Phytochemical Studies of Ethnobotanically significant Plant Abrus precatorius L. of Tirhut Division of Bihar


Prahrisht Kumar Singh

Department of Botany, Jagdam College, Chapra Jai Prakash University, Chapra.

*Corresponding Author E-mail:



The plant A. precatorius L. is commonly known to tribal people of Champaran district (east and west) of Bihar as 'Jethimudh', "Karjiri' or 'Ratti. Six free amino-acids have been detected from the leaves of the plant. Out of these six, DL-threonine is an essential amino acid. DL-aspartic acid, DL- nor-leucine and L-cystine HCL are non-essential amino acids whereas L-cystine is sulphur containing and DL-2-amino-n-butyric acid is non-proteinaceous amino acid. This ornamental plant is used by tribal people in uterine disorders, sore throat, lungs congestion, anti-fertilitic agent, cough and cold, fruits as insecticides and seed powder as antidote to snake bite. Cystenuria is a disease caused due to metabolic imbalance by this plant.  






The fabaceous plant A. precatorius L. is a twining shrub, perennial, growing mainly in shady places. It has a restricted geographical distribution and has been recorded from Bagaha and Motihari from Champaran district (east and west) of Bihar state. The maximum height of the plant varies slightly as 5.8 meters in Motihari but about 5.7 meters in Bagaha. Practically there is no remarkable variation in the region of branching, leaf type, number of mid-rib, color of flowers and vegetational population at the two places. The germination of seed is very poor which is only 20.5% at Motihari and still less merely 19.5% at Bagaha. The plant appears to be morphologically static at both the two places. The flowering season is August-September.



The plants have been collected from different regions of Champaran district (now east and west) of Bihar of socio-economic importance to different tribal communities. These places are situated at the foot hills of Himalayas. The district of Champaran which forms the extreme north-western portion of the Tirhut division and of the state of Bihar, is situated between 26°16' and 27031’ north latitude and between 8305' and 85018' east altitude. Champaran has a damp moist and rather enervating climate although it is much cooler as compared to the neighboring districts of Bihar. The average normal rainfall has been 56.18 inches (142.69 cm). The flora of these places is quite variable due to different ecological conditions. The plants have to face the stress and strain for their survival in that situation. Simple paper chromatographic techniques were employed for detecting various amino acids produced in plants under investigation. Earlier, similar phytochemical studies have been carried by Giri and Rao (1952), Govind Jee and Laloraya (1955).


One gram of fresh leaves from different regions of the plant were collected and were thoroughly washed, mashed, homogenized and centrifuged. For the detection of free amino acid, the sap was prepared in 80% ethyl alcohol. This was slowly evaporated over a water bath to obtain about 10 c.c. of mother extract for the experiment.


The technique of Thomas and Sharma (1977) for uni-dimensional ascending paper chromatography was followed. In this case Whatmann chromatographic paper no. l was used. The solvent used in this investigation was n-butanol, acetic acid and water in the proportion of 4:1:5. The entire arrangement of apparatus was kept in a closed chamber for ascending fluid for 16 hours at room-temperature (Sinha et al. 1989).


The ascended regions of solvent was marked and dried softly by hanging the chromatographic paper in open air. Amino acid spots were developed by spraying 0.1% (w/v) ninhydrin in n-butanol. The Rf values were worked out on the basis of the following formula:


Rf = Distance travelled by the solute/ Distance travelled by the solvent = at a fixed duration

The various amino acids were identified by comparing the coloration of the spot and also the Rf value of the known amino acids from the index. A set of 24 amino acids by ‘Lobo' of U.K. were used for index purposes.



In A. precatorius L., six free amino acids have been detected from the leaves are DL-2-amino-n-butyric acid, DL-aspartic acid, L-cystine HCL, L-cystine, DL-nor-leucine and DL-thereonine.


Table 1: Detection of Amino Acids from the leaves of A. precatorius L

No. of Observation

Amino acid detected

Rf value

No. of spot

Deposition of Amino acid

Color of spot




DL-2-amino-n-butyric acid







DL-aspartic acid





Pale rose

Mid cream


L-Cystein HCL












Light biscuit







Pale rose









Deposition of Amino acids: T=present in trace quantity; + present in moderate trace quantity and ++ present in heavy trace quantity


In the present investigation, L-cystein HCL is available in trace quantity and DL-2-amino-n-butyric acid, L-cystine and DL-nor-leucine are present in moderate trace quantity, whereas DL-aspartic acid and DL-threonine are present in heavy trace quantity.


DL-2-amino-n-butyric acid is one of the non-proteinaceous amino acid occurring only in the natural source as a physiologically important metabolite, formed specially in the brain by decarboxylation of glutamic acid which is an inhibitory transmitter in the central nervous system (Powar, 1984).


DL-aspartic acid and DL-nor-leucine are non-essential amino acids and present in heavy and moderate trace quantity respectively. The former is responsible for causing blood sugar imbalance leading to diabetes mellitus (Martin et. al, 1981), whereas DL-nor-leucine is neither glucogenic nor ketogenic in character (Best & Tayler, 1966).


DL-threonine is essential amino acid which human body cannot synthesize their own, as such they have to depend on other natural sources (Powar, 1984). It is an aliphatic natural amino acid and is required by the system for the various metabolic processes. One has to depend completely on natural sources.


L-cystein HCL is present in trace and L-cystine is present in moderate trace quantity. L-cystein HCL is a non-essential sulphur containing acid and synthesized from methionine and cystine as such its presence in diet decreases the methionine requirement. The metabolic role of this amino acid is responsible for the growth of thick hairs, healthy nails, tanned skin as well as animal hooves (Malhotra, 1985). Besides, it is a rich source of sulphur in human diet (Alstead and Girdwood, 1974).


L-cystine is also a sulphur containing amino acid. The general nature is very much similar to cystein. 'Cystinuria' is one of the significant disease caused by the metabolic imbalance of this amino acid in which cystine crystals are deposited in the reticulo-endothelial system throughout the body causing generalized amino aciduria (Martin, 1981). It is a genetical disease resulting the stone formation in the kidney of the patients (Alstead and Girdwood, 1974).


Many significant investigations have been made in the past about the chemical contents of the plant. A glucoside abralin and a coloring matter anthocyanin were detected by Ghatak (1933). Chopra (1956) studied the poisonous symptoms of abrin and suggested that it is a powerful irritant causing Oedema.


Wealth of India, Vol I (1948); 27, recorded that the root and leaves contain glycyrrhizin, which is a principal liquorice. Glycyrrhizin is also effective against cough and cold.


The seed contains a poisonous constituent called abrin which is inactivated by heat.


Ojha successfully used the seed powder with goat milk for abortion of pregnant tribal ladies and for this they reward heavily. Khoshoo (1984) has recorded various uses of the plant in tribal use. The leaves and roots are used as anti-fertilitic agent, fruits as insecticide and root in cough, cold and abortion. The use of seed powder as antidote to snake bite is very significant.


Sinha et. al (1989) observed that the plant is used by tribal people in uterine disorders, sore throat etc. This plant is also abortifacient.


M. Oommachan and S.K. Masih (1991) have recorded the uses of the root of this plant with ginger in cough and whooping cough and seeds as abortifacient.



The author is grateful to Dr. Vinod Kumar Singh (Rtd. Principal), Dr. K.P. Srivastava (Principal, N.L.S. College, Jaitpur, Daudpur, J.P. University, Chapra), Professor Anjar Alam (Dept. of Botany, Ganga Singh College, J.P. University, Chapra), Smt. Urvija Singh (Rtd. Principal) for their valuable advice and encouragement.



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Received on 26.11.2020       Modified on 28.11.2020

Accepted on 30.11.2020      ©A and V Publications All right reserved

Research J. Science and Tech. 2020; 12(4):292-294.

DOI: 10.5958/2349-2988.2020.00040.6