Alstonia scholaris (L.) R. Br. and Alstonia macrophylla Wall. ex G. Don: A comparative review on traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology

J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Apr 11;153(1):1-18. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2014.01.025. Epub 2014 Jan 28.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Alstonia scholaris (L.) R. Br. and Alstonia macrophylla Wall. ex G. Don are two vital medicinal plant species (family: Apocynaceae). In India, the therapeutic use of Alstonia scholaris has been described in both codified and non-codified drug systems for the treatment of malaria, jaundice, gastrointestinal troubles, cancer and in many other ailments. Other species, Alstonia macrophylla has been used in conventional medicines in Thailand, Malaysia and Philippines as a general tonic, aphrodisiac, anticholeric, antidysentery, antipyretic, emmenagogue, and vulnerary agents. In India, Alstonia macrophylla is used as a substitute for Alstonia scholaris in various herbal pharmaceutical preparations. However, one certainly cannot evaluate the truthfulness of a practice (i.e. in scientific terms). In this article we discuss and summarize comparative data about traditional uses, phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicity of Alstonia scholaris and Alstonia macrophylla. Moreover, in order to unfold future research opportunities, lacunae in the present knowledge are also highlighted.

Materials and methods: Literature about Alstonia scholaris and Alstonia macrophylla was collected by using electronic and library search. Additionally, referred books on traditional medicine and ethnopharmacology were also utilized for receiving traditional records about both the plant species.

Results: Both Alstonia scholaris and Alstonia macrophylla are rich in different types of bioactive alkaloids. So far, broad spectrum of in vitro and in vivo biological and pharmacological activities have been reported to both the species. Amongst them, antimicrobial and anticancer activities were promising.

Conclusions: The use of Alstonia macrophylla as a substitute for Alstonia scholaris is not at all justifiable as both the species are distinct from each other in their phytochemistry and pharmacology. Further detail chemical fingerprinting and metabolic studies of these two species are warranted to prevent their mutual adulteration most importantly in the context of commercial preparations.

Keywords: Alstonia macrophylla; Alstonia scholaris; Pharmacology; Phytochemistry.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / isolation & purification
  • Alstonia / chemistry*
  • Animals
  • Ethnopharmacology
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Traditional / methods
  • Phytotherapy / methods*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*


  • Alkaloids
  • Plant Extracts