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Alstonia scholaris


No documentation

Vernacular Names:

English Devils tree
Pakistan Chhatim
India Sapthaparna

General Information


This plant is an evergreen and a common medicinal plant of India that can grow to a height of hundred metres. The tree has white, strongly perfumed flowers and is cultivated as an ornamental plant [1], [2].

Plant Part Used

Bark, leaves

Chemical Constituents

The Alstonia species are rich in alkaloids, steroids and triterpenoids and these substances may be responsible for the toxicity Alstonia scholaris [3]. Alkaloids: alstonidine, alstonine, alstovenine, chlorogenic acid, chlorogenine, ditain, ditaine, ditamine, echicaoutchin, echicerin, echiretin, echitamine, echitein, echitenin, echitin, porphyrine, porphyrosine, reserpine, venenatine, villalstonine pleiocarpamine, O-methylmacralstonine, macralstonine O-acetylmacralstonine, villalstonine, macrocarpamine, corialstonine and corialstonidine, and triterpenoids: lupeol linoleate, lupeol palmitate and alpha-amyrin linoleate were reportedly present in the stem bark of A. scholaris [1][4]. Other alkaloids that had been isolated are nareline methyl ether, nareline ethyl ether , 5-epi-nareline ethyl ether, picrinine, scholaricine and scholarine-N(4)oxide, 12-methoxyechitamidine [5], 19-hyroxytubotaiwine [6], 19-epischolarine, Nb-methyl-scholarine, Na- metylburnamine, vallesamine Nb-oxide and 6,7-seco-19,20-epoxyyanggustibobine B [7], 19,20-[E]-vallesamine, angustilobine, B-N4-oxide, 20(S)-tubotaiwine and 6,7-seco-angustilobine [8]. The seeds of alstonia scholaris contains hallucinogenic indole alkaloids which are alstovenine, venenatine, chlorogenine, reserpine, ditamine and echitamine. The seeds also contain chlorogenic acid.

Three new picrinine-types of monoterpenoid indole alkaloids were isolated from the leaves of Alstonia scholaris which are 5-methoxyaspidophylline, picralinal and 5-methoxystrictamine [12]. Two structures identified as megastigmane-3β, 4α, 9-triol and 7-megastigmene-3, 6, 9-triol were extracted from the leaves of Alstonia scholaris and are know to be C13-norisoprenoids [13]. Alstonic acids were also extracted from leaves of the same plant and two first-known 2,3-secofernane triterpenoids were identified [14].

Traditional Use:

The plant is used as a tonic, antiperiodic, anthelmintic, stimulant, carminative, stomachic, and expectorant [1],[2]. The ripe fruits are used to treat insanity due to syphilis and epilepsy. The milky juice is applied to ulcers. The most extensively used part of the plant is the bark which is a component of many compound herbal formulations.  The bark extract of the powdered stem bark is a bitter tonic and febrifuge, useful for the treatment of malaria, diarrhea, and dysentery [1].  The bark decoction is also used to treat asthma, hypertension, lung cancer, and pneumonia while the leaf infusion is used to treat fever [2].

Pre-Clinical Data


Broncho-vasodilatory activity

The ethanolic extract of the leaves of Alstonia scholaris showed broncho-vasodilatory activity.  Administration of the plant extract (25, 37 and 50mg/kg, via the jugular vein) to anaesthetised rats at 5 min before the administration of carbachol (10µM/kg) led to a transient decrease in the normal blood pressure by 54±13% and 81±7% at doses of 25 and 37mg/kg, respectively. In contrast the inspiratory pressure was increased by 50±13% and 83±12%, respectively, while the expiratory pressure and heart rate remained unchanged. Isoprenaline and salbutamol were the positive controls for the effects of the leaf extract on the carbachol-induced changes. The highest dose of the leaf extract (50mg/kg) caused a severe decrease in the blood pressure and disturbed the respiratory rhythm [2].

The bronchodilation cannot be attributed to direct tracheal smooth muscle relaxation as in the guinea pig trachea, the leaf extract (100-700µg/mL) did not antagonize histamine (10µM) or potassium chloride (50mM)-induced contraction. The vasodilatory activity of the extract was attributed to nitric oxide, independent of adrenergic or muscarinic receptors or prostaglandins. The leaf extract directly interfered with the influx of calcium ions into cells as it reduced guinea pig ileum and pulmonary artery contractions induced by barium chloride, potassium chloride or calcium chloride [2].

Anticancer activity

The cytotoxicity of different fractions of A. scholaris in HeLa cells was dependent on the season of collection be it, the monsoon, winter or summer [8]. The most toxic extract was obtained from the bark collected in the summer followed by that collected in the winter and the least toxic was when collection was in the monsoon season.  Cytotoxicity was highest with the residue fraction and lowest for the steroidal fraction. Cytotoxicity, in the order of most toxic to least toxic, was the residue fraction>whole extract>chloroform extract>chitamine chloride (an active principle of A. scholaris)> ethyl acetate fraction>diethyl ether fraction>petroleum ether fraction>n-butanol fraction>aqueous fraction>steroidal fraction [8].

A major alkaloid, alstonine has antitumor activity in YC8 lymphoma and Ehrlich ascites carcinoma cells [8].  Bisindole and villalstonine showed marked activity against human cancer cell lines, MOR-P (adenocarcinoma), COR-L23 (large cell carcinoma) cell lines although in these cells, pleiocarpamine, Omethylmacralstonine and macralstonine were much less active than villalstonine.  Oacetylmacralstonine, villalstonine and macrocarpamine were cytotoxic to human cancer cell lines, MOR-P, COR-L23 StMI1 1a (melanoma), Caki-2 (renal cell carcinoma), MCF7 (breast adenocarcinoma) and LS174T (colon adenocarcinoma) [8].

The hydroalcoholic extract of A. scholaris protected against benzo(a)pyrene-induced forestomach carcinoma in female mice when added to drinking water at doses of 1, 2 and 4 mg/mL for 2 weeks before, during and 2 weeks after the carcinogen exposure. These doses reduced tumour multiplicity by 21.43, 28.57 and 50%, respectively.  The greatest protection was afforded by the highest dose which reduced tumour incidence by 6.67% [4]. Tumour multiplicity incidence was significantly reduced (91.93% with extract versus 100% in benzo(a)pyrene-treated mice) by 4 mg/mLdose that was added to the drinking water during the post-initiation period, starting at 48 h after the last dose of benzo(a)pyrene (post-treatment) and continued for 8 weeks. These findings were corroborated by the observation that micronuclei frequency reached the lowest point at 4 mg/mL of the extract.  The extract was able to inhibit benzo(a)pyrene-induced mutagenic changes as the frequency of splenocytes bearing one micronuclei and also cells which bear multiple micronuclei were reduced by the extract.  Mice that were pretreated with 4 mg/mL of the extract were not changed with regards to tumor multiplicity and tumor incidence [4].

The extract of A. scholaris was reported to possess immunostimulatory activity and was able to enhance phagocytic activity in normal and immunosuppressed mice. Thus immunomodulation may also have played a part in the chemopreventive activity of A. scholaris. [4].

The leaf extract have antimicrobial properties while the alcoholic extract from the stem bark showed anticancer activity in HS1 human sarcoma in embryonated egg [1]. An 85% ethanolic bark extract of A. scholaris showed antitumor and radiation sensitising activity against a mouse transplantable tumor and is cytotoxic to human tumour cell lines [1].

Antimalarial activity

Corialstonine and corialstonidine, alkaloids of Alstonia scholaris, are active against P. falciparum [8].

Antifertility activity

A. scholaris bark extract (200 mg/day for 60 days, orally) showed significant antifertility effects in male rats as evidenced by marked reductions in the weights of testes, epididymides, seminal vesicle and ventral prostate [9]. Step-19 spermatids production was reduced by 79.6 % while the population of preleptotene and pachytene spermatocytes were decreased by 61.9 % and 60.1 %, respectively. Spermatogonia, Sertoli cell population and areas of the seminiferous tubule and Leydig cell nuclear,were significantly reduced as were other indicators of male fertility [9].

Antidiabetic activity

The leaves of Alstonia scholaris possessed the highest inhibitory effect for two sugar compounds which are sucrase and maltase when compared with Cratoxylum mangayi and Dillenia indica. However more studies need to be conducted to further understand the mechanism of inhibition as well as suitability of drug supplement for the treatment or prevention of diabetes [11].


The ethanolic extract of the leaves of Alstonia scholaris (30, 300, 1000 and 2000mg/kg body weight) intraperitoneally did not elicit any changes in the behavior and autonomic responses of mice compared to controls.  None of the mice treated with the up to 2g/kg of the extract died during the 48 hour observation period following the administration of the extract [2]. The hydroalcoholic extract of the stem bark of A. scholaris showed acute toxic effects that were dependent of the season of collection, the bark collected in the summer was most toxic (LD50 of 900mg/kg), followed by collection in the winter (LD50 of 1075mg/kg) while the monsoon season extract yielded the least toxic extract (LD50 of 1200mg/kg) [1]. Toxicity was dependent on the mice strain, the most susceptible was Swiss albino mice (all animals died at 1100mg/kg) followed by DBA (all died at 1200mg/kg) and C57BL mice (all died at 1300mg/kg) while crossbred mice were resistant. Administration of the extract by the oral route was less toxic than the intraperitoneal (i.p.) route as the oral LD50 values for the oral route in all mice strains were higher than the i.p. LD50 value of 850mg/kg body weight. Orally administered extract was non-toxic up to 2000mg/kg body weight. A dose of 1100mg/kg given by the intraperitoneal route led to the maximum number of dead animals.

Subacute toxicity tests were carried out in rats with daily doses of 120 and 240mg/kg (corresponding to 1/10th and 1/5th of the LD50 dose) for 30 days. No changes were seen in general behaviour, physiological activities, or final body weights of the rats receiving the lower dose and none of these rats died.  The higher dose caused lethargy in the rats.  It was also more toxic, causing 30% mortality, a significant reduction in the final body weight and deformity in the various organs. Males were more susceptible than females to the higher dose of A. scholaris extract. High doses of A. scholaris elicit marked damage to all major organs of the body thus, usage of high doses for prolonged periods should be undertaken with caution [1].

Teratogenic effects

The hydroalcoholic extract of Alstonia scholaris extract produced teratogenic effects in mice at doses greater than 240mg/kg (>20% of the LD50) when exposure occurred at day 11 of gestation. The extract at doses of 60, 120, 180, and 240mg/kg did not cause mortality, congenital malformations, or alter the normal growth patterns.  Doses of 360 or 480mg/kg caused a dose-dependent increase in mortality, growth retardation and congenital malformations, characterized mainly by bent tails and syndatyly. These doses also significantly delayed fur development, eye opening, pinna detachment and vaginal opening. Doses of 240-480mg/kg also delayed incisor eruption and testes decent [10].

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

No documentation

Adverse Effects in Human:

No documentation

Use in Certain Conditions

Pregnancy / Breastfeeding

No documentation

Age Limitations

Neonates / Adolescents

No documentation


No documentation

Chronic Disease Conditions

No documentation


Interactions with drugs

No documentation

Interactions with Other Herbs / Herbal Constituents

No documentation



No documentation

Case Reports

No documentation

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  1) Botanical Info


  1. Baliga MS, Jagetia GC, Ulloor JN, Baliga MP, Venkatesh P, Reddy R, Rao KVNM, Baliga BS, Devi S, Raju SK, Veeresh V, Reddy TK, Bairy KL. The evaluation of the acute toxicity and long term safety of hydroalcoholic extract of Sapthatparna (Alstonia scholaris) in mice and rats. Toxicology Letters . 2004; 151: 317-326
  2. Channa S, Dar A, Ahmed S, Atta-Ur-Rahman. Evaluation of Alstonia scholaris leaves for broncho-vasodilatory activity . Journal Ethnopharmacology. 2005; 97: 469-476
  3. Singh SK and Singh A. Molluscicidal and anti-cholinesterase activity of Alstonia scholaris plant against freshwater snail Lymnaea acuminata. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences. 2003; 6(16): 1442-1446
  4. Jagetia GC, Baliga MS, Venkatesh P. Effect of Sapthaparna (Alstonia scholaris Linn) in modulating the benzo(a)pyrene-induced forestomach carcinogenesis in mice. Toxicological Letters. 2003; 144: 183-193
  5. Banerji A. and Siddhanta AK. Scholarine: An indole alkaloid of Alstonia scholaris. Phytochemistry . 1981; 20 : 540-542
  6. Yamauchi T, Abe F, Padilina WG, Dayrit FM. Alkaloids from leaves and bark of Alstonia scholaris in the Philippines. Phytochemistry . 1990; 29: 3321-3325
  7. Yamauchi T, Abe F, Chen RF, Nonaka GI, Santisuki T, Padolina WG. Alkaloids from the leaves of Alstonia scholaris in Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines. Phytochemistry. 1990; 29: 3321-3325
  8. Jagetia GC and Baliga MS. The effect of seasonal variation on the antineoplastic activity of Alstonia scholaris R. Br. in HeLa cells. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2005; 96: 37-42
  9. Gupta RS, Sharma R, Sharma A, Bhatnager AK, Dobhal MP, Joshi YC, Sharma MC. Effect of Alstonia scholaris bark extract on testicular function of Wistar rats . Asian J. Androl. 2002; 4: 175-178
  10. Jagetia GC and Baliga MS. Induction of developmental toxicity in mice treated with Alstonia scholaris (Sapthaparna) In utero. Repro Toxicol. 2003; 68(6): 472-8
  11. Nilubon Jong-Anurakkun, Megh Raj Bhandari, Jun Kawabata.  α-Glucosidase inhibitors from Devil tree (Alstonia scholaris). Food Chemistry. 2007;4(103):1319-1323.
  12. Xiang-Hai CAI, Ya-Ping LIU, Tao FENG, Xiao-Dong LUO. Picrinine-type Alkaloids from the Leaves of Alstonia scholaris. Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines. January 2008; 1(6):20-22.
  13. Yan XU, Tao FENG, Xiang-Hai CAI, Xiao-Dong LUO. A New C13-Norisoprenoid from Leaves of Alstonia scholaris. Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines. January 2009; 1(7):21-23.
  14. Fei Wang, Fu-Cai Ren, Ji-Kai Liu. Alstonic acids A and B, unusual 2,3-secofernane triterpenoids from Alstonia scholaris. Phytochemistry. March 2009; 5(70):650-654.
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Nilubon Jong-Anurakkun, Megh Raj Bhandari, Jun Kawabata.  α-Glucosidase inhibitors from Devil tree (Alstonia scholaris). Food Chemistry. 2007;4(103):1319-1323.

Xiang-Hai CAI, Ya-Ping LIU, Tao FENG, Xiao-Dong LUO. Picrinine-type Alkaloids from the Leaves of Alstonia scholaris. Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines. January 2008; 1(6):20-22.

Yan XU, Tao FENG, Xiang-Hai CAI, Xiao-Dong LUO. A New C13-Norisoprenoid from Leaves of Alstonia scholaris. Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines. January 2009; 1(7):21-23.

Fei Wang, Fu-Cai Ren, Ji-Kai Liu. Alstonic acids A and B, unusual 2,3-secofernane triterpenoids from Alstonia scholaris. Phytochemistry. March 2009; 5(70):650-654.

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