©The World Botanical Associates Web Page
Prepared by Richard W. Spjut
Nov 2007

Peganum harmala
Hudspeth Co., TX
Spjut 16175, Oct 2007
Herb from central roots with ascending branches and erect white flowers.

Peganum mexicanum
Hudspeth Co., TX
Spjut 16174, Oct 2007
Herb from a central root with prostrate branches and reflexed pale yellow flowers.


Berrougui H., M. Isabelle, M. Cloutier, M. Hmamouchi and A. Khalil. 2006. Protective effects of Peganum harmala L. extract, harmine and harmaline against human low-density lipoprotein oxidation. J. Pharm. Pharmacol. 58(7): 967–974. “Oxidative modification of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles has been implicated in the process of atherogenesis. Antioxidants that prevent LDL from oxidation may reduce atherosclerosis. We have investigated the protective effect of Peganum harmala-extract (P-extract) and the two major alkaloids (harmine and harmaline) from the seeds of P. harmala against CuSO4-induced LDL oxidation. Through determination of the formation of malondialdehyde (MDA) and conjugated diene as well as the lag phase, the extract (P-extract) and compounds were found to possess an inhibitory effect. Moreover, harmaline and harmine reduced the rate of vitamin E disappearance and exhibited a significant free radical scavenging capacity (DPPH*). However, harmaline had a markedly higher antioxidant capacity than harmine in scavenging or preventive capacity against free radicals as well as inhibiting the aggregation of the LDL protein moiety (apolipoprotein B) induced by oxidation. The results suggested that P. harmala compounds could be a major source of compounds that inhibit LDL oxidative modification induced by copper.”

Chen Q., R. Chao, H. Chen, X. Hou, H. Yan, S. Zhou, W. Peng and A. Xu. 2005. Antitumor and neurotoxic effects of novel harmine derivatives and structure-activity relationship analysis. Int. J. Cancer 114(5): 675–682. “Beta-carboline alkaloids such as harmine are present in medicinal plants such as Peganum harmala that have been used as folk medicine in anticancer therapy. In our study, 9 harmine derivatives (including harmine) were investigated for their antitumor effects and acute toxicities in mice, and the structure-activity relationship (SAR) was also analyzed. Administration of these compounds resulted in tumor inhibition rates of 15.3-49.5% in mice bearing Lewis Lung Cancer, sarcoma180 or HepA tumor, with the highest value of 49.5% from compound 6. Acute toxicity studies showed that all these compounds except compounds 2 and 5 caused remarkable acute neurotoxicities manifested by tremble, twitch and jumping. SAR analysis indicated that the formate substitution at R3 of the tricyclic skeleton reduced their neurotoxicity, while the short alkyl or aryl substitution at R9 increased the antitumor activity. The harmine and its derivatives resulted in in vitro cytotoxicity (IC50) values of 0.011-0.021 micromol/ml in HepG2 cells, with compound 8 being the most potent among all agents tested. Compounds 1, 6, 7 and 8 induced apoptosis in HepG2 cells, with the highest apoptotic rate (55.34%) from compound 6. Western blotting analysis demonstrated that compound 6 completely inhibited the expression of Bcl-2 gene, and compounds 1 and 8 produced a significant inhibition by 40 and 60%, respectively, compared to the control, while compound 7 did not alter the level of Bcl-2. Compounds 1, 6, 7 and 8 upregulated the expression of death receptor Fas by approximately 50-120%. All these findings indicate that compounds with both substitutions at R3 and R9 (such as compound 5) have high antitumor activity and low toxicity, which might be chosen as lead molecules for further development. Further studies on the effects of harmine derivatives on key regulators for tumor cell apoptosis are needed. ”

Lala S., S. Pramanick, S. Mukhopadhyay, S. Bandyopadhyay and M. K. Basu.  2004.  Harmine: evaluation of its antileishmanial properties in various vesicular delivery systems.  J. Drug Target 12(3):165–175.  “Harmine, a beta-carboline amine alkaloid isolated from Peganum harmala, was tested for its antileishmanial properties both in vitro and in vivo. In vitro antileishmanial activity of harmine was encouraging and prompted us to confirm the activity in vivo in hamster models. Harmine was tested both in free form and in different vesicular forms viz. liposomes, niosomes and nanoparticles. The different vesicles were prepared by the published protocols. The percent intercalation of harmine in liposomes, niosomes and nanoparticles was found to be 65, 60 and 20, respectively, when determined at 325 nm (epsilon(M) =2.33 x 10 M(-1) cm(-1)). At an equivalent dose of 1.5 mg/kg body weight, injected subcutaneously (SC) for a total of six doses in 15 days, harmine was found to reduce spleen parasite load by approximately 40, 60, 70 and 80%, respectively in free, liposomal, niosomal and nanoparticular forms. An inverse relationship could be established between the efficacy in the lowering of spleen parasite load and the size of the vesicles. Specific biochemical tests related to normal liver and kidney functions revealed that the toxicity of the drug was reduced in the vesicular forms in the same order as their efficacy and the same was confirmed by the histopathological studies of splenic sections. Cell cycle analysis studies using flow cytometry suggested that although harmine interferes in the cell division stage, it does not induce apoptosis in Leishmania donovani promastigotes. The results using Confocal Microscopy supported that the cell death could be attributed to necrosis due to non-specific membrane damage. Even then, because of its appreciable efficacy in destroying intracellular parasites as well as non-hepatotoxic and non-nephrotoxic nature, harmine, in the vesicular forms, may be considered for clinical application in humans.”

Li Y., F. Liang, W. Jiang, F. Yu, R. Cao, Q. Ma, X Dai, J. Jiang, Y. Wang and S. Si.  2007. DH334, a beta-carboline Anti-Cancer Drug, Inhibits the CDK Activity of Budding Yeast.  Cancer Biol Ther. 6(8): “The beta-carboline alkaloids present in medicinal plants, such as Peganum harmala and Eurycoma longifolia, have recently drawn attention due to their antitumor activities. Further mechanistic studies indicate that beta-carboline derivatives inhibit DNA topoisomerases and interfere with DNA synthesis. Moreover, some beta-carboline compounds are specific inhibitors of cyclin dependent kinases (CDKs). In this study we used budding yeast as a model system to investigate the antitumor mechanism of beta-carboline drugs. We found that DH334, a beta-carboline derivative, inhibits the growth of budding yeast. Strikingly, deletion of SIC1, which encodes the budding yeast CDK inhibitor, results in resistance to DH334. In contrast, yeast cells defective for Sic1 degradation exhibit morepronounced sensitivity to DH334. The presence of DH334 causes accumulation of yeast cells in G(1) phase, indicating that DH334 blocks cell cycle initiation. We further demonstrated that DH334 inhibits CDK activity as indicated by the decreased phosphorylation of a CDK substrate. All these data suggest that the inhibition of CDK contributes to the toxicity of beta-carboline derivatives to budding yeast. DH334 also inhibits the kinase activity of Cdk2/CyclinA in vitro. Therefore, we speculate that the antitumor activity of beta-carboline drugs could be attributable to their inhibition of CDK.”

Ma Z. Z., Y. Hano, T. Nomura and Y. J. Chen. 2000. Alkaloids and phenylpropanoids from Peganum nigellastrum.  Phytochemistry 53(8):1075–1078. “Two canthin-6-one alkaloids, luotonins C and D, and two phenylpropanoids, dihydrosinapyl ferulate and dihydroconiferyl ferulate, were isolated from the aerial parts of Peganum nigellastrum along with four known alkaloids, harmine, 3-phenylquinoline, 3-(4-hydroxyphenyl)quinoline and 3-(1H-indol-3-yl)quinoline. Their structures were elucidated by spectroscopic techniques. The structures of luotonins C and D were also confirmed by chemical synthesis.”

Mirzaiedehaghi M.  2006.  Treatment of natural ovine malignant theileriosis with a chloroform extract of the plant Peganum harmala.  Onderstepoort J. Vet. Res. 73(2): 153–155.  “One hundred sheep naturally infected with Theileria lestoquardi were treated with a chloroform extract of the plant Peganum harmala. The treatment was continued for 5 days, the dose of extract being 5 mg/kg per day. Sixty-five of the sheep responded to treatment and recovered but 35 did not and died. The cure rate was 65%

Song Z. Y., J. R. Liu, X. L. Lu and L. J. Wang.  2006.  [Harmine induces apoptosis in human SGC-7901 cells].  Zhong Yao Cai. 29(6):571–573.  In Chinese. “OBJECTVIE: To investigate the effect of apoptosis induced in human SGC-7901 cells by Harmine. METHODS: The effect of Harmine on human SGC-7901 cell survival and apoptosis was determined by MTT assay, light microscopy and flow cytometry. Cell genomic DNA was detected by agarose electrophoresis. RESULTS: The survival of human SGC-7901 cells decreased; Apoptotic cells were observed by fluorescent microscope; FCM analysis showed that the peak of apoptosis increased. Typical DNA Ladder were detected in DNA agarose gel electrophoresis. CONCLUSION: HM can induce apoptosis in human SGC-7901 cells.”

Zaker F., A. Oody and A. Arjmand.  A study on the antitumoral and differentiation effects of Peganum harmala derivatives in combination with ATRA on leukaemic cells.  2007. Arch. Pharm Res. 30(7): 844–849. "Plant derived agents may exert a new approach to the treatment of leukaemia. The present study was an evaluation of proliferation, cytotoxicity and differentiation of harmine and harmaline on HL60 cells, alone or in combination with ATRA and G-CSF. Counting of cells, viability, MTT assay, morphology, NBT reduction and flow cytometry analysis were performed using CD11b and CD 14 monoclonal antibodies. The data showed that harmine and harmaline reduced proliferation in dose and time dependent manner. Optimal antiproliferative concentration of these agents was chosen. However, both agents in higher doses were cytotoxic. Combination of ATRA, G-CSF and each agent alone, particularly harmaline in optimal dose, resulted in partially additive decrease in cell proliferation. Cells treated with both harmaline and ATRA demonstrated some morphological changes and NBT positivity, but the extent of changes observed following treatment with harmaline was less than ATRA. Flow cytometric analysis showed that ATRA induced a neutrophilic differentiation, while harmaline led to a predominantly monocytic differentiation. Combination of harmine and harmaline with ATRA and G-CSF did not change the extent of differentiation, and the cells differentiated into the neutrophilic lineage. This shows that the direction of differentiation is dominantly determined by ATRA. These preliminary data implies a new approach in treatment of leukemia

Zayed R. and M. Wink. 2005.  Beta-carboline and quinoline alkaloids in root cultures and intact plants of Peganum harmala. Z. Naturforsch [C]. 60(5-6): 451–458. “Alkaloid profiles of root and shoot cultures, seedlings and mature plants were analysed by capillary GLC and GLC-MS. beta-Carboline alkaloids, such as harmine, harmaline dominate in normal and root cultures transformed by Agrobacterium rhizogenes, as well as in roots and fruits of the plant. In shoots, flowers and shoot cultures quinoline alkaloids such as peganine, deoxypeganine, vasicinone and deoxyvasicinone widely replace the beta-carboline alkaloids. In root cultures, the formation of beta-carboline alkaloids can be induced by methyljasmonate and several other elicitors indicating that these alkaloids are part of the reactive chemical defence system of Peganum harmala.”