Medicinal properties of Peganum harmala L. in traditional Iranian medicine and modern phytotherapy: a review
Mina Cheraghi Niroumand, Mohammad Hosein Farzaei, Gholamreza Amin
Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 2015, 35, (1), 104-109.
OBJECTIVE : To review the pharmacological activities of Peganum harmala L. (P. harmala, Nitrariaceae) in traditional Iranian medicine (TIM) and modern phytotherapy.
METHODS : Opinions of TIM and modern phytotherapy about safety and acceptable dosage of this plant are discussed. Various medical properties of P. harmala were collected from important TIM references and added to scientific reports derived from modern medical databases like PubMed, Scirus, ScienceDirect and Scopus.
RESULTS : The main medicinal part of the plant is the seed. In TIM resources, this plant possesses various Pharmacological activities such as carminative, galactagogue, diuretic, emmenagogue, antithrombotic and analgesic. In modern phytotherapy, P. harmala demonstrated numerous medicinal effects including cardiovascular, neurologic, antimicrobial, insecticidal, antineoplasmic, antiproliferative, gastrointestinal and antidiabetic effects. Adverse events such as neuro-sensorial symptoms, visual hallucination, bradycardia, hypotension, agitation, tremors, ataxia, abortion and vomiting cause people to use this plant cautiously. P. harmala is contraindicated during pregnancy, due to its abortive and mutagenic activities. Because of increasing the expression of CYP1A2, 2C19, and 3A4 and inhibition of monoamine oxidase, the pharmacokinetic parameters of drugs which are mainly metabolized by these enzymes may be affected by P. harmala.
CONCLUSION : The medicinal properties declared for this plant in TIM are compared with those
showed in modern phytotherapy. Some of the TIM properties were confirmed in modern phytotherapy
like emetic and analgesic activities and some have not been evaluated in modern phytotherapy such as its therapeutic effects on paralysis, epilepsy and numbness. Finally, the current review provides the evidence for other researchers to use TIM properties of P. harmala as an efficacious natural drug.
Further preclinical and clinical studies for adequate evaluating safety and therapeutic efficacy are recommended.
Key words : Peganum harmala; Pharmacological phenomena; Medicine, traditional; Phytotherapy;
Peganum harmala L. (P. harmala) commonly known as Syrian Rue is a widely used medicinal plant from the family Nitrariaceae.1 The names used in Traditional Iranian Medicine (TIM) for this plant are “Esfand”, “Espand” and “Harmal”.2,3 Its habitat is semi-arid conditions including those which obtain in Iran, steppe areas and sandy soils.4 The primary origin of P. harmala is central Asia but nowadays it grows in Australia, north of Africa and southwest of America.5
It is a highly branched perennial, herbaceous, glabrous plant which grows from 30 to 60 cm tall with short creeping roots. It possesses narrow leaves arranged alternately on fleshy, bright green stiff stems. The flowers are solitary, small, pale yellow or white, and 5-petaled. The fruits are capsules with 3 chambers and about 6 to 10 mm across. The unripe fruits are green and turning orange-brown when mature. The capsules contain more than 50 small black-brown triangular seeds.6,7
The main medicinal part of the plant is the seed in both TIM and modern phytotherapy.2,3,6 Pharmacologically active compounds of P. harmala are several alkaloids, β-carbolines (such as harmine, harmaline, harman and harmalol) and the quinazoline derivatives vasicine and vasicinone.8
The ideology of TIM is based on quadratic elements. These elements are air, fire, water, and soil with particular qualities. For example, air is hot and moist, fire is hot and dry, water is cold and moist, and soil is cold and dry. Believers of this doctrine suppose that the entire world is made of quadratic elements and the differences and diversities among objects originate from different ratios of these four elements used in their structures.
This definite quality has been known as temperament (Midzaj).9,10 Theory of temperament also existed
in many other traditional medical ideologies, including Unani (Greek), Arabic, Roman, Indian, European, and Traditional Chinese Medicine.11 Based on this theory, P. harmala is thought to have hot and dry nature.2,3,12,13
The goal of this study is to systematically review the pharmacological activities of P. harmala in TIM and modern phytotherapy. Opinions of TIM and modern phytotherapy about safety and acceptable dosage of this plant are discussed.
Various medical properties of P. harmala were collected from important TIM references including the twentieth book of Al-Havi, the second volum of Canon, the Tohfe- al-omenin and the Makhzan-al-Advia.2,3,12,13 The data added to scientific reports are derived from modern medical literatures. For this purpose, databases including Scopus, PubMed, Web of Science, and Google Scholar were searched for studies focusing on the biological and pharmacological activities, herb/drug interaction and toxicity of P. harmala . Data were collected from 1966 to 2014 (up to June). The search terms were: “Syrian Rue” or “Peganum harmala” or “P. harmala”. There was no language restriction. Results from primary search were screened by two independent investigators. The reference list from retrieved studies was also reviewed for additional applicable articles. All published articles as well as abstracts presented at meetings were evaluated. In vitro, in vivo and human studies were separated and the data from each were discussed in our paper.