PHARMACOLOGICAL AND MEDICINAL USES OF ACHYRANTHES
Amity Institute of Biotechnology, Amity University, Lucknow (U.P.) – India 226010
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Abstract: Herbal medicines are widely used since time immemorial indicating that herbs are
a growing part of modern, high-tech medicine. India has an ancient heritage of traditional
herbal medicine. The medicinal plants are used for treatment of various diseases because of
their safety and effectiveness. The problem of microbial resistance is growing and the outlook
for the use of antimicrobial drugs in the future is still uncertain. Therefore, actions must be
taken to control the use of antibiotic, to develop research to better understand the genetic
mechanisms of resistance, and to continue studies to develop either synthetic or natural new
drugs. Numerous studies have been done on herbals confirming their potential antimicrobial
property against microorganisms. One of the strategies towards attaining this objective is the
rational localization of bioactive phytoconstituents. Achyranthes aspera (Amaranthaceae) is
an important medicinal herb found as a weed throughout India. Though almost all of its parts
are used in traditional systems of medicines, seeds, roots and shoots are the most important
parts which are used medicinally. The present review describes some of the important
medicinal properties of Achyranthes aspera, which are instrumental in making it potent
Keywords: Medicinal properties, pharmacological activities, Antimicrobial medicinal plants,
Microbial resistance, Antibiotics.
Knowledge of herbs has been handed down from generation to generation for
thousands of years [Bown 1995]. Herbal medicines have a strong traditional or conceptual
base and the potential to be useful as drugs in terms of safety and effectiveness leads for
treating different diseases. World Health Organization has made an attempt to identify all
medicinal plants used globally and listed more than 20,000 species [Srivastav et al. 2011].
According to the WHO more than 80 % of the world’s population relies on traditional herbal
medicine for their primary health care [Vijayan et al. 2007]. Plants have an extraordinary
ability to synthesize aromatic substances which are usually phenols or their oxygen-
substituted derivatives. The medicinally active plant compounds are usually their secondary
metabolites like terpenoids, quinones, flavonoids, tannins etc that are responsible for
protecting the plants from microorganisms, insects and other natural pests. In the recent past
International Journal of Science, Environment ISSN 2278-3687 (O)
and Technology, Vol. 3, No 1, 2014, 123 – 129
Received Nov 18, 2013 * Published February 2, 2014 * www.ijset.net
124 Saba Hasan
there has been a tremendous increase in the use of plant based health products in developing
as well as developed countries resulting in an exponential growth of herbal products globally.
One of the many plants used is Achyranthus aspera. A. aspera Linn. belongs to the family
Amaranthaceae, is an annual, stiff erect or procumbent, annual or perennial herb, 1-2m in
height, often with a woody base, commonly found as a weed of waysides, on roadsides
[Anonymous 2005, Jain et al. 2006, Zafar 2009]. Achyranthes aspera Linn. is a well-known
plant drug in Ayurvedic, Unani-Tibbi, Siddha, Allopathic, Homeopathic, Naturopathic &
Home Remedies [Dhale et al. 2013]. It is an annual shrub found distributed throughout the
tropical and subtropical regions. It is commonly found in India, Baluchistan, Sri Lanka,
tropical Asia, Africa, Australia, and America [The Wealth of India 1985]. This wild tropical
plant is known by different names such as Chirchita (Hindi), Apamarga (Sanskrit), Aghedi
(Gujarati), Apang (Bengali), Nayurivi (Tamil), Kalalat (Malyalam), [Dwivedi et al., 2008]
and Agadha (Marathi) in India. The plant is used in indigenous system of medicine as
emenagogue, antiarthritic, antifertility, laxative, ecbolic, abentifacient, anti-helminthic,
aphrodisiac, antiviral, anti-plasmodic, antihypertensive, anticoagulant, diuretic and anti-tumor
[Anonymous 1985, Ratra et al. 1970]. It is also useful to treat cough, renal dropsy, fistula,
scrofula, skin rash, nasal, infection, chronic malaria, impotence, fever, asthma, piles and
snake bites [Singleton 1999]. This plant is astringent, digestive, diuretic, laxative, purgative
and stomachic. The juice of the plant is used in the treatment of boils, diarrhea, dysentery,
hemorrhoids, rheumatic pains, itches and skin eruptions [Londonkar et al. 2011]. It is
reported to contain alkaloids, flavonoids, saponins, steroids and terpenoids. Flavonoids have
shown to prevent or slows the development of some cancers [Narayana et al. 2001] and
mostly act as an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agents.
Fig 1: Roots of Achyranthes aspera Fig 2: Inflorescence of Achyranthes aspera
Pharmacological and Medicinal Uses oF Achyranthes Aspera 125
Kingdom – Plantae
Subkingdom - Tracheobinota
Super Division - Spermatophyta
Division - Mangoliophyta
Class - Mangoliophsida
Subclass - Caryophyllidae
Order - Caryophyllales
Family - Amaranthaceae
Genus - Achyranthes
Species – Aspera
The plant is widespread in the world as a weed, in Baluchistan, Ceylon, Tropical Asia,
Africa, Australia and America. It is found on road sides, field boundaries and waste places as
a weed throughout India up to an altitude of 2100 m and in South Andaman Islands
[Anonymous 2005, Gupta 2010]. In the northern part of India it is known as a medicinal plant
in different systems of folk medicine.
Achyranthes aspera L. (Family Amaranthaceae) is a common plant of the study area
abundantly found in wastelands. It is known as “Prickly chaff flower” in English and
“Chirchita”, “Onga”, “Latjeera” or “Apamarga” in local language and dialects. The plant is
highly esteemed by traditional healers and used in treatment of asthma, bleeding, in
facilitating delivery, boils, bronchitis, cold, cough, colic, debility, dropsy, dog bite, dysentery,
ear complications, headache, leucoderma, pneumonia, renal complications, scorpion bite,
snake bite and skin diseases etc [Jain 1991]. Traditional healers claim that addition of A.
aspera would enhance the efficacy of any drug of plant origin.
Spermicidal Activity: Extracts from roots of Achyranthes aspera have been reported to
possess spermicidal activity in human and rat sperm, as studied by Paul et al. (2010). Study
was made on hydroethanolic, n-hexane and chloroform extracts, which were found to be most
effective for sperm immobilization, sperm viability, acrosome status, 5’-nucleotidase activity
and nuclear chromatin decondensation. Vasudeva and Sharma (2006) reported the ethanolic
extract of the root of Achyranthes aspera shows post coital antifertility activity in female
126 Saba Hasan
albino rats. According to their study, the extract exhibited 83.3% anti-implantation activity
when given orally at 200 mg/kg body weight.
Antiparasitic Activity: Ethyl acetate extracts of A. Aspera have been proved to contain
anti parasitic activity by Zahir et al. (2009). It has been studied that dried leaf, flower and
seed extract of A. Aspera are active against the larvae of cattle tick Rhipicephalus
(Boophilus)microplus (Acari:lxodidae),sheep internal parasite Paramphistomum cervi.
Hypoglyceamic and Cancer Chemo preventive Activity: Aqueous methanolic extract
of the whole plant have been shown to possess hypoglycaemic activity by Akhtar and Iqbal
(1991). Methanolic extracts from leaves of Achyranthes aspera have been proved to have
cancer preventive action on Epstein- Barr virus early antigen activation induced by tumor
promoter 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate in Raji cells, as reported by Chakraborty et
Hepatoprotective Activity: Bafna and Mishra (2004) reported that the methanolic
extract of the aerial parts of Achyranthes aspera shows hepatoprotective activity on
rifampicin induced hepatotoxicity in albino rats. Methanolic extract showed dose dependent
decrease in the levels of SGPT, SGOT, ALKP and total bilirubin.
Anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic and Anti-oxidant activity: Alcoholic extract of the
roots of Achyranthes aspera, was found to exhibit anti-inflammatory activity in Wistar rats
using carrageenan-induced paw edema method and cotton pellet granuloma test, as studied by
Vijaya Kumar et al. (2009). Gayathri et al. (2009) also reported antioxidant activity on leaves
Nephroprotective Activity: Methanolic extract of the whole plant of Achyranthes
aspera was shown to produce nephroprotective activity against lead acetate induced
nephrotoxicity in male albino rats, as reported by Jayakumar et al. (2009).
Anti-depressant Activity: Barua et al. (2009) showed that Methanolic extract of the
leaves of Achyranthes aspera shows anti-depressant effect in mice and rats using forced
swimming test in mice and rats and tail suspension test in rats.
Cardiovascular Activity: Achyranthine, a water-soluble alkaloid isolated from
Achyranthes aspera, decreased blood pressure and heart rate, dilated blood vessels, and
increased the rate and amplitude of respiration in dogs and frogs. The contractile effect of the
alkaloid at 0.5 mg/ml on frog rectus abdominal muscle was less than that of acetylcholine
(0.1 mg/ml), and its spasmogenic effect was not blocked by tubocurarine.
Pharmacological and Medicinal Uses oF Achyranthes Aspera 127
Bronchoprotective Activity: Ethanolic extract of Achyranthes aspera shows
bronchoprotective effect in toluene diisocyanate (TDI) induced occupational asthma in
Wistar rats as reported by Goyal et al. (2007). The total and differential leucocytes were
counted in blood and bronchoalveolar (BAL) fluid. Liver homogenate was utilized for
assessment of oxidative stress and lung histological examination was performed to
investigate the inflammatory status of airway. The results suggest that Achyranthes aspera
treated rats did not show any airway abnormality.
Anti-allergic and Wound Healing Activity: Datir et al. (2009) reported that the
petroleum ether extract (200 mg/kg, i.p.) of the plant shows significant antiallergic activity in
both milk induced leukocytosis and milk induced eosinophilia in mice. Thus the antiallergic
activity of A. aspera may be due to the presence of steroids. Thus these steroids present in the
plant may be responsible for the antiallergic activity. Edwin et al. (2008) investigated the
ethanolic and aqueous extracts of leaves of Achyranthes aspera for wound healing activity.
Scientists and researchers across the world are eying plants as a future source of unlimited
antimicrobial agents and are in a desperate need of isolating compounds to keep in pace with
the resistance of microorganisms. It is seen from the literature that Achyranthes aspera is a
very important plant for its large number of medicinal properties. Thus, Achyranthes aspera
is proved to be a multipurpose medicinal agent, thus instrumental in curing large number of
ailments. It’s study paves the way for further attention and research to identify the active
compounds responsible for the plant biological activity, to characterize the active compounds
and to elucidate the exact mechanism of action by which they exert their antibacterial effects.
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