Chemistry, pharmacology and medicinal properties of Peganum harmala L., Jinous Asgarpanah and Fereshteh Ramezanloo, 2012

Chemistry, pharmacology and medicinal properties of Peganum harmala L.

Jinous Asgarpanah and Fereshteh Ramezanloo

African journal of pharmacy and pharmacology, 2012, 6, (22), 1573-1580.

Doi : 10.5897/AJPP11.876


Peganum harmala L. is known as Syrian rue, Wild rue and Harmal. P. harmala extracts are considered
important for drug development, because they are reported to have numerous pharmacological
activities in the Middle East, especially in Iran and Egypt. For a long time P. harmala has been used in
traditional medicines for the relief of pain and as an antiseptic agent. P. harmala also have antibacterial,
antifungal, antiviral, antioxidant, antidiabetic, antitumor, antileishmanial, insecticidal and cytotoxic
activities and hepatoprotective and antinociceptive effects. Harmaline, harmine, harmalol, harman,
quinazoline derivatives, vasicine, vasicinone, anthroquinons and fixed oils are reported from seeds and
roots of this plant. This plant is used as a medicine in Turkey, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, India, Egypt and
Spain. This article presents comprehensive analyzed information on the botanical, chemical and
pharmacological aspects of P. harmala.

Key words : Peganum harmala, Zygophyllaceae, phytochemical, pharmacological properties.



Peganum harmala commonly known as Syrian rue and Wild rue is a flowering plant and is widely distributed in the Central Asia, North Africa and Middle East. It has also been introduced in America and Australia. This plant is known as “Harmal” in North Africa and “African Rue”, “Mexican Rue” or “Turkish Rue” in United States (Mahmoudian et al., 2002). It belongs to Zygophyllaceae family in the order of Zygophyllales that contains about 22 genera and more than 250 species. Peganum species
is widely distributed in North Africa, Mediterranean, the Middle East, Pakistan, India and southern parts of Iran, and has been introduced in America and Australia (Asghari and Lockwood, 2002; Ehsanpour and Saadat, 2002; Yousefi et al., 2009). P. harmala has been known as “Espand” in Iran.

Conventional propagation of P. harmala is from seed and it has several limitations, including germination (Khawar et al., 2005). Growing from a perennial woody rootstock, P. harmala is a bright-green, densely foliaged, herbaceous succulent (Figure 1). Although, its smooth many-branched stems may have a spread of four feet or more, the plant is rarely over two feet tall and generally appears round and bushy in habit. As an ornamental plant, this white flowering plant, is ideal, because of its low maintenance and drought tolerance (Khawar et al., 2005). Its leaves are two inches long, born singly and
finely divided into long narrow segments (Figure 2). Each year between June and August, P. harmala produces many single white conspicuous flowers (Figure 3). Measures one to one and one-half inches across, these relatively large and showy blooms have five oblongelliptic petals as well as five narrow sepals of slightly longer length. Each flower has the potential to develop into a fruit which is a leathery, three-valve seed capsule that stands erect on its stalk (Figure 4). Each capsule measures about three to eight inch in diameter and contains more than fifty dark brown, angular seeds (Figure 5) (Zargari, 1988).

People in the west Asia, burn the seeds to make smoke for keeping safe against voodoo (Rojhan, 1982). Abortion is frequent in animals that ingest this plant in dry year (Fathizad et al., 2007). The fruits are used as analgesic and antiseptic in folk medicine. For a long time, P. harmala has been used as a folklore medicine for treatment of various conditions, such as lumbago, asthma, colic, jaundice and as a stimulant emmenagogue (Bukhari et al., 2008). The seeds were known to posses hypothermic and essentially hallucinogenic properties (Sharaf et al., 1997; Lamchouri et al., 1999; Fan et al., 1997). However, its actual narcotic use in inducing visions has not yet been established beyond a doubt.

From current pharmaceutical studies, additional pharmaceutical applications of P. harmala have revealed anti-tumor effect (Goel et al., 2009), insecticidal effect (Goel et al., 2009), curing malaria (Goel et al., 2009), antileishmanial (Mirzaie et al., 2007), anti-spasmodic, anti-histaminic, vasorelaxant effects (Asghari and Lockwood, 2002), wound healing, anti-oxidant activity, immunomodulator properties, leukemia healing (Zaker et al., 2007), hypoglycemic effects (Singh et al., 2008), analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, antinociceptive effects (Monsef et al., 2004), antitumor activity (Madadkar et al., 2002), hepatoprotective effect (Khaled et al., 2008) and cytotoxic activity among others. Also, it has been reported that this plant had antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral effects (Darabpour et al., 2011).