Tribulus terrestris L. (Pedalium murex), or ground burnut, puncture vine, tzu, chih hsing, tu chi li (Chinese), is an annual, prostrate dwarf shrubbish herb that grows to a height of 60 cm. The plant grows in disturbed areas, roadsides, railways, cultivated
fields, and abandoned gardens in Europe, the United States, and the Asia-Pacific region. The stems are terete, pilose, minute, and green to reddish-brown, and produce numerous stout burrs that can injure people and animals and puncture bicycle tires. The leaves are opposite and pinnate (Fig. 40). In China, the seeds are used as diuretic, tonic, abortifacient, galactagogue, and an alternative anthelmintic. The flowers are used to treat leprosy and a decoction is used to treat skin diseases. The activity of the plant as male aphrodisiac as been demonstrated experimentally in rodents (18).
The plant is known to elaborate a p-carboline alkaloid, such as tribulusterine, shown by synthesis and spectroscopic analysis to be the (5-hydroxymethyl)-2-furyl analog perlolyrine (19,20). An interesting development from this observation would be to assess the serotoninergic activity of perlolyrine. One might suppose that the diuretic property mentioned previously might involve some levels of serotoninergic activity because serotonin re-uptake has been associated with the development of severe hyponatremia (21). Note that perlolyrine is present in several members of the Poly-galaceae family.
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