Saga is a slender, twining, branched, annual vine. It is sparingly hairy or nearly smooth. Leaves are alternate, and compounded into pinnate arrangement of about 20 to 40 leaflets to each leaf; each leaflet oblong, rather thin. Inflorescence is an axillary raceme, shorter than the leaves with numerous crowded flowers. Flowers are pink to purple or salmon in color. Calyx teeth short and standard petal ovate, the wings narrow, and the keel arched. Stamens are 9, the filaments of which united into a tube with a slit above. Ovary with many ovules with a short style. Fruits are pods, oblong and turgid. Seeds are 3 to 5 in a pod, round and shiny, half-red and half-black. Color of seeds is the the most recognizable characteristic of this species.
– Study yielded Abrin A from the seeds, and similar to Abrin protein and abrin C, is toxic to cell-free protein synthesis.
– The toxic principle chemically and pharmacologically resembles ricin.
– Active principle is the toxalbumin, abrin. Abrin consists of two fractions, a globulin and an albumose, two proteids.
– An analysis of the seed isolated two products: one, nitrogen-containing, and the other, a glucoside – abrin and abralin.
– Seeds contain the principle compound abrine, together with abraline, abrasine, abricin, abrin, abrusgenic-acid, abrusgenic-acid-methyl-ester, abruslactone, abrussic-acid, anthocyanins, calcium, campesterol, choline, cycloartenol, delphinidin, gallic-acid, glycyrrhizin, hypaphorine, N, N-dimethyl-tryptophan, N,N-dimethyl- tryptophan-metho-cation-methyl-ester, p-coumaroylgalloyl glucodelphinidin, pectin, pentosans, phosphorus, delphinidin, gallic-acid, glycyrrhizin, hypaphorine, N,N-dimethyl-tryptophan, N,N-dimethyl-tryptophan-metho- cation-methyl-ester, p-coumaroylgalloyl-lucodelphinidin, pectin, pentosans, phosphorus, picatorine, polygalacturonic-acids, precasine, precatorine and protein trigonelline.
– Root, known as Indian liquorice, is said to contain glycyrrhizin. It should not be used as a liquorice substitute, as it might contain toxic properties similar to the seed.
– Study of seed yielded, besides abrin, poisonous proteins, a fat-splitting enzyme, abrussic acid, hemmaglutinin, and a quantity of urease.
– Phytochemical screening yielded abrin, abrusoside E, abrusgenic acid, cycloartenol, gallic acid and glycyrrhizin.
– Phytochemical screening of crude extracts yielded tannins, triterpenes, glycosides, alkaloids, anthraquinones and carbohydrates.
– Studies on leaves have yielded various compounds, viz. abrine, trigonelline, abruslactone A, himiphloin, abrusosides (arbusosides A, B, C, and D), arabinose, galactose, xylose, choline hypaphorine, precatorine, glycyrrhizin, montanyl alcohol, inositol, D monomethyl ether, pinitol.
– Ethanolic extract of seeds showed alkaloids, flavonoids, phenols, tannins, and saponins. Ethyl acetate extracts yielded steroids and terpenes.
– Phytochemical analysis of aqueous extract of leaves yielded alkaloids, flavonoids (flavones), tannins, coumarins, sterols, triterpenoids, saponins, and reducing compounds.
– Studies on leaves have yielded abrine, trigonelline, abruslactone A, hemiphloin, abrusoside A, abrusoside B, abrusoside C, abrusoside D, arabinose, galactose, xylose, choline, hypaphorine, precatorine, glycyrrhizin, montanyl alcohol, inositol, D monomethyl ether, pinitol.
– Roots are sweet-tasting, neutral in effect, and antipyretic.
– Seeds are exceedingly toxic (not to be taken internally).
– Insecticide, disinfectant and suppurative.
– Toxic actions of abrin are very similar to ricin. Although less toxic, it is more irritant to the conjunctiva than ricin.
– Considered anti-inflammatory, abortifacient, purgative, anodyne, aphrodisiac, emetic, expectorant, febrifuge, laxative, sedative and vermifuge.
– Studies have reported neuroprotective, abortifacient, anticonvulsive, antiviral, antimalarial, antifertility, nephroprotective, antidiabetic properties.
Roots and seeds.
· In the Philippines, decoction of the leaves and roots used for cough.
· Juice of leaves used for hoarseness. Mixed with bland oils, applied to painful swellings.
· Decoction of dried roots used for swelling pains in the throat. Zulus use a decoction for chest pains. Watery extract used for obstinate coughs.
· Seeds used as abortifacient.
· In Java, roots are considered demulcent and antidiarrhetic. Mixed with syrup, used for coughs in children.
· In Antilles, infusion of roots, leaves, stems and flowers used as pectoral.
· Leaves used for treatment of fever, asthma, and dental caries.
· For scabies and carbuncles, pulverized dried seeds are rubbed on afflicted area.
· The roots may be administered as a cooling tea.
· Roots used to treat jaundice and hemoglobinuric bile. Paste of roots use to treat abdominal pains and tumors; also used as abortifacient.
· Root is chewed as snakebite remedy.
· Decoction of dried roots used to treat hepatitis and bronchitis. Hot water extract of dried roots used as antimalarial and anticonvulsant.
· In India, traditional use for cancer, ulcers and fever. Seeds have been reportedly used for murder. Seeds also used as aphrodisiac. Used as antifertility and ecbolic. In Uttar Pradesh, roots used as anthelmintic. Root powder mixed with lemon juice used to cure sunstroke. In Bihar, paste of plant roots used for epilepsy. In Madhya Pradesh, roots used as emetic in poisoning; powder applied to snake bites. In West Bengal, plant roots used for body pain. In Bihar, root powder used for constipation.
· Seeds used with extreme caution as application in fistulas to stimulate inflammatory reaction.
· In Africa, seeds are sometimes used for urinary problems and venereal diseases. Internally, seeds used to disturb uterine functions and prevent conception.
· Several Central African tribes use seed preparations for intestinal worms and as oral contraceptive.
· In East Africa, decoction of aerial parts taken orally for sexually transmitted diseases, stomach problems, and to prevent vomiting.
· In Ghana, leaves used for asthma.
· In the Himalayas, leaves reportedly used for diabetes, cough, fever and asthma.
· Powdered seeds taken as snuff in cases of violent headaches associated with colds.
· In Ayurveda, plant used to promote hair growth. Plant is an ingredient in some Indian hair products.
· Handicraft / Seeds: Seeds are gathered and strung into various fancy articles. Used in the manufacture of rosaries, necklaces, decorating bags, and other ornaments.
· Rope: Yields bast fibers suitable for cordage.
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