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Journal of Herbal Medicine and Toxicology 2 (2) 9-13 (2008) ISSN : 0973-4643 Review Article


Majumdar, S.H.1 , Chakraborthy, G.S., Kulkarni, K.S.
SVKMS NMIMS SchooL of Pharmacy And Technology Management, Shirpur, Maharashtra. Corresponding author E-mail :
Received: 12 May, 2008; Revised: 17 June, 2008; Accepted: 22 June, 2008

Abstract : Many herbal remedies individually or in combination have been recommended in various medical treatises for the cure of different diseases. Semecarpus anacardium (SA) linn (Family: Anacardiaceae), is a plant well-known for its medicinal value in ayurvedic and siddha system of medicine. Chemical and phytochemical analyses of Semecarpus anacardium nut reveal the presence of biflavonoids, phenolic compounds, bhilawanols, minerals, vitamins and amino acids. A variety of nut extract preparations from this source are effective against many diseases viz- arthritis, tumours, infections etc. However the mechanism of the pharmacological action of S.anacardium nut can be greatly aided by the isolation of its active principle f and determination of structure-function relationship. Also the therapeutic effectiveness of S. anacardium needs to be verified by controlled clinical studies. Key words - Semecarpus anacardium, Ballataka, Marking nut, Alternative medicine.

For thousands of years, cultures around the world have used herbs and plants to treat illness and maintain health. Many drugs prescribed today in modern medicinal system are derived from plants. Herbs and plants are valuable not only for their active ingredients but also for their minerals, vitamins, volatile oils, glycosides, alkaloids, acids, alcohols, esters etc., [1]. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) can be defined as any treatment used in conjugation (complementary) or in place of (alternative) standard medical treatment. In alternative medicine, medicinal plant preparations have found widespread use particularly in the case of diseases not amenable to treatment by modern method [2]. Semecarpus anacardium (SA) linn (Family: Anacardiaceae) is distributed in sub-Himalayan region, tropical and central parts of India. The nut is commonly known as marking nut and in the vernacular as Ballataka or Bhilwa. It has high priority and applicability in indigenous system of medicineemecarpus[3,4]. Active Principles: Nut shells contain the biflavonoids: biflavones A, C, A 1 , A 2 , tetrahydrorobustaflavone, B(tetrahydromentoflavone) [5], jeediflavone, [6,7], semecarpuflavone[8,9] and gulluflavone [10,11]. Oil from nuts, bhilavinol, contains a mixture of phenolic compounds mainly of 1,2dihydroxy-3 (pentadecadienyl-8, 11) benzene and 1,2dihydroxy-3 (pentadecadienyl-8', 11)- benzene[12].

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Detoxified nut of Bhallaataka (SA) were incorporated in prescriptions for toxic conditions, obstinate skin diseases, tumors, malignant growths, fevers, haemoptysis, excessive menstruation, vaginal discharge, deficient lactation, constipation, intestinal parasites. (Charaka, Sushruta) [3], Bhallaataka (SA), Hartaki (Terminalia chebula) and Jiraka (Cuminum cyminum), mixed with jaggery and made into a sweet bolus, were administered in splengomegaly. (Vrindamaadhava). [4]. A decoction of bruised fruit (1 to 8) in a dose of 25 ml was given for asthma. A decoction with milk and purified butter, in gradually increasing doses, was given in peripheral neuritis, sciatica, facial paralysis, hemiplegia. Bhallaatakavardhamanna (Vrindamaadhava) was used as a nervine tonic. Nuts boiled with 1.25 l milk were given as aphrodiasic. (Ashtaanga Sangraha). Bhallaataka Rasaayana of Charaka was prescribed as a potent rejuvenating tonic. Purified butter, cooked with the paste and decoction of nut, mixed with sugar, was administered for treating tumors (Chakradatta). Bhallaataka nut pounded and mixed with eliminating guinea worm. Bhallaataka oil, mixed with vidanga (Embelia ribes), was also used. (Ashtaanga Hridaya, Gadanigraha, Siddha-bheshaja-manimaala). Juices of the pericarp and the oil of Bhallaataka are powerful escharotics; used in Indian medicine in small doses (0.03-0.06 cc diluted with clarified butter, cream or honey ten times its volume). The oil of Bhallaataka, mitigated with butter, or mustard oil in which the fruits of Bhallaataka are fried, is fried, is used internally. Ripe fruits, boiled with a solution of cow-dung, are used internally. Nuts are used only after curing under medical supervision [7]. neurasthenia; Majoon-e-Balaadur for dementia, amnesia; Raughan-e-Balaadur externally in paralysis, hemiplegia, Bells palsy. Angaruya-e-Kabir is also prescribed for neurological affection[4]. Therapeutic Activity: A variety of nut extract preparations from this source are effective against many diseases, viz. arthritis, tumours, infections etc. and non-toxic even at high dose of 2000 mg/kg[13]. The detailed exact pharmacology of activity is yet to clear, although many studies have been done to understand and prove the mechanism of the pharmacological action of Semecarpus anacardium. Few such reported activities have been discussed in the following sections.

Anti-Cancer Activity: In traditional medicine, the nut is highly valued for the treatment of tumours and malignant growth. Studies have been also done in proving the anticancer and hepatoprotective activity of Semecarpus anacardiumnut milk extract against aflatoxin B1 (AFB1)- induced hepatocarcinoma in rats SA as a constituent in drugs : Ayurvedic and establishing its protective role on deranged cell preparations with Bhallaataka as one of the membrane in AFB1 induced hepatocarcinoma[14,15]. ingredients are Narasimha Ghrita (Ashtaanga The biochemical basis of anticarcinogenic potency Hridaya), Bhallataka Vati (Bhaishaya Ratnaavali) are of Semecarpus anacardium nut was studied using used as blood purifiers and haematinic tonics; hepatocellular carcinoma as cancer model in rats[16Kalaanka kshara (Ashtaanga Hridaya) for 18]. Extensive analysis to study its effect against gastrointestinal disorder; and sanjivani vati biochemical abnormalities during cancer shows that (Shaarangadhava Samhitaa) for fevers[7]. the drug modulates the abnormalities of all biochemical Bhallaataka enters into many formulations of the south- pathways including carbohydrate, lipid, cytochrome Guggulu-tikta Ghritam, Nimbaamritaasavam, P-450 mediated microsomal drug metabolism, cancer Naarsimha-Rasaayanam, Varnaadi Kashayam, markers and membrane proteins during cancer Mahaaraaja-Prasaami Tailam[3]. In Unani medicine, progression[19-22]. Recent studies carried out on an majoon-e-Asal-e-Balaadur is prescribed for Ayurveda marking nut preparation have also shown


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promising results in the treatment of cancers of the oesophagus, urinary bladder, liver and leukemia[22,24]. The dramatic reduction in alpha-feroprotein level, a specific marker of hepatocellular carcinoma [23-26], and the histopathological studies had confirmed anticancer efficacy of the drug [27-31].

Majumdar, S. H. et al.

salient cognitive decline in AD. Loss of cholinergic cells, particularly in the basal forebrain is accompanied by the loss of neurotransmitter Ach. One of the most accepted strategies in AD treatment is the use of cholinesterase (AchE) inhibitors. The Semecarpus anacardium is effective in prolonging the half-life of acetylcholine through inhibition of AchE. Anti-inflammatory Activity: Semecarpus Hence Semecarpus anacardium known to be useful anacardium has been shown to possess antiin treating cognitive decline, improving memory or inflammatory activity [32,33]. Phytochemical studies related CNS activity[46]. of the milk extract have shown flavonoids, phenols and carbohydrates among its contents and the drug Reproductive Function (Antispermatogenic effect): was found to be effective in different inflammatory Semecarpus anacardium extract feeding caused conditions[34,35]. Pillai reported the presence of antispermatogenic effect evidenced by reduction in phenolic compounds like semicarpol and bhilawanol numbers of spermatogenic cells and spermatozoa. in the nuts found to inhibit acute tuberculin reaction in Reduction in sperm density in cauda epididymides may sensitized rats and also the primary phase of adjuvant be due to changes in the androgen metabolism. The arthritis[36]. In rheumatoid arthritis, pharmacological principal cells of epididymis synthesize proteins, which activities have been attributed to some flavonoids have important role in maturation of spermatozoa. presents in the drug, particularly those related to their Alterations in the secretion and function of these anti-inflammatory properties[37]. The probable proteins impaired sperm maturation. Semecarpus mechanism of action of anti-inflammatory effect is anacardium fruit extract feeding caused impairment due to inhibition of the release of early mediators of Leydig cell function, which was evidenced by (histamine and serotonin) in first phase and in phase reduced Leydig cell area and nuclear dimensions and by inhibitions of cyclo-oxygenase. Further, it also fewer number of mature Leydig cells. The atrophic inhibits monocyte infiltration and fibroblast proliferation state of Leydig cells in the testes of treated animals [33-39]. The drug also shows effect immunomodulary may be due to declined LH secretion. Differentiation effect during inflammation. The drug shows effect of primordial germ cells into spermatogonia and on plaque forming cells (PFC) and antibody titre in subsequent appearance of spermatogenic cycle are arthritis [34]. The increase in both plaque forming under the control of gonadotropin and testosterone, cells and antibody titre found in arthritic animals were such control being possibly mediated by Sertoli cells, significantly (p < 0.005) reverted back on which regulate cell cycle kinetics and influence both administration of the drug Semecarpus anacardium. spermatogonia and preleptotene spermatocytes. The NO is a highly fat soluble free radicals which is greatly reduction in number of secondary spermatocytes and amplified amplified during inflammation[40]. spermatids reflected non-availability of ABP from Semecarpus anacardium have shown remarkable Sertoli cells. ABP is required to maintain intrareduction in nitrate/nitrite level, which can be attributed testicular androgen concentration and transformation to the antioxidant property [41].TNF- is a pleiotropic of advance stages of germ cells. Meiotic and postcytokine; it facilitates inflammatory cell infiltration by meiotic germ cells were highly sensitive to androgen promoting the adhesion of neutrophills and concentration and the alteration in androgen level in lymphocytes to endothelial cells[342-44]. Semecarpus testes may affect the transformation of spermatocytes anacardium blocks the TNF- thus severity of to spermatids. The blood parameters remained within inflammation is reduced. the normal range after Seme-carpus anacardium administration indicating non-toxic nature of the Neuroprotective Activity: Semecarpus plant[47]. anacardium is shown to be neuroprotective especially to the hippocampal region in stress-induced Antiatherogenic effect: The imbalance between the neurodegenereation like Alzheimers disease (AD) prooxidants and antioxidants is the main cause of [37]. [45]. Dysfunction of cholinergic development of atherosclerosis. To prevent such neurotransmission in the brain contributes to the condition, antioxidant therapy is beneficial.


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Semecarpus anacardium shows such antioxidant property. It has capacity to scavenge the superoxide and hydroxyl radicals at low concentrations. The process of atherogenesis is initiated by peroxidation of lipids in low-density lipoproteins, was also found inhibited by Semecarpus anacardium [48]. It is possible that the beneficial antiatherogenic effect may be related to its antioxidant, anticoagulant, hypolipidaemic, platelet antiaggregation and lipoprotein lipase releasing properties. The mechanism of hypotriglyceridaemic effect has also been shown to be partly due to stimulation of lipoprotein lipase activity. Hypoglycemic and antiglycemic effect: The effect of ethanolic extract of dried nuts of Semecarpus anacardium on blood glucose was investigated in both normal (hypoglycemic) and streptozotocin and alloxaninduced diabetic (antihyperglycemic) rats. The blood glucose levels were measured at 0, 1, 2 and 3 hours after the treatment. The ethanolic extract of S. anacardium (100 mg/kg) reduced the blood glucose of normal rat from 84 +/- 1.4 to 67 +/- 1.7 mg/dl, 3 hours after oral administration of the extract (P < 0.05). It also significantly lowered blood glucose level in alloxan induced diabetic rat from 325 +/- 2.2 to 144 +/- 1.4 mg/dl, 3 hours after oral administration of the extract (P < 0.05). The antihyperglycemic activity of S. anacardium was compared with tolbutamide, an oral hypoglycemic agent. The exact mechanism is yet to clear but the flavonoid containing constituents suppose to decrease the blood glucose level[49,50]. Fungi static activity: Alcoholic extract of dry nuts of S. anacardium showed dose dependent antifungal activity in vitro against Aspergillus fumigatus and Candida albicans. At 400-mg/ml concentrations, growth of both the fungi was inhibited and considerable reduction in size of cells and hyphae was observed. Sporulation also decreased. The flavonoid present in S. anacardium shows antifungal activity[51]. Summary and Conclusion: In alternative medicine, medicinal plant preparations have found widespread use particularly in the case of diseases not amenable to treatment by modern methods. Chemical and phytochemical analyses of Semecarpus anacardium nut reveal the presence of biflavonoids, phenolic compounds, bhilawanols, minerals, vitamins and amino acids. A variety of nut extract preparations from this source are effective against variety of diseases, and non-toxic even at high dose of 2000 mg/kg. However understanding of the mechanism of the pharmacological action of S. anacardium nut can be greatly aided by the isolation of its active principle from the nut and determination of the structurefunction relationship. Also, the potent curative effects of S. anacardium nut extract against human ailments need to be verified by controlled clinical studies.

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