Journal of Medicinal Plants Research Vol. 6(9), pp. 1492-1496, 9 March, 2012
Available online at http://www.academicjournals.org/JMPR
ISSN 1996-0875 ©2012 Academic Journals
Acacia nilotica: A plant of multipurpose medicinal uses
Atif Ali*, Naveed Akhtar, Barkat Ali Khan, Muhammad Shoaib Khan, Akhtar Rasul,
Shahiq-UZ-Zaman, Nayab Khalid, Khalid Waseem, Tariq Mahmood and Liaqat Ali
Department of Pharmacy, Faculty of Pharmacy and Alternative Medicine, The Islamia University of Bahawalpur,
Accepted 26 October, 2011
Acacia nilotica Lam (Mimosaceae) indigenously known as ‘Babul’ or ‘Kikar’ is a proverbial, medium
sized tree and is broadly scattered in tropical and subtropical countries. It has an inspiring range of
medicinal uses with potential anti-oxidant activity. This plant contributes a number of groups among
which are alkaloids, volatile essential oils, phenols and phenolic glycosides, resins, oleosins, steroids,
tannins and terpenes. A. nilotica is a medicinal plant acknowledged to be rich in phenolics, consisting
of condensed tannin and phlobatannin, gallic acid, protocatechuic acid, pyrocatechol, (+) -catechin, (-)
epi- gallocatechin-7-gallate and (-) epigallocatechin-5, 7-digallate. Different parts of this plant such as
the leaves, roots, seeds, bark, fruits, flowers, gum and immature pods act as anti-cancer,
antimutagenic, spasmogenic, vasoconstrictor, anti-pyretic, anti-asthamatic, cytotoxic, anti-diabetic,
anti-platelet agregatory, anti-plasmodial, molluscicidal, anti-fungal, inhibitory activity against Hepatitis
C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-I and antioxidant activities, anti-bacterial, anti-
hypertensive and anti-spasmodic activities, and are also engaged for the treatment of different ailments
in the indigenous system of medicine. This review spotlights on the detailed phytochemical composition,
medicinal uses, along with pharmacological properties of different parts of this multipurpose plant.
Key words: Acacia nilotica, phytomedicine, multipurpose plant, different parts, medicinal uses, pharmacological
Acacia nilotica (L.) Del. syn. Acacia arabica (Lam.) Willd.
(Mimosaceae) is an imperative multipurpose plant (Kaur
et al., 2005). A. nilotica is a plant 5 to 20 m high with a
thick spherical crown, stems and branches usually
sinister to black colored, grey-pinkish slash, fissured
bark, exuding a reddish low quality gum. The plant has
straight, light, thin, grey spines in axillary pairs, usually in
3 to 12 pairs, 5 to 7.5 cm long in young trees, mature
trees commonly without thorns. The leaves are bipinnate,
with 3 to 6 pairs of pinnulae and 10 to 30 pairs of leaflets
each, rachis with a gland at the bottom of the last pair of
pinnulae. Flowers in globulous heads 1.2 to 1.5 cm in
diameter of a bright golden-yellow color set up either
*Corresponding author. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abbreviations: HIV, Human immunodeficiency virus; DMBA,
7,12– dimethylbenz(a)anthracene; HCV, hepatitis C virus; PR,
protease; DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid.
axillary or whorly on peduncles 2 to 3 cm long located at
the end of the branches. Pods are strongly constricted,
white-grey, hairy and thick (baravker et al., 2008). A.
nilotica is a pantropical and subtropical genus with
species abundant throughout Asia, Australia, Africa and
America. A.nilotica occurs naturally and is imperative in
traditional rural and agro-pastoral systems (Shittu, 2010).
A. nilotica is recognized by the following names: Acacia,
Acacia Arabica, Babhul - Hindi and Napalese, Babla -
Bengali, Babool - Unani, Babool Baum - German,
Babhoola - Sanskrit, Babul, Babul Tree, Huanlong Kyain -
Burmese, Kikar, Mughilan - Arabian Indogom - Japenese
and Ummughiion – Persian (Steve, 2004). A. nilotica is
an imperative multipurpose plant that has been used
broadly for the treatment of various diseases (Singh et
Natural medicinal plants promote self healing, good
health and durability in ayurvedic medicine practices and
have acknowledged that A. nilotica can provide the
nutrients and therapeutic ingredients to prevent, mitigate
or treat many diseases or conditions). It also serves as a
Ali et al. 1493
Table 1. Some common medicinal uses of different parts of A. nilotica.
The roots are used against cancers and/or tumors (of ear, eye, or testicles),
tuberculosis and indurations of liver and spleen.
(Kalaivani and Mathew, 2010)
Chemoprventive, anitmutagenic, anti bacterial, anticancer, astringent, anti
microbial activity Tender leaves are used to treat diarrhea, Aphrodisiac,
dressing of ulcers,anti-inflammatory and Alzheimer’s diseases.
(Kalaivani and Mathew, 2010; Shittu,
2010; Kalaivani et al., 2010)
Astringent, emollient, liver tonic, antipyretic and antiasthmatic.
(Baravkar et al., 2008)
Anti bacterial, antioxidant, anti-mutagenic, cytotoxic bark is used as astringent,
acrid cooling, styptic, emollient, anthelmintic, aphrodisiac, diuretic, expectorant,
emetic, nutritive, in hemorrhage, wound ulcers, leprosy, leucoderma, small
pox, skin diseases, biliousness, burning sensation, toothache, leucoderma,
dysentery and seminal weakness. The trunk bark is used for cold, bronchitis,
diarrhoea, dysentery, biliousness, bleeding piles and leucoderma.
(Agrawal et al., 2010; Del, 2009;
Kalaivani and Mathew, 2010; Kaur et
al., 2005; Singh et al., 2009; Singh et
Spasmogenic activity and antiplasmodial activity.
(El-Tahir et al.,1999; Amos et al., 1999)
Anti hypertensive and antispasmodic, anti-diarrhoerial, astringent,anti-fertility
and against HIV-1 PR, Inhibited HIV-1 induced cythopathogenicity,
antiplatelet aggregatory activity and anti oxidant.
(Gilani et al., 1999; Asres et al., 2005;
Shah et al., 1997; Singh et al., 2009)
source of polyphenols (Singh et al., 2009a). The role of
these polyphenols to the plant itself is not well implicit,
but for the human kind they can be of prime strategies
(Singh et al., 2009a). The phytochemicals contribute
chemically to a number of groups among which are
alkaloids, volatile essential oils, phenols and phenolic
glycosides, resins, oleosins, steroids, tannins and
terpenes (Banso, 2009). This plant contain a profile of a
variety of bioactive components such as gallic acid,
ellagic acid, isoquercitin, leucocyanadin, kaempferol-7-
diglucoside, glucopyranoside, rutin, derivatives of (+)-
m-catechol and their derivatives (Singh et al., 2009a). It
has been reported that different parts of the plant are
prosperous in tannins (ellagic acid, gallic acid and tannic
acid), stearic acid, vitamin-C (ascorbic acid), carotene,
crude protein, crude fiber, arabin, calcium, magnesium
and selenium (Meena et al., 2006). A number of
medicinal properties have been ascribed to various parts
of this highly esteemed plant (Table 1). Traditionally the
bark, leaves, pods and flowers are used against cancer,
cold, congestion, cough, diarrhea, dysentery, fever, gall
bladder, hemorrhoid, ophthalmia, sclerosis, tuberculosis
and small pox, leprosy, bleeding piles, leucoderma and
They have spasmogenic, vasoconstrictor, anti/-
hypertensive, -mutagenic, -carcinogenic, -spasmodic, -
inflammatory, -oxidant and -platelet aggregatory
properties (Singh et al., 2009b). A. nilotica has anti-
plasmodial, molluscicidal, anti-fungal, anti-microbial
activity, inhibitory activity against HCV and HIV-I (Sultana
et al., 2007). The bark of the plant is used as astringent,
acrid, cooling, styptic, emollient, anthelmintic, aphrodisiac,
diuretic, expectorant, emetic and nutritive, in hemorrhage,
wound ulcers, leprosy, leucoderma, skin diseases and
seminal weakness. Gum is used as astringent, emollient,
liver tonic, antipyretic and antiasthmatic (baravkar et al.,
2008). The bark is used extensively for colds, bronchitis,
biliousness, diarrhoea, dysentery, bleeding piles and
leucoderma (Del, 2009). It is used by traditional healers
of different regions of Chattisgarh in treatment of various
cancer types of mouth, bone and skin. In West Africa, the
bark and gum are used against cancers and/or tumors (of
ear, eye, or testicles) and indurations of liver and spleen,
the root for tuberculosis, the wood for smallpox and the
leaves for ulcers (Kalaivani and Methew, 2010a). Pods
and tender leaves are given to treat diarrhoea and are
also considered very useful in folk medicine to treat
diabetes mellitus (Gilani et al., 1999). The tender twings
are used as toothbrushes (Meena et al., 2006). So far no
comprehensive review has been compiled encircling the
efficacy of this plant in all proportions from the literature.
Its stretchy utility as a medicine forced us to bridge the
information gap in this area and to write a comprehensive
review on the medicinal, phytochemical and
pharmacological traits of this plant of high economic
Plant compounds have interest as a source of safer or
more valuable substitutes than synthetically created
antimicrobial agents. Phytochemical progress has been
aided extremely by the development of rapid and
accurate methods of screening plants for particular
1494 J. Med. Plants Res.
chemicals. These procedures have shown that many
substances originally thought to be rather rare in
occurrence are of almost universal distribution in the
plant kingdom. The phytochemicals are divided
chemically into a number of groups among which are
alkaloids, volatile essential oils, phenols and phenolic
glycosides, resins, oleosins, steroids, tannins and
terpenes (Banso, 2009). Phytochemistry confirmed that
all the tested extracts contain physterols, fixed oils, fats,
phenolic compounds, flavanoids and saponins (Kalaivani
et al., 2010b). The phytochemicals alkaloids and
glycosides detected in the crude extracts of A. nilotica
roots are indicated (Jigam et al., 2010) below.
Phytochemical screening of the stem bark of A. nilotica
exposed that the plant contain terpenoids, alkaloids,
saponins and glycosides. Negative results were recorded
for steroids and flavonoids which authenticate the
absence of these phytochemicals (Banso, 2009). This
plant recommends a variety of phytochemical such as
gallic acid, ellagic acid, isoquercitin, leucocyanadin,
kaempferol-7-diglucoside, glucopyranoside, rutin,
derivatives of (+)-catechin-5-gallate, apigenin-6,8-bis-C-
glucopyranoside, m-catechol and their derivatives. A.
nilotica contains gallic acid, m-digallic acid, (+)-catechin,
chlorogenic acid, gallolyated flavan-3, 4-diol, robidandiol
(7, 3, 4, 5-tetrahydroxyflavan-3-4-diol), androstene
steroid, D-pinitol carbohydrate and catechin-5-galloyl
ester (Singh et al., 2009a). The bark is prosperous in
phenolics viz. condensed tannin and phlobatannin, gallic
acid, protocatechuic acid pyrocatechol, (+)- catechin, (-)
epigallocatechin-7-gallate, and (-) epigallocatechin-5,7-
digallate (Singh et al., 2009a). The bark is also reported
to contain (-) epicatechin, (+) dicatechin, quercetin, gallic
acid, (+) leucocyanidin gallate, sucrose and (+) catechin-
5-gallate (Mitra and Sundaram, 2007). A.nilotica is a
medicinal plant from which the polyphenolic compounds
kaempferol has been reported for the first time]. Another
compound umbelliferone has been reported from A.
nilotica (Singh et al., 2010b).
MEDICINAL USES AND PHARMACOLOGICAL
A. nilotica also has numerous medicinal uses. The
medicinal traits and pharmacological activities endorsed
to various parts of A. nilotica are detailed as follows.
Anti-hypertensive and anti-spasmodic activities
A decrease in arterial blood pressure is reported by use
of methanolic extract of A. nilotica pods and provides
evidence of anti hypertensive activities independent of
muscarinic receptor stimulation. In the in vitro studies, A.
nilotica has inhibitory effect on force and rate of
spontaneous contractions in guinea-pig paired atria and
rabbit jejunum. A. nilotica also inhibits K+ induced
contractions in rabbit jejunum advocating the
antispasmodic action of A. nilotica which is mediated
through calcium channel blockade and this may also be
responsible for the blood pressure lowering effect of A.
nilotica, observed in the in vivo studies (Gilani et al.,
An aqueous extract of the seed of A. nilotica is also
investigated on the isolated guinea-pig ileum which
exposed the sustained dose-related contractile activity. A
dose-related significant elevation of blood pressure is
produced by intravenous administration of the extract
(Amos et al., 1999).
Antibacterial and antifungal activities
The assays of the stem bark extracts confirms the
antimicrobial activity against Streptococcus viridans,
Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis
and Shigella sonnei using the agar diffusion method. A.
nilotica could be a potential source of antimicrobial
agents (Banso, 2009).
A. nilotica demonstrates highest activity against three
bacterial (E. coli, S. aureus and Salmonella typhi) and
two fungal strain (Candida albicans and Aspergillus niger)
(Kalaivani and Methew, 2010a).
The ethyl acetate extract holds the highest activity on
Plasmodium falciparum. Phytochemical analysis
indicated that the most active phase contained terpenoids
and tannins and was devoid of alkaloids and saponins
(El-tahir et al., 1999). Crude methanolic root extracts of A.
nilotica reveals significant activity against chloroquine
sensitive strain of Plasmodium berghei in mice (Jigam,
Water extract/fractions of A. nilotica (L.) in lipid
peroxidation assay possess the peroxyl radical
scavenging capacity and results prove the anti-oxidant
activity of plant.
The bark powder of the plant extracts with different
solvents found the scavenging activity using maceration
extraction (Del, 2009). Another study reveals that A.
nilotica is easily accessible source of natural antioxidants,
which can be used as supplement to aid the therapy of
free radical mediated diseases such as cancer, diabetes,
inflammation, etc (Amos et al., 1999). Furthermore, the
high scavenging property of A. nilotica may be due to
hydroxyl groups existing in the phenolic compounds that
can scavenge the free radicals (Kalaivani and Mathew,
Acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activities
Acetylcholinesterase is a basic aim in the treatment of
Alzheimer’s disease. It has been found that A. nilotica
has effect on central nervous system activities due to
potent Acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activities. More
investigations are required in the treatment of
Alzheimier’s (Crowch and Okello, 2009).
Studies have confirmed anti-diabetic activities. However,
pods and tender leaves are considered very beneficial in
folk medicine to treat diabetes mellitus (Gilani et al.,
Chemopreventive, cytotoxic and anti-mutagenic
It has been reported, that the antimutagenic and cytotoxic
activities exhibited by acetone extract may be due to the
presence of gallic acid and other polyphenols (Kaur et al.,
2005). It is reported that the leaf extract of A. nilotica had
significant chemopreventive and anti-mutagenic activity
than the other parts (Kalaivani and Mathew, 2010a). The
chemopreventive activity of A. nilotica gum, flower and
leaf aqueous extracts, on 7,12–
dimethylbenz(a)anthracene (DMBA) induced skin
papillomagenesis in male swiss albino mice has been
The chemopreventive and anti-mutagenic activity of the
leaf extract of A. nilotica was the most significant,
followed by the flower extract and then by gum (Meena et
The extract of A.nilotica is found to stimulate the
synthesis and release of prolactin in the female rate and
may be give a better result for lactating women (Lompo et
al., 2004). A. nilotica are used for tanning, dyeing of
leather, for gastrointestinal disorders, syphilitic ulcers and
toothache (Amos et al., 1999). A. nilotica pods have
reported inhibited HIV-1 induced cythopathogenicity
(Asres et al., 2005). Fresh roots extract used as narcotic,
known as Desi sharab (local bear), gum is used as
aphrodisiac with water; branches are used for cleaning
teeth (Badshah and Hussain, 2011). Methanolic bark
extract of bark has significant inhibitory effects of
sudanese medicinal plant extracts on HCV protease
(Hussein et al., 1999b). In the end, methanol extracts of
bark and pods have considerable inhibitory effects
against HIV-1 PR (protease) (Hussein et al., 2000a).
Ali et al. 1495
Based on the different studies on different parts of
A.nilotica, there is a grim need to isolate and identify new
compounds from different parts of the tree, which have
possible antimutagenic and cytotoxic activities.
Therefore, the spreadilbility of naturally occurring
polyphenolic compounds having ability to provide
protection against certain types of mutagens and
carcinogens is of great importance. The A. nilotica extract
was also studied for its possible interaction with serotonin
(5-HT) receptors which is associated with hypertension.
Furthermore, it contains additional serotonin blocking
compounds, which may be further studied for detailed
interaction with serotonin receptor subtypes (Gilani et al.,
1999). The high scavenging property of A. nilotica
exhibits high scavenging activity due to presence of
phenolic compounds. However, further research is
required to identify individual components forming anti-
oxidative system and develop their application for
pharmaceutical and food industries (Kalaivani and
Mathew, 2010a). Umbelliferone, a potent antioxidant
isolated from A. nilotica plant and food derived
antioxidants are implicated in the prevention of cancer
and aging by destroying oxidative species that initiate
carcinogenesis through oxidative damage of
deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) The supplementation of
functional food with antioxidants, which inhibit the
formation of free radicals, can lead to prevention of some
diseases As most of the antimu- tagenic compounds act
via scavenging of free radicals, There is intense need to
investigate the antioxidant activity of the functional
components present in the extract from A. nilotica (Singh
et al., 2009b).
Literature is however scarce in respect of the efficacy
of gallotannins as antiplasmodial agents so more
investigation is required (Jigam et al., 2010). Having
potential uses of this plant, it is highly recommended to
cultivate widely to get maximum production for welfare of
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