutagenesis and carcinogenesis.
*Corresponding author. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org,
email@example.com. Tel: +92-300-2540023.
Botanical origin: Prunus domestica L. (European Plum),
Prunus salicina L. (Japanese Plum), Prunus Americana
Marsh. (American plum, Marshall’s large yellow sweet
English name: Plum
Urdu name: Alu-Bukhara, Alucha
Part used: Fruits (Plum or Prunes)
Fleshy fruits of several species of genus Prunus,
including that of P. domestica, P. salicina, P. americana,
are called Plum. More than 100 species of plum are
cultivated in the temperate zones throughout the world
since prehistoric times. Commonly, dried plums are
called prunes. China is leading plum producing country
in the world. Plants are small to medium sized trees.
Leaves are ovate or elliptical with acute or obtuse tips,
short petioles and crenulate margins. Flowers are small,
white and have longer pedicels, mostly born in umbel-like
clusters of 2-3 individuals on short spurs, and solitary or
2-3 in axils of 1 year old wood. Fruits are fleshy, oval or
round to conical having glaceous surface. Fruits come in
variety of colors and sizes.
NUTRITIONAL AND PHYTOCHEMICAL STUDIES
Prunes are significant source of major nutrients, including
carbohydrates, several amino acids, vitamin A, vitamin B-
complex, vitamin K, potassium, calcium, magnesium,
zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, boron and dietary
fibers. Prunes fiber consist mainly of soluble fraction
(80%) including pectin, hemicellulose, cellulose and
lignins. Drying process increases the total dietary fibers
(Siddiq, 2006). Sorbitol, glucose, fructose and sucrose
are major simple sugars. Malic acid is the predominant
acid, although citric, tartaric, benzoic and boric acid were
also identified in prunes. Difference in flavors depends
upon degree of sourness rather than the degree of
sweetness (Jhones and Bulls, 1929). Several volatile
components have been isolated from P. domestica fruit,
out of which benzaldehyde, linalool, ethyl nonanoate,
methyl cinnamate and γ-decalactone are found to
contribute in plum aroma (Ismail and Williams, 1981).
Drying causes disappearance of some volatile compo-
nents and formation of new componds. Three major
compounds identified in dry prunes were benzaldehyde,
2-furancarboxyaldehyde and ethyl cinnamate (Sabarez et
Plums and prunes are rich source of polyphenolic
phytochemicals. Total phenolic contents of different plum
cultivars have been reported between 282-922 mg/100 g
of fruit (Siddiq, 2006). Phenolic compounds of prunes
consist mainly of chlorogenic acid, neochlorogenic acid,
caffeic acid, coumaric acid, rutin (Donovan et al., 1998)
and proanthocyanidin (Kimura et al., 2008). Drying
process increases the antioxidant activity due to non-
enzymatic reaction products, called melanodins. In
prunes, polyphenols contribution in antioxidant activity of
prunes is only about 23% of the total antioxidant activity
(Madrau et al., 2010).
MEDICINAL AND TRADITIONAL USES
In Unani medicine, prunes are regarded as nutrient,
refrigerant, demulcent, cooling, digestive, laxative and
tonic. Prunes have been used for centuries in sweet
dishes, sauces, rice-meat dish (Biryani). It is used for
treatment of acid dyspepsia, nausea, vomiting, to lessen
thirst, in bilious fevers and headache. Being somewhat
mucilaginous, it cools stomach. Prunes are used in
general debility (Usmanghani et al., 1997). Prunes are
soaked in a glass of water overnight and the resulting
juice is given to patients in morning for the treatment of
hypertension (Usmanghani et al., 1986), jaundice and
hepatitis (Abbasi et al., 2009). P. domestica is used for
lowering blood glucose in Elazing Central District of
Turkey (Cakilcioglu and Turkoglu, 2009). It is also
indicated for the treatment of dysmenorrhea, leucorrhea,
miscarriage, asthma and fever (Duke et al., 2002).
Jabeen and Aslam 1509
Total phenolic contents and total antioxidant capacity of
prunes were found higher than other dry fruits including
dates, figs and raisins (Wu et al., 2004). Prune extract
and juice inhibit oxidation of isolated human LDL
(Donovan et al., 1998). Caffeoylquinic acids, hydorxy
cinnamic acids, protocatechuic acid, coumarins, lignins
and flavanoids present in prunes have high antioxidant
activity (Kayano et al., 2004). Methanol elute of water
soluble fraction of ethanolic extract of prunes was found
to have a novel compound, 4-amino-4-carboxychrome-2-
one, which was found to have synergistic action on
antioxidant activity of caffeoylquinic acid isomers (Kayano
et al., 2002). Neochlorogenic acid and chlorogenic acid
isomers in prunes have superoxide anion scavenging
activity and inhibit methyl linoleate oxidation (Nakatani et
al., 2000). Two liginin glucosides have been isolated from
P. domestica fruit which have good oxygen radical
absorbance activity (Kikuzaki et al., 2004).
Ethanol fraction of prune juice has been shown to
suppress proliferation and induce apoptotic changes in
human colon carcinoma cells (Fujii et al., 2006).
Protocatechuic acid in prunes and other fruits has been
demonstrated to prevent epithelial cells malignancy in
different tissues. The anticancer effects of prunes are
probably associated with antioxidant activity of its
constituents. Interference with metabolic activation of
carcinogens or direct blocking of carcinogen binding with
DNA molecules resulting in mutation and neoplastic
transformation may also be involved in anticancer activity
of protocatechuic acid (Tanaka et al., 2011).
Daily ingestion of prunes has shown to decrease plasma
and LDL cholesterol in mild hypercholesterolemic
persons (Tinker et al., 1991). Prune fibers decreased
plasma and liver cholesterol in hyperlipidemic rats (Tinker
et al., 1994). In vitro binding of bile acids with prunes was
compared with other fruits and cholestyramine. Total
polysacchrides of prunes were found to process 50% bile
acid binding capacity of cholestyramine (Kahlon and
Smith, 2007). Dried prunes supplementation at level of
9.5% prevents athereosclerosis in apoprotein-E deficient
mouse in high cholesterol diet (Gallaher and Gallaher,
2009). Therefore, daily ingestion of prunes may be
helpful in atherosclerosis amelioration through lipid and
lipoprotein lowering actions.
1510 J. Med. Plant. Res.
Blood pressure lowering activity
Caffeic acid decreased reactive oxygen species in
angiotensin-II treated vascular smooth muscle cells
obtained from stroke prone spontaneously hypertensive
rats (SHRSP) and chronic administration of prunes
extract hampered elevation of blood pressure in SHRSP
(Neigeshi et al., 2007).
Use in age-related cognitive deficits
Regular supplementation of plum juice in rats is effective
in mitigating age- related cognitive deficits, which may be
attributed to antioxidant activity of plum juice (Shukitt et
In mouse models of anxiety, chlorogenic acid, in a dose
of 20 mg/Kg has anxiolytic effect, which may be mediated
through activation of benzodiazepine receptors (Bouayed
et al., 2007). Recently, oxidative stress in brain is impli-
cated in pathogenesis of anxiety disorders (Bouayed et
al., 2009). Prunes may be beneficial in anxiety disorders
due to chlorogenic acid contents and ability to improve in
Good for bones
Prunes are very effective in preventing or reversing bone
loss (Hooshmand and Arjmandi, 2009). Prunes are rich
source of selenium and boron. Both of these trace
elements modulate bone metabolism and preserve bone
mineral density. Prunes prevented ovariectomy induced
loss in bone mineral density in female rats. Inclusion of
prunes in diet reversed bone loss in ovarian hormone
deficient rats, in orchidectomized male rats (Bu et al.,
2007) and in adult and aged male mice (Halloran et al.,
2010). Prunes and its polyphenols decrease bone
resorption by suppressing nuclear receptor activator for
NF-κB ligand (RANKL) signaling by osteoblasts, which in-
turn down-regulates osteoclast differentiation and activity.
The prunes polyphenols also increase osteoblast activity
and function in-vitro, which was associated with up-
regulation of key transcription factors and growth factors
involved in osteoblast differentiation and collagen
crosslinking respectively (Smith, 2007) and direct inhibi-
tion of osteoclastogenesis by down-regulating nuclear
factor for activated T cells (NFATc1) and inflammatory
mediators (Bu et al., 2008). In postmenopausal women,
prunes supplementation increased bone formation and
decreased resoprtion, thus decreasing risk of
osteoporotic fractures (Arjmandi, 2001; Hooshmand and
Useful in constipation and liver disorders
The prunes were reported to contain oxyphenisatin,
which has been shown to act as contact laxative (Ritchie,
1972). High sorbitol contents and cholorogenic acids also
contribute to laxative effect of prunes (Stacewicz et al.,
2001). In a randomized, double blind crossover study,
260 g /day consumption of yoghurt containing galacto-
oligosaccharides (12 g/day), prunes (12 g/day) and
linseed (12 g/day) reduced the severity of constipation in
elderly subjects with mild constipation (Sairanen et al.,
2007). Daily ingestion of prune juice by human volunteers
was found to have mild laxative effect (Piirainenad et al.,
2007) and significant reduction in serum activities of
alanine transaminase and serum alkaline phosphatase
(Ahmed at al., 2010). Therefore, prune juice may be
useful as mild laxative and beneficial in hepatic diseases.
The eatable portion of prunes is non-toxic. Seeds contain
cyanogenic glycosides; amygdalin and prunasin, which
upon hydrolysis, release toxic hydrogen cyanide. These
glycosides are not hydrolyzed and remain confined in
seeds until cell are not damaged. Consumption of
improperly processed food containing plum or prunes can
cause cyanide poisoning (Vetter, 2000).
There is no report of adverse effects. Many people may
have avoided consuming dried plum due to reported
laxative effects. But studies demonstrated that
consumption of prunes in daily diet up to 100 g by men
and postmenopausal women did not significantly change
their bowel habits (Tinker et al., 1991; Lucas et al., 2004).
Prunes have been found pharmacologically active as
antioxidant, anticancer, anxiolytic, mild laxative and
antihyperlipedimic. Their efficacy in treatment and
prevention of hypercholesterolemia and osteoporosis has
been documented in clinical studies. It exerts positive
effects on cardiovascular parameters possibly through
anti-oxidant activities, high fiber and potassium contents.
In conclusion, prunes have wide range of nutritional and
medicinal uses and daily consumption can be beneficial
in the treatment or prevention of different ailments.
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