Pharmacognostic and Phytochemical Characteristics of Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle Stem and Root Bark: A Comparative Study

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Pharmacognosy Journal |Year 2017 | Volume 9 | Issue 5 |Page 668-673

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Weekar Younus Raja, Zulfiqar Ali Bhat, Ishtiyaq Ahmad Chashoo

Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Kashmir, Hazratbal, Srinagar, J&K – 190006, INDIA.

Correspondence Zulfiqar Ali Bhat, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Kashmir, Hazratbal, Srinagar, J&K – 190006, INDIA
Phone no: +91-9419077701
E-mail: zabhat@kashmiruniversity.ac.in

History

  • Submission Date: 09-05-2017;

  • Review completed: 18-05-2017;

  • Accepted Date: 02-06-2017

DOI : 10.5530/pj.2017.5.106

Article Available online

http://www.phcogj.com/v9/i5

Copyright

© 2017 Phcog.Net. This is an openaccess article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

ABSTRACT

Introduction: Ailanthus altissima (Simaroubaceae) is a large tree indigenous to China. It is known as the “Tree of Heaven”, used in traditional medicine in many parts of Asia, including China to treat cold, gastric diseases, diarrhea and endoparasites. It is also used as a bitter aromatic drug and as an antitumoral. Objective: The present study deals with comparative pharmacognostical parameters for the bark of stem and root of Ailanthus altissima, Mill. Swingle. Materials and Methods: The stem and root bark were collected, shade dried and powdered plant material was studied for its proximate values by standard methods. The extracts were subjected to a preliminary phytochemical screening for the detection of various phytoconstituents. Results: Proximate analysis revealed that the dry plant powder of stem bark has 6.48 % total ash, 0.42% acid insoluble ash, 4.60 % water soluble ash and for root bark 7.22 % total ash, 0.74% acid insoluble ash, 5.98 % water soluble ash. The Loss on drying for stem and root bark were found out to be 6.62 % and 10.46 % respectively. The stem and root bark of plant powder were found to possess phytoconstituents. Fluorescence analysis revealed the behaviour of the plant powder when treated with different chemical reagents. Conclusion: The present study reveals the preliminary phytochemical and proximate analysis of stem and root bark of Ailanthus altissima. Information obtained from these studies can be used as markers in the identification and standardization of this plant as a herbal remedy and also towards monograph development on the plant.

Key words: Tree of Heaven, Simaroubaceae, Proximate analysis, Fluorescence analysis, Alkaloids.

INTRODUCTION

The plant Ailanthus altissima commonly known as “tree of heaven” or “smoke tree” belongs to the family simaroubaceae. This is locally known in Kashmir as “Alamthar” or “Handoon”. Ailanthus altissima is native to China, North Vietnam1 and Indian part of Kashmir.2 The bark of this tree is smooth and light grey, often becomes rougher with light and dark fissures as the tree ages.3 The plant parts have a distinguishing strong odour like that of peanuts and cashews.4Ailanthus altissima is used in traditional medicine in many parts of Asia, in China the bark and leaves of this plant had been used for their bitter-tonic, astringent, vermifuge and antitumor properties. The dried bark is still an official drug, listed in the modern Chinese materia medica as chun bai pi meaning “white bark of spring”. The plant is used in the treatment of leucorrhoea, menorrhagia, spermatorrhea, as a vulnerary and in various gastric diseases as anti diarrhoeal, in dysentery, endoparasites, intestinal hemorrhage and to treat cold.5 The plant is known to have an anti malarial activity due to presence of active chemical constituents that include ailanthone an allelopathic chemical.6 The roots and leaves contain allelopathic and herbicidal compounds.7,8 The root bark has been used in treating cardiac palpitation, asthma and epilepsy.9Ailanthus altissima has potent anti-anaphylactic and anti-inflammatory properties.10 The stem and root bark are antispasmodic, bitter, diuretic, emetic, febrifuge, rubefacient and vermifuge.11,12,13 Despite the medicinal importance of Ailanthus altissima there is paucity of information available on the pharmacognostical parameters for identification and standardization of this species in whole and powdered form. The present study is aimed at the standardization and monograph development and to investigate the macro morphology, microscopical, pharmacognostical evaluation and phytochemical screening of the stem and root bark of Ailanthus altissima.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Plant material Collection and identification

The stem and root bark of Ailanthus altissima was collected from the Gulmarg, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, India. The plant was identified and authenticated by Prof. Akhtar H. Malik, curator Centre for Biodiversity and Taxonomy (CBT), Department of Botany, University of Kashmir under Specimen Voucher No. 2322-KASH. A sample specimen of collected material was deposited in herbarium for future references.

Reagents

All the reagents used were of analytical grade obtained from central drug house (P) LTD. Bombay, India.

Macroscopic and microscopic analysis

Macroscopic and microscopic analysis of stem and root bark of Ailanthus altissima were studied according to the method mentioned in Trease and Evans Pharmacognosy.14,15 The microscopic examination of the stem and root bark of Ailanthus altissima are not only essential to identify the adulterants but also indispensable in the correct identification of the plant.

Proximate analysis

Proximate analysis was performed on powdered stem and root bark Ailanthus altissima for the determination of various physicochemical parameters like total ash, acid insoluble ash, water soluble ash,16 extractive values, loss on drying, swelling index,17 determination of fat content,18 extractive values (hot, cold and successive)20 and pH determination.21 Fluorescence analysis study of powdered drug material was done treating with a few drops of different chemical reagents to detect the color changes under UV at 254 nm and 366 nm and visible light.18,19 Qualitative phytochemical screening were carried out on the methanolic and aqueous extracts of stem and root bark of Ailanthus altissima to determine the presence of various phytoconstituents.22,23

RESULTS

Macroscopical evaluation

The macroscopic character has always served as a useful key in faster and early identification of plant material and also serves as an important standardization parameter. The macroscopic features of Ailanthus altissima are: It is a large deciduous tree, 18-25 m tall; trunk straight 60 to 80 cm in diameter. The twigs are stout, smooth to lightly pubescent. The buds are finely pubescent, dome shaped and partially hidden behind the petiole. The bark is smooth light grey-brown and rough on large trees, aromatic slightly bitter. Leaves alternate, pinnately compound, large, 30-60 cm or more in length. Flower cluster lobed at leaf base, shorter than leaves, much branched. Fruit with one seeded samara, lanced shaped, flat, pointed, 5 cm long and 1cm wide.

Macroscopy of stem bark of Ailanthus altissima Figure 1(a)

Colour: Grey brown (Externally), pale buff (internally).

Odour: Characteristic

Taste: Slightly bitter

Size: 12-14 cm in length, 1-2 cm in width and is 0.1 cm thick approximately and it varies according to size.

Shape: Curved.

Texture: Fibrous and rough.

Extra markings: Prominent longitudinal striations and ridges.

Macroscopy of root bark of Ailanthus altissima Figure 1(b)

Colour: Buff

Odour: Characteristic

Taste: Bitter

Size: 8-10 cm in length, 3-4 cm in width and is 0.2 cm thick approximately and it varies according to size.

Shape: Double quill.

Texture: Rough and grove surface

Extra markings: Transverse and longitudinal striations and ridges.

Powder microscopy of the stem and root bark of Ailanthus altissima Diagnostic characters of stem bark

The sclereids occurred as singly and in abundance, showed considerable variation in size and shape (Figure 2). The walls of most of the cells are moderately thickened and often the outer wall is less thickened than others; occasional cells have very thick walls with a small lumen. The fairly abundant fibers, which usually occur in groups or bundles; they are thick-walled and highly lignified, occasional fibers are found associated with sclereids of the pericycle; others occur with parenchyma of phloem. The numerous fragments of cork with conspicuous granular, dark reddish contents. In surface view, the cells are polygonal with slightly thickened walls; in sectional view the cells are arranged in alternating layers of thinner-walled cells with pale, brownish contents and thicker walled lignified cells with dense, reddish brown contents.

Diagnostic characters of root bark

Powder of root bark when examined under microscope shows numerous fragments of cork with conspicuous granular, dark reddish contents (Figure 3). In surface view, the cells are polygonal with highly thickened walls; in sectional view the cells are arranged in alternating layers of thinner-walled cells with pale, brownish contents and thicker walled lignified cells with dense, reddish brown contents. The fibers were highly lignified, usually occur in bundles and were in abundance and shows presence of starch grains.

Pharmacognostic analysis and Phytochemical Screening

The proximate analysis was used for the pharmacognostical analysis of powdered stem and root bark of Ailanthus altissima (Table 1). The fluorescence characteristics of powdered drug were studied under U.V and visible light after treating with different chemical reagents is reported (Table 2). Also, the preliminary phytochemical investigation of methanolic and aqueous extracts revealed various phytoconstituents (Table 3).


Figure 1: (a) Dried stem bark of Ailanthus altissima. (b) Dried root bark of Ailanthus altissima.

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Table 1: Physicochemical analysis and extractive values of stem and root bark of Ailanthus altissima

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Figure 2: Microscopic structures of stem bark of Ailanthus altissima (a).Cork cells, (b).Vascular Bundles, (c).Group of Fibers (non lignified) and (d). Xylem Vessels (Lignified).

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Figure 3: Microscopic structures of root bark of Ailanthus altissima (a). Cork cells, (b).Vascular Bundles, (c). Fibers (lignified) and (d). Xylem Vessels (non lignified).

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Table 2: Fluorescence analysis of stem and root bark of Ailanthus altissima

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Table 3: Preliminary phytochemical screening of various extracts of stem and root bark of Ailanthus altissima

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DISCUSSION

Standardization is an essential analytical aspect for the study of identity, purity and quality of crude drug sample of plant origin. There are various physicochemical parameters used for the quality evaluation of the herbal drugs. According to the World Health Organization, the macroscopic and microscopic description of a plant is the first step to establish the identity and the degree of purity of such materials and should be carried out before any tests are undertaken24. The present macroscopic and microscopic observations of stem and root bark of Ailanthus altissima thus provide useful information for quality control parameters for the crude drug. Quantitative and fluorescence standards of the powdered drug provide valuable information to substantiate and authenticate the phytomedicine. The extractive values were used to find out the amount of active principles. The successive and cold extraction yield calculated for petroleum ether, chloroform, ethyl acetate, methanol and water extracts of stem bark of A. altissima showed that methanolic extract registered higher percentage of yield 7.812 and 7.54% respectively as compared with other solvents. While in case of root bark of A. altissima, aqueous extract registered higher percentage of yield (8.058 and 6.8% respectively for successive and cold extraction) as compared with other solvents. It may be due to high polarity of methanolic solvent which can draw high variety of plant constituents than the other solvents.25 The ash values were used to detect the presence of any foreign matters e.g. sand and soil, water soluble salts adhering to the surface of the drugs. There is always a considerable difference in the ash values of different drugs but mostly the difference varies within narrow limits in case of the same drug. The acid insoluble ash consists mainly of silica and high acid insoluble ash thereby indicating the contamination with earthy materials. The water-soluble ash was used for the measurement of inorganic elements. The total ash values of a plant drugs are not always trustworthy due to the possibility of presence of non-physiological substances. So, the authentication of acid insoluble ash was also done which showed lowest content of acid insoluble ash 0.42 % in stem bark and 0.72 % in root bark of Ailanthus altissima. Loss on Drying (LOD) determines the amount of moisture as well as volatile components present in a drug. Higher moisture content in the drug sample may causes hydrolysis of active ingredients of the drug and decreases its quality and efficacy. The final dryness of the drug and rate of moisture removal are equally important and it was observed that the moisture content in stem and root bark of Ailanthus altissima was found to be 6.62% and 10.46 % respectively. The pH of the stem (1% and 10% solutions) was found to be 7.78 and 6.80. For root bark, it was found out to be 7.30 and 6.60 respectively (Table 1). The pH of the extracts reveals the concentration of acidic and basic compounds. Fluorescence is an important phenomenon exhibited by various chemical constituents present in plant material (Table 2). If the substances themselves are not fluorescent, they may often be converted into fluorescent derivatives by applying different reagents hence some crude drugs are often assessed qualitatively in this way and it is an important parameter of pharmacognostical evaluation.26 The plants are considered as biosynthetic laboratory for a multitude of compounds. The compounds that are responsible for therapeutic effect are usually the secondary metabolites. The results of preliminary phytochemical screening of stem and root bark of Ailanthus altissima showed the presence of carbohydrates, phenolic compounds, flavonoids, alkaloids, proteins, saponins, sterols and tannins, in the methanolic and aqueous extracts (Table 3). This preliminary phytochemical screening may be useful in the detection and further quantitative analysis of such compounds. The phenolic and flavonoid compounds act as antioxidants. These compounds are also reported to have anticancer, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic activities etc.27 Phenolic compounds are most widely occurring groups of phytochemicals and derivatives of the pentose phosphate, shikimate, and phenylpropanoid pathways in plants. These compounds are secondary metabolites which have vital role in reproduction and growth, give protection against harmful predators and pathogens.28 Therefore, quantitative analysis of these compounds is very important to check the quality of drug.

CONCLUSION

Nowadays medicinal plants and herbal formulations are predominantly used due to their less side effects and the presence of enormous level of active ingredients. No detailed standardized work has been reported in literature for this plant. Stem and root bark powder subjected for microscopic, pharmacognostical and preliminary phytochemical analysis provides relevant information which may be helpful in authentication of the crude drug and check adulteration for quality control of raw material. The pharmacognostic parameters observed in present study, being reported for the first time adds to the existing knowledge of Ailanthus altissima can be quite useful for identification, standardization, development and preparation of crude drug’s formulation and inclusion in various pharmacopoeias for treating various ailments. The current observation will also be helpful in differentiating the stem and root bark of this species from closely related species of same genus and family.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

The authors acknowledge the support of: 1. Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences (DOPS), University Of Kashmir, Srinagar, J&K, India for providing the necessary facilities to conduct this study 2. University Grants Commission, New Delhi for providing fellowship to Weekar Younus Raja under BSR scheme 3. Abdul Aala Fazli, PhD fellow at DOPS for his valuable help in the preparation of this manuscript.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

ABBREVIATION USED

LOD: Loss on drying; A. altissima: Ailanthus altissima.

REFERENCES

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GRAPHICAL ABSTRACT


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HIGHLIGHTS OF PAPER

  • The Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle is known to have an anti malarial activity due to presence of active chemical constituents that include ailanthone - an allelopathic chemical.

  • The root bark of Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle has been used in treating cardiac palpitation, asthma and epilepsy. It has potent anti-anaphylactic and anti-inflammatory properties.

  • The results of preliminary phytochemical screening of stem and root bark of Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle showed the presence of carbohydrates, phenolic compounds, flavonoids, alkaloids, proteins, saponins, sterols and tannins.

  • Presence of important plant secondary metabolites such as flavonoids, phenolic substances and steroids in Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle could make the plant useful for treating different ailments.

  • This is the first report of its kind on the stem and root bark of Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle, which will serve as valuable source of information towards establishing pharmacognostic standards for its identification, purity, quality and classification.

AUTHOR PROFILE


Weekar Younus Raja: Is a doctoral fellow in Pharmacognosy & Phytochemistry at Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Kashmir, Srinagar. His research is focused on the development of quality standards of medicinal plants belonging to Himalayan region and screening them for biological activities.

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Prof. Zulfiqar Ali Bhat: Is presently heading Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Kashmir. His area of specialization is Pharmacognosy & Phytochemistry. He has more than 20 years of teaching & research experience. His area of research is mainly focused on medicinal plants of Kashmir Valley and Ladakh region. He has worked on plants having CNS, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, anti-hyperlipidemic & hepatoprotective activity. He is also member of many scientific journals. Prof. Bhat has number of national and international publications to his credit and has guided a number of PhD scholars.

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Mr. Ishtiyaq Ahmad Chashoo: Is Lecturer at Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Kashmir, Srinagar. His area of interest is natural product chemistry and clinical biochemistry. He has worked on plants having anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-hyperlipidemic activity.

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