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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 4-10

Pharmacognostic studies of polygala senega L. Root: A homoeopathic drug

1 Drug Standardisation Unit (H), Hyderabad, Telangana, India
2 Drug Standardisation Programme, Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy, New Delhi, India

Date of Web Publication3-Apr-2018

Correspondence Address:
Mr. Satish Patel
Drug Standardisation Unit (H), O.U.B. 32, Vikrampuri, Road No. 4, Habsiguda, Hyderabad - 500 007, Telangana
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijrh.ijrh_1_18

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Background: Polygala senega L. is a small perennial herb belonging to the family Polygalaceae. The roots are used as stimulant and expectorant in bronchitis. In Homoeopathy, it is used for hypopyon, paresis of oculomotor nerve, catarrh of pharynx, sore throat, catarrh of bladder, influenza, asthma, whooping cough, soreness in chest, pleurisy, pneumonia, hydrothorax, pleuropneumonia, pneumonia, hydrothorax and ascites. Objective: The objective of the present study deals with morpho-anatomical, powder and physicochemical characteristics of the root of P. senega for developing standards for authentication of drug. Materials and Methods: The current study includes morpho-anatomical, powder and physicochemical studies of the root of P. senega. Physicochemical studies comprise extractive values, ash values, chemical tests, weight/millilitre, total solids, alcohol content and loss on drying. Results: The root are yellowish brown to light brown and has as its unique mark a projecting line on its down side. The distinguishing microscopic characteristics of the root included the presence of multilayered phellem, abundant phelloderm interrupted by tracheary elements, acicular crystals, abnormal development of phloem and V-shaped medullary rays. Physicochemical studies of the raw drug and mother tincture are standardised and depicted. Conclusion: The pharmacognostic and physicochemical data depicted in this study may serve as pharmacopoeial standards for identification and authentication of the homoeopathic drug P. senega.

Keywords: Homoeopathy, Pharmacognosy, Polygala senega, Standardisation

How to cite this article:
Patel S, Biswas B, Nagaraju M, Jhansi S, Arya R, Sundaram E N. Pharmacognostic studies of polygala senega L. Root: A homoeopathic drug. Indian J Res Homoeopathy 2018;12:4-10

How to cite this URL:
Patel S, Biswas B, Nagaraju M, Jhansi S, Arya R, Sundaram E N. Pharmacognostic studies of polygala senega L. Root: A homoeopathic drug. Indian J Res Homoeopathy [serial online] 2018 [cited 2023 Feb 3];12:4-10. Available from: https://www.ijrh.org/text.asp?2018/12/1/4/229066

  Introduction Top

Polygala senega L. (syn: Polygala senegum L.; P. rosea Steud; Senega officinalis Spach) is commonly known as snakeroot or milkwort belonging to the family Polygalaceae. Polygala means 'much milk', commence its own secretions and their effect, whereas the 'Senega' word originated from a Seneca tribe belongs to North American Indians. This plant is indigenous to North America and found in Eastern United States, Virginia, South Canada, Western New England to Wisconsin and Kentucky.[1],[2] In India, the plant is generally developed during summer and completes its life period in 4–5 months once self-pollinated.[3] It is a small perennial herb about 20–50 cm tall. The stems are numerous, unbranched, erect, ascending, and smooth herbaceous to woody along with woody rootstock that spread horizontally. The roots are yellowish brown to light brown, conical, twisted, thick; branched roots and broken pieces thereof together with detached rootlets, 5–15 cm length. The leaves are alternately arranged, sessile, exstipulate, lanceolate or oblong or ovate lanceolate, bright green, paler underneath, rough margin with a sharp point. Flower is white, cleistogamous, irregular, hermaphrodite and 5 distinct sepals, of 3–5 petals, 8 stamens and a bicarpellate pistil. Fruits are loculicidally dehiscent, two celled capsule, flat broader than long and having barrel shaped pollen grains. Seeds are two in number, oblong ovate, somewhat hairy, and black in colour.[4],[5],[6]

This plant is widely used in herbal and allopathic medicines. The root of P. senega has been reported to possess anticancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-hypoglycaemic, antioxidant, antitussive, antiasthmatic, anti-venom and immunological adjuvant activities.[7],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12] The reported chemical constituents of P. senega are triterpenoid saponins such as senegin, polygalic acid, senegenin, presenegenin, senegenic acid, fixed oil, sterol and senegin II.[13],[14],[15] In Homoeopathy, it is used for hypopyon, paresis of oculomotor nerve, catarrh of pharynx, sore throat, catarrh of bladder, influenza, asthma, whooping cough, soreness in chest, pleurisy, pneumonia, hydrothorax, pleuropneumonia, pneumonia, hydrothorax and ascites.[16]

In view of the medicinal uses of its root in Homoeopathy, standardisation studies on root of P. senega have been undertaken and the data presented in this article would provide correct diagnostic features for identification and authentication of raw drug for preparation of homoeopathic mother tincture and further dilutions.

  Materials and Methods Top


All the chemicals used in the studies were of analytical grade.

Plant collection

The roots of plant of P. senega were obtained from the Centre for Medicinal Plants Research in Homoeopathy, Ooty, Tamil Nadu, India, and the methods carried out as per the study protocols described in Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia of India (HPI).[6] For physicochemical studies, root was dried in shadow. The dried root was ground into coarse powders used for the preparation of mother tincture and other studies.


Macroscopic characteristics of crude drugs were made on the basis of shape, size, fracture, colour, surface characteristics and texture of cut/broken sides of raw drug materials following the prescribed methods.[17]


The roots were little boiled, sliced into small pieces, fixed in formaldehyde-acetic acid-alcohol (FAA) and dehydrated all the way through different xylene/alcohol ratio followed by embed in paraffin wax. The cross-sections made were in between 10 and 12 μm processed for staining in crystal violet and basic fuchsin combination as per the Johansen's method. Permanent slide was prepared with the help of Canada balsam as per the Johansen's method.[18] Microscopic characteristics and photomicrography were made using Olympus BX 53 Research Trinocular Microscope.

Powder studies

The powder studies were carried out by boiling the powder drug in distilled water, stained in safranin and mounted with glycerine. Photomicrography was done with Olympus CH-2 Trinocular Microscope.

Organoleptic characteristics

A small amount of powdered drug was spread on a white tile and physically examined for general appearance i.e., nature, colour, odour, taste and texture.

Physicochemical studies

The shaded dried sample of senega root was coarsely powdered and determined the physicochemical standards viz., moisture content or loss on drying, different ash values such as total ash, water-soluble ash and acid-insoluble ash, extractive values, specific gravity, test for saponins, pH, chromatographic profile and ultraviolet (UV) spectroscopy studies. Mother tincture was prepared following percolation method as per HPI.[6]

Thin-layer chromatography

Mother tincture (25 ml) was evaporated on water bath and removed alcohol. The remaining aqueous part was extracted with 25 ml of chloroform (thrice). All the fractions were combined, concentrated, applied on thin-layer chromatography (TLC) plate and developed using chloroform: ethyl acetate (9:1) as mobile phase. The spots were identified using UV lights of 365 nm and 254 nm.

  Observations and Results Top


The root are yellowish brown to light brown, and in size from the width 0.5–1.5 cm. It has unique mark a projecting line, all along its curved in side. It is usually conical, twisted, sometimes almost spiral, rarely straight, thick, tortuous, vertical mostly, branched roots and broken pieces thereof together with detached rootlets, knotty crown, 5–15 cm length, composed largely of short stem bases. Its surface wrinkled longitudinally and short fracture and rather splintery in the centre on breaking. Sharp cutting section of root showed an abnormal appearance having one or two wedge-shaped portions that may reinstate by parenchymatous tissue. The plunges in the root are mainly due to the development of the phloem. The odour is wintergreen and tastes sweet and then becomes acrid [Figure 1].
Figure 1: Polygala senega root crude drug

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The transverse section of root shown 4–6 layers of cork or phellem which were made of thin, polygonal, tangentially elongated radially wide cells, few squarish, closely packed, dense with contents, interspersed with acicular crystals in few. Phellem followed single-layered phellogen then by abundant phelloderm interrupted by tracheary elements. Phelloderm cells are polygonal mostly oval to circular, closely packed without intercellular spaces, contents scanty. Some of these cells become collenchymatous and filled with oil ducts. Primary xylem is diarch, present at centre with vessels/tracheids arranged in radial rows, few laterally aligned interrupted by xylem parenchyma. Primary xylem is surrounded by scanty phloem. Phloem consists of sieve cells, sieve tubes and phloem parenchyma. Phloem parenchyma compactly arranged contents scanty. Secondary xylem is arranged in three cycles located in phelloderm region. Outer cycle secondary xylem is made of 3–4 vessels arranged as patches interrupted by phelloderm. Middle and inner cycles of secondary xylem with numerous vessels are arranged as linear rows of vascular bundles interrupted by 3–4 rows of medullary rows. Medullary rays are V-shaped, outer side having oil ducts. Vascular bundles showed conjoint, collateral and exarch condition [Figure 2].
Figure 2: Transverse section of Polygala senega root

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Powder studies

Microscopic studies of P. senega root powder have shown the presence of pieces of cork with tangentially elongated cells containing acicular crystals, fragments of phelloderm with polygonal cells and isolated or broken or whole tracheary elements with bordered pits [Figure 3].
Figure 3: Powder microscopy of Polygala senega root

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Organoleptic characteristics

  • Colour: Pale brown-yellowish brown
  • Touch: Coarse
  • Odour: Like wintergreen
  • Taste: Sweet becomes acrid.

Physicochemical studies

The data generated under the physicochemical studies for raw drug of P. senega are summarised in [Table 1]. Formulation and preparation of mother tincture and its standardisation data are summarised in [Table 2] and [Table 3], respectively, and the results of TLC/chromatographic studies are summarised in [Table 4] and [Figure 4].
Table 1: Physicochemical standards of crude drug Polygala senega

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Table 2: Formulation and preparation of mother tincture (6)

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Table 3: Different tests/parameters for finished product

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Table 4: Chromatographic profile of Polygala senega

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Figure 4: Thin-layer chromatography plates of Polygala senega using 90/10 CHCl3/MeOH. In-house mother tincture, A = In-house Mother Tincture's CHCl3extract, C = Commercial Mother Tincture's CHCl3extract. Left = 254 nm, Right = 366 nm

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  Conclusion Top

The described macro- and microscopical characteristics along with powder studies of P. senega are unique diagnostic characteristics which will help in identification and authentication raw drug materials to ensure quality and efficacy of the drug. Physicochemical data viz., extractive values, ash values, chemical tests, weight per ml, total solids, alcohol content and loss on drying were found to be acceptable limit. The results of TLC studies and UV spectroscopic data can be used as characteristic standards for P. senega. These data may also be treated as pharmacopoeial standards for the homoeopathic drug P. senega.


The authors are thankful to Dr. Raj K. Manchanda, Director General, Dr. Anil Khurana, Deputy Director General, Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy, New Delhi, and Prof. H. Ramakrishna, Project Officer, Drug Standardisation Unit, Hyderabad, for the facilities provided and encouragements.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

None declared.

  References Top

Wallis TE. Text Book of Pharmacognosy. 5th ed. New Delhi CBS Publisher; 1997. p. 417.  Back to cited text no. 1
Varma PN, Vaid I. Encyclopedia of Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia. Vol. 3. Jain Publisher 2007. p. 2247.  Back to cited text no. 2
Sharma G, Jhade A, Malviya S, Kharia A. Ethnopharmacological attributes of Polygala senega Linn. Int J Pharm Life Sci 2015;6:4202-8.  Back to cited text no. 3
Youngken HW. Pharmaceutical Botany. Toronto: The Blackiston Company; 1951. p. 559.  Back to cited text no. 4
WHO Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants. Vol. 2. 2005. p. 276-9.  Back to cited text no. 5
Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia of India. Vol. 1. New Delhi: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Controller of Publication; 1971. p. 188.  Back to cited text no. 6
Paul S, Mandal SK, Bhattacharyya SS, Boujedaini N, Khuda-Bukhsh AR.In vitro and in vivo studies demonstrate anticancer property of root extract of Polygala senega. J Acupunct Meridian Stud 2010;3:188-96.  Back to cited text no. 7
Van Q, Nayak BN, Reimer M, Jones PJ, Fulcher RG, Rempel CB, et al. Anti-inflammatory effect of Inonotus obliquus, Polygala senega L. and Viburnum trilobum in a cell screening assay. J Ethnopharmacol 2009;125:487-93.  Back to cited text no. 8
Estrada A, Katselis GS, Laarveld B, Barl B. Isolation and evaluation of immunological adjuvant activities of saponins from Polygala senega L. Comp Immunol Microbiol Infect Dis 2000;23:27-43.  Back to cited text no. 9
Amarowicz R, Pegg RB, Rahimi-Moghaddam P, Barl B, Weil JA. Free-radical scavenging capacity and antioxidant activity of selected plant species from the Canadian prairies. Food Chem 2004;84:551-62.  Back to cited text no. 10
Lacaille Dubois MA, Offer AC. Triterpene saponins from Polygalaceae. Phytochem Rev 2005;4:139-49.  Back to cited text no. 11
Kako M, Miura T, Nishiyama Y, Ichimaru M, Moriyasu M, Kato A, et al. Hypoglycemic effect of the rhizomes of Polygala senega in normal and diabetic mice and its main component, the triterpenoid glycoside senegin-II. Planta Med 1996;62:440-3.  Back to cited text no. 12
Katselis GS, Estrada A, Gorecki DK, Barl B. Adjuvant activities of saponins from the root of Polygala senega L. Can J Physiol Pharmacol 2007;85:1184-94.  Back to cited text no. 13
Hamburger M, Hostettmann K. Hydroxy cinnamicacid esters from polygala chamaebuxus. Phytochem 1985;24:1793-7.  Back to cited text no. 14
Kokate CK, A. P. Purohit, S.B. Gokhale. Textbook of Pharmacognosy. 42nd ed. Vol. 1. Nirali Prakashan, Pune; 2009. p. 8.63-8.65.  Back to cited text no. 15
Farrington EA. Condensed Materia Medica by C. Hering. 4th ed. Jain Publishing Co. Fremont, CA; 1978. p. 850-4.  Back to cited text no. 16
World Health Organization. Quality Control Methods for Medicinal Plant Materials. Geneva: World Health Organization; 1998.  Back to cited text no. 17
Johansen DA. Plant Micro Technique. New York: McGraw Hill Book Co. Inc.; 1940.  Back to cited text no. 18


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4]

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]


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