Phytopharmacological Activities of Terminalia Species

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About Author:
Sandeep Kaur
M.Sc. Microbiology (Hons.) in 2012
Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar,
Punjab- 143001.

Medicinal plants are part and parcel of human society to combat diseases from the dawn of civilization. India is sitting on a gold mine of well-recorded and traditionally well practiced knowledge of herbal medicine. India officially recognizes over 3000 plants for their medicinal value and Terminalia plant (Baheda) is one of them. Terminalia species (Family: combretaceace) including Terminalia bellerica, Terminalia arjuna and Terminalia chebula are widely used medicinal plants throughout India and popular in various Indigenous system of medicine like Ayurveda, Sidda and Unani. Terminalia chebula, is called ‘King of Medicine’ in Tibet, because of its extraordinary power of healing. Terminalia plant has been demonstated to possess multiple pharmacological and medicinal activities, such as antioxidant, antimicrobial, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, anticancer & tumor and wound healing activity. In the Indian Sytem of Medicine, whole plant including stem bark, fruit, root bark and seeds are used as astringent, cooling, aphrodisiac, cardiotonic, tonic in fractures, ulcers, spermatorrhoea, leucorrhoea, cough, excessive perspiration and skin disorders. Phytoconstituents such as glucoside, tannins, gallic acid, ellagic acid, ethylgalate, gallylglucose and chebulanic acid are mainly believed to be responsible for its wide therapeutic actions. The present review is therefore, an effort to give a detailed survey of the literature on pharmacognosy, phytochemistry and pharamacological activities of the plant1.

Reference Id: PHARMATUTOR-ART-1361

The increasing failures of chemotherapeutics and antibiotics resistance exhibited by pathogenic microbial infectious agents have leads to screening of several medicinal plants for its potential antimicrobial activity (Ritch-Kro et al., 1996; Martins et al., 2001). Plants have been used in developing countries as alternative treatments to cure diseases. The revival of interest in natural drugs started in last decade mainly because of the wide spread belief that green medicines are healthier than synthetic medicines. Nowadays, there is manifold increase in medicinal plant based industries due to increase in the interest of use of medicinal plants throughout the world which are growing at a rate of 7-15% annually. Despite the major advances in the modern medicine, the development of new drugs from natural products is still considered important. This seems to be even more relevant for the developing countries, where cost to develop a drug is prohibitive. The evaluation of new drugs especially phytochemically obtained materials has again opened a vast area for research & development. Since 1980, the World Health Organization has been encouraging countries to identify and exploit traditional medicine and phytotherapy. The main Indian Traditional System of Medicine namely Ayurveda and Siddha are primarily plant based system. In India 45,000 plant species have been identified and out of which 15-20 thousand plants are of good medicinal value.  According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, more than 80% of people in developing countries are depend on the traditional medicine for their primary health needs (Padmaa et al., 2008).

It is generally estimated that over 6000 plants in India and in use in traditional, folk and herbal medicine, representing about 75% of medicinal needs of the Third World Countries (Kumudhavalli et al., 2010). Therefore, the evaluation of rich heritage of traditional medicine is essential. Plant produces wide array of bioactive principles and constitutes a rich source of medicine. Herbal medicines are prepared from a variety of plant materials such as leaves, bark, stems and roots. They usually contain biologically active ingredients and are used primarily for treating mild and chronic ailments. Herbal drugs are prescribed widely even when their biologically active compounds are unknown because of their relatively low costs and minimal side effect (Valiathan, 1998). Despite considerable progress in therapies using expensive synthetic drugs, the search for indigenous anti-diabetic agents from medicinal plants is promising. In view of this attention has been focused on Terminalia species (Terminalia bellerica, Terminalia arjuna, Terminalia chebula) belongs to family combretaceae, which exhibited a number of medicinal activities due to presence of large number of phytoconstituents. The species of Terminalia are very well known for their therapeutic values since long and has proved by many researchers to be useful as anticancer (Kandil and Nassar, 1998), antioxigenotoxic (Chu et al., 2007), anti-inflammatory (Fan et al., 2004). The species of Terminalia also exhibited antimicrobial activity against ten pathogenic bacteria (Malekzadeh et al., 2001).

Terminalia bellerica is large deciduous tree which occurs widely in the moist valleys of India and its fruits are most commonly used in Indian traditional system of medicine (Chopra et al., 1996). They commonly knew as belleric myrobalan and locally as baheda. The fruit rind is used in different preparations, for example, as an ingredient in the popular Ayurvedic formula known as Tripula (three fruits), used for the treatment of fever, cough, diarrhea, dysentery, skin diseases and liver disorders (Kirtikar and Basu, 1933). The fruit is reported to have hepatoprotective (Nadkarni, 1954; Anand et al., 1994, 1997; Anjana et al., 2007), puragive (Chakravarti and Tayal, 1947), choleretic (Siddiqui, 1963) and hypotensive effects (Srivastava et al., 1992). In a clinical study, Terminalia bellerica was found to possess antispasmodic, anti- asthmatic and anti- tussive effects (Trivedi et al., 1979). The fruit extracts of Terminalia bellerica have been evaluated for anti- mutagenic (Kaur et al., 2002), antimicrobial and anti HIV-1 activity (Valsaraj et al., 1997). The plant is known to lower the levels of lipid in hypercholesterolemic animals and prevent the development of atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction (Tariq et al., 1977; Thakur et al., 1988). Triphala and Terminalia bellerica reduced the serum glucose level and showed marked antioxidant properties in alloxan-induced diabetic rats (Sabu and Kuttan, 2002).

Whereas Terminalia chebula is used in treatment of fevers, cough asthma, urinary diseases, piles and worms and is also useful in treating chronic diarrhea and dysentery, flatulence, vomiting, colic and enlarged spleen and liver. Terminalia arjuna is a large tree distributed throughout India and its bark is used as a cardio protective agent in hypertension and ischaemic heart diseases. The bark powder is reported to exert hypocholesterolaemic and antioxidant effect in humans.

2.Terminalia bellerica:
2.1 Botanical Description
Terminalia bellericaalso referred to as, Beleric Myrobalan in English, Bibhitaki in Sanskrit, locally known as Bahera in India, has been used for centuries in the Ayurveda, a holistic system of medicine originating from India. It is generally cultivated on variety of soils but prefers fertile alluvial loam and deep sandy well drained soil (Nandkarni, 1976; Atal and Kapur, 1982; Handa and Kaul, 1996). The dried fruit used for medicinal purposes. It is found growing wild throughout the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, and SE Asia, upto 1200 meters in elevation, in a wide variety of ecologies. It is large deciduous tree with a buttressed trunk, a thick brownish gray bark with shallow longitudinal fissures; the tree usually grows up a height of 30 meters, when matured. The leaves are crowded around the ends of branches, alternately arranged, margins entire, elliptic to elliptic- obovate, rounded tip or sub acute, midrib prominent, pubescent when young and becoming glabrous with maturity. It is considered a good fodder for cattle.  The branches grow up to 10 to 12 cm in length and 7-14 cm in breadth. The flowers are pale greenish yellow with an offensive odor, which are blossom in month of May. The flowers are borne in axillary spikes longer than petioles but shorter than leaves. The fruits are ovoid grey drupes, and the amazing kernals are sweet, obscurely 5-angled, narrowed into a very short stalk (Saroya, 2011; Nandkarni, 2002). Terminalia bellerica seeds have an oil content of 40%, whose fatty-acid methyl ester meets all of the major biodiesel requirements in the USA, Germany and European Union. The seeds are called bedda nuts.

Smoke dried kernals of fruit (Baheda)

2.2 Taxonomic/ Scientific Description:
Following is the taxonomical or scientific description of this herb and how it is differentiated and known in Ayurvedic and Scientific world.

Kingdom: Plantae - Plants

Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants

Class: Magnoliopsida- Dicotyledons

Order: Myrtales

Family: Combretaceae – Indian Almond family

Genus: Terminalia- tropical almond

Species: Terminalia bellerica- myrobalan

In India, this herb is native and abundantly found in states of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra.

Parts Used:
Fruits of this herb are used for medicinal activity.

Fruits of Terminalia bellerica

Classical names or Synonyms:
Assam:            Bhomora. Bhomra, bhaira

Eng.   :             Belleric Myrobalan

Guj.   :             Bahedam, Beheda

Hindi :             Bahera 

Kan.  :             Shanti, Shantikayi, Tare, Tarekayi

Mal.  :              Tanni, Tannikai

Mar.  :              Beheda

Ori.   :              Baheda, Bhara

Sank. :             Vibhita, Aksa, Aksaka, Bibhitaki

Tam.  :             Thanakkai, Tanri, Tanri

Tel.   :              Tannikkaya, Vibhitakami, Tani (Saroya, 2011)

According to Dymock, Warden, Hooper: Pharmacographia Indica (1890):
"This tree, in Sanskrit Vibhita and Vibhitaka (fearless), is avoided by the Hindus of Northern India, who will not sit in its shade, as it is supposed to be inhabited by demons. Two varieties of T. bellerica are found in India, one with nearly globular fruit, 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter, the other with ovate and much larger fruit. The pulp of the fruit (Beleric myrobalan) is considered by Hindu physicians to be astringent and laxative, and is prescribed with salt and long pepper in affections of the throat and chest. As a constituent of the triphala (three fruits), i.e., emblic, beleric and chebulic myrobalans, it is employed in a great number of diseases, and the kernel is sometimes used as an external application to inflamed parts.

3. Terminalia chebula:
Terminalia chebula(Yellow Myrobalan or Chebulic Myrobalan) is a species of Terminalia, native to southern Asia from India and Nepal east to southwestern China and south to Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Vietnam. In Urdu and Hindi it is called Harad, Haritaki, or Harada, respectively 'Inknut. The tree is tall about 50-80 ft in height.  It has round crown and spreading branches. The bark is dark brown with some longitudinal cracks.  Leaves are ovate and elliptical, with two large glands at the top of the petiole. The flowers are monoecious, dull white to yellow, with a strong unpleasant odour, borne in terminal spikes or short panicles. The flowers appear May-June, the fruits July-December.  The fruit or drupe is about 1-2 inches in size.  It has five lines or five ribs on the outer skin. Fruit is green when unripe and yellowish grey when ripe.  Fruits are collected from January to April, fruit formation started from November to January.

Part used:
Fruit; seven types are recognized (i.e. vijaya, rohini, putana, amrita, abhaya, jivanti and chetaki), based on the region the fruit is harvested, as well as the colour and shape of the fruit. Generally speaking, the vijaya variety is preferred, which is traditionally grown in the Vindhya mountain range of central India, and has a roundish as opposed to a more angular shape.

Chebulic Myrobalan

4. Terminalia arjuna:
Terminalia arjuna, commonly known as arjuna or arjun tree in English, is a tree of the genus Terminalia.The tree is about 60-80 ffet height. Arjuna is large, evergreen with a spreading crown and dropping branches. In favorable localities and especially along the banks of stream, the tree attains very large sizes. Two trees of 26 feet and 32 feet in girth at 5 feet from the ground have been recorded in the village of Manipur in J & K. Leaves sub-opposite, oblong or elliptic, coriaceous, cordate, shortly acute or obtuse at the apex. Flowers in panicled spikes. Fruits ovoid or ovoid-oblong, 2.5-5.0 cm long, nearly glabrous, with 5-7 hard, winged angles.



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