IJREAS VOLUME 5, ISSUE 8 (August, 2015) (ISSN 2249-3905)
International Journal of Research in Engineering and Applied Sciences (IMPACT FACTOR – 5.981)
King of Desert (Prosopis) : A source of potential medicinal values in Arid
Zone of India: Review
Dr.Surbhi Rajvanshi1,
Dr.Veena Garg2
Banasthali University, Banasthali, India, 304022 1. Abstract
Medicinal plants, since times immemorial, have been used in virtually all cultures as a
source of medicine. The wide spread use of herbal remedies and health-care preparations,
as those described in ancient texts such as Vedas , Bible, obtained from commonly used
traditional herbs and medicinal plants have been traced to occurrence of natural products
with medicinal properties. Medicines from these plants are in great demand in developing
world of primary health care, not because they are cheap but they are culturally acceptable.
In recent decades Prosopis
has become one of the most important tree genera in many
tropical and subtropical regions of world. Prosopis cineraria
, locally known as "Khejri", has
an important place in economy of Indian desert.

"Khejri" is the lifeline of desert. It yields excellent firewood and produces high-quality charcoal.
Pods are a popular vegetable in human diet. The bark yields edible gums, is used locally in leather
tanning. The flowers are valuable in honey production. Its plantation is used for sand dume
stabilization, remediation of famine land and as shelterbelts. (Arya.etal, 1986;Gupta.R,
1988;Gupta.etal, 1998; Felker, 1998;Puri.etal, 2002).
Besides, all these uses of Prosopis cineraria, it is used as folk medicine for various ailments. The
flowers are mixed with sugar and administered to prevent miscarriage. It works like an antidiabetic
agent, if its flowers are used with its twig. The ashes are rubbed over the skin to remove hair. The
bark, considered antihelminthic, antimicrobial (Rajvanshi, S. and Garg, V. 2007) refrigerant and
tonic is used for treatment of asthma, bronchitis, dysentery, leucoderma, leprosy muscle tremors,
piles, and wandering of mind. Leaf smoke is used to cure eye infection (ICFRE, 1993), but the fruit is
said to be indigestible, including biliousness and destroys nails and hair. Its dry pods ("khokra")
help in preventing protein calorie malnutrition and iron calcium deficiency in blood. (Shalini, 1997;
Toky, 1998; Meena and Sharma, 2000; Chandra, 2001;Bhatt
Keywords: Prosopis, Khejri, Folk medicine, Antidiabetic, Antihelminth, Antimicrobial.
2. Introduction
Traditional and folklore medicines bequeathed from generation to generation are rich in domestic recipes and communal practice. Encompassing concepts and methods for protection and restoration of health, traditional medicine has served as a fount of alternative medicine, new pharmaceuticals and health care products. The best-known examples of traditional medicines, International Journal of Research in Engineering & Applied Sciences
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differing in concept and protocol, are well-developed systems such as unani and ayurvedic medicine that have been widely used to conserve human heath in India (Hoareau and Dasilva; 1999). It seems that people are turning towards alternative medicines, which they wish to be less harmful and with fewer side effects than synthetic drugs. The world health organization (WHO) estimated that 80% of developing world relies on traditional medicines and of this 85% use plants or their extract as the active substances. Medicinal plants are the oldest known health-care product of the nature. Their importance is still growing, although it varies depending on the ethnological, medical and historical background of each country. India is endowed with a rich wealth of medicinal plants. These plants have made a good contribution to the development of ancient India materia medica. One of the earliest treatises on Indian medicines, the Charak Samhita (1000B.C), records the use of over 340 drugs of vegetable origin. Indian medical systems, among them the ancient science of Ayurveda, have always been aware of medicinal values of plants. To cite but one example, for at least 2500 years before the West recognized the medicinal properties of Rauwolfia serpentia (Sarpagandha) root, it was used by folk healers to calm violently disturbed patients. In 1940's Indian scientists isolated the active substances from Rauwolfia and discovered its added benefits as remedy for high blood pressure. (Malhotra.etal, 2001) The curative properties of such drugs are due to the presence of complex chemical substances of varied composition (present as secondary plant metabolite) in one or more parts of these plants. According to their composition, these plant metabolites are grouped as alkaloids, glycosides, corticosteroids, essential oils etc. The alkaloids forms the largest group which includes morphine and codein (poppy), strychine and brucine (nux vomica), quinine (cinchona), ergotamine (ergot), hypocyamine (belladonna), scolapomine (datura), emetine (ipecac), cocane (Coco), ephedrine (ephedra), reserpine (rauwolfia), caffeine (tea dust), aconite (aconite), vascine (vasaca), santonin (aremisia), lobelin (lobelia) and a large number of others. Glycoside form another important group represented by digoxin (foxclove), stropanthin (strophanthus), glycyrrhizin (liquorine), barbolin (aloe), sennocide (senna) etc. corticisteroids have come into prominence recently and diosgenin (dioscorea), solasodin (solanum.spp.) etc. now command a large world demand. Some essential oils such as those of valerian Kutch and peppermint also posses medicating properties and are used in pharmaceutical industry (Jewer.etal, 1976). 3. Review
Herbal medicine is defined as "the art and science of restoring a sufferer to health by the use of plant remedies"(Angell.etal, 1998). Herbal remedies consist of proportion of a plant (e.g. leaves, root, stem) as opposed to specific chemicals isolated and extracted in the laboratory. Herbal remedies are unpurified plant extract containing several substituents, which often work together synergistically (Hill.etal, 1978). Each herb contains hundreds of active compounds many of which act "synergistically". It means that all of these compounds somehow combine to produce greater effect than each has alone, and that the body extracts the compounds it needs and discards the others. One possible reason that scientific studies sometimes fail to confirm a herb's traditional use in healing is that the studies often focus only on the isolated compound, not on the whole plant. Each herb should be thoroughfully studied in terms of their biological contents, the medical activities of each of their components, and the collective effect of the herb in use as whole .It is this concomittant effect that makes the herb work in situations where western medicines failed to yield satisfactory results (Hoareau and Dasilva, 1999). Popularity of herbal remedies began to decline with the rise of conventional medicine. The later decades of 20th century have seen a larger resurgence in the use of herbal remedies, to the point International Journal of Research in Engineering & Applied Sciences
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where such remedies are now regarded as mainstream. Many drugs commonly used today are of
herbal origin (chow.etal, 1999).
Prosopis cineraria (L.Druce) is the most important plant species in arid zone of India. It is referred
to as the golden tree of Indian deserts, as it plays a vital role in conserving the ecosystem of arid
and semi-arid areas. Since, all parts of tree are useful, it is called as " Kalptaru". It is also known as
"King of Desert" and "Wonder tree". P.cineraria is extremely drought tolerant and evergreen tree
belongs to family leguminoseae and subfamily mimosoideae.
Locally, this tree is known as Sami or Samri (Gujrati), jand (Punjabi), Jandi (Haryanvi) and Khejri in
Rajasthani. It's synonym is Prosopis spicigera (Burkat, 1976;Bandari, 1978;Muthana & Arora,
1983;FFN, 1991).
4.Medicinal values

Medicinal values of Prosopis have been mentioned in our ancient literatures such as Arthaveda,
Rammayan, and Panjal Mahabharta etc. Kirtikar & Basu (1935) reported that Prosopis species are
known to posses medicinal values. Traditionally, all most all parts of Prosopis species are used by
local populations in curing various diseases (Kirtikar & Basu, 1975; Shalini, 1997; Toky,
1998;Chandra, 2001). There are three main groups of ailments are treated with leaf and bark
extract: mouth and throat infections including ulcers and bronchitis; internal diseases including
general pains, parasites and urinary diseases; and skin disorders, which includes dermatitis and
parasitic infections (Pasiecznik, 1999). Earlier, in 1993, ICFRE reported that in Asia, medicinal uses
for native species, includes flower for prevention of miscarriage, bark extract for treatment of
leprosy, dysentery, bronchitis, asthma, lecucoderma, tremors and rheumatism. Leaf smoke is used
to cure eye infections and extracts are recommended against snakebite and scorpion sting
(Pimental, 1960;Celis, 1995).
Some works have been carried out to find out chemical composition of this plant and to isolate
chemicals of medicinal values. Burkat (1976), reported that the heartwood contains sugar, five
flavonones, fatty acids and tannins. Fresh leaves (ZMB) contains 15.35 CP, 17.5% CF, 10.0% ash,
3.2% EE, 54%NFE, 2.65% Ca, and 0.25% P (Gohl, 1981). Wealth of India reports leaves contains
2.9%N, 0.4% P2O5, 1.4% K2O and 2.8% CaO. The flavones glycoside patulitrin has been isolated
from the flowers (C.S.I.R, 1948-1976). The leaves of many species of prosopis contain many
different free amino acids and flavonoids with alkaloids and diketones isolated as active ingredients
(Carmen, 1974). The concentration of alkaloid varies between species and with in population but is
0.4 – 3.6% of leaf dry weight. Concentrations were significantly higher in younger than in older
leaves (Cates & Rhodes, 1977). A novel variant on the piperidine-3-ol alkaloid reported is
spicigerine (Jewers.etal, 1976). Moreover, Newwinger (1996), has studied medicinal properties of
two piperidine alkaloid extracted from prosopis species and found that prosopine is a weak excitant
of nervous system while prosopinine has a weak sedative effect but also has local anaesthetic effect
three times stronger than cocaine.
About ten years back, Mazzuca and Balzaretti (2003), have analyzed seed lipid content of four
varieties of Prosopis .The seed lipid contain a relative large proportions of unsaturated fatty acids
with linolic and oleic acids being predominant. They have also identified stigmasta-1, 3,5-triene,
stigmasta-4-6-dien and 3-ene in Prosopis alpataco.

Nutrition plays key role in keeping blood healthy which in turn maintains an individual health.
Tokyo (1999), reported the presence of 8-13% proteins, 40-55% carbohydrates, 8- 15% sugars, 9-
12% crude fiber in pods of P.cineraria. He suggested that dry pods ("Kokra") can be used in
protein–calorie malnutrition and flowers are used as tonic for blood purifier. On the other hand
nutrient content of Prosopis africana seeds have been studied by Barminas.etal (1998). They have
reported that these seeds contain 20.54,5.67 and 6-51g/100g of proteins, ash and fiber
respectively. Hence, these seeds could be used as a protein supplement for low–protein foods for
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animals, particularly during dry seasons, also the seeds could serve as a good source of
carbohydrate concentrate for all classes of livestocks. Furthermore, the seeds can be used to
supplement the daily energy intake of consumers of their food products since they have calorie
values above the range 2500 to 3000 kcal/kg needed by humans. This study also suggests that
Prosopis africana seed could contribute partially to the overall daily dietary intake of elements such
as iron & zinc and vitamin A and C.
Reports have been emerging out to show hypoglycemic and antihyperglycemic activities of prosopis
species. In an extensive etnobotanical survey (130 informants) of medicinal plants of Israel, 16
species were found to be used for hypoglycemic treatment, Prosopis fracta was one of these plants.
(Yaniv.etal, 1987).
Okide and Ezuguva (1998), evaluated the hypoglycemic effects of gum from Prosopis africana seed
on normoglycemic and hypoglycemic rats. The antidiabetic activity was evaluated using alloxan (80
mg/kg body weight intraperitoneally) induced hyperglycemic rats. The potency of gum was
compared with that of tolbutamide, with doses of 200,400 and 800mg/kg body weight of the gum
in diabetic rats, the blood sugar determination showed reduction in the ratio of 1.19,1.07 and 1.06
respectively. With respect to the control, tolbutamide, in normal rats, with the same doses of gum
per body weight, there was reduction in ratio of 0.35,0.36 and 0.55 respectively. This showed that
the gum has a blood sugar lowering effect, though more significantly on diabetic rats.
In 2004,Adikwu.etal have compared antidiabetic properties of Prosopis gum alone and in
combination with metformin in a bioadhesive form. The glucose lowering effect was found to be
synergistic in later case, where as gum showed moderate antidiabetic properties, when used
alone.In addition many other medicinal plants belong to other families have also been reported to
produce antidiabetic effect in alloxan-induced diabetic mice and rat.
Now-a-days, scientists are trying to search out immunostimulant and immunomodulatory
properties of medicinal plants. Studies of Merzabani.etal (1979), Ahmad & sultana (1989) have
shown significant activity of plant extract against lung carcinoma and other carcinoma
respectively.Dhyani.etal (2002), have purified and partially characterized an allergic proteins from
P.juliflora.It shows positive reactivity (>85%) to hypersensitive patient's sera and can be used for
Bhupleunum, an herbal compound, is thought to produce an immunomodulating effect by inducing
the secretion of granulocyte-macrophage colony- stimulating fraction in a dose–dependent fashion
(Chow.etal,2001). Moreover, an immunomodulating action of septilin was also observed by
Daswani.etal (2002). They reported that septilin exhibit dual effect on the immune system of mice
and rat, with lower doses it acts as an immunostimulant and higher doses showed predominantly
suppressive effect.Many species of Prosopis have been reported to show antibacterial and
antifungal activities in animal system. (Felger, 1977; Ahmad and khan, 1986; Ahmad and Sultana,
1989;Rajvanshi.S and Garg.V,2007).
Salvat.etal (2004) screened thirty-nine native plant species including Prosopis kuntzei and prosopis
for antimicrobial activity and reported that the P.kuntzei was able to reduce the number
of viable counts because of presence of some bactericidal components. Earlier, in 1999, Ahmed.etal
studied the antibacterial therapeutic efficiency of juliflorine, julifloricine and a benzene insoluble
alkaloid fraction of Prosopis juliflora. The study demonstrated that juliflorine and benzene insoluble
alkaloidal fraction were more effective in Staphylococcal skin infection than julifloricine. Similarly
Prosopis juliflora was also reported with or without low mean antigiardiasic activity (Ponce.etal,
1994). On the other hand, oil extracted from Prosopis cineraria was found to be ineffective, when it
was screened for antifungal activity (Rai.etal, 1999). Moreover, trypanocidal property of Prosopis
has been evaluated by Atwodi (2002).
There are large number of medicinal plants posses mild or potent estrogenic activity when assessed
in male and female mice (Homady.etal, 2000) and immature rats (Qureshi and Dixit, 1980). Owing
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to their estrogenic characteristic, these extracts may affect the physiology of reproductive organs
(Homady.etal, 2000).
Prosopis with reproductive medicinal attributes has been mentioned in traditional and folklore
medicines (Chandra.D, 2001; Shalini, 1997) but evidences to show the effects of Prosopis plant
extract on animals reproductive systems have not been available in literature. Although, it has been
reported that piperidine alkaloid from prosopis plants is capable of causing congenital defects in the
fetus (Knight and Walter, 1994). Cassia fistula, a mimosoide, shows some antifertility effects in
female rats (Yadav and Jain, 1999). They reported that oral administration of aqueous extract of
seeds of Cassia fistula to mated female rats from day 1-5 of pregnancy at the doses of 100 and 200
mg/kg body weight resulted in 57.145% and 71.43% prevention of pregnancy, respectively,
whereas 100% pregnancy inhibition has been noted at 500 mg/kg of body weight.
However, it should be stated in all fairness that our knowledge of genetic and physiological make-
up of most of the medicinal plants are poor and we know still less about the synthetic pathway
leading to the formation of active constituents for which these crops are valued. Further research is
needed to find disease specific medicinal and nutritive values that do not produce any side effects.
5. References
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