An ethnomedicinal, phytochemical and pharmacological profile of Desmodium gangeticum (L.) DC. and Desmodium adscendens (Sw.) DC

J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Jun 22;136(2):283-96. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2011.04.031. Epub 2011 Apr 20.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Desmodium gangeticum (L.) DC. and Desmodium adscendens (Sw.) DC. are two important and well explored species of genus Desmodium (Fabaceae (alt. Leguminosae) subfamily: Faboideae). Desmodium gangeticum is used as a tonic, febrifuge, digestive, anticatarrhal, antiemitic, in inflammatory conditions of chest and in various other inflammatory conditions in the Ayurvedic System of Medicine while Desmodium adscendens is widely used for the treatment of asthma in Ghana, Africa.

Aim of the review: The aim of this review is to provide comprehensive information on the botany, traditional uses, phytochemistry, pharmacological research and toxicology of Desmodium gangeticum and Desmodium adscendens to explore their therapeutic potential and future research opportunities.

Materials and methods: All the available information on Desmodium gangeticum and Desmodium adscendens was collected via electronic search (using Pubmed, SciFinder, Scirus, Google Scholar, JCCC@INSTIRC and Web of Science) and a library search for articles published in peer-reviewed journals.

Results: About 25 different species of Desmodium including Desmodium gangeticum and Desmodium adscendens are used ethnomedicinally all over the world. Phytochemical research on Desmodium gangeticum and Desmodium adscendens has led to the isolation of alkaloids, pterocarpans, phospholipids, sterols, flavones and flavonoid glycosides from Desmodium gangeticum and triterpenoid saponins, phenylethylamines and indole-3-alkyl amines from Desmodium adscendens. Crude extracts, fractions and isolated components of Desmodium gangeticum and Desmodium adscendens showed a wide spectrum of in vitro and in vivo pharmacological activities like antileishmanial, immunomodulatory, antiasthmatic, smooth muscle relaxant, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, cardio-protective, antidiabetic, antiamnesic, antiviral, antioxidant and hepatoprotective activities.

Conclusions: Desmodium gangeticum and Desmodium adscendens have emerged as a good source of traditional medicine. Desmodium gangeticum possesses the ability to scavenge the free radicals generated during ischaemia and ischaemia reperfusion thereby preserving the mitochondrial respiratory enzymes that eventually lead to cardio-protection and has potential prophylactic and therapeutic efficacy against Leishmania infection. Desmodium adscendens is useful against chronic bronchitis and asthma. However, there is a need to search for individual secondary metabolites responsible for these actions and study their mode of actions, bioavailability, pharmacokinetics and physiological pathways in sufficient detail. The promising results should be further substantiated by clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ethnopharmacology
  • Fabaceae / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Traditional*
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*


  • Plant Extracts