Medicinal Loganiaceae

The family Loganiaceae consists of about 20 genera and 500 species of tropical trees, shrubs, or climbers commonly producing iridoids and monoterpenoid indole alkaloids formed by the condensation of tryptamine and secolo-ganin (an iridoid). Examples of pharmaceutical products of loganiaceous origin are the dried ripe seeds of S. nux-vomica L. (nux vomica, British Pharmacopoeia, 1963) and Strychnos ignatii (ignatia, British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1934), which have been used as bitter tonic remedies and as ingredients of purgative pills and tablets on account of monoterpenoid indole alkaloids, such as strychnine (British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1959), which blocks the glycinergic receptors.




Nipecotic acid

Strychnine was elucidated in 1947 owing to the major contribution of H. Leuchs and Sir Robert Robinson. Since then, strychnine has been characterized fro several Strychnos species: Strychnos ignatii Berg., Strychnos wallichiana Steud. Ex DC, and Strych-nos lucida R. Br. The strong convulsive strychnine is accompanied by series of related alkaloids, such as brucine, colubrine, vomacine, and novacine. Strychnine and related alkaloids could be present in other species, but the complete chemical composition of many Strychnos species is as yet unknown (66). In the Pacific Rim, about 20 species of Loganiaceae, including Strychnos ignatii Berg., Strychnos gauthierana Pierre ex Dop, Strychnos lucida R. Br., Strychnos minor Dennst., and Strychnos axillaris Colebr., are medicinal and often used to invigorate, counteract putrefaction, treat eye diseases, and expel worms from intestines.

Strychnos ignatii Berg. (Strychnos beccarii Gilg, Strychnos cuspidata A.W. Hills, Stych-nos ovalifolia Wall, Strychnos pseudotieute A.W. Hill, Strychnos tieute Lesch. Ignatia amara L. f.; Ignatiana philippinica Lour., Strychnos hainanensis Merr. & Chun, Strychnos ovalifolia Wall. ex G. Don.), or lu sung kuo (Chinese), umpas naga, or akar ipoh (Malay), is a climber that grows in open woodlands, on limestone, scrub, or sometimes along river banks up to 800 m in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. The plant grows to a length of 20 m. The stems are grayish-brown, lenticelled, with tendrils. The leaves are simple and opposite; the flowers are yellowish, salver-shaped, 1.7 cm long, and papillose. The fruits are cream-green to orange berries up to 10 cm in diameter, containing several seeds that are ovate and flat (Fig. 61).The dried ripened seeds, or St. Ignatius beans (ignatia, British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1934), containing 2.5 to 3% of brucine and strychnine have been used as bitter and tonic in the form of tinctures, cachets, and piles, and the pant is still used in homeotherapy. In China, the seeds were mentioned in the Pentsao for their bitterness and toxicity. The drug is highly valued by the Chinese physicians who call it "precious bean" and who used it as counter-poison in ague, to expel intestinal worms, and treat postpartum difficulties. In Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, the seeds are used to invigorate and expel worms from the intestine. In the Philippines, the bark is used to reduce fever and assuage stomach pains. The seeds contain strychnine, brucine, pseudostrychnine, and pseudobrucine (68).



Fig. 61. Strychnos ignatii Berg. From Flora of Malaya. Kep: FRI No 15383. 7/21/1970. Field collector: T.C. Whitmore. Geographical localization: National Park, Pahang, Ulu Tembeling. Ridge northwest of Tg Bunhkal in low dense forest.

Strychnos minor Dennst. (Strychnos multiflora Benth.) is a climber that grows to a height of 15 m in the rainforests of India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The stems are terete, subglabrous, and develop pairs of hooks at nodes. The leaves are opposite, papery, conspicuously triple-nerved to 10 cm in length. The fruits are berries that are bluish at first and 1.4 cm in diameter (Fig. 62). It is used in the Philippines to treat throat trouble. A decoction of bark is used as an emmenagogue, and the Negritos chew the bark to treat prolapse of the uterus. The seeds are poisonous on probable account of strychnine and congeners.

Strychnos axillaris Colebr. (Strychnos pubescens C.B. Clarck), or ye hua ma qian (Chinese), chewong, or tenchong gendeng (Malay), is a climber that grows to 20 m long in mountain forests, forest edges, and to 800 m altitude in a geographical area spanning China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Australia. Stems, petioles, and blades are velvety. The stem shows axillary hooks that are spirally curved. Leaf blades are elliptic, narrowly elliptic, ovate, or suborbicular. The berries are ovoid to globose, and up to 2 cm in diameter and contain one or two seeds (Fig. 63).The seeds have been used to make arrow poison. The chemical composition of the seeds is currently unknown.

Fig. 62. Strychnos minor Dennst. From Plants of South India, C.E. Ridsdale 395. date: 7/12/1976. Geographical localization: Walaiyar Estate, Papanasam, Tamil Nadu. In evergreen forest. Distributed by the Rijskherbarium, Leiden.

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