Condensed Tannins - Ashoka

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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Tannins

Ashoka consists of dried stem bark of the plant Saraca indica Linn., belonging to family Leguminosae.






Ashoka, ashoka bark.


Biological Source


Ashoka consists of dried stem bark of the plant Saraca indica Linn., belonging to family Leguminosae.


Geographical Source


It is distributed in South Asia, that is, in Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India.


Cultivation and Collection


It is one of the most sacred trees of the Hindus. It is frequently grown as an ornamental and avenue tree in India. It is not found to be cultivated on commercial scale. It can be easily propagated from seeds. It is found growing suitably at an altitude of 750 m in the Himalayas, Khasi, Garo, and Lushai hills. It is an evergreen tree, bearing dark red-coloured flowers reaching a maximum height of 9 m. Bark is collected from the plant by making transverse and longitudinal incisions.







Transverse section of bark shows cork cells, cork cambium, and phelloderm constituting periderm of bark. Pericycle is composed of sclereids (stone cells), parenchyma and scattered pericyclic fibres. Sclereids usually occur as densely packed zones, composed of thick-walled, tangentially elongated cells, which alternate with parenchyma. Parenchymatous cells are thick-walled, oval containing prismatic crystals of calcium oxalate. Sheath of prismatic crystals of calcium oxalate surrounds zone of sclereids. Secondary phloem is a wide region consisting of phloem parenchyma, traversed longitudinally by medullary rays and phloem fibres. Cells of phloem parenchyma contain prismatic crystals of calcium oxalate similar to that of parenchyma of Pericycle. Phloem fibres are arranged in small concentric groups of more than three on the radial rows of phloem elements. Medullary rays become much wider, dilated, and funnel shaped on reaching pericycle.


Chemical Constituents


Ashoka stem bark contains about 6% of tannins and anthocyanin derivatives which includes leucopelargonidin-3-O-β-D-glucoside. leucopelargonidin and leucoanidin. It also contains waxy substance constituted of long chain alkanes, esters, alcohols and n-octacosanol. The steroidal components present in the bark includes 24-methylcholest-5-en-3-β-ol, (ZZE)-24-ethylcholesta-5,22-dien-3-β-ol, 24-ethylcholest-5-en-3-β-ol and β-sitosterol.

The root bark contains ({) epicatechin, procyandin B2 and 11’-deoxyprocyanidin B. The pods consists of (+) catechol, ({) epicatechol, and leucocyanidin. The flowers are reported to have various anthocyanin pigments, kaempterol, quercetin and its glycoside, gallic acid, and β-sitosterol.


Chemical Tests

1.     Powdered bark, when treated with saturated picric acid solution, remains brown for 10 minutes and then slowly turns to orange yellow.


2.     Powdered bark gives a deep chocolate colour with 5% KOH solution.




It is used as uterine tonic and also a sedative. It stimulates the uterus by the prolonged and frequent uterine contractions. It is also suggested in all cases of uterine bleeding, where ergot can also be used. It is reported to have a stimulant effect on the endometrium and ovarian tissue and useful in menorrhagia.




Bark of Polyalthia longifolia is generally used as an adulterant.


Marketed Products


It is the chief component of the preparation known as Pmensa (Lupin Herbal Laboratory) for symptomatic relief in painful and psychological symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome. It is also an important ingredient of the preparation known as Femiplex (Charak Pharma Pvt. Ltd.), and Ashokarishta (Baidyanath).


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