About 120 species of plants classified within the family Rubiaceae are used in traditional medicine of Asia and the Pacific, of which, Mitragyna speciosa has been used throughout Southeast Asia, especially in Thailand and Borneo, as an intoxicant. The leaves are chewed alone or mixed with betel, or else prepared for smoking like opium, and its use is legally prescribed in Thailand.
The discovery of natural products of therapeutic value, and especially serotoninergic agents, from this very large family is most probable.
A classical example of medicinal Rubiaceae of Asian origin is Uncaria gambir (Hunter ) Roxb., from which is extracted an astringent extract (catechu, British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1963), employed for the treatment of diarrhea.
Psychotria adenophylla Wall. (Psychotria siamensis Ridl.) is a shrub that grows wild to a height of 1 m in Northeast India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Java. The leaves are simple, decussate, and stipulate, and show 15 pairs of secondary nerves. The influorescences are racemose. The flowers are small and tubular. The fruits are globose, glossy, and yellowish. In Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, the plant is used to treat maladies of the chest.
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