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Psoralea - Tephrosia

(Pea or Bean family)



130 species are found in tropical and sub-tropical regions. P. esculenta of North America (Prairie turnip) has an edible tuberous root. P. decumbens is used in Africa for a tea.

Chemistry is recorded by Dean (1963) and by Harborne et al. (1971). The plant yields psoralen (Pathak et al. 1962).

Addition of water to a vehicle containing methoxsalen enhanced the phototoxic activity of the compound (Suhonen 1976).


100 species are found in tropical regions. Several provide kino, astringent resins (Dalziel 1937, Irvine 1961). Some provide red dyes. One such, "red saunders" derived from Pterocarpus santalinus L.f. (Budavari 1996) is used to colour Compound Tincture of Lavender BPC 1949 (Lavandula). Tincture Kino was formerly official.

Pterocarpus sp.
Padouk, Padauk

Nestler (1924, 1926) found that an ether extract of padouk, possibly Pterocarpus indicus, caused irritation of his skin in less than 2 hours. The wood dust can produce dermatitis (Zafiropoulo et al. 1968).

The chemistry was studied by Bevan (1958). The flavanoid and neoflavanoid constituents of Pterocarpus spp. and Dalbergia spp. were reviewed by Seshadri (1972).

Pterocarpus angolensis
Muninga, Keejat, African Teak, Sealing Wax Tree

The wood dust can cause dermatitis and respiratory symptoms, (Schweisheimer 1952, Editorial 1957, Ordman 1949a / 1949b). One of Ordman's two patients was also affected bv Thuja plicata Donn ex D.Don (fam. Cupressaceae) and by a Congo hardwood identified by Schweisheimer (1951) as Lovoa klaineana. A young woman packed the sawdust into her vagina to make her husband 'hot' (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

Pterocarpus indicus Willd.
[syn. Lingoum indicum Kuntze, Pterocarpus blancoi Merr., Pterocarpus carolinensis Kaneh., Pterocarpus pallidus Blanco, etc.]
Amboyna, Andaman Redwood, Angsana, Burmese Rosewood, Padauk, Padouk, Sana, Sena

Lignum Nephriticum, a remedy of earlier times, was derived from this species (Burgess 1966). Hanslian and Kadlec (1966a) noted that the wood can cause dermatitis and painful swelling.

Pterocarpus santalinus L.f.

Ceylon mahogany, possibly this species, caused conjunctival irritation and vomiting (Hausen 1970).

Artocarpus integrifolia had also been called Ceylon mahogany.

Retama raetam Webb & Berth.
[syns Genista raetam Forssk., Spartium raetam Spach]

In NW Moroccan traditional medicine, a decoction made from the stem is applied externally in the treatment of "galls" and dermatitis (Merzouki et al. 2000).

Robinia pseudoacacia L.
False Acacia, Locust

The blossom, which yields a volatile oil, has been used as a condiment (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962). The bark is poisonous and the plant, when used for fodder, is said to produce stomatitis in animals. The honey is said to be toxic. Chinese people who drank a concoction of the plant were said to develop rigors and swelling of the subcutaneous tissues especially of the extremities. The plant yields an allergenic toxalbumin, robin. Some discrepancies in the literature are discussed by Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk (1962) and by Kingsbury (1964). The plant emits biologically active volatile emanations (Morton 1971). Dubreuilh (1931) and Schulmann & Détouillon (1932) refer to dermatitis from the wood as a cause of woodcutter's eczema (now recognised as caused by lichens and Frullania). Woods and Calnan (1976) refer to fearsome thorns of the plant disliked by the woodman. Hausen (1970) notes reports by Wagenfuhr (1961, 1967). Heliotropin derived from the plant has been reported to cause contact dermatitis (Greenberg and Lester 1954).

Saraca thaipingensis Cantley ex Prain
Yellow Saraca

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Schotia brachypetala Sond.
[syn. Schotia rogersii Burtt Davy]
Fuchsia Tree, Weeping Boer-Bean

The wood-dust is said to irritate the eyes (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

Senna alexandrina Mill.
[syns Cassia acutifolia Delile, Senna acutifolia Batka, Cassia senna L., Cassia angustifolia Vahl, Senna angustifolia (Vahl) Batka]
Alexandrian Senna

This species is the botanical source of senna, which is widely used as a stimulant laxative. The leaves provide Sennae Folium; the pods provide Sennae Fructus. These in turn are used in the manufacture of standardised senna preparations and isolates (Reynolds 1996, Trease & Evans 1966). Two principal varieties of senna are encountered in commerce, namely Alexandrian or Khartoum senna and Tinnevelly senna. The pharmaceutical literature records that Alexandrian senna is derived from Cassia senna or Cassia acutifolia, whilst Tinnevelly senna is derived from Cassia angustifolia. According to Huang (1993), the dried leaflets of C. angustifolia are known in traditional Chinese medicine as fan xie ye.

According to Merzouki et al. (2000), a preparation of the powdered leaves and fruit of Cassia acutifolia is used in NW Moroccan traditional medicine as an external application in the treatment of cutaneous neoplasms.

Cassia acutifolia has been reported to cause occupational dermatitis of the face, hands and genitals in pharmaceutical chemists (Schwartz et al. 1947).


The seeds contain cytisine (see Cytisus and Laburnum) and related alkaloids (Briggs 1946).

Sophora tetraptera J.F.Mill.

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Sophora tomentosa
Silver Bush

The plant which has been used in Chinese Medicine as a haemostatic since ancient times yields rutin (Kariyone 1971).

Strongylodon lucidus Seem.
[syns Glycine lucida G.Forst., Rhynchosia lucida DC.]

According to an herbarium note found by von Reis Altschul (1973) on a specimen of this plant collected in the Solomon Islands, the leaves are heated then rubbed on boils.

Swartzia madagascariensis

Dermatitis from the wood was reported to Orsler (1973).

Swartzia tomentosa

The wood dust is said to produce dermatitis (Lewin 1928). The colloquial name muirapixuna is also used for Caesalpinia paraensis.

Sweetia fruticosa Spreng.
[syn. Ferreirea spectabilis Allemāo]

The wood from Ferreirea spectabilis is said to cause dermatitis (Orsler 1973, Hausen 1970) possibly from anthraquinones.

King et al. (1952) found chrysophanic anthranol in the wood but Simatupang et al. (1967) could not confirm this finding and suggested that King's material came from Vatairea lundelli which is similar microscopically.

Tamarindus indica L.
[syn. Tamarindus officinalis Hook.]

The tree was cultivated in Ancient Egypt for its fruits and is widely distributed in the tropics.

The pulp around the seeds is eaten. The powdered dry leaf has a caustic effect. The bark is astringent. Ground tamarind seed, used as a sizing for cloth can cause asthma (Murray et al. 1957). A textile worker developed dermatitis from the flour (Cirla et al. 1970).

Tephrosia virginiana

The crude plant preparation or rotenone derived from it may cause dermatitis, conjunctivitis and rhinitis (Thienes and Haley 1972).

Tephrosia vogelii
Fish Poison Plant

The people wading in the poisoned water to drive or catch the fish, generally complain of deadness in the legs or roughness of the skin (Dalziel 1937).

The leaves of this plant and the roots of Tephrosia toxicaria yield deguelin which can cause skin irritation (Budavari 1996). Deguelin is also derived from derris (Derris sp.).

Richard J. Schmidt

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