Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea)

Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea)
Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia puppurea), the plant belonging to Tephrosia genus is ubiquitous world over. Though it is a common wasteland weed, it is often found in poor soils. 
Plants grown to suppress weeds, control diseases of the crop, protect them from pests, help build and improve soil are called “cover crop plants”. Because they provide nutrients to the soil and enrich it much the way manure does, they are called “green manure”. They are also called “living mulches”. Cover crop plants are planted around and between the primary crops, primary plants in gardens; to control weeds and prevent erosion, facilitate water penetration etc. Once grown, cover crops are usually mowed, and then tilled into the soil. [1] 
Native of tropical Africa, Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia puppurea) was introduced into India as “cover crop” in tea estates of Assam and peninsular India. Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia puppurea) is cultivated as a green manure crop in paddy fields in India and in tobacco and rubber plantation in other countries.     
In Ayurveda Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia puppurea) is described as ‘sarwa wranawishaapaha’ which means it has the property of healing all types of wounds. [2], [3], [4], [5] 
Other Names
Taxonomic: Tephrosia purpurea Linn.
Ayurvedic: Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia puppurea), Wishikhaa-punkhaa, Sarphokaa, Surpunkha, Pleehaashatru, Pleehaari,
Siddha: Kattu-kolingi, Kolingi, Paavli, Mmllukkay, Kollukkayyelai
Unani: Sarponkha, Sarphuka
Sanskrit: Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia puppurea) (Sharapunkha), Indupushpika, Kalsha, Pleehaashatru etc.
English: Wild Indigo, Fish poison, Purple tephrosia
French: Bois nivre
Bengali: Ben Neela, Bannilgach
Gujarati: Sarpanakhi, Ghodaakaana, Sharapankho,  Unnali.
Hawaiian: Ahuhu, Auhola, Hola
Hindi: Sarphonkh, Sarapankhaa, Dhamasia
Kannada: Empali, Phanike
Malayalam: Kodikozhingil, Kozhingil, Kolinnil, Kattamar, Kattamari
Marathi: Unhaalee, Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia puppurea).
Oriya:  Soropunkha
Persian: Barg sufar
Punjabi: Sarpankho, Jhojro
Rajasthani: Masa
Sinhalese: Pila, Kavilai, Kolinchi
Tamil: Kolingi, Kattukkolincai
Telugu: Vempali chettu 
Urdu: Sarfonkka  [6], [7], [8]
Taxonomic Clasification
Kingdom: Plantae
Sub kingdom: Tracheobionta
Unranked: Angiosperm
Unranked: Eudicots
Unranked: Rosids
Division: Magnolophyta
Subdivision: Spermatophyta
Class: Magnolopsida/ Magnoliopside
Subclass: Rosidae
Order: Fabales,
Family: Fabaceae/ Papillionaceae/ Leguminosae
Subfamily: Papilonaceae
Tribe:  Millettieae      [9], [10], [11]
Geographical Distribution 
Sarapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea) is native to tropical Asia and is found from India and Sri Lanka to Southern China and through South- East Asia to tropical Australia and the Polynesian islands. It is now naturalized and cultivated  pan- tropically. 
It grows in all soils such as sandy, rocky and loamy. In India it is wanton in upper Gangetic plains and Western Himalayas. It also grows in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala especially along the coast. In India it is found up to the altitude of 1800 to 2000 meters in the Himalayas. [12]

Plant Morphology

SraSharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea) plant is a self generating erect or spreading much branched, herbaceous annual or short lived perennial, plant, 1to 1.5 meters tall


Root is tap root, 8 to 15 cm long, 0.5 to 1 cm thick, cylindrical, pale yellowish white with faint longitudinal striations.


Stem is 0.5 to 1.5 cm thick, cylindrical, more or less hairy, woody, angular near the apex.

Branches are many, glabrous or sparsely pubescent.

Leaves are bi-pinnate 5 to 10 cm long, imparipinnately (i. e. made up of 7 to 9 or more leaflets) compound, the terminal leaflets are solitary; stipules narrowly triangular, 1.5-9 mm x 0.1-1.5 mm; rachis up to 14.5 cm long, including the petiole; peteole1-3 mm long; leaflets 5-25, obovate to narrowly elliptical, terminal leaflet 7-28 mm x 2-11mm x 2-11 mm, lateral leaflets 5-30 mm acute at base, apex rounded with a central shallow notch; venetion usually distinct on both surfaces  

Inflorescence an axillary or leaf-opposed pseudoraceme, sometimes with basal leaf-like bracts; bracteoles usually absent; pedicel 2-6 mm long

Flower 4-8.5 mm long, violet or rosy purple to in color, bisexual, in leaf opposed racemes; calyx campanulate, persistant, cup 1.4 – 2.3 mm x 1.5-3.2 mm, unequally 4-toothed, teeth pubescent inside; standard broadly ovate, 3.5-7.3 mm x 5-10 mm, clawed; wings 2.5-6 mm x 1.5- 3.8 mm, auricled on vexillary side, clawed; keel 2.2- 4.5 mm x 2-3 mm, auricled on vexillary side, clawed; stamens 10, stamen-tube 4-6 mm long, filaments alternately longer and shorter, free part up to 3.5 mm long, vexillary filament free at base, connate halfway, 5-8 mm long; style up to 4.5 mm long, upper half glabrous, stigma penicillate at base.      

Fruits are flat hairy pods, 4 to 6 cm long, 3 to 5 mm broad, convex, somewhat up-curved towards the end, convex around seeds, flattened between, margins thickened, dehiscent with twisted valves, pubescent, containing 2 to 10 seeds.

Seeds are 3 to 5 mm long, 2 to 3 mm broad, rectangular to ellipsoid, light brown to black, sometimes mottled. [15], [16], [17]

Microscopic structure 
Root- TS of root shows distinct rhizodermis or epidermis, rhizodermal cells wide and cylindrical; thick and fissured periderm, narrow cortex with 2-3 layers of highly dilated compact thin walled cells and wide, solid secondary xylem. Secondary xylem a solid cylinder consists of wide central core of pith having wide thick-walled lignified cells. The vessels are circular, mostly solitary and diffuse in distribution. Diameters of the vessel rays range from 20-60 mm. Xylem are thick-walled, lignified with narrow lumen. Xylem parenchyma occurs in thick tangential bends. They are paratracheal and bent. Xylem rays are fairly wide and straight. The phloems are found around xylem having thin-walled cells.   
Stem- The stem is 1-9 mm thick. It has thick walled epidermal layer and narrow cortex with parenchymatous cells. The vascular cylinder is thick, dense and exhibits one or two growth rings. The pith is fairly wide with central cavity. The cortex is nearly 50 mm wide. The xylem cylinder, 500 mm wide, consists of vessels, fibers and xylem rays. Growth rings in distinct cylinders. The vessels are solitary, circular to oval, thick walled, 15-50 mm in diameter. Xylem thick walled with wide cavity. Xylem rays are prominent and run straight. The ray cells thick walled. 
Leaf- TS of leaf shows upper epidermis and lower epidermis. Some of epidermal cells elongate to form simple, multicellular trichomes. Below the upper epidermis columnar, elongated, compactly arranged single rows of palisade cells; spongy parenchyma found throughout tissue and is composed of loosely arranged spherical parenchyma cells.
Petiole- TS is somewhat oval to rectangular in shape. Shows clustered crystal as a transparent spot. The secretion duct is present in both transverse section of leaf and petiole. On lower side Anomocytic stomata (stomata surrounded by a limited number of subsidiary cells which are quite alike the remaining epidermal cells) are present. [22]
Parts used 
Often the root, stem and leaves are used. Many times seeds, bark, whole plant and Panchaanga kshaara are used.  
Aren’t customs wisdoms of centuries? They are!! The results of the traditional use of  Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea) by folk, by the laity and trained, renowned Ayurvedic physicians for the treatment of jaundice (viral hepatitis in modern terms) aroused curiosity in the mind of inquisitive analytical chemists, pharmacists and pharmacologists to search for medicinally active chemicals in the plant. Results of the research conducted world over are summarized here.  
1. The plant contains tephrosin, deguelin, quercetin, isotephrosin, rotenone and purpurin.
2. (A) The roots, the leaves and the seeds contain tephrosin, deguelin, quercetin, isotephrosin and rotenone.
      (B) The roots and the leaves contain rutin 2.5 %
3. In in-vitro tissue cultures rotenoids are produced.
4. The seeds contain tephrosin, purpurin a flavone as also 8-substituted flavonoid and 3-substituted oxygenated chalcones.
5. The various chemicals identified are: lupeol, rutin, delphinidin chloride; palmitic, caffeic, palmitoleic, linoleic, oleic acids; tepurindiol, valine, threonine, lysine, isoleucine, karanjin, phenylalanine and tephrone. [23]
6. The hydroalcoholic extract of the plant contains:
Alkaloids, glycosides, phytosterols, flavonoids, saponins, phenolic compound, carbohydrates and amino acids.
7. In addition to the earlier flavonoids, E.V. Rao and N. Ranga Raju isolated two new flavonoids (purpurenone and maackiain) from the root of Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea)Pseudosemiglabrin was obtained in admixture with semiglabrin. [24], [25] 
Recently researchers have identified following phytochemicals in Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea): Tephrosin, Rotenone, Deguelin, Purpurin,Pongaglobol, Pongamol, Semiglabrin, 5-methoxy isolonchocarpin and quercetin. They fulfill Lipinski rule. 
[Note: Lipinski rule is a rule of thumb to evaluate if a chemical compound with a certain biological or pharmacological activity has properties that would make it a likely orally active drug in humans. The rule describes molecular properties, absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME) of the chemical. It does not predict if a compound is pharmacologically active] [26], [27]

Identity, Purity and Strength 
The author did not get standardization values for Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia puppurea). However generally accepted values are: 
Foreign matter Not more than 2 percent
Total ash Not more than 7 percent
Acid-insoluble ash Not more than 1 percent
Alcohol-soluble extractive Not less than 10 percent
Water-soluble extractive Not less than 20 percent 

Chromosome Numbers/ Cytological Identity 
Gametophytic Count: 11
Sporophytic Count:    22 [28] 

Genetic Identity

By using RAPD (DNA) technique accurate genetic identity of Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea) has been established [29]
There are no specific guidelines regarding safety tests, permissible microbial limits in a given pharmaceutical preparation of Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea). However internationally accepted guidelines are as follows...... 
Safety Tests 
Heavy Metals:
Arsenic:          Not more than 5.0 mg/kg
Mercury:        Not more than 0.5mg/kg
Lead:              Not more than 10.0 mg/kg
Chromium:    Not more than 0.3 mg/kg 
Microbial Limits:
Total bacterial count:                                  Not more than 105cfu/g
Total yeast and mould count:                     Not more than 104cfu/g
Bile tolerant gram negative bacteria:          Not more than 104cfu/g 
Specific Pathogens: 
Salmonella spp:                          Absent in 25 g
Escherichia coli:                         Absent in 1g   
Staphylococcus aureus:             Absent in 1g          
Pseudomonas aeruginosa:        Absent in 1g
Properties and Pharmacology
Ayurvedic Properties
Ganas (Classical Categories)
Charak Ganas: None
Sushruta Ganas: None
Rasa: (Taste): Tikta (Bitter), Kashaaya (Astringent)
Weerya (Energy State): Ushna (Hot) 
Wipaka (End result, Post Digestive Effect): Katu (Acrid, Pungent, Piquant)
Prabhaawa (End result, Post Digestive Effect): Katu (Acrid, Pungent, Piquant)
Gunas:  (Qualities):  Laghu (Light), Teekshna( Penetrating tissues)
Effects on Doshas: Kapha-Waat-Shaamaka (Allays Phlegm and Waata)
Actions on Dhaatus (Tissues): Rakta (Blood), Rasa (Lymph),  
Actions on Srotasas (Systems): Annawaha srotas (Digestive System), Raktawaha srotas (Hemopoetic System), Praanawaha srotas (Respiratory System), Mootrawaha srotas (Urinary System) 
Ayurvedic Actions
Jwaraghna: Antipyretic
Shothaghna: Anti-inflammatory, Relieves edema,
Kushthaghna: Antileprotic
Wishaghna:  Alexipharmic, Alexiteric (obviating effects of venom), Antidote for poisons
Jantughna: Antimicrobial, Antifungal
Vranaropaka: Vulnerary
Raktaropaka: Styptic
Dantya: Beneficial for teeth, useful in dentifrice
Rochana: Improves taste
Deepana: Appetizer
Anulomana: Prokinetic
Krimighna:  Anthelmintic
Raktapittashaamak: Allays Gout
Kaphanihsaaraka: Expectorant
Mootrala: Diuretic [30] 
According to Ayurveda, the plant is anthelmintic, alexiteric (obviating effects of venom), alterative, antipyretic; antitussive and anti-asthmatic. It is used in the treatment of leprosy, ulcers and tumors, as well as diseases of the liver, spleen, heart, and blood.

Molecular formula: C27H30O16
Structural formula: 
Rutin decreases capillary permeability and fragility. It acts as antihypertensive. It attenuates pro-inflammatory cytokine production. In experiments on guinea pig ileum, it is found to be inhibitor of angiotensin II and prostaglandin E2. It is antioxidant. All these pharmacological properties offer protection against acute and chronic inflammations, acid peptic disease of the stomach, hepatotoxicity, UV irradiation, complications of diabetes and myocardial infarction.      
Rutin has no apparent effect on baseline blood coagulation. However administered orally, at the dose of 1G/kg/day, rutin reduces the anticoagulant effect of racemic warfarin. [32]
By virtue of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity rutin protects the renal epithelium and prevents the formation of calcium oxalate stones. 
Rutin has been shown to inhibit in vitro the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and angiogenesis. This finding has potential relevance for the control of some cancers. [33]
In mice model, rutin has been shown to possess cannabinoid mediated antidepressant activity. Rutin also shows activity on opiod receptor. Through opiodergic mechanism rutin producesantinociceptive effects. Rutin may thus be a polypharmacological agent. [34]
Recent study on animal models shows that rutin inhibits platelet aggregation, as well as decreases capillary permeability and improves blood circulation. Rutin could prevent formation of blood clots, so it could be used to treat patients at risk of heart attack and stroke. Rutin can also be used to treat hemorrhoids, varicose veins and microangiopathy. [35], [36] 
Molecular formula: C15H10O7
Structural formula:
Quercetin is a flavonoid exhibiting a wide range of biological and pharmacological activities. It mainly occurs in plants as glycoside such as rutin. It occurs in tea as quercetin rutinoside. Quercetin belongs to a group of nonsteroidal compounds known as phytoestrogens derived from plants. In plants they are involved in energy production. In mammals they exhibit strong antioxidant properties. One of the important pharmacological action of quercetin is vasoprotection for which it is incorporated in vasoprotectant herbal proprietary preparations.
Quercetin exhibits many actions similar to those of rutin. (For anti HCV actions of quercetin ref. the chapter on Widanga)   
In-vitro quercetin impairs angiogenesis and steroidogenesis in swine granulosa cell tumor. It does not directly affect the granulosa cell growth. It inhibits progesterone production and modifies estradiol production in the dose related manner. In addition, by inhibiting VEGF production it interferes with the process of angiogenesis. [37]

The quercetin paradox

Acting as antioxidant, quercetin protects tissues. The metabolites generated during the process are harmful to many other tissues. This is the dark side of the bright coin, quercetin. Quercetin protects the lung cell line against oxidative damage but the products of this process react with GSH (glutathione) lowering its concentration. This depletion of GSH can be harmful. This is ‘The quercetin paradox”. It is human tendency to use benevolent antioxidant in higher doses; but the point to ponder is, high doses of quercetin do not alter plasma antioxidant/oxidant balance i. e. REDOX status (REDuction - OXidation status). On the contrary, higher doses of quercetin can be detrimental to the body tissues. (The quercetin paradox) That Ayurvedic drugs are safe, having no side effects (untoward reactions) is a myth. No sane practitioner shall fall in the trap of this dictum and cross the limit of recommended dose of any Ayurvedic drug. [38] 

Molecular formula: C23H22O7
Structural formula: 
Tephrosin a retinoid is a natural fish poison. It is found in leaves and seeds of Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea)   [39] Anticancer activity of tephrosin was known to researchers. Exposure of A549   non-small cell lung cancer cells to tephrosin induces cell death. Tephrosin induces significant proliferation inhibition in a dose dependent manner via the autophagy path way. It is said that generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) plays an important role in this regard. However the exact mechaninsm is still unclear and needs further evaluation.  [40]
Inactivation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) family members are prime targets for cancer therapy. In experimental studies it was found that tephrosin did not induce the proteolytic processing of caspase-3 but did nuclear translocation of apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF), suggesting that tephrosin may induce caspase-independent apoptosis. The antitumor effect of tephrosin might be by inducing internalization and degradation of inactivated EGFR and ErbB2 in human colon cancer cells. [41]

Molecular formula: C23H22O5
Structural formula: 
Deguelin is a natural insecticide. In humans it shows a strong anti-cancer activity. [42]
In various types of cancers, deguelin exhibits significant anti-tumerigenesis and antiproliferative activity both in vitro and in vivo. Deguelin induces cancer cell apoptosis by blocking anti-apoptotic intracellular pathways regulating the cell cycle such as PI 3K-Akt, IKK-IκBα-NF-κB and AMPK-mTOR-survivin, while inhibiting tumor cell propagation and malignant transformation through p27-cyclinE-pRb-E2F1 cellcycle control and HIF-1α-VEGF anti-angiogenic pathway. In future deguelin can be a novel chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic agent.  [43]
Murine 4T1 cells (Murine mammary cancer cell line developed from 6-thioguanine resistant tumor) provide an excellent research tool for metastasis related studies because these cells are highly aggressive and readily metastasize in the lungs. In an in vitro study deguelin inhibited the growth of 4T1 cells in a time and dose dependent manner.    [44]
Deguelin induces apoptosis of lung cancer cells through regulating  reactive oxygen species (ROS) driven Akt pathway. Deguelin can be a promising therapeutic agent against lung cancer. [45] 
Premalignant and malignant human bronchial epithelial (HBE) cells are more sensitive to deguelin than normal human bronchial epithelial (HBE) cells. In in vitro and in vivo studies deguelin inhibited the growth of human bronchial epithelial (HBE) cells and induced apoptosis without harming normal human bronchial epithelial (HBE) cells suggesting that deguelin can be a promising chemopreventing and therapeutic agent against bronchial carcinoma. [46]
The exact mechanism of anti-cancer activity of deguelin is unclear. However there are certain conjectures:
1. Deguelin shows anti-inflammatory activity
2. Deguelin inhibits strongly the ROS activity
3. Deguelin exhibits anti-angiogenic activity
4. Deguelin induces cancer cell apoptosis by blocking anti-apoptotic intracellular pathways regulating the cell cycle such as PI 3K-Akt, IKK-IκBα-NF-κB and AMPK-mTOR-survivin, while inhibiting tumor cell propagation and malignant transformation through p27-cyclinE-pRb-E2F1 cellcycle control and HIF-1α-VEGF anti-angiogenic pathway. 
5. Deguelin arrests cell growth by inducing cell-cycle arrest in the GO/G1 phase [47]

Molecular formula: C23H22O6
Structural formula:         

Retenone is an odorless, colorless, crystalline ketonic compound. It is a broad-spectrum insecticide, pesticide and fish-poison. In powder form it is used to treat scabies and head lice on humans and mites on chicken, livestock and pet animals. [48]

Molecular formula: C14H8O5
Structural formula:

Purpurin is an anti-inflammatory agent. [49] 
In vitro purpurin protects against heterocyclic amine-induced mutagenesis. [50]

Delphinidin chloride 
Molecular formula: C15H11O7
Structural formula:

Delphinidin is a primary plant pigment.
Several glycosides derived from delphinidin are: Myrtilin, Tulipanin, Violdelphin, Nasunin etc. [51]

Molecular formula: C17H10O4
Structural formula:

Pongaglabol shows anti-bacterial activity against Shigella dysenteriae, Salmonella typhi, Streptococcus β-hemolyticus and Staphylococcus aureus [53]

Molecular formula: C18H14O4
Structural formula:
Pongamol promotes transport of glucose to cell membrane. A study shows that pongamol increases glucose uptake in L6 myotubes by a PI-3-K/AKT (an intracellular signaling pathway important in regulating the cell cycle) dependent mechanism. [55]
Pongamol shows anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-microbial andante-diabetic activities. In therapeutic doses pongamol does not show toxicity. [56]

Modern View

Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea] is anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic, antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, hepatoprotectant, antihypertensive, antidiabetic and having antitumor and chemopreventive properties.
Some testimonials from modern research:
Anti-Inflammatory Activity   
Lupeol, a triterpene contained in the herb exhibits a strong anti-inflammatory activity.
Immunomodulatory activity 
The flavonoidal fraction of the herb exhibits immunomodulatory activity. [57] 
In experimental animals, oral administration of flavonoid fraction of T. purpurea at 10 to 40 mg/kg doses inhibited sheep RBC induced delayed type of hypersensitivity reactions. The extract also exhibited dose related decrease in sheep RBC specific haemagglutination antibody titre. However it failed to show a change in the macrophage phagocytic activity. [58]

Antimicrobial Activity

The flower of T. purpurea was investigated for phytochemical analysis. The methanol extract showed very good antiviral activity against Herpes simplex - 1 and 2, vaccinia virus, vesicular stomatitis virus. The extract also showed activity against typhoid bacilli[59]
Ethanolic extracts of Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea) showed significant activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and its two other strains, two strains of Coliform. [60]
Ethanolic and water extracts of Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea) showed antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aerugenosa and Bacillus subtilis by disc diffusion method. In this regard ethanolic extract showed better antibacterial activity than water extract. [61]
From the butanolic extract of the seeds of Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea) a novel oleanane type triterpenoid glycoside saponin was isolated. By disc diffusion method, it showed significant antibacterial activity against Streptococcus pneumoniae and by spore dilution method antifungal activity. At the concentration of 200 microgram/ml maximum inhibition of Streptococcus pneumoniae and complete inhibition of the growth of the fungus, Alternaria alternata was observed. The MIC value recorded to be 23 microgram/ml forStreptococcus pneumoniae. [62]
At the dose of 50mg/kg for 5 days administered orally to hamsters, N-butanol extract of   Sharapunkaa(Tephrosia  purpurea] showed a significant activity against Leishmania donovani infection. The activity was further confirmed in Indian langur monkeys (Presbytis entellus). The fraction exhibiting this activity was F062 obtained from N-butanol extract of Sharapunkaa(Tephrosia  purpurea)   [63]

Actions on GI System

In a study ethanol was used to induce gastric ulcer in rats. Alcoholic Extract of Sharapunkaa (Tephrosia purpurea) (AETP) was administered at doses 1 to 20 mg/kg to these rats. At the dose of 1mg/kg, gastroprotection was not significant. At higher doses, AETP exhibited significant gastroprotection. Pretreatment of rats with oral administration of 5 to 20mg/kg with AETP imparted dose dependent gastroprotection from indomethacin induced gastric ulceration. At same doses oral administration of AETP protected the duodenum from cysteamine induced duodenal ulceration. 
The exact mechanism of gastroprotection is not clear. AETP does not inhibit gastric secretion. Therefore it was concluded that AETP does not have anticholinergic activity, neither has H2 blocking activity nor PPI activity. So it is thought that AETP has cytoprotective activity or strengthens the gastric and duodenal mucosa enhancing mucosal defense so as to make it resistant to acid erosion. Cytoprotection has been considered to be due to the generation of prostaglandins having anti-ulcer effect. AETP also protects the mucosa against indomethacin induced gastric ulceration [64] 
The methanolic extract of Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea) exhibited promising activity against Helicobacter pylori. The extract was also effective against metronidazole resistant strains of the organisms. Chloroform and n-hexane fractions of the extract were found to possess marked activity. The extract and the fractions of it were active in acidic ambience, similar to that of the stomach, showed consistent bacteriostatic activity on repeated exposure and demonstrated activity even against antibiotic resistant strains. [65]

Hepatoprotective Activity 

The powder of the aerial parts of Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea) was administered orally (500mg/kg) to experimental animals. Serum levels of the liver enzymes and bilirubin were used as biochemical markers. Histology was also studied. The results of the study indicated that Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea)  protects the liver from CCl4, D- galactosamine and many other hepatotoxic agents. [66] 
By subcutaneous injection of thioacetamide, hepatotoxicity was induced in albino rats of either sex. Aqueous-ethanolic extract of the aerial parts of Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea) (100, 300, 500mg/kg/day) was administered orally. At the dose of 500mg/kg/day, Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea) brought back the levels of elevated liver enzymes to normal levels. Histopathological studies also showed dose dependant reduction of tissue necrosis of the liver.  [67]
From various studies it appears that the mechanism of hepatoprotection by Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea) mainly involves membrane stabilization of the hepatocytes. The herb prevents cellular leakage and loss of integrity of the liver cell membranes caused by various hepatotoxic agents. Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea) also leads to hepatic regeneration. 

Pharmacological activity of various parts of the Plant 


The ethanolic and ethyl acetate extracts of seeds of the plant showed antioxidant activity. Both the extracts exhibited antioxidant activity both in vitro and in vivo.  [68] 

Hepatoprotective activity 

Free radical scavenging property of ethanolic and ethyl acetate extract of the plant is responsible for hepatoprotective activity. [69] 

Antihyperglycemic activity

The water extract of seeds of the plant exhibited hypoglycemic activity in streptozotocin induced diabetic rats. Oral administration at a dose of 600 mg/kg body weight was effective in this regard. [70] 

Antitumor activity 

Topical application of seed extract prior to 12-O-tetradecanoyl phorbol-13 acetate (TPA; phorbol ester) and croton oil treatment of the skin significantly reduced the oxidative stress of the skin and subsequent tumerigenesis in murine skin. This effect was attributed to antioxidant property of the phytochemicals found in the seeds of the plant.   [71] 


Anti-inflammatory, antipyretic and analgesic activities 

Ethanolic extracts of the root and aerial parts of the plant exhibit anti-inflammatoy, anti-pyretic and analgesic activity in a dose dependent manner. The extract at doses 250, 500 mg/kg bodyweight inhibited carrageenan-induced paw edema and cotton pellet induced granuloma in rats. At the same dose the extract exhibited antipyretic and analgesic effect. The responses were comparable to indomethacin. [72], [73]

Anti-oxidant activity

The hydroalcoholic extract of the root of the plant showed anti-oxidant activity. The activity was attributed to phenols found in the roots. [74] 

Antimicrobial activity

The phytochemicals present in the root of the plant inhibit the growth of Staphylococcus epidermidis and Propionibacterium acnes, acne inducing bacteria. [75] 

Wound healing 

Different extracts of the root of the plant show rapid formation of healthy granulation tissue, enhanced epithelization, increased rate of wound contraction and increased collagen levels and tensile strength of scar tissue. The observations were supported by histological studies at various stages of wound healing. [76] 

Actions on CNS

In animal studies ethanol extract, ethyl acetate extract, chloroform extract and petroleum ether extract of root of the plant showed CNS depressant and analgesic activity. Among them the ethanol extract (500mg/kg) possessed the highest activity. 

Actions on GI system 

In rats, gastric ulcer was induced by ligating pylorus, administering indomethacin and hydrochloric acid. The animals were then treated with the root extract of the plant. The results suggested that the plant by strengthening the gastric and duodenal mucosal defense prevents and cures mucosal erosion. [77] 

Hepatoprotective activity 

The ethanol extract of the root of the plant ameliorates carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) induced hepatic injury. The effect was as good as that shown by silymarin.[78]

Anticancer activity

In hamsters, oral administration of ethanolic extract of root of the plant prevented development of buccal mucosal carcinoma by dimethyl benz(a)anthracene (DMBA). When treated, the extract also reduced the volume of the DMBA-induced tumor [79]


Antipyretic activity

The methanolic extract of leaves of the plant was found useful against yeast induced pyrexia in rats. This effect was attributed to coumarins, flavonoids, caratenoids and quercetin found in the leaves. [80] 

Anthelmintic activity

Various concentrations of water and methanolic extracts of leaves of the plant showed anthelmintic activity.  The activity of tannins and phenolic compounds found in the plant was as good as albendazole. Tannins bind to proteins (glycoproteins to be precise) on the cuticle of the parasite and cause their death. [81] 

Hepatoprotective activity 

The extract also alleviated phorbol ester induced hepatotoxicity. (For details see above) 

Action on metabolism 

To evaluate lipid lowering activity of ethanolic extract of leaves of the plant, hyperlipidemia was induced in Wistar rats by feeding high fat diet. Administration of the extract at 400 and 800mg/kg bodyweight significantly lowered the elevated cholesterol in the blood of rats. The extract therefore has a therapeutic value for the treatment of high cholesterol levels in humans. [82]

Antitumor activity 

Benzoyl peroxide promotes cutaneous tumors through the generation of oxidative       stress in the skin. Benzoyl peroxide treatment through generation of hydrogen peroxide increases cutaneous microsomal peroxidation which is responsible cutaneous tumerigenesis. Prophylactic treatment of mice with leaf extract of the plant 12 hours before benzoyl peroxide treatment resulted in the diminution of benzoyl peroxide-mediated damage. The extract replenished the depleted levels of glutathione and some antioxidant enzymes. [83] 


The methanolic extract of flowers of the plant exhibits antibacterial activity against Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria. The extract also shows antiviral activity in hela cell and Vero cell cultures.  [84] 

Aerial part 

Immunomodulatory activity

Flavonoid fraction of the aerial part of the plant exhibits cellular and humoral immunumodulatory property. [85] 

Antiallergic activity 

In rats ethanolic extract of aerial part of the plant in concentration of 25-200 µg/ml showed a dose dependent inhibition of mast cell degranulation induced by compound 48/80 and egg albumin. The extract was found to inhibit haemolysis of erythrocytes induced by hypotonic solution but accelerated haemolysis induced by heat at a concentration of 100µg/ml. The study revealed that the extract may inhibit degranulation of mast cells by a mechanism other than membrane stabilization. [86]
Antiasthmatic activity 
The property of mast cell stabilization of ethanolic extract of the plant is responsible for its antiasthmatic activity. This effect was comparable to dexamethasone and chromoglycate.  [87]

Hepatoprotective activity 

Extract of aerial part of the plant protects liver cells from acute D-galactosamine and carbon tetrachloride (CCl4)-induced injury. The powder of the aerial part at a dose of 500mg/kg bodyweight normalized the elevated levels of liver enzymes due to liver injury. Absence of necrosis of liver cells when treated with the extract or powder of aerial part of the plant suggests that the drug has membrane stabilizing effect on hepatocytes. This antinecrotic effect was proved by histological study at various stages of the treatment. [88] 
Oral administration of the aqueous-ethanolic extract of aerial parts (100, 300 and 500mg/kg/day) and/or/ powder 500mg/kg resulted in hepatoprotective activity against thioacetamide toxicity. Histology of the liver of the animals treated with the extract also showed dose-dependent reduction of necrosis. [89] 

Whole plant 

Anthelmintic activity

N-butanol fraction of the extract of the whole plant at a dose of 50mg/kg/day for 5 days exhibited a significant antileishmanial activity against Leishmania donovani infection in Hamsters. The activity was further confirmed by oral administration of the fraction to Indian langur monkeys (Presbytis entellus). The fraction was without any toxic side effect. [90] 

Actions on CNS 
When studied in Swiss albino mice, the hydroalcoholic extract of the whole plant shows a significant anxiolytic activity. The anxiolytic effect could be due the binding of phytochemicals to GABAA-BZD complex. [91] 
In albino Wistar rats and in vivo the ethanolic extract of the whole plant significantly reduced the severity of status epilepticus. This activity is said to be due to free radical scavenging property of the plant. [92]

Actions on GI system 

When studied in Swiss albino mice, the hydroalcoholic extract of the whole plant shows a significant anxiolytic activity. The anxiolytic effect could be due the binding of phytochemicals to GABAA-BZD complex. [91] 
In albino Wistar rats and in vivo the ethanolic extract of the whole plant significantly reduced the severity of status epilepticus. This activity is said to be due to free radical scavenging property of the plant. [92]
The methanolic extract of the whole plant shows anti-diarrheal activity. The effective oral dose of the extract is 500mg/kg body weight. [93] 

Actions on Urinary System

Administration orally of 200 and 400mg/kg of methanolic extract of the whole plant induced dieresis in rats. Not only the volume but also excretion of electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, calcium and chlorides increased. [94]
By virtue of its antioxidant property Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea) ameliorates diethylnitrosamine and potassium bromete mediated renal oxidative stress and toxicity in Wistar rats. [95] 

Antitumor activity

Phytosterols found in the plant, such as β- sitosterol that reduce raised blood levels of cholesterol were found to prevent the development of some types of cancers such as breast, colon, prostate. In some in vivo studies β- sitosterol played a vital anticarcinogenic role. [96] 

Culinary uses

Not used.

Medicinal Actions and Uses

Uses as folk medicine

In India Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea) is used for cough, chest pain, bilious vomiting, jaundice, enlargement of liver and spleen and kidney diseases. It is recommended as blood purifier for the treatment of boils and pimples.
Infusion of seeds is used as cooling medicine. Oil from seeds is used for scabies, eczema, skin eruptions, itching of the skin, syphilis and gonorrhea. 
Roots of the plant are used for dyspepsia and chronic diarrhea.
Decoction of pounded leaves is used for snake bite.

In Sri Lanka Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea) is used as anthelmintic for children. The decoction of roots is used as nematicide for treatment of Toxocara canis larvae which cause lung disease. The decoction is also used for dyspepsia, intestinal colic and chronic diarrhea. It is also used as anthelmintic. 

In South Africa Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia purpurea) is used for similar aliments. 

Leaves are used as fodder. [97] 

Usages in Ayurvedic Medicine

According to Ayurveda, the plant is used as digestive, anthelmintic, alexiteric (resisting poisons), antipyretic and alterative. It is used to treat the diseases of liver, spleen, heart and blood. It cures (?) tumors, ulcers, leprosy, asthma etc.
Externally it is used as dentifrice and mouth wash. It is also used to treat wounds 
It is used to treat PUO
It is used as expectorant. In bronchitis and bronchial asthma the cigarette of its leaves is used.
It is used as appetizer, digestant and its kshaara is used as anthelmintic.
It is used to treat diarrhea especially chronic diarrhea
Kshaara is also used to treat piles
It is useful in the treatment of jaundice (infective/viral hepatitis), hepato-splenomegaly (portal hypertension), ascites
It is used as diuretic, especially in UTI
It is used to treat male infertility [98], [99], [100], [101], [102]
Infusion of seeds is used as boils, furuncles, pimples, scabies and skin disorders. Oil of seeds is used as anthelmintic and for scabies and leucoderma. 
The root powder being salutary for the teeth, it is used as dentifrice   
Root is used in inflammation, PUO, boils, furuncles, pimples, skin disorders, elephantiasis, asthma, bronchitis, anemia, gingivitis, flatulence, hemorrhoids, dysmenorrheal 
The decoction of roots is given in dyspepsia, diarrhea, rheumatism, asthma and urinary disorders. [103], [104] 
Leaves of the plant: used for dyspepsia, hemorrhoids, chest diseases, syphilis, gonorrhea [105] 
The extract of pods is used to treat inflammations, allergies. Their extract is used for nausea, dyspepsia and vomiting. [106] 
Ethanolic extract of the whole plant has been used to treat inflammatory such as rheumatism, allergic conditions such as asthma and bronchitis and leprosy. [107]

Usages in Modern Medicine

All parts of the plant have tonic and laxative properties. The dried plant is hepatoprotectant, useful in viral hepatitis, diuretic and useful in treating bronchitis, viral febrile attacks and obstructions of the liver, spleen and kidneys. It is also recommended as blood purifier, in the treatment of boils and pimples. In southern India, decoction of the fruit is given against intestinal worms. The fruit extract is used to relieve bodily pains and inflammatory problems. The roots are bitter and decoction is used as anthelmintic. 
It is nematicide and is used for the treatment against Toxocora canis larvae which cause a lung disease in Sri Lanka. It is also used against dyspepsia, colic, and chronic diarrhea and as anthelminthic. 


The toxic properties of T. purpurea are due to the presence of rotenone and several of its isomers named deguelins. One of the deguelins, tephrosin, is poisonous to fish, but not to mammals. Leaves of T. purpurea contain up to 2.5% rutin (a flavonol glucoside) which can be toxic in high doses.


Sharapunkha (Tephrosia purpurea) should not be used during pregnancy and lactation. 

Preparations and dosages 
Choorna (Powder): 3 - 6 gm,
Swaras: 10 - 25 ml,
Decoction: 10-20 ml.
Kshaara: 1 - 3 gm
Whole plant powder: 2 g bid
Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia puppurea)di lepa for topical application
Sharapunkhaa (Tephrosia puppurea) ghanawatee: 250-750 mg bid/ tds
Root powder: 0.05g to 1.5g bid [108]

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