Ethnobotanical Leaflets 12: 1218-20. 2008.



Anti-venom Activity of Medicinal Plants – A Mini Review


S. Meenatchisundaram*, G. Parameswari, T. Subbraj and A. Michael


Department of Microbiology, PSG College of Arts and Science, Coimbatore, India.

*Corresponding author: Ph: +91- 422 -09842525152



Issued 15 December 2008



            Snake envenoming is a major public health issue in the rural tropics with large numbers of envenoming and deaths.  The common poisonous snakes found in India are Cobra (Naja naja), Krait (Bangarus Caeruleus), Russell’s viper (Daboia russelli) and Saw Scaled Viper (Echis Carinatus) (Bawaskar, 2004).  About 35,000 to 50,000 people die of snakebite every year in India. Antivenom immunotherapy is the only specific treatment against snake venom envenomation.  Antivenoms are usually hyper immune sera collected from animals which bind and inactivate venom components. Antiserum development in animals is time consuming, expensive and requires ideal storage condition. Over the years many attempts have been made for the development of snake venom antagonists especially from plant sources. The use of plants against the effects of snakes bite has been long recognized; more scientific attention has been given since last 20 years (Santosh et al., 2004). Extracts from plants have been used among traditional healers, especially in tropical areas where there are plentiful sources, as therapy for snakebite for a long time. Several medicinal plants, which appear in old drug recipes or which have been passed on by oral tradition, are believed to be snakebite antidotes. In modern science, there have been many attempts to study these plants to clarify their effectiveness. India has a rich tradition of the usage of medicinal plants. Many Indian medicinal plants are recommended for the treatment of snakebite. The methanolic root extracts of Vitex negundo Linn. and Emblica officinalis Gaertn. were tested for antisnake venom activity. Both plant extracts were significantly neutralized the Vipera russellii and Naja kaouthia venom induced lethal activity both in vitro and in vivo studies. V. russellii venom-induced haemorrhage, coagulant, defibrinogenating and inflammatory activity was significantly neutralized by both plant extracts (Alam et al., 2003).  Hemidesmus indicus root extracts effectively neutralized Viper venom-induced lethal, haemorrhagic, coagulant, anticoagulant and inflammatory activity (Alam et al., 1994). The butanolic extract of Eclipta prostrata plant was partially inhibited the hemorrhagic activity but displayed very low anti-phospholipase A2 activity and did not inhibit proteolytic activity of Malayan pit viper venom venom (Pithayanukul  et al., 2004). Lupeol acetate isolated from the root extract of Indian sarsaparilla Hemidesmus indicus R.Br. could significantly neutralize lethality, haemorrhage, defibrinogenation, edema, PLA2 activity induced by Daboia russellii venom. It also neutralized Naja kaouthia venom induced lethality, cardiotoxicity, neurotoxicity and respiratory changes in experimental animals (Chatterjee et al.,2006). Beta-sitosterol and stigmasterol isolated from the root extract of Pluchea indica Less. (Asteraceae) may play an important role, along with antiserum, in neutralizing snake venom-induced actions. Several plant constituents like flavonoids, quinonoid, xanthene, polyphenols and terpenoids possessed protein binding and enzyme inhibiting properties and also inhibit snake venom phospholipase A2 (PLA2) activities of both Viper and Cobra venom (Selvanayagam et al., 1996). Triterpenoids present in V. negundo and E. officinalis may involve in venom inactivation processes. The pentacyclic triterpenes (free or as glycosides) are found widely in several antisnake venom plants (Aegle marmelos, Centipeda minima, Aloe vera, Phyllanthus niruri, Alstonia scholaris, Phyllanthus emblica, Elephentopus scaber, etc.) and provide nearly 20% protection against snake venom (Mors et al., 2000). Eclipta prostrata L. (Asteraceae) is a pantropical and subtropical plant used as an anti-venom against snakebite in China and in Brazil (Mors, 1991). Ticli et al. (2005) reported that the methanolic extract from Cordia verbenacea significantly inhibited paw edema induced by Bothrops jararacussu snake venom. Chatterjee et al. (2004) reported that an active compound from the Strychnus nux vomica seed extract, inhibited viper venom induced lipid peroxidation in experimental animals. It may be concluded that evidence are now available to establish the scientific background of the traditional use of plants against snakebite. The antisnake venom plants contain more than one compound (secondary metabolites) that are responsible for venom neutralization. Thus Medicinal plants with antivenom activity could be considered as an effective alternative to mammalian antibody production for the treatment of snakebite envenomation.



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Alam, M.I.,  and Gomes. A. 2003. Snake venom neutralization by Indian medicinal plants (Vitex negundo and Emblica officinalis) root extracts. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 86: 75–80


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Ipshita Chatterjee., Chakravarty. A.K., and A. Gomes. 2006. Daboia russellii and Naja kaouthia venom neutralization by lupeol acetate isolated from the root extract of Indian sarsaparilla Hemidesmus indicus R.Br. Journal of Ethnopharmacology.         106: 38–43


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Pimolpan Pithayanukul., Sasitorn Laovachirasuwan., Rapepol Bavovada, Narumol Pakmanee, Rutt Suttisri. 2004. Anti-venom potential of butanolic extract of Eclipta prostrate against Malayan pit viper venom. Journal of Ethnopharmacology.           90:347–352


Santosh, R., Fattepur and Shivaji P Gawade.2004. Preliminary Screening of Herbal Plant Extracts for Anti-venom activity against Common Sea Snake (Enhydrina schistosa) Poisoning. Pharmacognosy Magazine. 16: 56 – 60


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Ticli FK, Hage LI, Cambraia RS, Pereira PS, Magro AJ, Fontes MR, Stábeli RG, Giglio JR, França SC, Soares AM, Sampaio SV.2005. Rosmarinic acid, a new snake venom phospholipase A2 inhibitor from Cordia verbenacea (Boraginaceae): antiserum action potentiation and molecular interaction. Toxicon. 46 (3): 318-27.