Saga is a slender, twining,
branched, annual vine that reaches a length of 9 meters or less. It is sparingly hairy or nearly smooth. Leaves are alternate, from 5 to 10 centimeters long and compounded into
pinnate arrangement of about 20 to 40 leaflets to each leaf; each leaflet
oblong, rather thin, from 1 to 3 centimeters long and with an abrupt terminal
point. Inflorescence is an axillary raceme, shorter than the leaves with numerous
crowded flowers. Flowers are pink to purple or salmon in color, attaining 1 centimeter
in length. 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, 2.5 to 5 centimeters long and about
1.5 centimeters wide. 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.
- Common in thickets throughout
the Philippines, at low and medium altitudes.
- Cultivation, propagated by seeds.
- Probably a native of tropical Asia.
- 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.
- Study has yielded abric acid from the seed.
- 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-splittiing enzyme, abrussic acid, hemmaglutinin, and a quantity of urease.
- Phytochemical screening yielded abrin, abrusoside E, abrusgenic acid, cycloartenol, gallic acid and glycyrrhizin.
- Roots are sweet-tasting,
neutral in effect, and antipyretic.
- Seeds are exceedingly toxic (not to be taken internally).
- Insecticide, disinfectant and suppurative.
- Considered antiinflammatory, abortifacient, purgative, anodyne, aphrodisiac, emetic, expectorant, febrifuge, laxative, sedative and vermifuge.
- Toxic acftions of abrin are very similar to ricin. Although less toxic, it is more irritant to the conjunctiva than ricin.
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.
· In Java, roots are considered demulcent and antidiarrhetic. Mixed with syrup, used for coughs in children.
· In Antilles, infusionn of roots, leaves, stems and flowers used as pectoral.
· Scabies and carbuncles: pulverized dried seeds are rubbed on
· The roots may be administered as a cooling tea.
· Others: Decorative, the seeds are gathered and strung into
various fancy articles.
· In India, traditional
use for cancer, ulcers and fever. Seeds have been reportedly used for murder. Seeds also used as aphrodisiac.
· Seeds used in 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.
· Handicraft / Seeds:
Seeds used in the manufacture of rosaries, necklaces, decorating bags, and other ornaments.
· Rope: Yields bast fibers suitable for cordage.
· Poison: (1) In India, reported use for suicide and murder. (2) Powdered seeds made into pastelike mash for use with darts and arrows. Wounds made by poisoned arrows are usually fatal within 24 hours.
• The seeds have yielded abrin A and C, both sharing the same toxic mechanisms.
• Abrin is an intensely poisonous albumin. An a dose of 1/1000 mgm to 1/2000 mg per kilogram body weight injected subcutaneously is considered poisonous.• Seeds are exceedingly toxic (not to be taken internally).
• Toxicity case report after ingestion of 3-4 seeds of AP causing
acute demyelinating encephalitis, coma and death. (See below)
beans are extremely toxic, containing various types of toxic albumins.
Symptoms of poisoning include diarrhea, vomiting, debility, stoppage
of urine, hallucinations, etc. Observe extreme care in administering.
• An infusion of bruised seeds, when applied to the conjunctiva, may cause fatal poisoning from abrin absorption through the conjunctiva. It is a power irritant which can cause ecchymoses and edema at the site of inoculation. In high concentrations, it will cause severe conjunctivitis, permanent corneal opacities, and even destruction of the eye.
• It is reported to have little or no irritant action on the mouth and throat, and is digested and rendered harmless in the stomach.
• Interestingly, it is reported that when injected iinto animals in infinitesimal doses, the animal rapidly acquires immunity to the poison.
of seed extract of AP on alcohol-induced renal damage in rats concludes
that the seed extract is protective on the kidney against alcohol-induced
Study on the aequous seed extract of AP showed strong hypoglycemic and
hypolipidemic effects with a reduction of atherogenic risk predictor
indices. The action of A precatorius was dose-dependent.
/ Sperm antimotility :
(1) Extract study showed that AP possesses a reversible sperm antimotility
activity. (2) Methanol extract study of A precatorius seeds showed inhibitory effect on the motility of washed human spermatozoa. The effect of motility was essentially reversible. (3) Study of aqueous seed extract in male albino mice showed a male reproduction system with a dose-dependent reduction in testicular sperm count and motility.
/ Ovulatory Blockage : Study of methanolic extract of Arbus precatorius seeds showed highly significant alterations in the pattern of estrous cycle, a significantly prolong diestrous plase, a significant decrease in the proestrous phase and a total blockage of ovulation in one group.
Extract study showed potent antiinflammatory, antiarthritic and antipyretic
A case report of acute demyelinating encephalitis and death after ingestion
of peas of AP. A possible immunologic pathogenic mechanism is hypothesized.
Anthelmintic study in Zimbabwe showed the extracts and root from Abrus
precatorius to be effective against tapeworms.
• Anti-Microbial: Extracts of A precatorius from leaves, stems and seed oil were tested against S aureus, S epidermis, E faecalis, Strep anginosus, B subtilis, Corynebacterium spp, E coli, K pneumonia, P mirabilis, P aeruginosa and C albicans. Results showed AP especially the seed oil has potent antimicrobial activity and subtantiates the ethnobotanical use of AP for various bacteria-related diseases. Staph aureus was the most sensitive organism and the topical application of AP extracts in ointments may be recommended for treating superficial Staph aureus infections.
• Immunomodulatory: Study showed Abrus agglutinin could be a potential immunomodulator both in native as well as in heat denatured form.
• Abrin A: Study purified Abrin A from the seeds of A. precatorius. Biological properties were similar to Abrus protein, abrin C, i.e., toxic to cell-free protein synthesis and biinds D-galactose. Results show abrin A is a mixture of isolectins; and both abrin A and C are closely related with the same mechanism of toxic action.
• Toxicity Study:Study of toxic effects of aqueous extract of A precatorius in white rats showed decreased in RBC, WBC, increased ALT and AST, testicular degeneration and sperm cell reduction. The results caution its use for medicinal purposes.
• Toxicity / Demyelinating Encephalitis: Study reports a case of acute demyelinating encephalitis in 30-year old female attributed to ingestion of 3 to 4 seeds of 'ratti.' The patient developed bloody diarrhea and deep coma, and died in three days due to progressive central nervous system depression.
• Hepatocelluar Carcinoma/ Protective Effects: Study of the protective effects of an aqueous/ethanolic extract in NDEA-induced hepatocarginogenesis in rats showed strong cytotoxic effects on HepG2 cells with dose-dependent reduction in various hepatic markers.
• Bronchodilator: Study showed a methanolic extract of leaves of AP produced dose-dependent bronchodilator activity.
• Renoprotective : Study strongly indicated that the aqueous extract of seeeds has a protective effect on alcohol-induced renal injury, an effect related to the attenuation of alcohol-mediated lipid peroixdation of renal parenchyman cells.
• Anti-Serotonergic : Study of an EA extract of AP leaves on frog fundus strip using sumatriptan as standard showede antiserotonergic activity with a graded dose response in contraction.
• Wound Healing / Antimicrobial: Study of crude seed and methanol extracts of white form of AP showed early wound healing activity in with and without infection. The wound healing was attributed to gums, mucilages, tanins or phenolic compounds in the seeds.
• Mast Stabilizing / Anti-Allergic / Anti-Asthmatic: The ethanl extract of AP significantly protected against egg albumin induced degranulation of mast cell and inhibited area of leakage of dye in passive cutaneous anaphylaxis. Results concluded AP possesses anti-asthmatic potential.