Phytochemistry and Pharmacology of an Important Indian Medicinal Plant Crataeva nurvala Buch Ham


Soosamma John1*, Madhavi T.1, Bincy Raj2, Jincy Shaji1 and Vinutha3

1East Point college of Pharmacy, Bidarahalli, Bangalore-560049.

2Dayananda Sagar College of Pharmacy, Bangalore-560078,

3PES College of Pharmacy, Bangalore- 560059.



Crataeva nurvala Buch. Ham. (Capparidaceae) is a high-value medicinal tree that grows almost all over India, especially in the semiarid regions. Medicinal usage has been reported in traditional systems of medicine, such as Ayurveda and Unani. This drug is used in traditional system of medicine against a wide variety of urinary disorders. Crataeva nurvala is commonly known as Varuna. Many phytoconstituents have been isolated from the fruits, root bark and stem bark of Varuna. Lupeol is the major chemical constituent isolated from Varuna. The minor chemical constituents are cadabicine, cadabicinediacetate, catechin, (-)epicatechin-5-glucoside, (-)epiafzelechin, glucocapparin, lupeol acetate, spinasterol acetate and taraxasterol. Lupeol, a pentacyclic triterpene isolated from the root bark, has been shown to significantly minimize the deposition of stone-forming constituents in kidneys. Investigations have also indicated the plant has anti-arthritic, hepatoprotective, and cardio-protective actions. This review briefly examines the Phytochemistry, biological activities, pharmacological actions, clinical studies, and medicinal applications of Crataeva nurvala to provide direction for further research.


KEYWORDS:  Crataeva nurvala, Capparidaceae, Varuna, Lupeol, Urinary Disorders.



Varuna is one of the important drugs of Ayurveda due to diuretic and antilithic properties. The bark of the root and stem constitute the principal drug material in use for calculous affections1. Crataeva nurvala belongs to the family Capparidaceae is used medicinally in Indo-china and the Philippine islands2.


Sanskrit synonymes- Varuna, Ashmaghna, Kumaaraka, Sethuvriksha, Asmareeghna, Paadapa, Triparnee, Bhramarapriya, Bilwapatra,Vrittaphala, Bahupushpa, Kashayaka1.

Vernacular names                 - English- Three leaved caper, Holy garlic pear,

Hindi -Barna, Barun,Bila.

Kannada                -Bipatri, Neervalamara.


Crataeva nurvala is more continental in its distribution and common in Burma, Tropical Africa, either wild or cultivated. The plant is often grown near temples and tombs in many parts of the world. It is distributed in sub-Himalayan tracts and is indigenous to Tamilnadu, Kerala, and Karnataka1. It is propagated by seeds3. There are about eight species and four are native to India. This species are available throughout the greater parts of India4.



The name Crataeva derives from Crataevus, a Greek botanist, while the suffix religiosa denotes it’s growth near places of workship1. A deciduous and much branched tree, with trifoliate, glabrous ovate leaflets. The flowers are large, greenish white in dense terminal corymbs and the fruits fleshy, ovoid with a tough rind and brown seeds embedded in the fleshy pulp.


The mature bark is wrinkled and rough with visible lenticels, the outer surface is grayish brown in colour5. Leaves digitately trifoliate, upper surface deep green and lower grey, 20.3 cm long and 7.6 cm broad, bitter aromatic when bruised. Flowers violet, 5.1-7.6 cm diameter. Fruit globose, many seeded berry, 2.5-5.1 cm diameter. Flowers in February - March and fruits in April-May6.




Rasa       - Tikta, Madhura, kasaya.

Guna       - Laghu, Ruksa.

Virya       - Usna.

Vipaka    - Katu.

Dosha    - Kaphavatahara, Shothaghna.

Karma     - Dipana, Bhedi, Vataslesmahara, Asma-Righna, Anulomana, Krimighna, Grahak.

Doses     - 20-30 g of the drug for decoction.


Formulations and preparations:-

Mahamanjishthadyaristha, Kanchanara guggulu, Varunadi kvatha, Varunadi ghrita, Ashmarihara kashaya7. Brhadvarunadi kvadham, Nagaradi kashayam, Sundhyadi kvadham9. Leaf paste - Topical use10. Crataeva nurvala is one of the ingredients of the preparations known as Renalka, Purian and Himplasia of Himalaya herbals11.



Petroleum ether and ether fractions of Root bark resulted in the isolation of Lupeol, β –sitosterol and Varunol12. Chakravarti isolated Lupeol, Lupeol acetate and Lupeol benzoate from alcoholic extract of bark13. Ethanolic extract of root bark resulted in the isolation of Rutin, Quercetin, Lysine hydrochloride, Arginine hydrochloride, Cysteic acid, Hydroxy proline, Glutamic acid, α- amino caprylic acid, Glucose, galactose and Maltose14.. Momata isolated Stearic acid from Petrol(60- 800) fraction of root bark15. Benzene fraction of root bark resulted in the isolation of α- spinasterol acetate, Ψ-taraxasterol, 3- Epilupeol, Lupenone, β- sitosterol acetate16.Cadabicine and Cadabicine diacetate were isolated from ethanolic extract of stem bark17. Hexane fraction of the bark resulted in the isolation of Ceryl alcohol, Friedelin, Betulenic acid and Diosgenin. Sethi reported that n-hexane fraction of Crataeva nurvala fruit resulted in the isolation of Cetyl alcohol, Tricontane, Tricontanol and Glucocapparin. Leaves of Crataeva nurvala showed the presence of L-stachydrine18. The most uncommon compound is a glucoside of a flavan-3-ol, (-) epiafzelechin-5-0- β-D glucoside8. As mostly such compounds occur as gallates. Another interesting constituent identified in the bark is diosgenin, which was found to vary with age and season8. While the tender stem bark collected in March showed the presence of diosgenin, it was lacking in the aged barks collected in August –September. Regarding the occurrence of 1,3-dibenzylthiourea in the stem bark, the reports are conflicting, one group confirmed its presence and demonstrated the use in the treatment of cholera. Whereas others could not detect the compound or it’s precursor. Lauric, Stearic, undecylic,oleic and linolenic acids, Triterpene alcohol-lupa-21,20(29) dien-3- β-ol, rutin, quercetin, lupen-3-one, were isolated from the root bark. Volatile components -2-hexenal, 3-hexen-1-ol, P-cymene, limonene, linalool, α and β ionones were isolated from bark.


Structures of Isolated constituents of Crataeva nurvala Buch Ham.




Varuna is one of the important drugs of Ayurveda whose mention is found in the Vedic literature.The plant in some form of other is employed medicinally throughout the country and the medicinal properties of the drug are known to the people from the earliest period. Rishadah, a well known property which means that it eats away or rusts all the base metals; it burns the entire born etc and it is said to purify the blood by oxygenation and keep the frame alive. The drug is bitter, stomachic, alternative, tonic, detergent, laxative, vesicant, anthelmintic, and useful in strangury and in diseases of chest and blood. It is said to promote the appetite, increases the secretion of the bile and removes urinary disorders due to Vata, Pitta and Kapha1.



Oral administration of Crataeva nurvala bark decoction was found to be effective in calcium oxalate lithiasis in rats. The increased deposition of stone forming constituents in the kidneys of calculogenic rats was lowered with decoction administration19.


Antiurolithiatic activity:

The alcoholic extract of the stem bark of the Indian medicinal plant Crataeva nurvala showed a significant dose dependent (25-100 mg/kg p.o) prophylactic activity against experimentally induced urolith formation in rats. It also reversed the biochemical parameters in urine, blood and serum and brought back histopathological changes towards normal20.


Antiurolithiatic activity of Lupeol:

Lupeol is the major constituent present in Crataeva nurvala. Antiurolithiatic activity of lupeol was assessed in rats by observing the weight of the stone, biochemical analysis of serum and urine, and histopathology of bladder and kidney. Lupeol not only prevented the formation of vesical calculi but also reduced the size of the performed stones21.


Cytoprotective and antioxidant action of Lupeol:

The cytoprotective action of lupeol isolated from Crataeva nurvala stem bark against free radical toxicity has been investigated in experimental urolithiasis. Lupeol administered induced a remarkable decrease in kidney oxalate level and also was effective in counteracting the free radical toxicity by bringing about a significant decrease in peroxidative levels and increase in antioxidant status22.


The alcoholic extract of Crataeva nurvala administered orally for 10 days at two dose levels of 250 and 500 mg/kg body weight, for five days after administration of a single i.p. dose of Cisplatin (5mg/kg).The increased glutathione and catalase activity are indicative of the antioxidant properties of Crataeva nurvala stem bark extract23.


Antilithic properties:

It has been observed that crude powder of Crataeva nurvala in the dose of 350mg/kg of body weight per day in the form of daily prepared decoction was identified to be effective against patients of calcium oxalate nephrolithiasis (33.33%) and calcium phosphate nephrolithiasis (35.71%)24.


Effect on Enzymes of liver:

Bark decoction treatment lowered the liver GAO activity considerably. Transport ATPases (Na+, K+, and Ca2+- ATPases) and alkaline phosphates were enhanced in rats fed calculi producing diet, while the activities of acid phosphates, inorganic pyrophosphatase and aminotransferases were slightly reduced. Bark decoction administration produced a marginal decrease in Na+, K+ -ATP ase and increase in aspartate aminotransferase activities, without significantly altering other enzyme activities. The decrease in liver GAO activity seen during bark decoction treatment, with concomitant decrease in kidney oxalate level, may prove beneficial as a prophylactic measure in preventing stone recurrence25.


Effect on variety of Urinary disorders:

It has been found that the weight of the stone in the treated group (Crataeva nurvala stem bark decoction) was significantly less than the control group in experimental urolithiasis model in rats. The bladder tone of dogs was studied by means of cystometry. The dogs treated with Crataeva nurvala stem bark decoction showed relatively hypertonic curves as compared to their own initial curves which served as control. Crataeva nurvala stem bark decoction improves the tone of the smooth muscle and helps in the downward migration of stationary uretric calculi which encourage the spontaneous passage of calculi. Crataeva nurvala also improves the tone of the urinary bladder and increase the explusive force of urination so that the amount of residual urine is reduced in case of prostatic hypertrophy. Due to its anti inflammatory action the drug also reduces prostatic congestion26.


Anti- inflammatory and Anti arthritic activity:

It has been observed that the petroleum ether extract of the bark of Crataeva nurvala has been investigated for anti-inflammatory and anti pyretic effects. Betamethasone and phenyl butazone have been used as controls. It appeared that the anti-inflammatory activity of Petroleum ether extract fraction was similar in mechanism as that of betamethasone. It caused the atrophy of adrenal gland and thymus and it increased the cholesterol concentration of the adrenal gland27.


Diuretic effect:

The study was carried out on normal rats using frusimide as a reference drug. Rats were treated with Frusimide, NR-AG-1 and NR-AG-II. NR-AG-1 is a polyherbal formulation containing aqueous extracts of Crataeva nurvala, Dolichos biflorus, Tribulus terrestris and Shilajit and NR-AG-II is a poly herbal formulation containing aqueous extracts of Crataeva nurvala, Boerhaavia diffusa, Saccharum officinarum and Butea frondosa. NR-AG-II has good diuretic activity on rats in the above experimental model28.


Anti inflammatory activity:

It has been observed that Lupeol isolated from stem bark of Crataeva nurvala and Lupeol  linoleate (esterification of Lupeol  with Linoleoyl chloride) when administered orally at a dose of 50 mg/kg for 8 days in a model of  adjuvant induced rat inflammation, reduced the alterations in the enzyme levels found in arthritic rats compared to normal rats29.


Antiperiodic and Antipoisonous:

The stem bark decoction is given three times daily as antiperiodic and antipoisonous30.



Leaf paste is applied externally on piles and the juice is drunk to get relief from bleeding piles31.


Eye infections:

Collyrium made from the bark is applied to the outer surface of eyelids in eye infections6.

Root extract is reported to be antibacterial against gram +ve and gram-ve bacteria. Alcoholic extract of stem is also antibacterial against E.Coli31.


Anti cancer:

Some of the chemical constituents of Crataeva nurvala have anticancer activity. β -sitosterol reduces tumor yields when given orally to tumor bearing animals. By virtue of their structural similarity with cholesterol, such ingested phytosterols may bind cholesterol and reduce its absorption in humans. β- sitosterol and some analogues are reported to inhibit sarcoma 180 (mice), Yoshida sarcoma, and Ehrlich ascites cells. They are anti – leukaemic and inhibit Hela cells. Several investigators have reported that10μg Quercetin concentrations reversible inhibit a number of human tumor cell lines in vitro by competing for type II oestrogen binding sites9.


The extensive survey of literature revealed that Crataeva nurvala is an important medicinal plant with diverse pharmacological spectrum. The present investigation throws light on the Phytoconstituents and pharmacological actions of Varuna, importance given by Indians in the field of biological. There is a need to carry out an in-depth survey and taken for the maintenance of traditional knowledge and documentation of the medicinal plants in our traditional medicines. Once such knowledge systems are gone to the oblivion it would be an irrecoverable loss to the society. Hence, the conservation of these scripter and traditional knowledge in it seems to be the need of the hour.




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Received on 27.03.2010

Accepted on 13.05.2010        

© A&V Publication all right reserved

Research Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry. 2(4): July-Aug. 2010, 275-279