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Adhatoda zeylanica

Nomenclature I Family I Habitat I Morphology I Cultivation I Traditional Knowledge
Chemistry I Formulation I Usage I Commercial aspects I Patents I Bibliography


Botanical Name: Adhatoda zeylanica Medic                                                    

Common Name : Malabarnut, Vasaka

Adhatoda zeylanica Vernacular names:
Shwetavasa, Vasa, Vasaka;
Hindi: Arusa, Bansa;
Guj: Aradusi;
Kan: Adusoge;
Kashmir: Bahekar, Baikar, Basuth, Bhenkar;
Kumaun: Arus, Basinga;
Mundari: Aranbida;
Oran: Bakaspati;
Punjab: Bansa, Basuti, Bhekar, Vasaka;
Tam: Adhatodai, Pavettai;
Tel: Addasaramu.

Family: Acanthaceae    

Habitat: Distributed throughout India, up to an altitude of 1,300 m.

Adhatoda zeylanica

An evergreen, gregarious, stiff, perennial, shrub, 1.2-6.0 m in height. Leaves elliptic-lanceolate or ovate lanceolate, entire, 5-30 cm long, hairy, light green above, dark  below, leathery; flowers large, white with red- or yellow-barred throats, in spikes with large bracts; capsules clavate, longitudinally channelled, 1.9-2.2 cm x 0.8 cm; seeds globular.

Part used as crude drug

The drug comprises fresh or dried leaves, often mixed with stems or other aerial parts.

Morphological characteristics of drug
The powdered drug is greyish brown and tastes bitter, with characteristic odour.  The drug is official in IP.  Foreign organic matter should not be more than two per cent.

Cultivars (including improved Varieties)
A lot of intra-specific variability is seen in this species. However, no improved cultivar / strain has been reported to be developed.

The shrub grows on waste lands and in a variety of habitats and soil.  It is sometimes cultivated as a hedge, but no systematic cultivation has been undertaken.  It can be grown from seeds or by cuttings.

The aerial portions with maximum leaves along with tender stem are collected.         

Traditional Knowledge  (Ethnobotanical / Folk-lores / House hold remedies / Self help mode)
The dried leaf is smoked as a cigarette. The leaf-juice is stated to cure diarrhoea, dysentery and glandular tumour, and is given as emmenagogue.  The powder is reported to be used as poultice on rheumatic joints, as counter-irritant on inflammatory swellings, on fresh wounds, urticaria and in neuralgia.

Four new quinazoline alkaloids - vasicoline, adhatodine, vasicolinone and anisotine  from leaves and one each i.e. vasicinone  and vasicol have been isolated from inflorescence and leaves respectively. A new alkaloid - 9-acetamido-3,4-dihydropyrido[3,4-b] indole and a new glucoside - O-ethyl-a -D-galactoside - along with sitosterol-b -D-glucoside, galactose and deoxyvasicinone were isolated from roots. 2’-hydroxy-4-glucosyloxychalcone have been identified in flowers. Another alkaloid vasicinolone, have been  isolated from roots. A new quinazoline alkaloid have been isolated from leaves and characterised as 1,2,3,9-tetrahydro5-methoxypyrrolo[2,1-b]quinazolin-3-ol(I-form).Adhavasinone have been  isolated and characterised . (+)vasicinone have been isolated from leaves. Synthesis of vasicoline and vasicolinone have been attempted.

Vasicinol, vasicinone, deoxyvasicinone, deoxyvasicine (minor alkaloids) and vasicine isolated from leaves showed seasonal variation in the percentage of minor alkaloids and total alkaloids. Leaves collected in Mar.-Apr. showed a higher percentage of minor alkaloids, whereas those collected in June-Sept. had higher content of vasicine.

29-methyltriacontan-1-ol along with b -sitosterol, and two new aliphatic hydroxyketones have been isolated from aerial parts and characterised as 37-hydroxy, hexatetracont-1-en-15-one and 37hydroxy,hentetracontan-19-one.

Chemical markers
Several alkaloids are present in the drug and the chief principle is a quinazoline alkaloid, vasicine; the yield of the alkaloid from different samples in India ranged from 0.541 to 1.105 per cent on dry basis.  Yield as high as 2.18 per cent on dry basis has been reported from a foreign sample of which more than half was the l -form and the remainder the dl-form of the alkaloid.  Vasicine is accompanied by l- vasicinone.

Molecular Markers (Protein, DNA)
In Adhatoda vasica  (Justicia adhatoda) trnF-trnL intergenic spacer, partial sequence; and  tRNA-Leu (trnL) gene, partial sequence; chloroplast genes for chloroplast products have been reported along with18S ribosomal RNA gene, partial sequence; internal transcribed spacer 1, 5.8S ribosomal RNA gene, and internal transcribed spacer 2, complete sequence; and 26S ribosomal RNA gene, partial sequence have also been worked out.

Under Construction


The pharmacological activities of vasicine and vasicinone are well known.  The /-forms of vasicine and vasicinone are more active than their racemic forms.  Recent investigations on vasicine showed bronchodilatory activity (comparable to theophylline) both in vitro and in vivo.  Vasicinone showed bronchodilatory activity in vitro but bronchoconstrictory activity in vivo; it is probably biotransformed in vivo, causing bronchoconstriction.  Both the alkaloids in combination (1:1) showed pronounced bronchodilatory activity in vivo and in vitro.  Vasicine also exhibited strong respiratory stimulant activity, moderate hypotensive activity and cardiac-depressant effect; vasicinone was devoid of these activities.  The cardiac-depressant effect was significantly reduced when a mixture of vasicine and vasicinone was used. Vasicinone (dl-form) showed no effect on the isolated heart, but probably the l-form is a weak cardiac stimulant.
Clinical trials of a commercial drug containing vasicinone and vasicinone have not revealed any side effects while treating bronchial asthma. The drug is known to possess abortifacient activity and hence should not be used during pregnancy.

Two generation of teratogenic studies in rat & rabbits did not any toxicity or teratogenic effects.

The drug is employed in different forms, such as fresh juice, decoction, infusion and powder; also given as alcoholic extract and liquid extract or syrup.  It is also given along with other expectorants, and forms a part of several proprietary, compounds.

General usage
The shrub is the source of the drug - vasaka, well known in the indigenous systems of medicine for its beneficial effects, particularly in bronchitis.  The leaves, flowers, fruits and roots are extensively used for treating cold. cough, whooping-cough and chronic bronchitis and asthma as sedative-expectorant, antispasmodic and as anthelmintic.  

1 -2g of the drug is prescribed as an expectorant either in the form of liquid extract (1-2 ml) or syrup (2-4 ml).

Commercial aspects

(a) Production
Drug is collected from wild sources only.

(b) Demand
In India the total demand is 500 tons per year

(c) Market Trends (price)
Dry leaves alone as well as dry leaves along with stem portions are two different statuses of the crude drugs available in the market. The current year price have been quoted at Rs.2000/- to Rs.2500/- and Rs.600/- to Rs.800/- per quintal., respectively.

(d) Trade resource
Herbal Drug Dealers at Amritsar and Delhi are the major supply center of vasaca as crude drug.

Major Users
Ayurvedic drug manufacturers and  Pharmaceutical cough syrup manufacturers are the major users of this drug.

There are only two Japanese patents on the use of Adhathoda vasica in cosmatics.

1. "Cosmetic " Mikimoto Pharmaceutics. Co. Ltd. JP 7157420 ; 1993
The aim of the patent is to obtain a cosmetic having improved whitening, anti oxidization and hyaluronidase inhibiting activities and improved moisture-holding capacity by cholestieric liquid crystals.

2.  " Cosmatic " Nanba Tsuneo and Mikimoto Pharmaceutics. Co. Ltd. JP 7118135 ; 1993.
The purpose of the patent is to obtain a cosmetic containing solvent extracts of A.vasica used for food for many years being safe to human body. It also helps in whitening action and inhibiting the activity of hyaluronidase.


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