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Plumbago indica L.

Protologue
Herb. amb.: 24 (1754).
Family
Plumbaginaceae
Chromosome number
2n = 14
Synonyms
Plumbago rosea L. (1762).
Vernacular names
Indian leadwort, rose-coloured leadwort, scarlet leadwort (En). Plumbago de flor vermelha (Po).
Origin and geographic distribution
Plumbago indica originates from India and South-East Asia, where it is widely used as a medicinal plant. It is cultivated as an ornamental throughout the tropics and in temperate regions in greenhouses. In tropical Africa, Plumbago indica is cultivated, sometimes as a medicinal plant, in countries with large populations of Indian immigrants: Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Madagascar.
Uses
In eastern Africa, Plumbago indica is used medicinally in a similar way by the Indian population as it is traditionally used in India itself, where many households keep some plants in their backyard. Especially the root has many uses: it is acrid, vesicant, alterative, digestive, stimulant and a powerful abortifacient and oral contraceptive. High doses are dangerous and may cause death. An infusion of the roots is taken to treat dyspepsia, colic, cough and bronchitis. A liniment made from bruised root mixed with a little vegetable oil is used as a rubefacient to treat rheumatism and headache. The milky juice of the leaves is applied on the skin in treatment of scabies, ringworm and haemorrhoids.
Plumbago indica is commonly planted as an ornamental garden plant.
Production and international trade
Plumbago indica root is an important ingredient in herbal mixtures used in Ayurvedic medicine (originating from India) and traded as such.
Properties
The root of Plumbago indica contains the naphthoquinone plumbagin ( 2-methyl juglone). Other compounds isolated from the aerial parts include 6-hydroxyplumbagin, plumbaginol (a flavonol), leucodelphinidin and steroids (e.g. β-sitosterol, stigmasterol, campesterol). Plumbagin possesses several pharmacological activities i.e. antimicrobial, anticancer, cardiotonic and antifertility actions. It is also a powerful irritant. In small doses, the compound is a sudorific and it stimulates the central nervous system; large doses may cause death from respiratory failure and paralysis. Plumbagin has shown anti-implantation and abortifacient activities in rats. Because of its toxicity, the use of plumbagin in traditional medicine is a dangerous practice. In-vitro tests showed that Plumbago indica contains one or more antimutagens. At low doses, plumbagin showed significant tumour inhibitory effects against Ehrlich ascites carcinoma in mice. The ethanol extract of the leaves is active against herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1).
Botany
Perennial herb or small shrub up to 2 m tall; stems erect, trailing or climbing, simple or branched from the base, sometimes rooting at the nodes. Leaves alternate, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole short, auricles absent; blade narrowly ovate to elliptical-ovate, 5–15 cm Χ 2–8 cm, base rounded to obtuse, apex acute, papery. Inflorescence an elongated spike or raceme, many-flowered, 10–30 cm long, glabrous; bracts ovate, 2–3 mm long, apex acuminate; peduncle 2–10 cm long. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel 0–1 mm long; calyx tubular, 8–9 mm long, glandular, red; corolla tube 2.5–4.5 cm long, lobes obovate, 1.5–3 cm in diameter, apex rounded, mucronate, purple to red; stamens free, exserted; ovary superior, ellipsoid-ovoid, 1-celled, style filiform, stigma lobes 5.
Plumbago comprises about 25 species and occurs almost everywhere throughout the world. In tropical Africa about 10 species can be found. Plumbago indica can be found flowering throughout the year. Fruits have never been found.
Ecology
Plumbago indica thrives very well at temperatures of 25–35°C. It prefers rich, moist and well-drained soils, with a pH of 5.5–6, whereas a pH below 5 or above 7 may lead to stunted growth. When escaped, it occurs in (former) anthropogenic localities and abandoned farmland.
Management
Plumbago indica can be mass produced using in vitro clonal production of nodal explants, callus cultures, cell suspension cultures or root cultures. The roots of the plants produced this way have a significantly higher percentage of plumbagin than control plants.
In India tests on root yield of Plumbago indica showed an optimum harvesting stage between 12 and 18 months after planting in the field. Plumbago indica is a short-day plant and needs a prolonged dark period treatment in the temperate zone in order to produce compact plants and flowers. Successful plant regeneration through micropropagation using different growth media is practised.
Genetic resources and breeding
Plumbago indica is a common ornamental in the tropics and therefore not threatened. As fruits are not known for this species, it is only vegetatively propagated, indicating that the genetic variability might be small.
Prospects
Plumbago indica roots contain high levels of plumbagin. The cultivation and extraction methods deserve more attention from research and extension. Besides, Plumbago indica is also an interesting ornamental plant, and it could be grown on a much wider scale in Africa using micropropagation or vegetative propagation.
Major references
• Devi, P.U., Solomon, F.E. & Sharada, A.C., 1999. Plumbagin, a plant naphthoquinone with antitumor and radiomodifying properties. Pharmaceutical Biology 37(3): 231–236.
• Komaraiah, P., Jogeswar, G., Ramakrishna, S.V. & Kishor, P.B.K., 2004. Acetylsalicylic acid and ammonium-induced somatic embryogenesis and enhanced plumbagin production in suspension cultures of Plumbago rosea L. In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology - Plant 40(2): 230–234.
• Valsaraj, R., Pushpangadan, P., Smitt, U.W., Adsersen, A. & Nyman, U., 1997. Antimicrobial screening of selected medicinal plants from India. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 58(2): 75–83.
• van Steenis, C.G.G.J., 1949. Plumbaginaceae. In: van Steenis, C.G.G.J. (General Editor). Flora Malesiana. Series 1. Vol. 4. Noordhoff-Kolff N.V., Djakarta, Indonesia. pp. 107–112.
• Wongsatit Chuakul, Noppamas Soonthornchareonnon & Promjit Saralamp, 1999. Plumbago L. In: de Padua, L.S., Bunyapraphatsara, N. & Lemmens, R.H.M.J. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(1). Medicinal and poisonous plants 1. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 409–413.
Other references
• Akanitapichat, P., Kurokawa, M., Tewtrakul, S., Pramyothin, P., Sripanidkulchai, B., Shiraki, K. & Hattori, M., 2002. Inhibitory activities of Thai medicinal plants against herpes simplex type 1, poliovirus type 1, and measles virus. Journal of Traditional Medicines 19(5): 174–180.
• Burkill, H.M., 1997. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 4, Families M–R. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 969 pp.
• Das, G. & Rout, G.R., 2002. Plant regeneration through somatic embryogenesis in leaf derived callus of Plumbago rosea. Biologia Plantarum 45(2): 299–302.
• Komaraiah, P., Amrutha, R.N., Jogeswar, G., Ramakrishna, S.V. & Kishor, P.B.K., 2002. Production of plumbagin from hairy root cultures of Plumbago rosea L. Plant Cell Biotechnology and Molecular Biology 3(1–2): 65–68.
• Komaraiah, P., Ramakrishna, S.V., Reddanna, P. & Kavi Kishor, P.B., 2003. Enhanced production of plumbagin in immobilized cells of Plumbago rosea by elicitation and in situ adsorption. Journal of Biotechnology 101(2): 181–187.
• Menon, J.S., Amma, S.P. & Nybe, E.V., 2001. Analysis of growth and yield in Plumbago spp. Journal of Tropical Agriculture (India) 39(2): 114–119.
• Rajwani, L.S., Prabhu, D. & Desai, P.V., 2001. Antimutagenic activity of plumbagin with metabolic activation system. Indian Journal of Environment and Toxicology 11(1): 12–15.
• Rojanapo, W., Tepsuwan, A. & Siripong, P., 1990. Mutagenicity and antimutagenicity of Thai medicinal plants. Basic Life Science 52: 447–452.
• Satheeshkumar, K. & Seeni, S., 2003. In vitro mass multiplication and production of roots in Plumbago rosea. Planta Medica 69(1): 83–86.
Sources of illustration
• Wongsatit Chuakul, Noppamas Soonthornchareonnon & Promjit Saralamp, 1999. Plumbago L. In: de Padua, L.S., Bunyapraphatsara, N. & Lemmens, R.H.M.J. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(1). Medicinal and poisonous plants 1. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 409–413.
Author(s)
• J.M. Okeyo
TSBF-CIAT, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), P.O. Box 30677, Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya


Editors
• G.H. Schmelzer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
• A. Gurib-Fakim
Faculty of Science, University of Mauritius, Rιduit, Mauritius
Associate editors
• C.H. Bosch
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
• M.S.J. Simmonds
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB, United Kingdom
• R. Arroo
Leicester School of Pharmacy, Natural Products Research, De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH, United Kingdom
• A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
General editors
• R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
• L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Photo editor
• A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Okeyo, J., 2006. Plumbago indica L. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes mιdicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
1, plant habit; 2, roots; 3, flower.
Source: PROSEA



inflorescence