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Qualitative Determination of Toxic Pyrrolizidine alkaloids in Trichodesma indicum: A prevalent ethnomedicine of Northern Pakistan

Latif Ahmad, Yi He, Andrew J. Semotiuk, Quan-Ru Liu.


Aim/Background: Trichodesma indicum (L.) Lehm. is a prominent medicinal plant in Pakistan. Various indigenous Pakistani communities use this plant orally to treat various human ailments. The present study is carried out with the aim to investigate the leaves of T. indicum for the presence or absence of toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). If these alkaloids are found, then the plant should be used with more precaution.
Materials and Methods: For this, the dried leaf samples of T. indicum were collected from Northern Pakistan and brought to Beijing Normal University for further experimentation. Furthermore, to collect literature on the medicinal uses of T. indicum we searched the scientific databases of PubMed, Google Scholar, and Scopus. In the laboratory, T. indicum was investigated for pyrrolizidine alkaloids by using HPLC-UV.
Results: The literature survey shows that the species is used for medicinal purposes throughout Pakistan. The result of HPLC fingerprint analysis showed that leaves were PA positive and out of five PA standards, four were detected, namely, supinine (1), europine (2), heliotrine (3), and echimidine (5).
Conclusion: To the best of our knowledge, the present study reports, for the first time, the presence of unsaturated PAs in the leaves of T. indicum. Given this, we suggest that the plant should be used with more caution and should follow the Federal Institute of Risk Assessment of Germany rule that the exposure to unsaturated PAs from food should be as low as possible which is daily intake of 0.007 μg PAs kg-1 for human’s body weight.

Key words: Trichodesma indicum; ethnomedicine; pyrrolizidine alkaloids; toxicity; Pakistan; HPLC.

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